Uncle uncle, cannot decide what to eat ah? Then, why not eat a little bit of everything? It is all-you-can-eat buffet after all, so eat all you like and then come back for more lah! That's exactly what me and Ah Shez did at Flavours of Malaysia buffet at the Grace Brasserie in Grace Hotel, as part of the Crave Sydney International Food Festival.
I was rather excited when I received the invitation from Grace Hotel asking me to join them for the launch dinner, but alas, I couldn't make it because it fell on the same night as my birthday dinner at Table for 20. But they are very accommodating and asked me to come along at another time that suits me, so long I make a booking first as it tends to get very busy. Hence I decided to go on a weekday afternoon and nice to have Shez, a fellow Malaysian with me to share a long lunch break.
We arrive at Grace Brasserie just after 12.30pm and the place is already filling up fast with aunties and uncles. As we are surveying a long line of catering trays, lifting every single lid to check out what's on offer, a horde of office workers suddenly appeared out of no where and a queue is miraculous formed by itself around the food behind us. A rush of panic, me and Shez also quickly grab a plate and join in the queue for the kill.
There are plenty of Malaysian delicacies to keep everyone happy. Closer to the entrance is a do-it-yourself salad bar which holds a variety of Malaysian salads including Rojak, a mixed fruit salad with sambal prawn paste sauce that is a little watery and tad too sweet; the blanched vegetable for the Pasembor salad with peanut sauce is looking rather bit sad and neglected whereas all the fried dough to go with the salad were long gone; a great selection of acar salad where we get to choose among chicken, pork, vegetarian or seafood is a lot more promising with its flavour and freshness.
The highlight of the buffet is having in-house chefs flown in specially from Kuala Lumpur to demonstrate and prepare mee rebus, roti canai and roti jala right in front of you behind the open kitchen. All freshly made to orders, spirals of tumeric flour batter is dripped from a roti jala funnel onto hot plate to form a lacy "noodle" crepe; a ball of roti dough is stretched and pulled until wafer thin then flipped and grilled to a golden crisp. The chefs can't seem to keep up with the demanding hungry mouths, the roti canai are eventually cut into quarters to make up the numbers.
Mee Rebus can also be prepared according to one's taste preference from a wide range of condiments on display. The inconsistency of different noodle used in the dish has us puzzled, Shez orders hers first and comes back with yellow noodle whereas mine is served with Shanghai white noodles. We also find the sauce has a peculiar strong flavour of seafood, which is not a common flavour for mee rebus that we used to.
The satay sticks are more rewarding but they are disappearing fast. Choose between chicken or beef, marinated with tumeric and lemon grass then grilled over charcoals for extra smokiness. I find the meat is a little dry, but can be easily fixed with the house made satay peanut sauce that is delicious and fragrant.
Then there is an array of savoury dishes kept in catering buffet warmers. Two types of staple rice, steamed or tomato rice, are available to accompany the meaty dishes. The Char Kway Teow stir fry noodle is sadly lacking the breathe of wok and heavily coated in black kecap manis. We find most of the meaty dishes are curry or chilli based, including curry fish with lady fingers, sambal prawns, lamb korma, sambal eggplant and sambal fried eggs. The chilli prawn is the most spicy dish we've tried, but my favourite is the sambal fried egg, deep fried whole hard boiled egg the braised in a pool of hot sambal chilli sauce. It is usually served with nasi lemak, that's why I find it strange that a few core Malaysian delicacies are not on the menu including nasi lemak, beef rendang, sambal ikan bilis, mee goreng, yes! Mee Goreng! Where's my favourite mee goreng?!
The dessert bar at the far end looks spectacular, colourful Malay kuih a plenty to choose from, but sadly they are a bit of a let down. Both Shez and I grab one of each to share. First thing I notice is the absence of pandan and replaced with green food colouring, we can only detect coconut flavour in most of the desserts. The kuih lapis layered cake is a little firmer than it should, so as the angkoo kuih, the skin is lacking the mochi-like chewiness that I am hoping for, the mung bean paste filling inside is satisfyingly sweet nonetheless.
The kuih kochi wrapped and steamed inside banana leaf is huge, we hardly make a dent on that rich cake filled with sweet dessicated coconut soaked in palm sugar syrup inside. Onde-onde is my all time favourite. Despite the skin is a little on the thick side, the sudden burst of palm sugar syrup as I bite into it is always a comforting sweet surprise. But the most delectable kuih we've tried is actually the Kuih Talam, the white coconut layer on top is soft and salty, nicely balanced with a firmer and sweet layer of pandan cake at the bottom.
We didn't notice there is actually a drink menu until we almost finish our meal. The Teh Tarik is genuinely pulled and frothed up by a waiter behind the bar, but unfortunately it is lacking the Oomph! It tastes just like BOH tea, which is similar to Lipton tea which we can get in Australia, it is a little too sweet from the condensed milk. We both also share a serve of Ais Kacang, a kaleidoscope of fruit and jelly is buried underneath a mound of shaved ice inside a martini glass. We happily chipping the ice away, revealing a vibrant pink core centre doused in rose syrup.
The food at the Flavour of Malaysia buffet unfortunately is a little bit disappointing, but being the "asian" us, somehow we still managed to walk out the restaurant absolutely stuffed. It is a price we have to pay for over indulgence.
Grace Brasserie at the Grace Hotel
Level 2, 77 York Street, Sydney
Flavours of Malaysia
Dates: October 7-29, 2010
Times: Lunch Monday-Friday and Sunday 12pm-2pm
Dinner Friday and Saturday 6pm-9pm
Cost: Lunch Monday to Friday $38, Lunch on Sunday $48, Dinner $48 (drinks extra charge)
Bookings: +61 (02) 9272 6636
ATFT dined as a guest of the Grace Hotel