Penang Top Five: Leonard Selva

Updated: 22 Apr 2013
Photos by Leonard Selva

If by day he shapes young minds as a teacher, by night, Leonard Selva serenades George Town with his jazzy tunes and his other band members. Other than these two joys he has, he shares another five with us such as food he enjoys eating and where to find them.

1. Kedai Kopi Melo, Pitt Street
My favourite nasi briyani stall is Kedai Kopi Melo on Pitt Street. The feel of the rice itself is an experience on its own. Soft in texture while emanating the potpourri of fragrances from spices, mint leaves, herbs and other condiments. Chicken is cooked together with the rice till it’s tender, makes them mingle and blend into each other so well. Here, they serve briyani on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. It certainly is a grand way to have lunch for me.

Kedai Kopi Melo

2. ‘Bote Kade’, Acheen Street
‘Bote kade’ means bottle shop in Tamil. ‘Bottle’ here means the Chettiars who deal with recyclable materials like bottles and the like. It was a shop originally meant to cater to them and it traces back to the 1950's, serving the Bote Chetty, a community of Chettiars who flourished in the trade of recycled materials and scrap metals. In fact, the shop was the lunch house for this community around the vicinity and in those days, lunch must be served quickly. For me, this is the Mecca of banana leaf rice. They certainly pack a spicy punch, food wise. Koli varuval or dried chicken dish is always a must-have for me. Also, don’t expect to water down the mind-exploding spiciness with teh peng or the tarik – they only serve plain water. You can opt for mooru or yogurt to cool you down. Even Anthony Bourdain dropped by this shop and was featured in his food based television program, ‘No Reservations’. The shop’s at the end Acheen street towards Carnarvon Street.

Bote Kade Shop

3. No Eyed Deer, Jalan Fettes 
For something Western, food wise – and also where I usually have a date with my wife – it’s No Eyed Deer restaurant in Fettes Park. While my wife loves their chicken parmigiana, I prefer the mutton rogen josh which is a Mediterranean infused dish. Basically, it’s rice and some mutton in gravy plus acar or chutney. Besides that, their lamb sausages are also a wonder. In short, this is a restaurant I’d dare try all the dishes on their menu. For dessert, my favourite’s their coffee jelly. The owner of the restaurant prepares the dishes himself with an important ingredient that’s sometimes overlooked by other food outlets, and that’s passion. I can sense it and see it – the garnishings on the plates are a work of art and the food’s awesome. Moreover, they’re definitely value for money.

4. Kek Seng Coffee Shop, Penang Road
This is the place I enjoy going to on Sundays, between lunch and tea. Kek Seng Coffee Shop’s my popiah haunt and couple that with their killer desserts such as their homemade durian ice cream that has no colouring nor artificial flavouring. The best thing is, after having a scoop or two, you’d feel warm as if you’ve had real durian. They also serve ice kacang with the durian ice cream. This place was established in 1906, imagine that! Kek Seng’s on Penang Road, right across from KOMTAR.

Popiah from Kek Seng Coffee Shop

5. Krishna Villas, Market Street
Having a sweet tooth led to a new discovery for me. This place has fantastic palgova which is an Indian dessert that’s made of ingredients such as milk, almond, ghee and sugar. Generally, palgova is a hard, square-cut dessert. But at Krishna Villas, it’s served in semi liquid form and scooped from a tray. It just melts in your mouth, tingles your taste buds with flavours that’ll bring them to whole different level. I normally have it with my poori and tea. The shop is right smack in the heart of Little India in George Town.

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