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 culinary 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 dissimilar in theme to Puerto Banus even if the two places are miles apart in origins as well as geographically.
Puerto Banus was once a quaint fishing village that has now found fame as a hangout for the rich and famous and the once quaint fishing harbour is home to some of Europe’s floating palaces and surrounded not by tiny fishermen’s’ homes but top of the line restaurants specialising 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 Penang’s 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.
Agua have 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 ways 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 delicacies such as anchovies, tomatoes, olive oil and other regional 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 taste as in Europe and North America, the texture of the tail meat of the monkfish was sometimes compared to lobster and has been alluded to as the “poor man’s lobster,” in long-gone, as today it commands prices equivalent to, and in some cases exceeding, lobster and other marine
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, Saffron (one of the worlds most expensive ingredients!!), fish and shellfish 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.
3AG18-19 Straits Quays