Vistana

Special thanks to Vistana Penang Bukit Jambul for extending this food review invitation.

This is my second visit to Vistana to preview its annual Chinese New Year Yee Sang Banquet (新春欢聚捞生晚宴). By tradition, Vistana has been hosting this event every year since 1999 as a form of appreciation to its clients, partners and media representatives.
This year, there are three menus to choose from. Each menu consists of 7 or 8 dishes including the ubiquitous yee sang (鱼生). Like before, the menus are specially crafted by Executive Chef Ng Wing Lam (吴永霖), a 40-year veteran in the culinary line.
The most anticipated dish in any Chinese New Year banquet (at least in Malaysia and Singapore) is yee sang. Vistana's Prosperity Salmon Yee Sang (鸿运年年三文鱼齐捞生) is a mixture of several ingredients including raw salmon, jellyfish, shredded daikon, shredded carrots, shrimp crackers, bell peppers, chopped peanuts, sesame seeds and five spice powder (五香粉). Plum sauce (苏梅酱) and sesame oil (麻油) serve as dressing.
When yee sang is ready to be "enjoyed", everyone around the table participates in tossing the ingredients in the air with chopsticks. Practically, this allows the ingredients to mix thoroughly. Symbolically, tossing yee sang represents achieving greater heights throughout the coming year. In addition, each ingredient is said to symbolize something auspicious. For example, fish (鱼) is meant to represent "abundance" (余).
The next dish is Double-Boiled Chicken Soup With Ginseng & Chinese Herbs (盆满砵满大丰收). A warm bowl of herbal chicken soup is the perfect way to expand one's appetite early in the game. Having been boiled for several hours, the chicken releases its savoriness into the soup, making each sip to be very pleasing. The soup is also infused with several Chinese herbs such as ginseng (人参), wolfberry (枸杞) and scented Solomon's seal (玉竹).
My favorite dish this evening is Fried Boneless Chicken With Spicy Mayo (呈祥凤凰来报喜). Boneless chicken thigh is deep-fried to perfect doneness, resulting in crispy yet non-greasy texture. Meanwhile, the creamy dressing is made from mayonnaise with a hint of mint-like pungency on the tongue.
Steamed Red Lion Fish With Superior Soya Sauce (如鱼得水云顺意) has reasonably firm texture. The fish is served with soy sauce, but I personally feel that ginger and garlic would have been better suited to my palate. Coriander is used as garnish in this dish.
Another delicacy from the marine kingdom is Braised Broccoli With Black Mushroom, Pacific Clams & Fatt Choy (金银珠宝聚满堂). While the mushrooms and clams are tasty, I feel that the spotlight is cast on fatt choy (发菜), a noodle-like black moss which grows in the desert. This prized delicacy is very popular during Chinese New Year because its name is homophonic with "striking rich" (发财) in Chinese.
Next on the line is the Chef's Special Deep-Fried Prawns (喜气洋洋齐哈笑). I think the crumbs are on the saltier side of things, resulting in a certain degree of dryness in the mouth.
The last dish before desserts is Gemini Fried Rice With Assorted Meat & Vegetables (黄金珠宝聚满堂). Fried rice is cooked with shrimps, egg, crispy anchovies and mixed vegetables. Shrimp roe not only provides aesthetic appeal, but also imparts some savoriness.
As for Hong-Kong style "tong shui" (糖水), the choice this evening is Double-Boiled Dried Longan & Red Dates With Glutinous Rice Balls (万家灯火庆团圆). Each rice ball is filled with black sesame paste (黑芝麻糊), which I find to be rather satisfying. The soup, which contains red dates (红枣) and longan (龙眼), is sweeter than what I am normally used to.
The other half of the desserts course is Sweet Rice Cake (年年步步齐高升). The rice balls are filled with sweet filling which has sticky consistency similar to mochi (もち).
Tonight's menu is a selected combination of all 3 of this year's menu. The banquet is offered both for lunch and dinner every day between 8 January 2017 and 11 February 2017. Advance booking is required. This Chinese New Year Yee Sang Banquet is also available at Vistana Kuala Lumpur and Vistana Kuantan, but there are some differences in the actual dishes.
The grandest day during Vistana's promotional period is on Chinese New Year eve (27 January 2017). Held in the Grand Ballroom, the event will be blessed with lion dance performance from a local troupe. There is also live music performance from a local band.
Name: Vistana Penang Bukit Jambul
Address: 213, Jalan Bukit Gambir, 11950, Bukit Jambul, Pulau Pinang
Contact: 04-646-8000
Business hours: 11:00am-3:00pm, 6:00pm-10:00pm
Website: http://www.vistanahotels.com/Penang/bukitjambul
Coordinates: 5.33637 N, 100.29159 E
Directions: Driving southbound on Jalan Bukit Gambir, turn left just before Vistana and drive up to the lobby entrance. Basement parking is available from the back of the hotel. The parking fee is RM3.00 per entry for banquet guests.

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