I’VE never been partial to buffets because of my pitifully tiny tank. And Ramadan buffets? Even worse because after a whole day of abstinence from food, my already pitifully tiny tank becomes near non-existent.
So every time Ramadan rolls in and the flurry of buka invitations lands on my office table, my inclination has always been to ignore them.
Somehow the mere thought of traversing the length of some chilly ballroom or crowded restaurant to get to your food, jostling against fellow starving souls while at the same time mentally planning a strategy on how best to manouvre a buffet spread of 200-plus items, do not seem appealing.
But when an invitation to savour a Ramadan spread at Hotel Stripes KL appeared in my email recently, I was piqued. For a number of reasons.
With the YTL-owned boutique hotel still considered somewhat of a new kid on the block against other behemoths in the local hotel-scape, I was curious to see what the F&B team could cobble together in such a short time.
Somehow I was confident that I wouldn’t need to manouvre a culinary showcase that would put me in food coma or require me to carry a map to locate the various items from the spread.
Secondly, its Festive Celebrations’ menu looked interesting.
Instead of the usual theme of kampong nostalgia and the ubiquitous trumpeting of quantity of dishes, this one was pretty simple — the promise of a spread that would showcase the best in local food from the urban neighbourhood of Jalan Kamunting, KL, and the chance to explore the nostalgic culinary past of this locale, formerly a tin mining settlement.
A COSY AFFAIR
“Are you going to get your food now?” The urgency in my friend’s voice is palpable as she taps on her watch to remind me that buka time is drawing nigh.
She’s perplexed at how I can remain so calm when I should be parking myself by the buffet queue ready to pounce once the strains of the azan (call to prayer) are heard.
Smiling serenely, I point to the succulent dates on the table.
“I eat that first-lah. No need to rush pun. Do you see any queues?” I reply, motioning for her to scan the restaurant.
True enough, there’s none of the annoying features commonly associated with Ramadan buffet lines — the irate jostling, the wasteful piling of food, the snaking queues.
Befitting its name, The Snug, located on level 2 and the venue for the Ramadan buffet, is indeed snug and cosy, set against a backdrop of warm brick walls interspersed with dark wooden wall cabinets lined with books. The lighting is dim and the vibe? Laidback.
Although the restaurant, one of two food outlets in the hotel, the other being Brasserie 25, an elegant French-style restaurant by the lobby, is already filling up with couples, corporate groups and families, there’s still a sense of calm permeating the whole place.
The only bustle comes from wait staff, of which there seems to be plenty, ever ready to replenish your drinks, see to your empty plates and offer recommendations on what you can explore next.
Perhaps it’s because this Ramadan fare from the hotel is meant to be a cosy affair. And this is reflected in the modest but delightful selection of dishes that await the hungry diner.
DIGGING INTO NOSTALGIA
One of the nicest things about this festive menu is the fact that you get to really savour authentic local food that, I have to say, hits the mark as far as taste is concerned.
Who cares about numbers when each and every one of the dish that you sample actually tastes really good? The focus here is more on quality than quantity.
With the theme being neighbourhood specials, there are items from a couple of real “Malayan” institutions that have made Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman home for decades. Capital Cafe is one, an eatery, which first opened its doors in 1956 and famed for having two generations of three families operating under one roof, offering Chinese Hokkien, Indonesian Minang and Indian-Muslim fare.
From Capital, the highlights are the Beef Rendang, Assam Pedas fish and the Chicken Curry eaten with plain white rice or the tasty Lamb Biryani.
There’s also Abu’s famous Pasembor and Rojak, as well as mouthwatering Mee Rebus from a simple wooden warung called Mee Mamak Cowboy, located right across the hotel, which some swear offers the best Mee Mamak this side of the Klang Valley.
Not to be missed is the Oxtail Soup from MMZ Bistro, located on nearby Jalan Dang Wangi and famed for its hearty soups.
Enjoy the thick broth with a side of the old fashioned fluffy Roti Bengali — it’s awesome.
There are also some signature dishes specially prepared by Chef Irwin Chan and the team such as Grilled Stuffed Whole Snapper and Marinated Roast Lamb. And don’t forget to try the flavourful Sotong Masak Petai (squid cooked with bitter bean).
If you like your Malay Kuih, there’s a nice selection by the entrance, some of which, I dare say, are hard to come by now.
And talking of fares “parked” by the entrance to The Snug, you must try the fluffy Lemang together with Beef or Chicken Serunding. One of my favourite items on the menu, I found myself returning to it during the course of the makan session, despite having progressed to desserts!
And talking of desserts, a must-try is the Apam Balik. Beautifully crispy, there’s a really nice crunch in the centre, thanks to the addition of crispy Nestum instead of the conventional nuts.
Kids (and big kids alike) will salivate over the ice-cream station with its wide ranging flavours by Vedablu. Be sure to try the local flavours such as Cempedak and Durian.
Vedablu’s ice-cream and sorbet do not contain any preservatives and are made from fresh and natural ingredients. Something else that’s sure to evoke some nostalgia in “big kids” are the local popsicles or “ice-cream Malaysia” that are specially made by the chefs here to bring back childhood memories.
From waffle stations to salads, bite-size western desserts to local fruits that you can just grab from the “fridge”, there really is more than enough to satiate those looking for quality Ramadan spread that can be enjoyed in a relaxed setting.
Your Ramadan “buka” experience need no longer be a harried and hurried affair.
Go to www.stripeskl.com for details.
Hotel Stripes KL
THE SNUG @ Level 2,
Hotel Stripes KL,
25 Jalan Kamunting,
Chow Kit, KL