Spice Market

Special thanks to Rasa Sayang Resort & Spa for extending this food review invitation.

Spice Market Café is the flagship restaurant of Rasa Sayang Resort & Spa in Batu Ferringhi. The restaurant serves an extensive array of continental dishes in a buffet setting. With the exception of Friday and Saturday nights (where Seafood Theme Buffet Dinner is served), International Buffet Dinner is available daily for patrons to wine and dine.
The buffet is served between 6:30pm and 10:30pm. My personal advice is to arrive on the 6:30pm mark in order to beat the main crowd.

Spice Market's new buffet menu features the "6 in 1 + P60" promotion. This new concept was just launched several weeks ago in February and will continue until further notice from the resort's management.
The term "6 in 1" refers to the menu which covers six types of regional cuisine under one roof. The regions covered are Malay, Chinese, Indian, Western, Japanese and Desserts. Each station features a specialty which is rotated on a biweekly basis. For example, the Western cuisine station may feature French delicacies for two weeks, then changed to Italian in another.
As for "P60", this refers to the 40% discount on the price of an adult on Monday and Tuesday nights, with the exception of public holidays and eve of public holidays. As reference, the normal adult buffet price is RM128.00++. For days where the "P60" promotion applies, the price is RM76.80++ instead. The "P60" offer does not apply to the child buffet price, which is still RM64.00++.

The dining area of Spice Market is neatly spaced around the serving stations. Diners who prefer natural sea breeze can also opt for outdoor seating.
To provide family-oriented dining experience, there is also a separate buffet section for toddlers and small children at no extra charge. Dishes served here are kid favorites such as chicken nuggets and fries.
Today, the Malay station features the theme "Kelantanese Specials". Compared to other states in Peninsula Malaysia, Kelantanese cuisine is rather exclusive and seldom found outside this northeastern state. One notable difference is that Kelantanese chefs are more liberal in using coconut milk in curry dishes.

A defining characteristic of Kelantanese food is the use of sugar in meat dishes such as Daging Hitam Manis and Three-Flavor Fish Fillets.
As a maritime state, seafood also plays an important role in Kelantan. Popular dishes include Udang Percik Kelantan and Sotong Masak Kalio. Kalio is similar to rendang but has more gravy.
Sayur Masak Paprik is a spicy mix vegetable dish flavored with paprika (ground chili peppers and bell peppers).
Mutton has a strong meaty flavor which makes it a popular choice for Malay stews. The Sup Kambing Dengan Lobak is one such example.
Sharing a land border with Thailand, Kelantanese food is heavily influenced by Thai cuisine (like Kedah or Penang), but in a unique manner. The Thai Green Curry Chicken and Spicy Tomyam Soup are quite tantalizing to the taste buds.
Moving to the Chinese cuisine station, various kinds of noodles and soup bases are available. The soup ingredients are impressively fresh, particularly the large succulent shrimps, shiitake and enokitake mushrooms. In fact, I recommend skipping the noodles and others ingredients altogether to make room for these heavenly goodies.
For pre-cooked dishes, there are Baked Chicken Breasts With Cheese And Olive, and Meatballs In Almond Sauce. Both are creamy and quite tasty in their own right.
Seafood selections include Spicy Cumin Prawn In Tomato Basil and Snapper Picatta. In particular, I find the snapper quite delectable.
As for vegetarian dishes, there are Roasted Potato Wedges, and Broccoli And Carrot.
Although the taste and dish varieties are good, I feel that the Chinese station should feature more defining traditional Chinese dishes. For example, I would like to see dim sum and congee (porridge) as well.

The Indian station features food from the Rajasthan (राजस्थान) region. As an arid state in northwestern India, Rajasthani cuisine uses lots of milk to compensate for water scarcity. As a result, Rajasthani dishes tend to be rich and creamy compared to other Indian counterparts. This is evident in curry dishes such as Mirch Ka Salan (मिर्च का सालन, chili and peanut curry) and Murgh Mumtaz Mahal (मुर्ग मुमताज महल, chicken in rich sauce).
The Haldi Ko Saag (हल्दी को साग) is turmeric curry primarily with vegetables such as cauliflowers.
Other vegetarian dishes include the Dhal Tadkha (दाल छौंक, lentils tempered with spices) and Bhindi Do Piyaza (भिंडी दो प्याज, okra and onions).
For rice, be sure to sample some Gatte Ka Pulao (गट्टे का पुलाव, chickpea flour dumplings with pilaf rice) as the dish is soft and fragrant.
Of course, another popular Indian cooking style is tandoori, which is meat hung on skewers and cooked in a tandoor oven. The mere sight of these succulent meat is enough to make my mouth water!
Available tandoori dishes are Tandoori Lamb (तंदूरी मेमने), Tandoori Fish (तंदूरी मछली) and Chicken Tikka (मुर्ग़ टिक्का). In addition to that, chicken and lamb satay are also available. Given the savory flavor of each of these meat dishes, I must say that the marination is very well done.
Taking a hike to the Western station, the Roasted Sirloin Of Beef is one of the most prized delicacies here. Roasted to perfection, the medium-done steak cuts are delightful to my palate.
Another dish which should not be overlooked is the Chicken Roulade. Originating from Europe, the roulade is prepared by making chicken into a roll with sweet apricot as fillings. Like steak, roulade is typically sliced thinly along its cross-section, therefore revealing the fine fillings at the center.
The rotating theme for the Western station today turns out to be Spanish. By "Spanish", I presume that the menu includes dishes from Spanish-speaking countries in Latin America.

The Spanish Lamb Stew With Lemon And Thyme redefines savoriness to a whole new level. The strong flavors of the stew is complemented with the use of thyme leaves, giving a mint-flavored sensation so that the lamb is not too overpowering.
Outside Europe, Hard-Shell Taco is available upon order. Available fillings are beef, chicken and seafood. I find the seafood version to be the best as the fresh shrimps blend well with wheat tortilla. However, hard-shell tacos should be consumed quickly because the moist fillings tend to soften the shell.
Still speaking of Hispanic food, I also sampled some Vegetable Quesadillas which have been cut to smaller pieces. I prefer the quesadillas to have more moisture for better enjoyment.
The soup of the day is the Pea Soup With Caramelized Onion. It is evident that Spice Market goes through great lengths in food presentation as well.
My journey takes a detour to the cold seafood section, a detour which is well worth the effort. Served fresh on ice are lovely Yabbies (Australian crayfish) which are almost asking to be eaten! Yabbies are rarely found in most restaurants, but it's a pleasure to see Spice Market bringing these little devils to the dining plate. Underneath the thick carapace armor of each yabby (some forceful prying is required) is a small serving of exquisite sweet flesh.
Other cold seafood available are Mussels, Shrimps and Scallops. Novelty-wise, these sea creatures pale in comparison to the yabbies as they are regularly served in other similar buffet settings.
In the cold cuts section, diners are treated with delicacies such as Smoked Chicken and Herring Fish.
The pastry section offers a variety of bread and cookies, all freshly baked from the oven.
What goes well with bread, you may ask? I think cheese is the answer! I am impressed with the exquisite selection of fine cheese such as Emmental Cheese, Blue Cheese, Gouda Cheese, and Fruit & Nut Cheese.
Last but not least, the Western station has quite an extensive salad bar for health-conscious guests. My personal favorite is the Tomato Salad With Feta Cheese
Of course, you may also opt to prepare your salad from scratch. The number of salad dressings is likely more than what you can ask for.
A great deal of my attention is placed in the Japanese station. One of the most prized delicacy among the Japanese cuisine enthusiasts is Sashimi. To maintain freshness, the sashimi are only cut upon request. Scrumptious sashimi choices are salmon (鮭), Japanese butterfish (疣鯛) and tuna (鮪).

The signature dish in the Japanese station is the Volcano Maki, a type of aburi sushi (炙り寿司), which is torched from the top.
Through the skillful hands of the chef, the cheese topping of Volcano Maki is slightly molten. These lovely maki pieces are then drizzled with tangy plum sauce and sprinkled with katsuobushi (鰹節), which is smoked skipjack tuna.
Still on the topic of sushi, there are also a wide variety of maki (巻き), nigiri (握り) and gunkan (軍艦) sushi to enjoy. The fish toppings used are extremely fish and of the highest quality. Sampling each of these will be overwhelming to your stomach, so pick your battles!
For stronger flavors, there are a number of tsukemono (漬物, pickled dishes) to tantalize the palate. Available items include Chuka Idako (中華イイダコ, seasoned baby octopus), Chuka Kurage (中華クラゲ, seasoned jellyfish), Chuka Wakame (中華ワカメ, seasoned seaweed), Shiba Zuke (柴漬け, pickled eggplant) and Kimchee (キムチ, pickled napa cabbage).
Of course, a good sushi feast should be accompanied with some condiments such as Wasabi (ワサビ) and Pickled Ginger (ガリ). I recommend that you also sample the Peanut Wasabi (ピーナッツわさび). This type of wasabi is not easily found elsewhere and definitely deserves a try!
After an intense feast, it is time to retreat to the pastry station. According to the pastry chef, the cakes and other pastries are prepared daily to ensure freshness.

The theme for this section is Chocoholic's Paradise. Having a chocolate tooth, this definitely strikes a chord with my palate.

The Black Forest Cake is exactly what a self-respecting chocoholic desires. An armor of chocolate on all sides conceal the rich chocolate cake layers inside, interrupted only by intermittent layers of cherries and whipped cream.
The Chocolate Fudge is another cake not to be missed.
For smaller servings, do try the Chocolate Tarts, Chocolate Moist and Chocolate Puddings.
Outside the mystical realm of chocolate, other types of cakes are also available. The Strawberry Short Cake is quite a nice treat. It is decorated with strawberries, whipped cream and macarons.
The Green Tea Cheese Cake is flavored with matcha (green tea powder) goodness.
Italian-styled Tiramisu is also available for coffee lovers to indulge.
For a fruity dessert, the Berries Tart and Apple Nut Cake are also gratifying choices.
In particular, I also like the Cherry Streusel With Vanilla Sauce. This crumbly dessert is loaded with juicy cherries inside. As recommended, this dish is best enjoyed with some vanilla sauce.
Guests who want to sample some local Malaysian dessert can try the handful of Nyonya Kuih available.
Crêpe is also available upon request. Diners have a wide selection of fillings to select from, ranging from peaches to cranberries, walnuts to apricots. Or if the choices are too overwhelming for you, you can also ask the chef to surprise you (which was what I did).
The crêpe is served with a scoop of ice cream because the former is a bit dry. I recommend that you share this dessert with someone, because by now your stomach is probably loaded to the brim already.
Children may find the Chocolate Fountain interesting. There are many types of dips such as marshmallows and dried apricots.
All-time crowd favorite desserts are also available. An Ice Kacang section provides various ingredients and toppings. The chef behind the counter helps to operate the ice shaver.
In addition, a handful of Ice Cream flavors are also provided for enjoyment. The types of ice cream toppings are also well-stocked.
Finally, my meal is concluded with some cut fruits. The available fruits are pineapples, jackfruit, honeydew, papayas and watermelon.
There is also a counter for fresh fruit juices. Please be advised that fruit juices are not included in the price of buffet.
Spice Market is named so because the restaurant also has an extensive inventory of local spices for guests to purchase. Although the price is higher compared to wet markets or sundry stores, this is to cater foreign tourists who are unfamiliar with downtown roads in George Town.
Spice Market is almost fully occupied with guests despite that fact that today is mid-week and not one where the "P60" promotion applies. I reckon that the crowd will be even larger on Mondays and Tuesdays. Advanced reservation is definitely recommended.

In conclusion, the buffet price at Spice Market Café may be pricey at the first glance. But when food quality and large variety of dishes are taken into consideration, I think that the meal is worth every cent.

Name: Spice Market Café
Address: Rasa Sayang Resort & Spa, 11100 Batu Ferringhi, Pulau Pinang
Contact: 04-888-8888
Business hours: 6:30am-11:00pm
Website: http://www.shangri-la.com/penang/rasasayangresort/dining/restaurants/spice-market-cafe
Coordinates: 5.47965 N, 100.25481 E
Directions: From Tanjung Bungah, travel west towards Batu Ferringhi. Rasa Sayang Resort & Spa is approximately 4.2 kilometers from Tanjung Bungah's floating mosque, located on the right. Spice Market Café is at Lobby level of the Garden wing.

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