Monday, August 13


One of my favorite restaurants in the bay area is Banana Leaf, in Milpitas. Its Malaysian cuisine is second to none, and the wait is always busy and the food always good. However, I am not able to get there as often as I like, and this saddens me. I was heartened to learn from blogger Lyndsay that there was an oft-praised Malaysian restaurant in the SGV, called Penang. She sent me the article in LA Weekly about it, and suggested I make the trek out to West Covina.

What caught my eye in the article is that it mentions the quality of the roti canai at Penang. Roti canai is a treat from the gods and should not be missed if possible. Immediately I made it my mission to eat at Penang the next time I got down to southern California. The opportunity came when I decided to treat all of my cousins to dinner for a particular cousin's birthday. Various significant others came along, bringing our party number to 11.

Finding the place was a bit difficult, as it is located in a corner of an ethnic strip mall that is chock full of places to eat. Inside, the decor was a bit tropical, and gave me the weird feeling that I had been there before. Which, of course, I hadn't. We were seated promptly since I had made a reservation, and after a bit of wrangling with my cousins we were finally able to order some drinks. They unanimously decided I would order everything, and left the food decisions to me and my boyfriend.

First I ordered some appetizers: three of the roti canai, the curry puffs, and a beef and chicken satay. The curry puffs came out first and we split the four huge pieces among ourselves. They look plain from the outside, and are stuffed with hearty curried goodness on the inside. It was a good start to our huge meal.

When the roti came out, I warned everyone that they were only good when piping hot, and wouldn't taste as good within a minute of sitting on the plate. They heeded my suggestion and the light, buttery layers were snatched up and dipped into the waiting chicken curry. The combination, as I mentioned before, was heavenly.

Suddenly, the food started coming. I say suddenly, but it took a bit of work on my part to attract the attention of the waiter to order my entree choices as we were eating the appetizers. Not everything came out at the same time, but this was expected and no one seemed to mind. I ended up ordering a couple of Malaysian classics like beef rendang and char kway teow, thrown in with coconut fried rice and sizzling shrimp, and two sambal vegetable dishes.

Everyone laughed as I hurriedly tried to take pictures of everything, but they were much too hungry to really wait. The beef rendang was tender and flavorful, and went well with the rice. I have to recommend the asparagus sambal, but not the samal petai (pictured next to the roti canai above). The green peas in the petai had an uncooked taste to them that my untrained tastebuds weren't prepared to like.

The sizzling shrimp was a hit, but everyone concluded it was a lot of work to get the shrimp out of the shells. One of my cousins decided to save himself the trouble and ate the shell, too. The char kway teow was spicy and reminded me a lot of beef chow fun, while the coconut fried rice was pleasing but uneventful.

At the end we decided to forego dessert because we were too stuffed, but the waiter brought out a small block of jello/pudding like dessert. The flavor was simultaneously salty and sweet, which I didn't really like. However, it did find favor with some of my cousins. Next time I would try one of their desserts off the menu.

It was unanimously decided that Penang was a good place to eat, and that we were all stuffed to the gills. I would return again for the roti alone! It was that good. I must, however, throw in a compliment to Banana Leaf, who still makes the best roti canai I have ever tasted.

971 South Glendora Avenue
West Covina, CA 91790
(626) 338-6138

Sunday-Thursday: 11:00am-10:00pm
Friday-Saturday: 11:00am-10:30pm

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Sunday, August 5

Real Food Daily

Real Food Daily should change its name to Real Good Food Daily. Or just plain Good Food Daily. This vegan restaurant provides healthy and organic food complete with modest proportions and quality ingredients. The dishes look very beautiful and the descriptions written on the menu are detailed and alluring.

I started off my dinner with a nori maki starter plate (pictured above). On the menu it sounded incredible: avocado, tempeh, collard greens, and much much more. However, when I actually tasted it, I was initially disappointed. I found myself dipping it heavily in soy sauce for taste. But then I discovered that each piece was more delectably enjoyable by eating it via small bites. Doing so helped me taste each individual ingredient. Eating it whole actually masks any flavor save for a faint seaweed taste--which made sense as none of the ingredients tasted exceptionally strong aside from the seaweed.

After the starter plate, my friend and I were served our main courses. He had a tofu wrap made from a spinach tortilla that holds an overflow of tofu.

It looked delicious! I only had a tiny bite of a grilled tofu piece from the wrap itself, but it was a rather promising bite. My friend reported that the tofu wrap is one of his standbys at RFD.

My main course was one of the restaurant's weekly July specials: the Bollywood Special.

The Bollywood Special was a curry dish served with rice and spinach. Included with the special was a piece of chapati (a type of flatbread) and mango chutney. The curry barely hinted at being spicy, but it was chock full of vegetables and taste. It was good! The overall combination with the brown rice and soft spinach made my meal extremely appetizing. The chapati by itself is best described as floury. The two sides of the bread provided a great texture twist for the tongue. The top portion (pictured) was tough and dry. The other side, however, was moist and malleable. A dip into the curry made the bread extremely satisfying. The mango chutney was slightly sweet with a tinge of onion taste. I noticed that oil was mixed with the chutney, which leads me to believe that it is of the stored variety and not freshly made.

Although I did not eat this during this trip there, I need to add that the Living Wrap is amazing. Upon my first bite of it, I found myself enjoying a mix of flavors and zest that I did not know could work together so well. Tasty and colorful, the Living Wrap is my standby at RFD.

Overall, this place is worth the time and money. It runs slightly expensive for its portions but the service is attentive and the food is as inventive as it is tasty (which is, very). I went to RFD's Santa Monica location, which I find to be a bit cramped, but that is the only woe I find there.

Real Food Daily
514 Santa Monica Blvd.
Santa Monica, CA 90401
(310) 451-7544
Mon - Sun 11:30AM to 10:00PM

414 N. La Cienega Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90048
(310) 289-9910
Sun - Thu 11:30AM to 10:00PM
Fri - Sat 11:30AM to 11:00PM
Sunday Brunch 10:00AM to 3:00PM

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