Escape the City for Hawkers Nite @ Putrajaya Shangri-la
Palm Hill Café @ Putrajaya Shangri-la
In peak rush hour on a Friday evening, Kah Wai (photographer), Yin (Red FM’s online-content editor) and myself inched along Jalan Tun Razak towards the highway that would take us to Putrajaya. One and a half hours later, we hit the highway and coasted along at the speed limit, reaching the new administrative Capital in less than 20 minutes.
Following signs to the hotel and guided by the testy voice of the ‘GPS lady’, I was feeling the strain of the journey as we pulled up to the hilltop location. Minutes later, I felt my stresses ease away, and stepped out of my car to be surrounded by lush greenery, manicured blossoms and the soothing sound of silence. Yes, that’s right, silence. This is a place to head to for a weekend getaway from the city, a place to unwind after a long week at work, a place where corporate clientele and family’s can co-exist together. This is the Putrajaya Shangri-la.
One the few boutique hotels in Malaysia, the Putrajaya Shangri-la boasts 118 rooms and prides itself on its personalized service. I was obviously more interested in its F&B outlets. Its fine dining restaurant, Azur was closed for a revamp so instead, that evening, we were to taste the fare at the hotel’s all day dining restaurant, Palm Hill Café.
Greeted by the hotels ever accommodating Communications Officer, Mark Paran Mutang, we were seated in the spacious restaurant festively decorated for the one month Raya period. For the month of October and November, Palm Hill Café will be celebrating the best of local cuisine with a Hawker’s Nite buffet serving over 60 starters, mains and desserts. To make it even more authentic, Executive Chef Robert Storum and his culinary team have thrown in a few live action cooking stalls, dotted around the room. You don’t have to worry about leaving with a smoky stench on your clothes, as dishes like char koay teow and items from the grill are cooked outside on the terrace so guests inside dine in comfort.
Items on the buffet spread are rotated every week.
We made our way around to discover a range of appetizers, from traditional ‘Ulam-ulaman’ (raw vegetables), ‘Achar Buah’(fruit pickle), ‘Jantung Pisang Rebus’ (Steamed Banana Flower) to the deliciously fried items like ‘Ketam Goreng Berempah’ (marinated crab in spices) and ‘Daging Lembu Goreng Berempah’ (friend beef in spices).
You can mix and match each appetizer with customary sauces like Air Assam, Tom Yam Sauce, Cencaluk and Sambal Belachan.
I particularly enjoyed the Kerabu Taugeh and my heart skipped a beat when I found not one, but two versions of Pucuk Paku (Wild Fern) in the spread. One was a cold dish, with sautéed grated coconut and spices and the other fresh off the pan, stir fried with sambal belachan.
For those who prefer a milder start to the meal, you can opt for mixed salads and dressings like Thousand Island, Honey & Mustard or French. The Ice Corner features succulent green mussels and cold freshwater prawn and is replenished on a regular basis.
Alternatively, you can try the warming Tomato and Basil Soup for a hot start to the meal. From the grill, we sampled tender lamb chops served with BBQ Sauce.
We also tried succulent grilled squid and luscious chicken wings.
All this and especially the ‘Ikan Bakar’ (Ikan Kembung and Ray fish wrapped in banana leaf), was very well marinated.
Bursting with flavour and cooked with expertise by Sous Chef Johari.
For main courses, try one of the many curries on offer like Ayam Masak Merah.
I loved the meaty and spicy Beef Rendang.
I added these to my Dahl and Murtabak, made to order and served piping hot from the Roti corner.
I was dying to try the Penang Char Koay Teow and JD and Dilly (Red Breakfast) arrived just as I was about to place my order. It’s impossible to have a serious discussion with JD, and so followed a hilarious discussion of ‘Buffet Strategy.”
“The basic rule is,” JD says with a mocking face, “lay off the carbs for as long as possible.” S*** that! I thought. I’m ordering my Koay Teow!
“Extra ‘Pedas’ please!” I called after Chef Johari.
I must say, this dish was the highlight of the evening for me. I have a weakness for flat white rice noodles, and spent many a summer indulging in plates of Char Koay Teow on my holidays in Penang. I was impressed with this one.
The flavours were just right, with generous portions of shrimp and cockles, stir fried in a hot, hot wok, teasing me with its fragrant spices. I devoured half the plate, stopped, and looked around. There was still so much more to try from the buffet.
“Anyone want to help me finish this?” I asked. “It’s so good! I don’t want it to go to waste!” Head shakes all around as the pointed to their individual plates of Koay Teow. I had no choice. I finished it. Licked the plate clean, and I’m proud of it!
That meant I hardly had room for dessert, but thank goodness JD + Dilly did!
They intricately described each bite of Apple Crumble, Chocolate Cake and many more local Malay Kuihs.
I did however, manage to squeeze in Palm Hill’s signature dessert. A mountain of delicate shavings of ice, drenched in sweet syrup concealed an assortment of soaked beans, nuts and jelly, topped off with almond flakes and creamy white vanilla ice-cream.
Yes, I made room for Palm Hill’s Ais Kacang Istimewa. And loosening my belt afterwards was worth it! Thank you Mark for helping me finish it!
Hawkers Nite at Palm Hill Café is a celebration of the best of Malaysian Cuisine. Malay, Chinese, Indian, it’s all there, under one roof. All at the very reasonable price of RM 68 ++ per person. So whether you’re stopping in after a long week’s work or beginning your weekend getaway at the Putrajaya Shangri-la, make time for Hawkers Nite on Friday nite. Did I mention there were Prawns?
Oh, and don’t take JD’s advice. Hit the Char Koay Teow first!
Try Palm Hill Café for yourself! Starting Monday 12 October, tune in to The Big Red Food Review, Eleven2Three with Aly to win a meal for 2 worth over RM 150! Only on Red FM, Today’s Best Music.
Tel: 03-8887 8829