Article by Craig J Selby Photos by Christina How
I came with an empty stomach and left one extremely contented, and delighted man. The Sheraton Imperial, clearly known for its uniqueness in doing all things culinary, certainly spun a new twist to the Ramadan Buffet with its “All Stars Steamboat Affair”. Forget the name as an influencing factor, this buffet was far more than steamboat – simply put, it was a delightful combination of many different courses (steamboat included) that took us on a global flavour tour without even having to leave the dining room.
Carefully chosen menu names gave hints as to what was to come – “Soupy Soup”, “Beach Road Hawker”, “Oppa Kandar Style …”, “Middle East Taste”, and “Moms Favourite Tastes” were just some of the titles – and guess what, we got to experience all of these. With this job, I shall never lose weight – but it’s a sacrifice I am willing to make.
Our extravaganza started with “Celebrity Heart” – a salad of ox tongue and grilled chicken, accompanied by stuffed marinated prawns. This had a very artistic presentation, reminiscent of a beautiful abstract painting, but we were later told that during Ramadan the presentation will differ slightly, as this was plated individually tonight for our enjoyment.
This dish is very Malay in origin, and brought together three distinctly different meat textures. Our stuffed prawns had a lovely sweet spice to them, and the chicken was drizzled with a very citrusy sweet sauce – served cool, the sauce matched wonderfully with the chicken. Not a fan of tongue, I gave it a try and was pleasantly surprised with its smooth texture – not at all what I remember from the traumatic childhood dinners of tongue and gravy.
Next up was the Oxtail Soup, colloquially referred to as Gearbox Soup in Malaysia (or Sup Tulang) – only because of the shape of the bone (no other reason at all). A delightful thick broth, this was enhanced to the next level with a few squeezes of lime – my table mates recommended the use of lime to regulate the flavour and add a bit of tang to the soup. With generous chunks of tender meat, the squeeze of lime helped to reduce the sweetness of the tomato based broth. Accompanied with a nice light, fresh bread – the perfect instrument to soak up the soup left on the bowl where the spoon can’t reach.
A very traditional Middle Eastern dish, especially during Ramadan is Mandy Lamb rice. Available in both group and individual servings, this is a dish I could eat all night long. Yes, I make no secret of the fact that I am a lam lover. Very slow cooked, the lamb was beautifully pull-apart, and incredibly tender. Served with a “mild” chilli sauce, with a fluffy rice that added nicely to the flavour, the best part of the lamb for me was in the crispy skin and fatty parts – where the lamb makes contact with the fire – offering a true taste of BBQ lamb, but without the dryness.
It was with the fourth course that we reached our “title destination” – steamboat. With a selection of six soup bases, a huge selection of fresh crunchy vegetables, freshly sliced beef, chunks of chicken breast, and a selection of seafood items, the cooking combinations were almost endless.
I went for the Italian style beef broth, with my beef slices immersed in the boiling liquid for the shortest of time – enough to heat it through without taking away its rareness – delightful. What was more impressive, despite there being a group of us, upon my return for a second (and third) helping, Chef remembered my preferences for rare beef and coordinated the cooking of my steamboat items to suit my ideal of perfection. Kudos to the Chef for this.
I had a go at another flavour of steamboat too – Assam broth with chicken and beef. Both sweet and spicy at the same time, this unique flavour grabbed my attention, but also left me remembering the name of this portal – the Yum List – and this was YUM! My table mates thought I was mildly crazy, but I tell you, that flavour combination was something out of this world, and well worth trying for yourself. Yes, Assam is an acquired taste, and often best with seafood or fish – but as it infuses into the chicken meat and the beef slices, it offers a new level of spice that is hard to describe.
It was at this time I thought dinner would be winding down – but not so. A typical Kowloon style tiger prawn dish emerged – hot and spicy with a beautiful presentation.
Then their “Gastronomic Cuisine” (their title, not mine) emerged – prime beef ribs served with a potato millefoille, duo’ed with a spinach cannelloni and ricotta gratin in a parmesan béchamel sauce. The beef, tender, sumptuous; the potato, mouth-watering. But the cannelloni – ok, I asked for seconds! Devine – no other words describe this morsel of perfection – with an amazing creamy texture and a sauce that just meant the entire cannelloni simply melted in my mouth. I wish I had the recipe for this – and the Chef to help me create a few freezer packs.
Just to round off the mains section of dinner, “Oppa Kandar Style” was introduced. I was a tad worried we might have to dance, or worse, sing, but it was purely for the taste buds. Smokey BBQ flavoured chicken breast, accompanied by a light sweet sauce, juxtaposed against a dry spice-rub beef. Our table were discussing whether or not the beef was ‘traditional’ – still no conclusion to that, but we certainly enjoyed the flavour.
As all good things come to an end, and stomachs start brimming to the point of completeness, deserts arrived. A lovely way to finish off the dinner, with a savoury pancake style item being my pick of the desert offerings.
This was certainly no typical Ramadan Buffet – the twists along the way made that perfectly clear. The food was excellent; the variety of flavours and selection available was amazing. But in addition, I have to make mention of the staff and give credit where credit is due – the restaurant team were very attentive, friendly, and most importantly, knowledgeable. It was an enjoyable night, and a strongly recommended buffet for you to try. Definitely Yum List material!