Essence of MelakaAugust 7, 2011 | 3,506 views
Roasted Whole Lamb with Nyonya Sambal Marination – A whole lamb roasted to tender perfection; served with a myriad of interesting condiments; including one piquant sambal with cincalok sauce, and a rich, buttery mushroom-based one.
The seventh day of Ramadan now. Have you got any ‘buka puasa’ (breaking fast) story to be shared? Any particular new dish that has crawled its way into the already colourful array of foods at the Ramadan bazaars all over Klang Valley? Or are you still fascinated by the same old lemang, ayam panggang and kueh-mueh?
Essence @ Sheraton Imperial Hotel, Kuala Lumpur – This obligatory shot of the ambience before we proceed with the onslaught of food shots.
For the month of Ramadan, Essence @ Sheraton Imperial Kuala Lumpur Hotel takes the path less travelled, and offers a Peranakan cuisine with a local twist. Helmed by Chef Jamsari hailing from Jasin, Melaka, he’s shouldered with the unenviable task of coming up with a slew of Malaccan/Peranakan delights for the promotion.
And thus we have an impressive mix of asam pedas, satay celup, melaka chicken rice balls, ayam pongteh, nyonya chap chai, pajeri nanas, to desserts like tapai pulut daun getah, sago gula melaka, onde-onde and various dodol.
Nasi Ulam Nyonya Style reminded me of the very ‘healthy’ Malay style nasi kerabu with an assortment of finely-chopped ingredients. The rice goes with the roasted lamb, and in fact was the only flavoured rice throughout the spread, aside from the Melaka chicken rice balls.
Props of mortar & pestle aside, it’s always inviting to see your dishes being served in claypots rather than in uninspiring trays; perpetually heated with a candle underneath. Authentic, earthen clay that may (or may not) impart a certain aroma to the dish it holds within.
The prerequisite of a buka puasa buffet? Satay; lots and lots of them with sides of ketupat, sliced cucumber and raw onion, and of course the ever-important peanut sauce. Essence offers chicken and beef, as well as cow’s stomach (sate perut), mutton and deer meat. The top left pic was various salted fish served in a variety of ways; most notably deep fried until crunchy, and another version featuring ikan kurau cooked in a spicy chili sauce.
For a more traditional take to a Ramadan feast, go for ketupat and lemang.
A basic dish of mixed vegetables and translucent glass noodles; the Nyonya Chap Chai is but one of the many prides of the Peranakan’s. Appearing to be of lacklustre quality aesthetically, but a brilliant rendition of Chap Chai can equate to copious amount of rice being consumed on the table.
Sambal Udang Petai (Spicy stir fried prawns with stinkbeans) – The amount of prawns (with shells intact) overpowered the minimal (almost non-existent) quantity of ‘petai’, hence I skipped this. Still prefer my sambal petai with horrendously lopsided amount of beans to prawns ratio.
And a welcoming thought (if you’re a fan, if not then refrain from being adventurous) in the sense that they offer various condiments and sides to perk up the already robust dishes. Good accompaniment to the ulam (raw vegetables), the sambal cincalok and tempoyak were of fantastic quality. So much so that I found myself downing spoonfuls of them without any sides. Wait, THEY ARE the sides ….
Redundant. And stuck in one corner far away from the highlight of the promotion, hence most of us gave this a miss too. But wouldn’t hurt if you’re not fond of spicy dishes or pungent ones like tempoyak, cincalok, petai and all.
The Asam Pedas Counter – Definitely the highlight of the Essence of Ramadan feast, the asam pedas station had the 3 chefs (they’re the ones in red) continuously dishing up pots after pots of piping hot, sour and spicy concoction featuring your seafood/meat of choice (even oxtail!), various vegetables for picking. Asam pedas is a dish (asam = tamarind, pedas = spicy) best served with copious amount of white rice, yet the sheer indulgence of having such extensive buffet spread somehow made this an overkill.
Fresh tomatoes, brinjal, ladies fingers (okra) and fresh cuts of fishes (from stingray to snapper, mackerel to even shellfish) cooked in this claypot filled with spicy and tangy asam pedas gravy.
Finally something of interest? Melaka style of chicken rice balls, served in individual portions with a choice of steamed or roasted chicken. Gave this a miss since the carbo intake was piling up like mad, but heard pretty favourable review for this one.
Though you can have the oysters in their most zinc-loaded, raw manner, they actually grill them over charcoal fire and serve them with a topping of sambal belacan or cincalok! Talk about fusion.
Dates are supposed to be eaten before you break your fast (3 pieces) believed to prepare the hollowed stomach (after more than 10 hours of fasting) for the subsequent feast. Though the Muslims believe that you shall not stuff yourself silly when breaking fast, as this defeats the whole purpose of fasting in the first place.
Always best to leave the sweets for last. At Essence, the dessert ‘counter’ is in fact, a whole separate room altogether. Placed in hollowed wooden cabinets painted red, searching for your favourite desserts may take some time since they are placed in a random manner.
Coconut jelly served in cocktail glasses, away from the desserts section. At this same corner, you can find fresh coconut drinks as well.
The 3 Musketeers? Okay, so they’re ESSENCE-tially maestros at work, but see them in their happy-go-lucky forms got me wondering if they’re having a whale of a time whipping up the Ramadan feast for the masses? Maybe it was only the 3rd day of Ramadan. 🙂
The rest of the ‘1001 more dishes’ are not depicted here, nor explained in details. It’s always a tedious job writing about buffets, but highlighted in this post would be some of the attractions. There were several dishes that did not work; such as a lacklustre rendition of my favourite ‘ayam pongteh’, and then there were those that did not fit in into the Melaka/Peranakan specialties range yet impressed me such as a fantastic North Indian range including lamb vindaloo, fluffy naan breads and mushroom do payaza which was creamy, spicy and moreish all at once.
And of course, this stomach could only be inflated to an extent of possibly consuming a third of the buffet line. All in all, a clever notion to break away from the norms as the usual Ramadan buffets in various hotels include the very generic Malay dishes, yet you’re paying for many folds of what you usually pay from eating on the streets.
The buffet is priced at RM108.00++ per person, and for every 10 paying guests, you will get two complimentary seats. Available from 3rd August until 27th August 2011.
*This Essence of Ramadan dining experience was by invitation, thanks to the management of Sheraton Imperial Kuala Lumpur Hotel.