"Vegetables are interesting but lack a sense of purpose when unaccompanied by a good cut of meat."Fran Lebowitz
Now, any Malaysian foodie worth his or her salt would automatically be mistrustful of a restaurant selling hawker-style food which looks this ostentatious. The fare would rarely be exceptionally good and the price would usually just be exceptional - but I had it on good authority that this establishment started more than two decades ago as a little roadside stall not far from its current locus a little off the well-known Jalan Raja Uda of mainland Penang. There is no doubt that it must have served real good eats to have achieved this level of success but the real question is: did it maintain its cooking standards when it took an upgrade?
Not that I have an answer. I was only in Butterworth for a month, but this place was certainly near the top of my Penang food hit-list - mainly because of its proximity to Phoeb's place where I was staying for a spell.
Note that this place is also called Restoran Lin, though I don't think many people refer to it as such.
The non air-conditioned section. Check out the convenient English menu board for us Chinese illiterate blood betrayers.
The interior is divvied into two adjacent sections; the one with air-conditioning, and the other without. There's a modern-ish cafe vibe this place was going for and I certainly dug the comfy, clean feeding pen. While how a place looks rarely figures into my decision to return to an eating place over and over (and over) again, I do appreciate a restauranteur's efforts at beautifying his or her business.
And I am someone who wouldn't mind paying a little more for it.
The 7 Village Noodle House's main draw and star attraction is their koay teow th'ng, a ubiquitous - and I do mean ubiquitous - Penang fare. For those not brought up with a firm grounding in Hokkien food terms, koay teow refers to a form of popular Chinese flat rice noodle while the suffix th'ng usually means that something is drowned in a soup or broth. It literally means soup when used as a standalone word.
The thing about koay teow th'ngs are that they all taste pretty much the same. It is really, really hard to fuck up such a simple dish. The flat rice noodle wouldn't differ much (if at all) no matter where you get them. The only room for manoeuvre lies in the soup base and the accompaniments. In this case, the soup's pretty pedestrian - especially if you compare it to the broth which came with Lebuh Chulia's Lam Ah beef koay teow th'ng, one of my absolutely favourite eats on the island. But perhaps it's unfair to compare apples and oranges.
As for the accompaniments, the 7 Village bowl comes with a patty minced pork, a pair of fishballs, some chicken strips along with a sprinkling of chopped spring onion and fried onion flakes. They were all perfectly adequate, of course, but mediocrity simply doesn't cut it for me. And the minced pork patty was sinfully bland and dry. It was somehow almost completely waterproof.
The price tag, however, was surprisingly reasonable. It was only RM 2.80 for a small serving (only 30 cents more than the standard price for this dish) and RM 3.80 for a big one. While I may sound quite critical in my assessment, it's actually not a bad dish at all. And the environ of the shop pretty much makes up for the slight price hike, if you ask me.
You might wonder why I even bother reviewing such an average eatery - and if you are interested in knowing, there are two reasons why I did so. The first is this,
This is the 7 Village la mian or hand-pulled Chinese noodle. La means "pulled" or "stretched" in Mandarin, while mian means "noodle"; and some people believe that the Japanese term, ramen, has its etymological root in it. It comes only in one size and costs RM 5.80 - which is a little pricey, sure, but it always felt like money well-spent after every bowl I ate. The noodle is firm and tasty but the true strength of this dish is the thin pork slices it's served with. They are well-marinated, juicy and not too gummy on the chew. Also, the soft-cooked or jellied egg was perfect. I'm not a fan of eggs in general but I can certainly recognise
I returned to 7 Village many times for lunch, and I only ordered their specialty, the koay teow th'ng just once. It's the la mian the rest of the time for me.
Reason number two is this,
They serve mint tea here! Any place that serves mint tea is automatically awesome and righteous in my book. I have a serious mint addiction. I must tell you guys about it sometimes.
It's listed as "cool mint" in their menu though, and I pretty much had the entire waiting staff scratching their heads when I placed my order for a glass of "mint tea" in one of my earlier visits.
Besides the two main things I've mentioned, there are a sundry of other side dishes you can call to accompany your koay teow th'ng or la mian. I only ever tried two items from their menu and both were quite forgettable,
It's written as kwan jiang traditional on the menu board. Verdict: I have no idea what the fuck I just ate.
There's only one good thing to come out of ordering these sides; I noticed for the first time that the Chinese character for "seven" looks like the Hindu-Arabic numeral symbol for the same thing when turned upside down. Yes, that "7" we are all used to albeit with the strike-through people usually employ to differentiate it from "1" or to be cool, or something. If you didn't know what our commonly used numbers are actually called, you learnt something new today by reading my blog.
Phone charger with lock boxes. They have a similar setup outside for umbrellas - sans the charging, of course.
The shop is not located right by the main road so it can be tricky to find if you're not equipped with some basic intructions. Just drive along Jalan Raja Uda in the northward direction till you see a Petronas petrol station - try and spot it while it's still far away. There's a positively tiny signboard by the roadside with the restaurant's symbol (the stylised yellow Chinese "seven" seen in the picture above) several metres before the Petronas station which will ask you to turn left, bringing you into Lorong Ceri 6. Go straight in and you'll see the shop on your right.
Alternatively, you can turn left into the lane right before and right beside the Petronas station, Lorong Ceri 5, and drive straight in till the end of the row of shophouses till you see a corner restaurant called Sai Toh Lim. 7 Village Noodle House is in the row behind it.
GPS coords according to Google Earth are 5°25'16.85"N and 100°22'49.84"E.
I mentioned Sai Toh Lim because I'm going to review it next and it's pretty much a direct competitor of 7 Village. Now, I'm retiring to bed because tomorrow morning, I'm driving up to KL for the day to do a spot of book-shopping. A growing boy needs his reads.
Practically a Butterworth native by now,
k0k s3n w4i