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MONKEY - Back to nature
C.K. LAM grabs a delicious bite from a kampung-style restaurant sitting on a hill
THE Tree Monkey Restaurant is perched on the hill of Tropical Spice Garden in Teluk Bahang. Surrounded by serene greens overlooking the Andaman Sea, this tranquil and romantic restaurant opened for business just two months ago. The restaurant is reminiscent of kampung-style dining, with a huge thatched roof made of alang alang grass imported from Bali along with teak furniture brought in from Chiangmai.
The owner, Patt Khor, has built the restaurant with minimum use of wires and nails.
The ambience is relaxing. In front of the bar counter is a tatami-style dining area where diners sit on comfortable floor mats.
Tree Monkey has a pork-free menu, offering varieties of North-Eastern Thai dishes and snacks prepared with the freshest herbs and spices grown in the Tropical Spice Garden itself.
We sat at the spacious open-air dining area on the wooden deck and were treated to a colourful refreshing tropical fruit mocktail Sunset Paradise (RM10).
This sweet and slightly sour thirst quencher was decorated with a slice of orange and a cherry. It is available only at sunset, from 6pm to 7pm!
The meal began with the appetisers. The platter is priced at RM30, RM45 and RM60 for eight, 12 and 16 pieces (maximum four pieces of each item).
We had two platters, both decorated with beautiful fruit and vegetable carving.
There were 11 varieties with different tastes, textures, aromas and colours.
The choices consist of nine fried items such as mussels and steamed otak-otak and is accompanied by sweet chili sauce.
Among the irresistible bits were the two different deep-fried prawns. My favourite was prawn wrapped in crispy spring roll skin. It was juicy and the taste was well balanced while the prawn wrapped with crispy rice noodle was on the salty side.
Other delights were crispy Thai toast with minced chicken and sesame.
I also had a shared of the Money Bag with minced chicken and vegetable, Herbs Chicken with lemongrass and the moist and flavourful Pandan Chicken wrapped in screwpine leaves.
Our next selection was the Asian Tapas. These are also priced according to the size portion, from RM60 for eight dishes to RM90 for 12 dishes (maximum two dishes on each item), along with two plates of turmeric rice.
The platter of 10 dishes was full of robust flavour. Each item has its distinctive flavour and texture. I personally favour the Nam Tok, a salad comprising tender pieces of beef with an explosive flavour of shallot, chili powder and lime juice. The owner said this is one of the popular dishes.
Decorated next to the Nam Tok was a delicious prawn sambal cooked with roasted chili and shrimp paste. The prawns were very fresh and sweet.
There is also Masaman Curry, a red curry chicken dish cooked with potato, onion and peanut. Other than Chicken Satay, which was on the dry side, the rest of the dishes were best eaten with the turmeric rice.
All these dishes orbited around the refreshing and appetising sourish mango salad with papaya and onions dressed in chili lime sauce.
The Tomyum Soup, sour and slightly spicy, had a satisfying flavour of lemongrass and lime juice and plenty of squid, prawns and oyster mushroom. The chicken-based Tomkha Soup cooked with coconut milk, galangal and mushroom, was smooth and mild in spiciness. Theres something for everyone!
The meal ended on a sweet note. We had Thai coconut ice-cream, which was an absolute delight, topped with the sweet jackfruit and attap chi (palm seed).
We lingered after the meal, chilling and relaxing over a cup of spice coffee and tea at RM8 each. The brew is light with the flavour of cinnamon and spices.
If you are looking for a meal or just a bite out of the town centre, Tree Monkey, with great sea view and relaxing ambience, is undeniably a welcoming dining place. But I heartily recommend putting on suitable clothing to avoid mosquito bites. Repellent is available on request.
The restaurant, open daily from 9am to midnight, also caters for private functions and can accommodate up to 80 people. This restaurant, with free wireless internet access, is a five-minute hike from the main foothill entrance.
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Tree Monkey @ Tropical Spice Garden, Lone Crag Villa, Lot 595 Mukim 2, Jalan Teluk Bahang, 11100 Penang, Malaysia
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