C'est Si Bon

This article is part of my Ramadan 2018 compilation.

Special thanks to VOUK Hotel Suites for extending this food review invitation.

VOUK Hotel Suites is a 4-star hotel at Jalan Sultan Ahmad Shah. Located between Gleneagles Penang and The Northam, the hotel shares the main building with a serviced apartment, Mansion One. The most prominent feature of VOUK Hotel Suites is a colonial-era mansion at the front.
The flagship restaurant of VOUK Hotel Suites is C'est Si Bon Restaurant. Located at Level 2 of the main building, this coffeehouse is also where in-house guests are served breakfast. By the way, the French phrase "c'est si bon" means "this is so good".
Today's visit is to join the preview of the upcoming festive buffet dinner. The dinner theme is "Ali Baba & The 40 Dishes", an obvious parody of the Arabian folktale "Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves" (علي بابا والأربعون لصا). Featuring more than 40 dishes, the menu covers a variety of local Malay delicacies, street food and Middle Eastern fare.

Several warung (food stalls) have been set up to mimic a Ramadan bazaar. The first one serves Sup Gear Box. Infused with beef bones and lots of spices, the soup is very flavorful indeed. The soup is called "gear box" because the cattle's femur resembles a gear stick. The bone marrow is considered a delicacy; straws are provided to extract them.
Roasted Lamb is an essential delicacy in iftar meals. The lamb shank is marinated for more than 10 hours such that the meat becomes flavorful. The lamb is accompanied by roasted vegetables like corn, broccoli, capsicum and garlic. Black pepper and rosemary sauces are provided too.
Gulai Kawah Daging Harimau Menangis is cooked in a large wok called "kawah". The beef curry contains lots of spices, making it very satisfying to my palate. The phrase "harimau menangis" amusingly literally translates to "weeping tiger". This term refers to the sirloin, which is highly sought for its tenderness.
The grilling station churns out an endless supply of seafood including ikan pari (stingray), ikan kembung (mackerel), slipper lobsters, shrimps and scallops. Two types of condiments are provided: air asam (tamarind sauce) and lime juice. Pak Hazery's Chicken & Beef satay are also prepared here.
Kampung Desa Murtabak is a pan-fried snack stuffed with minced chicken or beef. The pancake also contains onions and other spices. Murtabak is typically eaten with chicken curry or dal (lentil curry). An adjacent warung prepares Penang Mee Udang (prawn noodle) but I did not have the opportunity to try the noodle dish this round.
Moving on to hot dishes, Nasi Briyani uses long-grain basmati rice and spices from the Indian subcontinent. The rice is also served with chicken. The overall taste is quite appetizing.
As for Daging Rendang Bujang Lapok, this beef recipe is of Minangkabau origin but is now widely enjoyed by all Malaysians. To prepare this dish, beef slices are slow-cooked with coconut milk and spices until most liquid has boiled away. Due to the tedious cooking process, rendang is usually reserved for festive occasions like weddings and Hari Raya Aidilfitri.
Still on the topic of red meats, Kurma Kambing Matakaji consists of mutton slices and potatoes braised in thick yellowish gravy. The gravy is not as spicy as other dishes today. In fact, it is quite savory. Meanwhile, diners who prefer poultry can try the signature Ayam Masak Merah (braised chicken in tomato sauce) too.
As for seafood, Rampo Ngiseng Sotong Masak Berempah is highly recommended. I love the springy texture of squid rings. They are sufficiently soft and not too rubbery. Other notable seafood dishes are Ikan Asam Pedas (sour and spicy fish stew), Udang Emas Ali Baba (shrimps with salted egg paste) and Sambal Asparagus Dengan Scallop (spicy asparagus with scallops).
One of the major highlights this evening is Ampang Yong Tau Foo. This Hakka delicacy comprises of fish paste stuffed into other ingredients like soft tofu, fried tofu, eggplant (brinjal), okra (lady's fingers), red chili and bitter gourd. I enjoy the addictive taste of fish paste.
As for kerabu (Malay salad), the choices today are Kerabu Mangga (mango salad), Kerabu Betik (papaya salad), Kerabu Kerisik Ayam (coconut butter & chicken salad) and Kerabu Sotong Tang Hoon (squid & glass noodle salad). In addition, there are also a variety of ulam-ulaman (raw vegetables) and condiments like sambal belacan (spicy shrimp paste), budu (fermented anchovies) and cincalok (fermented shrimps).
Gado-Gado is an Indonesian salad dish that contains tempeh (fermented soybeans), hard-boiled egg, tofu, yardlong beans, kangkung (water spinach), cucumber, cabbage and peanut sauce. Meanwhile, serunding (meat floss) goes well with lemang and ketupat. As for something sweet, try some kurma (palm dates) or dodol (durian candy).
For a taste of Middle Eastern fare, sample some hummus (حُمُّص‎) with toasted pita bread. Hummus is made from chickpeas, tahini and olive oil. The smell of tahini is particularly strong, so hummus may not appeal to everyone's palate.
Today's buffet provides 4 types of jeruk (pickles). The pickled fruits are kedondong (ambarella), salak (snake fruit), betik (papaya) and pala (nutmeg). Several types of fresh fruits are also made available.
The desserts section features a variety of traditional Malay kuih such as kuih talam, kuih seri muka, kuih tako, kuih bingka ubi and kuih cara berlauk. Other sweet treats include sago gula melaka, mango pudding, crème caramel, French pastries, cupcakes and fruit tartlets.
I am glad to see several types of sweet porridges this evening: Bubur Serawa Durian (durian soup), Bubur Kacang Hijau (mung bean soup) and Bubur Pulut Hitam (black glutinous rice soup). There is also Bread & Butter Pudding with vanilla sauce.
As for something cooling, aiskrim potong (popsicle) is a sound choice. Several flavors are available; I like the durian version. Diners can also help themselves to endless rounds of iced drinks like corn juice, palm date juice and air mata kucing.
Personally, my favorite drink is Teh Tarik Ibrahim Pendek. This popular drink is prepared by "pulling" milk tea between metal containers. Not only does the drink become frothy, this also helps to cool teh tarik to a reasonable temperature. To stay in character, the stall is manned by a staff member with a fake mustache and a bright red fez (tarbush).
VOUK Hotel Suites' festive buffet dinner is served from 19 May 2018 to 13 June 2018. The walk-in price is RM88.00 net per adult, and RM60.00 per child or senior citizen. For every 7 paying customers, the 8th person dines for free. Early bird vouchers are available for purchase until 15 May 2018.
Furthermore, each full-paying adult will be automatically entered into a lucky draw. This year, VOUK Hotel Suites is giving away attractive prizes such as free rooms and dining vouchers. The grand prize is an electric scooter worth around RM5,600.00!

Name: C'est Si Bon Restaurant
Address: 57-G-3, Mansion One, Jalan Sultan Ahmad Shah, 10050 George Town, Pulau Pinang
Contact: 04-370-8333
Business hours: 6:30am-11:00pm
Website: http://www.voukhotelsuites.com.my/facilities
Coordinates: 5.42743 N, 100.32081 E
Directions: VOUK Hotel Suites is located on Jalan Sultan Ahmad Shah, right before The Northam and across the road from Gurney Beach Food Gallery. C'est Si Bon Restaurant is located at Level 2 of the main building. Parking is available in front of Hardwicke House. Dine-in customers enjoy complimentary parking; parking tickets can be validated at the restaurant.

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