Ramadan brings out chef’s best

A buffet line usually starts in a restaurant.

But at The 39 Restaurant in PNB Darby Park, it begins at the doorway.

Upon entry you are greeted with thirst quenchers like sugar cane, air bandung and soya bean.

Cakes, ice kacang and dim sum lure you further in where you will find lasagne, shepherd's pie, and lamb stew.

All these, before the diner has even reached the hostess' stand.

By the time she shows you to your seat, you would have taken in the oysters, crab claw and mussels on ice.

You would have also gotten a whiff of the grilled lamb leg, the fragrance of lemon grass, tumeric and lime tickling your nose.

And you would not miss the crab in creamy coconut sauce or the lamb rendang bursting with the richness of kerisek.

By now, you would also have spied the restaurant's signature dish - fish head curry with bewitching hints of tamarind.

The Ramadan buffet here is one to behold!

Executive chef Ashar Daud has a simple philosophy when it comes to creating such gastronomic magic.

"Although Ramadan is about abstaining from food from dawn to dusk, the fact is those who fast look forward to breaking their fast," said Ashar.

This is why Ramadan brings out the best in a cook.

In line with the restaurant's Malay menu, Ashar is keeping to the traditional flavours of the kampung.

Much of it comes from his childhood in Kelantan.

"The flavours of Malay cooking come from what we call 'The Four Brothers'- cinnamon, star anise, cardamom and clove.

From soup to rendang, you cannot run away from these spices," said Ashar.

You can taste it in the fish head curry. It is Indian Muslim by origin but has been tweaked to be creamier and less spicy.

Slabs of Roti Bengali are served with it so diners can wipe up the curry.

Malay food is a melting pot of different cultures, giving the dishes distinctive flavours.

"There are many influences such as Javanese. Minang. Bugis. Banjar and Batak," Ashar pointed out.

He uses the appetiser section to state his point.

The fried fish roe in turmeric and chicken liver are Javanese.

The array of kerabu, dressed in thick coconut milk are originally dishes served in Indonesian nasi padang.

Deep fried ox liver comes from Perak and Johor.

The spread sees four rotating menus throughout the season.

All ingredients are certified halal, down to the belacan used in the sambal.

Adding a personal touch to the cooking is Ashar's insistence that the ingredients be chopped by hand.

He feels machine-blended chillies don't quite taste the same.

"If a chef is passionate about his food, he will not mind the extra work," said Ashar.

He also blends all the spices in the curry dishes and roasts the kerisek himself.

The Ramadan buffet at The 39 Restaurant is priced at RM139 (S$49) nett for adults and RM69.50 nett for children.

At Restoran 10Binjai, prices are RM110 nett for adults and RM55 for children.

The promotion ends on July 15.

PNB Darby Park, 10, Jalan Binjai, 50450, Kuala Lumpur.
Tel: +60 03 7490 3939 (The 39 Restaurant), +60 03 7490 3838 (Restoran 10Binjai)

This is the writer's personal observation and is not an endorsement by StarMetro.