Gourmet Garden

Hunting For The Flavors & Texture Of Yesteryears'


SELAMAT HARI RAYA to all Muslim friends!

Not much action since I joined a company and responsible for opening up new international markets. The brain is tired from all those country and market research plus business visit arrangements. The weekend and Raya holidays gave me the opportunity to prepare and author a recent and 1 or 2 outstanding posts that I have place a mental note to get done.

Two weeks ago we were invited by Hard Rock Hotel Penang to review their annual “Bintang Rock Buffet” designed to cater to the Muslim Fasting Month (bulan puasa). This year is the third consecutive year of being hosted by their Starz Diner and Hard Rock Cafe to taste their customized buffet line that showcases and adopts the many local cuisines that makes Malaysian food unique. Year on year their dishes and variety keep getting better, and this year they have made the buffet dish selection a true Malaysian potpourri; the buffet line up includes the exotic Malay salads (kerabus and ulams), Indian Masala to Chinese fried noodles crafted by their well skilled chefs.

The Bintang Rock Buffet at Starz Diner for this year (2014) was a limited time offer theme buffet  from the 29th June to 29th July 2014, with 4 individually unique selection of drinks and dishes menus to satisfy the desire for variety during the holy fasting month. The buffet would have only set you back RM70++ per adult and RM35++ per child of 6 to 12years old.

To breakfast after a day of abstaining from drinking and eating, it is advisable to start slow and light, the best choice is to have a hot drink and some nutrition packed dates.  We did not need to warm up our digestive system, thus we headed straight to their appetizers and salads were section to sample some of the not usually available dishes in hotels or local restaurants. There were (clockwise from top right) ‘keropok lekor’ or fish crackers, pickled mix fruits/vegetables, variety of ‘Cincaluk’ or preserved shrimps and ‘nasi ulam’ or mixed vegetable rice and ‘serunding’ or meat floss. In the centre we have a plate filled with the appetizers ready to go.

This year’s salad selection were seasoned raw fish salad, chicken and young jackfruit salad, cuttlefish salad, tomato salad, ‘kerabu kacang campur’ or mixed bean salad and ‘kerabu udang’ or prawn salad.

In their line up, they also had ‘Bubur Lambuk’ or mixed vegetable congee (on the left) and ‘Sup Kambing ala Mydin’ or lamb soup (on the right). This year’s bubur lambuk was a much creamier and spiced as compared to previous years, it had more ‘santan’ or coconut milk and heavier touch of spices, more flavourful and tasty.

Moving to the main courses, (clockwise from top right) there were ‘Gulai Ikan Tenggiri Bendi’ or Mackerel Curry with Ladies Fingers,  ‘Sambal Tumis Udang & Petai’ or Sambal Prawns with Bitter/Stink Beans, Steamed Patin Fish with Ginger Soy and ‘Ketam Masak Lemak Nenas’ or Braised Blue Crab in Turmeric & Coconut Gravy.

(Clockwise from top right) ‘Gulai Ayam’ or Chicken Curry, ‘Kari Daging Kentang ‘ or Beef & Potato Curry and Mutton Kheema.

(Clockwise from top right) Fried E Foo Mee with Chicken, Chicken & Lamb Satay, Chicken Masala, Lamb Shawarma and Roast Strip Loin with Grilled Vegetables.

After finishing with the appetizers and main courses, there were the traditional Malaysian sweet cakes or ‘Kuih-Muih’.

Apart from the traditional, there were also Continental desserts like White Chocolate Creme Caramel, Chocolate Cake, Chocolate Coffee Walnut Mousse, Strawberry Streusel, and more.

Before we could finish the Bintang Rock Buffet, Hard Rock Cafe sent in their “The Rock Platter” for this year’s Puasa month. The platter was priced at RM140++ for 2 persons’ and RM210++ for 3 persons’ 3 Course Meal with Drinks! It was monstrous platter for us Asians and we definitely had dig in deep to try to finish it, especially we had already gone through the buffet line.

For the Rock Platter, there were two separate menus to choose from, we had menu ‘A’  which had Onion Rings, Chicken Briyani, Spaghetti Marinara, Chicken Portuguese, Vegetable Spring Roll, Grilled Mini Shrimp Quesadilla, Hickory-Smoked BBQ Beef Ribs and Mini Beef Burgers with Rendang Sauce.

Overall experience for Starz Diner’s Bintang Rock Buffet and Hard Rock Cafe’s Rock Platter:

  • 4.0/5 (Good)
  • On average the dishes served were on the bland side due to the reduction of salt and pepper in their cooking after their guests’ feedbacks on health concerns, but they have prepared individual bottles of salt and pepper to add taste.
  • They were not stingy on the spices and herbs used in their recipes, though.
  • 3.5/5 (Averagely Good)
  • Anything served and consumed at the appropriate time is always the best in terms of texture and taste.
  • The Rock Platter’s Chicken Portuguese, beef rib and burger patty were all tender and moist although it was sitting idle for a short while before we began to dig in.
  • N/A as it is an invited review event, but the staffs at hand were quite attentive, friendly and helpful.
  • 4.5/5 (Very Good)
  • The dining area was neat and clean.
  • 3.5/5 (Averagely Good)
  • Comfortable seats, bright dining area and clean cutlery and plates.
  • 3.5/5 (Averagely Good)
  • If compared to last year’s prices, there weren’t much increase for the Bintang Rock Buffet, but there was a slight increase for the Rock platter.
  • N/A for Bintang Rock Buffet.
  • It was a monstrosity for the Rock Platter, 2 persons would have some difficulty to finish the whole platter set.
  • 3.5/5 (Averagely Good)
  • There were more variety of choices, more mixture of local cuisines and showcase of traditional dishes.
  • The qualities of ingredients were improved, e.g. the Blue Crab was fresh and still had their distinctive sweetness.
  • There was also quantity in the condiments and raw material utilised for preparing their dishes, e.g. their Spicy Prawn noodles had also used crab for the making of their soup base.
  • 4.5/5 (Very Good)
  • After having been hosted for their buka puasa buffet and rock platter for 3 consecutive years, we could see their changes and improvements.

For enquiry, call 04-886 8057 or email to fb.penang@hardrockhotels.net.

Many  thanks to Hard Rock Hotel Penang for extending the invitation and hosting our visit.



Buffets with Lonely Classroom

Posted by Jason Wong On September - 15 - 20112 COMMENTS

In the coming weeks or may be months, we will be working with the bubbly ‘Lonely Teacher’ from Lonely Classroom to produce and record a series of podcast that will touch on places of food interest, etiquette, culture, trends and most importantly the joy of savouring tasty food.

Our first studio recording was on buffets because we have just finished a month long event with SHangri-La’s Rasa Sayang Resort & Spa Penang.

Buffet, a system of serving meals by which food is placed in a public area where diners pick and choose what they fancy and help themselves until they have enough. The term buffet was originally referred to the French sideboard where food was served, but the buffet table originated from the Brännvinsbord – Swedish snaps table (Smörgåsbord) from the middle of 16th century. And was developed into the buffet spread that we know today back in the early of the 19th century.

Here is the recording of the first session in Cantonese. We hope that we will have time to do some recordings in English…




Last month, on the 19th of September we were invited for a review session by The Little Cottage Cafe 2 (TLCC2) management to look into their lunch& dinner sets. This we were back there again but not on the invitation of TLCC2. This time we were dining as paid customers, but paid by a friend. As we mentioned in our earlier post that we were going to return for their “Sunday Lunch Buffet“, that was what we did. The Sunday Lunch Buffet is must do if you are looking for great eats during the lazy afternoon. In addition, the lunch buffet line is the only buffet TLCC 2 offers to its patrons if they intend to try out the catering service products that are available for bookings, outdoor and indoor. Although they do not have a huge selection of dish items as compared to the buffet lines in hotels, but it can definitely compensate for the quality of food that it offers. And it is considerably value for RM25.90+ for adults and RM13.90+ for children below 12 years old.

This trip to TLCC 2 was delayed a week  due to food poisoning by one medium sized cockle that I had in a Malay food stall somewhere in Bayan Lepas, but my Gill Gill was not affected. I guess I am vulnerable to a certain strain of bacteria in cockles. There was some stomach cramps due to wind and active acid build up, nothing serious luckily.   Awareness of food allergies or food sensitivities is very important when dining out, especially seafood or places that you have not been to. Thus, cleanliness and hygiene are important factors when we review eating spots or places. At TLCC 2, we noticed that the people who are directly handling food items wore surgical rubber gloves, which shows a sign that the management is serious in their food business.

1. Croissant with chicken or turkey ham. The ham had a fine texture and smoky flavour, but the croissant was slightly dehydrated and cold as it has been exposed to the air-conditioning on the buffet line. 2. Deep Fried Spring Roll, was just  your plain old halal spring roll. 3. Idako, it was crunchy, firm  and tender in texture. The sauce had a localised taste with a prevalent aroma and taste of sesame. The sauce was milder in the sugary sweetness as compared to the usual sweeter version found in many local Japanese restaurants. The idako and sauce went very well with the greenish pickle that we took.

4. Soup of the day, Cream of Mushroom, the soup was average in taste when hot, but at a lower temperature the flavours were more distinct. Texture or consistency of the soup was slightly more fluid on this day.

5. Tempura Chicken Nuggets, our initial perception was the normal “MacDonald Nugget” type of nuggets, but they aren’t. The nuggets were crisp on the surface and were tender and cheesy on the inside. Cheesy because it had a cheese filing, thus it tasted much richer and flavourful as compared to the “MacDonald Nuggets”. Therefore dipping the nuggets into ketchup or chilli sauce is a no-no as it would have overwhelmed the rich fillings’ taste.

6. Baked Golden Otak-Otak Fish, didn’t seem appetising to us at first but the taste slowly grow on us. The baked egg custard was firm and yet fluffy, but it was not as smooth as the traditional home-made type. This is a sign of over cooking which is then caused by the flames or heat needed to keep the dish warm for a certain period of time. Taste wise it was mildly spiced and fragrant. Different from certain commercially prepared otak-otaks, the TLCC 2 otak-otak uses “sole fish” fillets and lots of “lau yip”. They replaced the John Dory with sole fish due to the adverse comments in the local market. The Sole fish fillets were firm and smooth with some sweetness to them, quite similar to Dory without the fragile texture and muddy taste.

7. Stir Fry “Nai Pak”, one of the choices for greens in the buffet line apart from the normal salads. The taste was normal and did not take much of our attention.

8. Italian Fried Rice, each individual grain of rice was coated with the peppery taste and fragrance. It reminds of the days when we were hawking our special chicken or pork rice sets. Those were the days!

9. Sausages with Caramelised Onions & Herbs, this dish also brings back memories of the days when we were  in charge of lunch at our old church, it was one of my specialties then and now. The TLCC 2 sausage dish uses quite abundance of onions, Italian herbs and black-pepper for flavour. The quality and texture of the sausages were of mid-range grade and better compared to some of the sausages found in other such establishments.

10. Mussel tasted sweet and sour with a light smoky flavour (BBQ, that was quite well balanced. The texture of the mussels were meaty, firm and tender. 

11. Spaghetti Napoleon, sauce was filled with tomato chunks and had a higher level of acidity and strong taste of bay leaf. The pasta was al dente, firms and not overcooked or over seasoned.

12. Baked Chicken Ham, it is chicken thus not as hammy as we want but it goes very well with their rice and steam bread. The tomato or sour base sauce was quite appetising and the texture of the ham more “real” when compared to the chicken hams offered in certain buffet lines.

13. Baked Fish Thermidor, it had a rich creamy and cheesy white sauce over batter coated fillet of fish. The fillets were firm and moist and not over cooked although it was immersed in the white sauce and baked in the oven. I experiment with this dish by putting it over the al dente pasta and created something which my Gill also agrees with, but make sure to finish the serving while it is still hot or warm. Anything that has cream is best when it is still hot or warm.

14. Grilled Monte Cristo Chicken, had a Chinese influence sauce over firm and tender cuts of chicken fillets. The sauce brought with it a hint of smoky flavour that was balanced with a touch rosemary herb that usually goes well with chicken dishes. The flavours of this dish were more dominant when it had cooled down a little bit.

15. Black-pepper lamb chops, were a  bit chewy and hard due to constantly burning flames that were needed to keep the chops warm for the diners. I guess if we came early or there were more takers for this dish, the chops would be more tender due to the shorter replenishment cycle. We can’t really blame them as we know it is a buffet line and things would degrade in quality as they are expose to the constant heating or exposure to air-conditioning.

16. Laksa, taste was very Malay style with distinctive savories from “balacan” and sourness of the tamarind juice. The laksa are served pipping hot with all the toppings of curry flower, mint leaves, cucumber and pineapple strips.

17. Desserts were a bountiful. We didn’t get to try some of them as they were much sort after by the diner on that faithful Sunday afternoon. There were pudding , muffins, cakes, nyonya kuihs, fruits, ice-cream and ice-kacang. We were filled to the brim before we could start on the desserts for this round, thus I would not dwell on the dessert.

The dinning area and atmosphere is spacious and cosy with different setting to suit ones needs, be it dating couples, group gatherings or just for the lone-rangers.

Ratings for the “TLCC 2 Sunday Lunch Buffet” priced at RM25.90+ for adults and RM13.90+ for children below 12 years old. (No dinner buffet available as of now)

Taste & Texture:

  • 3.5/5
  • Good use of spice, herbs and dairy products.

Money Value:

  • 3.8/5
  • Although select is not very vast, but the quality of the ingredients and taste has more value compared to the money paid.


  • 3.2/5
  • Attentive and friendly service from the waiting crew and the manager.


  • 3.5/5
  • Clean plates and cutleries.
  • Toilet was tidy too.


  • 3.8/5
  • Warm and cosy ambiance with good air-conditioning.

Address        : 31, Gottlieb Road, 10350 Penang, Malaysia.

Tel                   : +60 (4) 228 1128

Business Hrs: Open daily from 11am – 3pm and 6pm – 10.30pm.


Invited Review: Terrace Bay Restaurant’s Thai Buffet

Posted by Jason Wong On September - 11 - 20103 COMMENTS

Last Saturday we were invited by FoodPromotions to attend an invited review hosted by TERRACE BAY RESTAURANT @ COPTHORNE ORCHID HOTEL PENANG.

It was the “second” Thai cuisine review in 30 days for of the foodies. As for us, we had to forgo the earlier event at Tree Monkey which was arranged by CK Lam & Criz Lai, and hosted by a local company that builds websites, GenisSIX.  Although we did not attend the review at Tree Monkey, we were “there” to lend support as my mother-in-law already planned to celebrate her birthday there. We actually tried to persuade her to have the dinner in Hard Rock Cafe, but she wanted to try Tree Monkey after reading about it in the papers. We knew misunderstandings would bound to happen if we were to show up, but it was not a choice that we had. Compound by past frictions and perceived conflict of interests, it will leave further misunderstandings. But between family and acquaintances, I choose family. What can be said about Tree Monkey is that it is a place to JUST relaxed, enjoy a cold drink, soak in the clean air from the surrounding greeneries and admire the the beautiful sun setting towards the west. A cold drink and an “Asian Tapas” platter shared amongst 2 would suffice as a pre-dinner outing.

Some of the items available in the buffet line up.

Back to the Terrace Bay Restaurant Thai Buffet invited review. The buffet is priced at RM30nett for adults, RM20nett for senior citizens & RM18nett for children. The buffet runs from 7pm to 10pm on Saturdays for dinner and 12pm to 2.30pm on Sundays for lunch. The selected composition of dishes is brought to TERRACE BAY RESTAURANT by a Chef Chamnan Ngamlamai from Bangkok.

The menu or list of item that were served on that evening is as follows, there is an alternate menu/list which would be rotated as and when see fit by the restaurant:


Papaya Mango Salad (Som Tam), Mango Salad (Yam Mak Muang), Chicken Feet Salad (Yam Tin Kai), Thai Sambal Belacan (Nam Pit Ka), Kacang Botol (Sator Thua Pool) & Kai Lan with Salted Fish (Kana Pla Kem)


Ken Som(Tom Yam Soup with mushroom, chicken slice, mixed vegetables)

Main Course

Basil Leave Beef (Kak Thau Nua), Chicken Red Curry (Kai Pat Pit), Fish Pat Pit (Pla Pat Pit), Prawn Clam Noodle (Kung Obboon Sen), Egg Ommelette (Kai Pat Pit), Thai Otak – Otak (Homok) & Thai Fried Rice (Phad Thad)


Thai Kampung Chicken Rice (Kau Man Kai), Thai Laksa (Khanom Chin), BBQ Fish ball, Beef Ball, Crab Stick (Look Chic Ping), Crispy Cat Fish with Spicy Sweet and Sour & Green Mango Salad (Yam Pladukfu)


Fresh Cut Fruits, Khanom Chan (Multi Layer Of Pandan Flavour Sticky Rice with Coconut Milk,) Baked Sweet Pudding, Khanom Tan (Palm Flavour, Mini Cake with Shredded Coconut on Top), Khanom Thuai Talai (Steam Sweet Coconut Jelly and Cream), Lot Chong Nam Kathi (Pandan Flavour rice Flour Noodle In Coconut milk, Similar To Cendol) & Salim (Multi Cour Mung Bean Flour Noodle in Sweetened Coconut Milk Serve with crushed Ice)


Overall rating by us at GourmetGarden:

Taste & Texture:

  • 2.5/5
  • To our preference the dishes seem not as “authentic” as we expected, but the dishes were acceptable in terms flavours in general.

Money Value:

  • 3.5/5
  • Authenticity was not in our consideration but a hotel themed buffet at RM30 nett with quite a variety is hard to come by in Penang especially on the tourist belt areas.
  • As a budget or middle income earner, Terrace Bay Thai Buffet would be my better choice to feel the tank at a affordable price range as compared to Tree Monkey in Teluk Bahang.


  • -NA-/5 (cannot be considered as it was an arranged event)


  • 4.0/5
  • plates & utensils are tidy and clean, and the overall restaurant dining floor is well kept.


  • 3.0/5
  • nice pool & Sea view at the alfresco section

Add: Jalan Tanjung Bungah, 11200 Penang, Malaysia.

Tel : 604-892 3333   Fax : 60 4 892 3303

Email : fb@copthorne.com.my

Opening Hours:

  • Saturday Buffet Dinner: 7.00pm – 10.00pm
  • Sunday Buffet Lunch: 12.00 noon – 2.30pm

Other food bloggers present:

  1. Food Promotions
  2. Steven Goh
  3. All About Penang Food
  4. Cariso
  5. Waco
  6. Criz Food

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