All the iconic foods in one buf­fet

Ho­tel Stripes’ The Snug eatery is go­ing against the grain, serv­ing up pop­u­lar dishes from iconic neigh­bour­hood eater­ies for their Ra­madan buf­fet.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Taste - By ABIRAMI DURAI star2@thes­

RA­MADAN buf­fets at ho­tels all tend to be the same. There is in­evitably a wide, var­ied spread, with all the usual sus­pects often on the menu to cover all bases.

So you’ll have things on the buf­fet you quite like and oth­ers you won’t even re­mem­ber after. And this makes sense, be­cause the meals are pre­pared by a bat­tal­ion of chefs in the ho­tel, and they can’t all pos­si­bly spe­cialise in ev­ery­thing.

Which is what makes the brand-new Ho­tel Stripes’ Ra­madan buf­fet at The Snug (one of the eater­ies in the ho­tel) such a wel­come change. In­stead of a huge, mind-bog­gling se­lec­tion of food, the eatery has gone for a rea­son­ably ex­ten­sive – and rea­son­ably prized – but well-cu­rated se­lec­tion of dishes for the buf­fet, which runs ev­ery day un­til June 23.

But the thing that re­ally sets this buf­fet apart from its peers is the fact that it hosts a whole lot of sig­na­ture dishes from neigh­bour­hood restau­rants, which are all given a share of the spot­light.

Stripes is strate­gi­cally po­si­tioned along Jalan Ka­munt­ing in the Chow Kit area of Kuala Lumpur. The YTL ho­tel was orig­i­nally the first-ever Ban­gu­nan Yeoh Tiong Lay way back in the 1970s, so the his­tory of the neigh­bour­hood is very much in­grained in the ho­tel group’s DNA. Which is also why the ho­tel’s PR team de­cided that in­cor­po­rat­ing the neigh­bour­hood eats would be the best plan for their in­au­gu­ral Ra­madan buf­fet.

“One of our bosses came up with the con­cept of eat­ing with Jalan Ka­munt­ing and by ex­ten­sion, eat­ing with the neigh­bour­hood, be­cause the neigh­bour­hood story is im­por­tant to us,” says Alvin Khoo, the ho­tel’s manager.

In tan­dem with that, the buf­fet, which is priced at RM80 nett, in­cludes lots of fa­mous fare from iconic neigh­bour­ing stalls and restau­rants. There is Cow­boy Ma­mak’s mee ma­mak; Abu stall’s pasem­bor Abu and mee re­bus Abu; MMZ restau­rant’s famed murtabak kamb­ing and sup kamb­ing and sup ayam (on ro­ta­tion) served with In­dian-style bread; and the his­tor­i­cal Cap­i­tal Café’s beef ren­dang, gu­lai ayam and ikan asam pedas.

The ho­tel sup­ple­ments these of­fer­ings with their own in-house con­coc­tions as well as the fa­mous apam ba­lik Seri Menanti (from a cater­ing com­pany that spe­cialises in crunchy apam ba­lik made with Nes­tum, as op­posed to nuts).

The se­lec­tions were all hand-picked by Khoo, who is fa­mil­iar with the area and reg­u­larly fre­quents many of these eater­ies.

“I come from a food and bev­er­age back­ground, so to come up with this con­cept, I se­lected sig­na­ture dishes from cer­tain cafes and stalls. It’s about recog­nis­ing and pro­mot­ing them and giv­ing them ex­tra busi­ness dur­ing Ra­madan,” he says.

Khoo says all the eater­ies were ex­cited about par­tic­i­pat­ing in this, as they had never been ap­proached by a ho­tel be­fore to do some­thing like this.

“They were very happy to serve their dishes in the ho­tel. There were no ob­jec­tions, they were very sup­port­ive and didn’t hes­i­tate at all. We just came up with an un­der­stand­ing and that was it,” he says.

Based on that un­der­stand­ing, the se­lected restau­rants are paid a fixed amount ac­cord­ing to the quantity of food they are re­quired to pre­pare. The food is pre­pared at their premises but the ho­tel does qual­ity con­trol checks to make sure ev­ery­thing is in or­der.

It’s dif­fi­cult to make a choice when you’re faced with so many daz­zling op­tions, but I would highly recommend that you be­gin your buf­fet meal with MMZ’s sup ayam. MMZ, which is lo­cated on Jalan Ka­munt­ing, is owned by the son of the pro­pri­etor of the fa­mous Sup Haji Abu stall along Jalan Do­raisamy, so the eatery has the fam­ily recipe down pat.

MMZ’s rich, pep­pery broth is strong and sooth­ing, and will prove es­pe­cially re­ward­ing if you have con­gested chest (or just an all-round bad day). The cot­tony soft bread served on the side is great for mop­ping up ev­ery last residue of soup in your bowl, and is one of those side­kicks that qui­etly el­e­vates a dish without steal­ing the spot­light.

From MMZ, there is also the equally en­tic­ing murtabak kamb­ing. The bread is soft and doughy on the out­side and gen­tly yields to an in­te­rior that is stuffed with gen­er­ous – gen­er­ous and I do mean – amounts of juicy minced lamb. The pick­led onions served on the side of­fer a nice crunchy el­e­ment to go with all that vel­vety soft­ness.

Then there is Cow­boy Ma­mak’s mee ma­mak, which is pretty much as good as it gets. Cow­boy Ma­mak is owned by Abdul Rashid Abdullah Satar, also re­ferred to as “cow­boy”. He runs his stall on Jalan Ka­munt­ing with his daugh­ter and has been mak­ing mee ma­mak for aeons. And this is ev­i­denced in the taste of his noo­dles, which are springy and haven’t lost their bounce. The dish is also ad­e­quately spicy but isn’t claggy or too oily. If you’re after a plate of comfort food, this hits all the right notes.

Abu’s mee re­bus mean­while, is a slow charmer. Abu’s stall in an al­ley around Jalan Ka­munt­ing is so pop­u­lar that peo­ple come from as far away as Ni­lai and Bangi for a plate of his pop­u­lar noo­dles.

The buf­fet ex­pe­ri­ence al­lows you to put as much or as lit­tle of in­gre­di­ents like bean sprouts, egg, tofu and frit­ters into your mee re­bus as you like, which is great if you’re a fussy eater. And then you can la­dle the gravy gen­er­ously or spar­ingly, de­pend­ing on your in­cli­na­tion.

This mee re­bus at first seems a tad muted, but the more you eat, the more it grows on you, un­til be­fore you know it, you’ve pol­ished off the en­tire plate with gusto.

Abu’s pasem­bor is an­other one of those D-I-Y dishes that re­quire self-assem­bly. So you can gen­er­ously spoon cu­cum­ber, bean sprouts, tofu and prawn frit­ters onto your plate and top it up with the thick, peanu­trich gravy. It’s a rea­son­ably sat­is­fy­ing of­fer­ing, although the sauce could be a lit­tle more ro­bust.

From the famed Cap­i­tal Café on Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rah­man, you must, must try the fiery beef ren­dang. Cap­i­tal Café is sort of an in­sti­tu­tion in the city, and the 61-year-old eatery has even been fea­tured in pub­li­ca­tions Lonely Planet. like

Just a sam­ple of Cap­i­tal’s crazy-good beef ren­dang will help you un­der­stand how the eatery has sus­tained its pop­u­lar­ity over the years. The gravy that coats the meat is rich and full of spices and the beef pieces are pull-apart ten­der – so mal­leable that they glide down your throat like pieces of silk.

The gu­lai ayam is an­other win­ner, of­fer­ing well-cooked chicken couched in a rich curry that is sweet and re­ally tasty.

For a sweet, sweet end­ing to your meal, have an apam ba­lik (or three). The apam is lovely and crispy on the out­side, lav­ishly but­tered on the in­side and filled with Nes­tum flakes, which give it a lovely, dis­tinc­tive crunch. It’s one of those things you have to eat when it’s pip­ing hot and fresh off the grid­dle. Trust me, this could po­ten­tially be love at first bite.

Over­all, your buf­fet ex­pe­ri­ence at Stripes is likely to be mem­o­rable sim­ply be­cause there are dishes here that have been per­fected over decades and con­tinue to be made by peo­ple who see it as a labour of love. And that is ex­actly what makes this buf­fet dif­fer­ent from the rest – there is a heart and soul to it that is ev­i­dent in nearly ev­ery mouth­ful of the neigh­bour­hood dishes.

“In ho­tels, some buf­fets are mass pro­duced, and hon­estly, ho­tel chefs can’t be good at ev­ery­thing. But here, the de­gree of spe­cial­i­sa­tion from each of the neigh­bour­hood restau­rants is very high, so you’ll get the best of what they have, for sure. I eat in all these places nearly ev­ery day, so I know this is true,” says Khoo.

The Snug

Level 2, Ho­tel Stripes

25, Jalan Ka­munt­ing

Chow Kit

50300 Kuala Lumpur

Tel: 03 2038 0000

Ra­madan buf­fet open daily: 7pm to 10pm

— Photos: GLENN GUAN/The Star

The restau­rant is spa­cious and aes­thet­i­cally pleas­ing to the eye, which is why it is so in­ter­est­ing that neigh­bour­hood eats have made it to this posh lo­ca­tion for a street food-meets-ho­tel comfort ex­pe­ri­ence.

The Ra­madan buf­fet at The Snug lets din­ers try the Jalan Ka­munt­ing neigh­bour­hood favourites without hav­ing to bat­tle the hu­mid­ity and park­ing dilem­mas typ­i­cally as­so­ci­ated with the area.

The pasem­bor from Abu’s stall is filled with in­gre­di­ents like cu­cum­ber, egg, radish, tofu and prawn frit­ters in a not-too-pro­nounced savoury sauce.

You’ll love Cap­i­tal Cafe’s fiery beef ren­dang, which fea­tures melt-in-the-mouth beef doused in a rich ren­dang gravy.

The gu­lai ayam from the fa­mous Cap­i­tal Cafe is sump­tu­ous and well-bal­anced.

The Snug is just what the name prom­ises: a cosy place to snug­gle up and en­joy Jalan Ka­munt­ing neigh­bour­hood’s favourite eats in an am­bi­ent-con­trolled en­vi­ron­ment.

Cow­boy Ma­mak’s mee ma­mak can def­i­nitely hold its own against the best mee ma­mak in town.

The Seri Menanti apam ba­lik is a thing of per­fec­tion: thin, crispy crust cracks open to re­veal soft, but­tery in­te­rior laced with Nes­tum.

This pip­ing hot sup ayam from MMZ is de­signed to soothe and sate frayed nerves.

MMZ’s murtabak kamb­ing is ridicu­lously good.

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