If, like me, you are a frequent visitor to Straits Quay then it will come as no surprise to you that some of the Islands best kept cullinary secrets are to be found here. It is then, with much joy that I have finally gotten around to sampling some of the best Mediterranean fare I have ever had, anywhere, here at Agua.
Karen Tan, the co-owner of Agua (Pascal Martin Daguet is the other co-owner who is based in Russia) very kindly spent the time explaining Agua’s menu and concept so that I could better understand where they were coming from and their emphasis on fresh quality ingredients put together in authentic recipes for the delight of Penangites and visitors alike.
Before coming to Asia over a decade ago, a favorite holiday haunt of mine was Spain, in particular Puerto Buenus. Straits Quay is not that disimilar in theme to Puerto Banus even if the two places are miles apart in origins as well as geographically.
Puerto Banus was once a quant fishing village that has now found fame as a hang-out for the rich and famous and the once quant fishing harbour is home to some of Europes floating palaces and surrounded not by tiny fishermans homes but top of the line restaurants specializing in seafood and regional dishes. Straits Quay on the other hand has been purpose built as a haven for luxury yachts and has, as just mentioned, some of Penangs best restaurants.
Agua located on the ground floor has a light and breezy décor with ample seating both inside and al fresco with marina views and fresh air galore. The restaurants’ logo proudly states “Agua – a mediterranean journey” – and boy, what a joyful journey you will be on. The quality of the food is second to none and the execution of the menu and service is nothing short of inspirational.
Starting from last weekend (05-11-11) Agua has extended their Tapas menu to over 30 items as this part of their menu has proven popular. For me Tapas represents one of the best way of eating totally scrumptious food – grazing. That is to say small portions of many dishes, this way you can sample many varied foods at one sitting without needing elasticated trouser tops.
Tapas means topping or cover as the original tapas were slices of dried bread that were served with a glass of wine or sherry to keep the flies away. This eventually led to innkeepers topping fresher bread with local delicasies such as anchovies, tomatoes, olive oil and other regional and (then) cheap produce. Traditionally these tapas were served inclusive of the price of the drink but with the cost of everything increasing this habit had to stop or else the price of drinks would have become astronomical.
Tapas has come along way from those rudimentary beginnings and have now expanded to full blown dishes that are served usually as smaller portions or as is the case in most Spanish bars shared amongst a group of drinkers/diners.
The tapas concept should go very well in Asia as the shared family style of eating is very much the way of life here and Tapas should be ordered as a shared group activity so that everyone can sample a wide variety of flavours.
In addition there is a constantly changing weekly specials menu which contains my favorite fish of all time – Monkfish. This has been especially imported by air freight to thrill the palates of Penangites and visitors. If you have not yet had the pleasure of Monkfish it is a firm, white-fleshed fish with a meaty texture, and of course absolutely delicious despite it being one of the ugliest fishes ever to have swam the seas!!.
Luckily for us the Monkfish’s beauty has nothing to do with its taste as in Europe and North America, the texture of the tail meat of the monkfish was sometimes compared to lobster tail and has been alluded to as the “poor man’s lobster,” in days long-gone, as today it commands prices equivalent to, and in some cases exceeding, lobster and other marine delicacies.
We will be featuring Agua in our December issue of ‘What’s On Penang’ – to secure your copy contact us and register your email address on our mailing list.
As we will not be publishing before the end of some of these delectable offerings from Agua we have decided to offer this article as a taster so that you do not miss out. For example Agua do a Paella cookout – a cooking demonstration of how to cook the perfect Paella followed by eating the dish you have seen being cooked in front of your very eyes.
Seafood Paella is a rice and seafood dish in which Agua only use the very best and freshest of ingredients. The specially imported rice (a medium grain or pearl rice) is used with olive oil, Safron (one of the worlds most expensive ingredients!!), fish and shelllfish slowly cooked by gently adding fresh fish stock a spoonful at a time until it is absorbed – to much detail to put here – it is best you go and see the cookout for the best tutorial you will ever get on Paella cooking. Book in advance at RM38 (includes Paella, Paysanne salad – a typical Spanish salad, tangy garlic bread and a glass of Sangria) or you will pay RM 50 on the night if there are any seats left – you have been warned – details are listed at the bottom of this article.
Extract from the Agua website – agua.com.my
Thirteen countries border the Mediterranean (“Mare Nostrum”, or “Our Sea” for the Romans), not counting the ones on the Eastern Adriatic or the islands states of Cyprus and Malta.
In the course of its long and fascinating history, great empires sprang out of her shores and their people spread their culture over most of the world. Romans, Greeks, Phoenicians, Ottomans, Egyptians, Moors, to name a few, all played their part in the birth and flowering of some of the most refined civilizations in the world. Nowhere in the world have so many different people mixed together to mould what is now recognized as a unique blend of flavours, colours, scents, lifestyle and climate.
The Mediterranean cuisine perhaps best illustrates this unique region. This is the land of vineyards, olive groves, figs, of scented herbs like lavender, rosemary, thyme, oregano, basil; of sun blessed vegetable and fragrant fruit, goat and ewe’s milk cheeses, of grains and nuts and pulses,
all combining to create time-honoured and universally known dishes: Tajines and pastilla in Morocco, paella and tapas in Spain, bouillabaisse in France, dazzling mezze in Lebanon, sparkling salads in Greece, the recipes of which have been lovingly nurtured by family cooks and passed on down generation after generation.
No special event happens around the Mediterranean without the celebration of food (and wine). In the humblest of farms as in the wealthiest houses, families mark the passage of time with meals often cooked together and shared and enjoyed around the family table with friends and neighbours. Wherever you may be around the Mediterranean, food is the language of hospitality, festivities, traditions and friendship.
At Agua we invite you to join us in a journey around the Mediterranean and discover some of its best-loved dishes in the same spirit of authenticity and conviviality. We wish you a warm welcome.
3AG18-19 Straits Quays, E&O Marina,
Penang, Malaysia, 10470,