Lemongrass Restaurant

Special thanks to Hotel NEO+ for extending this food review invitation.

A string of Ramadan buffets this year brings me to Hotel NEO+, a 3-star hotel at the intersection of Jalan Gurdwara and Lebuh Presgrave. The hotel is located just across Jalan Gurdwara from Hin Bus Depot Art Center.
In case Hotel NEO+ looks familiar to you, this is because it was formerly Grand Continental Hotel. Under new ownership, the hotel has engaged Archipelago International to manage the business. This hotel chain is one of the two major players in Indonesia. With a portfolio of over 100 properties across 7 brands, Archipelago International is also expanding its presence in Malaysia and the Philippines.
The 196-room Hotel NEO+ presents a mixture of corporate and family-oriented ambience. Having operated for over a year now, the hotel is currently expanding its F&B arm in its two restaurants: Lemongrass Restaurant and Art & Soul Cafe.
Lemongrass Restaurant has been only serving breakfast since the hotel's opening. Over the course of a few months, this eatery will be introducing regular lunch and dinner meal services too. Today's visit is to check out its Malay-style buffet dinner this year.
The theme of this buffet is Sajian Selera Nusantara. In departure of contemporary Western-style dishes, this buffet places more emphasis on local kampung-style cooking. Elements of Malaysian and Indonesian cuisine are adopted in the 7 sets of menu, featuring a different menu each evening.
In the spirit of giving during Ramadan month, Hotel NEO+ is contributing 50 bowls of Bubur Lambuk to passers-by. According to the General Manager of Hotel NEO+, Mr. Melvin Ooi, today's giveaway is part of the hotel's corporate social responsibility initiatives.
At the helm of the kitchen is Executive Chef Faizal, a soft-spoken soul with an impressive résumé spanning several prestigious hotel-restaurants including one in Dubai. His specialty, Roasted Whole Lamb, is featured every evening in this month-long dinner buffet. Marinated with a special blend of spices, the lamb is slowly roasted to golden perfection. Black pepper and mint sauces are provided.
Hidden from public view is the live grilling station, where various meats are barbecued on charcoal-fired grills. In consideration of smoke, grilling is done outdoors. Fortunately, the staff brings constant supply of cooked meats into the restaurant for customers' convenience.
Chicken and beef satay are most popular items from the live grilling station. For seafood, there are also tilapia, mackerel (kembung) and ray (pari). Otak-otak, a delicacy made from fish cake and wrapped in banana leaf, is also available.
For something more filling, Nasi Arab is a good bet. This dish uses basmati long-grain rice infused with richness of meat stock and aromatic herbs. Also included on top are delectable slices of mutton.
Popularized by the Indian-Muslim community, Mee Mamak consists of stir-fried yellow noodle that is cooked till it becomes soft. The noodle is typically cooked with eggs, bok choy and chili peppers.
Meanwhile, Mutton Varuval is an Indian dish where mutton is sautéed with a number of spices. I personally prefer this dish to be less oily.
Sotong Masak Kicap is one of my favorite dishes today. Slices of squid is stir-fried in sweet dark sauce. This allows the springy texture of squid to take advantage of the savory sauce.
Despite its unassuming appearance, Tofu In Egg Sauce is surprisingly delicious. The soft bean curd is infused with appetizing appeal of minced chicken and egg gravy. Looks can sometimes be deceiving!
Sayur Goreng Istimewa serves as counterbalance to the other meaty dishes thus far. Broccoli, cauliflower and carrots, are brought together in a lovely sense of vegetable sweetness.
Traditional Malay cuisine usually includes a platter of ulam-ulaman (raw vegetables). Vegetables featured today include ulam raja (king's salad), daun selom (selom leaves), kacang botol (winged beans) and petai (stink beans). As the vegetables are plain, they are typically eaten with intense sauces like budu (fermented anchovies), cincalok (fermented shrimps) and tempoyak (fermented durians).
During the old days before refrigeration became commonplace, the Malay community relied on preservation techniques to provide year-long supply of meats. Therefore, Ikan Masin (salted fish) and Telur Masin (salted egg) are essential items in Malay cuisine. There are also Jeruk (pickled fruits) such as nutmeg, mango and papaya. Also included are dried foodstuff such as Keropok Udang (prawn crackers), Keropok Ikan (fish crackers) and Papadom.
Pisang Goreng (banana fritters) is one of Malaysia's favorite street snack. There are many roadside stalls that sell these addictive delicacies. To prepare Pisang Goreng, banana is first peeled, coated in batter, then deep-fried until the batter turns golden brown and crispy. Some Parmesan cheese is added, but I think this unorthodox topping is unnecessary.
Ramadan bazaars are often filled with a wide variety of Malay kuih. Some of the featured ones today are Kuih Lapis (layered cake), Kuih Ketayap (pandan crepe with sweetened coconut), Kuih Keria (doughnuts) and Kuih Seri Muka (glutinous rice with pandan custard).
In addition, the pastry section of the buffet line also includes Western-style cakes such as Red Velvet Cake and Chocolate Mousse Cake.
Lemongrass Restaurant's buffet dinner is served from 9 June 2016 to 3 July 2016, from 7:00pm to 10:00pm. The price is RM55.00 net per adult and RM32.00 net per child. Group discounts are available; customers are encouraged to call to inquire.

Name: Lemongrass Restaurant
Address: Hotel NEO+, 68, Jalan Gurdwara, 10300 George Town, Pulau Pinang
Contact: 04-255-1000
Business hours: 7:00pm-10:00pm
Website: http://www.neohotels.com/en/location/overview/57/Hotel-NEO--Penang---Malaysia
Coordinates: 5.41228 N, 100.32843 E
Directions: Hotel NEO+ is located at the junction of Jalan Gurdwara and Lebuh Presgrave of George Town. Lemongrass Restaurant is located on Level 1, just above three flights of stairs from the lobby. Multi-level parking is available. Guests of the restaurant can get their parking tickets validated at the front desk for flat rate of RM6.00 per entry.

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