The Straits Cafe & Lounge

Special thanks to Ixora Hotel for extending this food review invitation.

Located next to Megamal Pinang in Prai, Ixora Hotel is a 4-star hotel with 326 rooms. The hotel is named after the ixora flower, which is also planted within hotel grounds. The main eatery of Ixora Hotel is The Straits Cafe & Lounge, located just next to the lobby.
This evening is the preview session of Ixora Hotel's Ramadan dinner. This year, the theme for the buffet is "Warna Warni Ramadan" (Colorful Ramadan). During the actual Ramadan, there are 4 sets of menu on daily rotation. Several signature dishes are available daily.
Unlike other Ramadan buffets this year, Ixora Hotel provides a wide variety of kurma (palm dates). Besides the original type, there are also dates with almonds, walnuts, cashew nuts, white sesame seeds and black sesame seeds.
My personal favorite type of dates is the one with sesame seeds, as I feel that the oily nature of sesame seeds tends to accentuate the enjoyment of dates.
Another signature item that is available throughout Ramadan is Kambing Panggang Golek. Whole Australian baby lamb is roasted over burning charcoal for 5 straight hours. Surprisingly, the flesh remains reasonably juicy and flavorful. The secret behind this feat is the 2-day marinade which allows the meat to break down to savory amino acids. Served with black pepper, mint and rosemary sauce, the lamb is the main highlight this evening.
Ramadan dinners will not be complete without Bubur Lambuk Berempah. Soft rice porridge is flavored with a myriad of pungent spices, expanding my appetite substantially. Meanwhile, Sup Ekor Berjintan is enhanced by different spices with fennel seeds in particular. The soup is on the saltier side of my preference; I think the amount of salt should be toned down.
Shawarma Ayam is a Middle Eastern dish which features chicken marinated with herbs. Roasted on a vertical rotisserie, meat is shaved layer by layer as it becomes cooked. Shaved meat is then sandwiched between pita bread. Cucumber, tomato, tahini sauce and mayonnaise are added to provide more balanced taste.
Laksa Johor is the result of a fusion between Malay and Western cuisine. Compared its Penang counterpart, the fish broth for Laksa Johor is noticeably thicker. Other ingredients are similar: chili peppers, onion, ginger flower, cucumber and lettuce.
What truly sets Laksa Johor apart from common laksa is the use of spaghetti in lieu of rice noodle. I am not sure which type of noodle I prefer, but the use of spaghetti is certainly interesting.
Penang Koay Teow Goreng is the state's signature wok-fried noodle dish. Cooked with shrimps, fish cake, eggs, bean sprouts and garlic chives, the dish possesses lovely aroma especially when served hot from the wok.
For staple food, Nasi Rampai Aidilfitri is one of the main highlights this evening. Basmati rice is cooked with a variety of spices including turmeric, onion, garlic and ginger. The former is responsible for giving the yellowish hue and the distinctive fragrant aroma. The rice is garnished with green peas, chickpeas, black olives, bell peppers, carrots, fried onion and dried chili pepper.
Daging Rendang Maharani is the chef's very own specialty dish. Beef is pleasantly flavored with a combination of savory spices. By combining rendang recipes from 3 different states: Rendang Tok (Perak), Rendang Minang (Negeri Sembilan) and Rendang Kedah (Kedah), each bite of beef is gratifying indeed.
As for poultry, Ayam Masak Gajus is featured tonight. I enjoy the succulent and balanced flavor of chicken. Cashew nuts on the side help to improve crunchy mouthfeel as well as to provide subtle sweetness.
Moving on to seafood, Kupang Mangga Berlada is one of the better ones to try. Moderate-sized mussels are baked with thick gravy with mango purée. Dried chili pepper and curry leaves provide the desired degree of spiciness.
Ulam (raw vegetables) is a healthy delicacy that is often enjoyed by the Malay community in rural areas. Examples of available vegetables are jantung pisang (banana flower), ulam raja (king's salad), daun pegaga (Asiatic pennywort leaves) and petai (stink beans).
These raw vegetables are often eaten with flavorful condiments such as cincalok, budu and tempoyak.
In addition, there are also various kinds of kerabu (Malay salad), crackers and pickled foodstuff like salted fish and salted eggs.
As for the desserts section, Ixora Hotel has a handful of Malay kuih which is prepared in-house. I think the variety of kuih can be expanded upon. Should guests prefer baked Raya cookies, there are several jars of these too. I also enjoy Bubur Cha-Cha Pengat Pisang, a Peranakan sweet dessert made from taro, sweet potato, banana, sago and pandan-flavored coconut milk.
Ais Kacang and Cendol are popular desserts in the Malaysian food scene. Guests are allowed to help themselves to over a dozen types of ingredients and syrups. Shaved ice is provided using an electric ice shaver.
There is also a chocolate fountain for guests who love chocolate. Marshmallows and cut fruits are provided to take advantage of the fountain.
Ixora Hotel's Ramadan buffet is available from 13 June 2016 to 4 July 2016. The prices are RM72.00 net for an adult and RM45.00 net for a child. Vouchers are available for purchase even before the start of Ramadan. As an incentive for early birds, the first 300 adult vouchers are offered at special price of RM68.00 net. In addition, customers enjoy a free voucher for every 9 adult buffet vouchers purchased.

Name: The Straits Cafe & Lounge
Address: 3096, Jalan Baru, Bandar Perai Jaya, 13600 Perai, Pulau Pinang
Contact: 04-382-8888
Business hours: 6:00am-12:00am
Coordinates: 5.37805 N, 100.39825 E
Directions: From Lebuhraya Utara-Selatan (North-South Expressway), take the Prai exit and head west. After Megamal Pinang on the left, turn left and follow the road to Ixora Hotel's basement parking. The Straits Cafe & Lounge is located next to the lobby. Ixora Hotel provides free parking for guests who subscribe to the hotel's Facebook page. Remember to bring along the parking ticket to get it validated at the front desk.

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