Careful planning and buffet prices that reflect their outlets’ distinctive menus help top hotels pull in the buka puasa crowd.
AS Muslims fast from dawn to dusk through Ramadan, most hoteliers and chefs not only have to contend with fewer customers and lower revenue during lunch hours, they also have to work doubly hard to cover the shortfall by going all out to nab their share of the sizeable buka puasa (break fast) crowd.
And so months before Ramadan comes around, most food and beverage (F&B) teams in town would have already hunkered down to brainstorm and map out their strategies on how to outdo, outcook and outperform the next hotel and restaurant. Everyone wants to reel in a capacity crowd for the month-long buka puasa period.
According to Hilton Kuala Lumpur’s general manager, Daniel Welk, the Hilton KL’s Sudu outlet is banking on not one but four themed buffets: Balik Kampung, Muhibbah, Nyonya and Middle Eastern for its promotional buffet this year.
“For the Balik Kampung theme, diners will find dishes just like those mum used to make at home – Rendang Tok and Ayam Goreng Berlada, while the Muhibbah section features diverse Malaysian delights such as Serunding Kerang, Bergedil Daging, Roganjosh and Laksa Johor, among others.
“In tribute to our Nyonya or Straits Chinese heritage, we have Ikan Asam Pedas, Inche Kabin, Otak Otak and Hokkien Prawn Mee. Our Middle Eastern section includes specialties like Lamb Shawarma, Kouzi ala Timman (lamb shanks in a rich tomato sauce with Middle Eastern spices) and Muhammar (an aromatic turmeric-accented rice dish in a delicious lamb broth).
“Diners can enjoy all these and more at RM129++ per person on weekdays and RM119++ per person on weekends. Our buffet price remains the same as last year’s. Reservations have been extremely encouraging and we’ve been running full on most nights,” Welk says.
Over at the Westin KL, assistant F&B director Huza Radzi reveals that the hotel’s Ramadan Santapan buffet has been a runaway hit thanks to The Living Room’s staggering menu of 700 (yes, 700!) delectable Malay, Chinese and Indian delicacies served at last year’s prices: RM128++ per person on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and RM108++ per person from Monday to Thursday.
“The Living Room kitchen, which is certified halal by Jakim, has received overwhelming response from Muslim diners,” says Huza. “We’re also fully booked due to corporate groups and repeat customers.”
Assistant director of kitchens Rudy Junaidie points out that the hotel’s complimentary Zam Zam mineral water from the Holy Land which they offer for iftar (breaking of fast) is an additional pull factor for their Muslim guests.
“We also have live cooking stations that dish out popular signature specialities such as Telur Dadar Mamak Komtar, Ayam Briyani, Kambing Hitam Manis, Gulai Kepala Ikan, Udang Tumis Merah, Sotong Goreng Berempah and Achar Mentah,” she adds.
Meanwhile, Sunway Resort Hotel & Spa and Mandarin Oriental Kuala Lumpur is counting on its upgraded outlets to pull in the crowd.
Wilfred Yeo, group director of sales and marketing, says, “Our newly opened Fuzion all-day cafe’s buka puasa buffet is priced at RM128++ per adult, slightly higher in comparison to last year but it’s worth the price because guests can now enjoy an enhanced ambience with fresh food presentations and a greater array of traditional favourites.
“The Ramadan buffet with ‘live’ action stations also proffer nostalgic specialities like the enormous Gulai Kawah, and this has resulted in a bigger buka puasa crowd at Fuzion. We anticipate the outlet will be busy right up to the week before Hari Raya,” Yeo adds.
At the Mandarin Oriental Kuala Lumpur, the spanking new Mosaic restaurant has just opened its doors on Aug 8, but already the elegantly furnished outlet with Peranakan cultural accents and elaborate furnishing is fast becoming the buka puasa venue of choice.
Director of communications Cheryl Lum confirms that Mosaic is 70% full on most evenings from the day it opened.
“Diners will find a vibrant mix of local and international specialties complemented by live cooking stations, including grill, wok, tandoor and dessert bar, plus two private dining rooms,” says Lum. “Even though our buffet price at RM118++ per person is slightly higher this year, we’re confident response will pick up by the third week of Ramadan.”
At the Sheraton Imperial Kuala Lumpur, director of communications Cindy Yoong is happy to reveal that its Essence of Melaka buffet has received the thumbs-up from buka puasa diners.
“We’ve more than 100 mouth-watering dishes with specialities from the historical state of Malacca as the main draw. Notable delicacies include Asam Pedas Daging Tetel soup, Nyonya Duck Curry and Pongteh Chicken, as well as our signature Whole Roast Lamb with Nyonya Sambal Marination.
“There’s no change in our pricing this year; it’s still priced at RM108++ per person. We even extend two complimentary seats for every group of 10 paying guests. Response has been better than expected. In the first week, we had 20% more diners compared to the same period last year. We expect Essence will be fully booked in the coming weeks.”
The pickings are rich when it comes to breaking fast but many city folk who live and work in the Klang Valley think nothing beats the taste of good old kampung-style cooking for their buka puasa. Homely delights from the different states of Peninsular Malaysia have proven to be a perennial fail-proof crowd-pleasing formula over the years for One World Hotel, Hilton Petaling Jaya and Hotel Istana KL.
Florence Leong, One World Hotel’s assistant director of communications, confirms that guests who patronise Cinnamon Coffee House’s Selera Kampung-Ku Ramadan Buffet are partial to classic dishes that remind them of their own kampung and hometowns.
“They just can’t get enough of evergreen favourites like Nasi Ulam, Nasi Dagang, Nasi Bukhari Ayam, Nasi Tomato Dewi, Urap Pegaga Sari, Kerabu Kaki Ayam, Kerabu Udang Dengan So Hoon, Acar Rampai Mahligai, Kerabu Mangga Bunga Kantan, Kerabu Telur Permata Hati, Kerabu Betik Muda, Paru Goreng Berempah, Sambal Ikan Bilis Petai, Terung Goreng Berlada, Kerabu Perut, Kerabu Pucuk Paku, and our Malay Cuisine Chef’s version of Ayam Tangkap,” she says.
Leong adds that the hotel’s new executive chef, a Jordanian, has also added some Middle-Eastern delicacies to enhance the menu.
“Reservations have picked up from the fifth day of Ramadan. We anticipate the coffee house will be fully booked by the second and third week, in spite of our slightly pricier buffet at RM108++ this year.”
It’s evident that the different hotels have left no stone unturned in ensuring that local diners are truly spoilt for choice when it comes to breaking fast. Selamat berbuka puasa!