I’ve visited some of the best food in Penang, but wasn’t impressed. The Penang Hawker Food Buffet at York Hotel Singapore tastes so much better! After the buffet, I understand why people claim that Penang has the best food in Malaysia.
There are so many things I love about the buffet. Firstly, the buffet price is reasonable: $29++ adult and $20++ child on weekdays; $33++/$23++ on weekends, bearing in mind York Hotel has to fly the Penang hawkers in. You can eat all the best Penang food in a place, instead of running under the hot sun in Penang.
Secondly, when I go to buffets, I usually feel like I’m in a battlefield, having to snatch food with people, but the buffet here is extremely organized. All items are cooked or assembled on the spot to maintain freshness. You have to queue at the stalls, but since they limited 2 portions per guest, the queuing time is very short for most stalls, almost 0 minute, even though it was full house on a weekday night. (Except for the very long char kway teow queue.) If you want more, you can always queue again.
Tip to avoid queuing: reverse the order of eating. Eat desserts first and then move to savory. We did that and it saved us lots of time. At 8pm, there wasn’t a queue for char kway teow. Buffet closes at 10 so you can eat 2 hours of char kway teow.
Lor bak (Singaporeans call it ngoh hiong)
Thirdly, each dish comes in small portions, so that you can try all the 12 stalls. 12 types of food may sound few compared to other hotel buffets, but Mr Fitness and I shared the 12 plates and by the end of it, we were stuffed! Besides, I prefer fewer, quality options to abundant, inferior varieties.
Fourthly, the hawkers are very friendly. If there is no queue, you can chat with them like we did.
And then the food. The highlights include: the assam laksa (above) uses fresh fish, deboned by hand to ensure there are absolutely no bones—extremely labor intensive. It’s tangy with tamarind and pineapple, and pungent with prawn paste. Like Singapore hawkers, this hawker is likely to be the last generation to cook the assam laksa as their children don’t want to take over. Eat it while you can!
The char kway teow (above) is epic, definitely worth the queue. Malaysian style of char kway teow is salty, unlike Singapore’s style of sweetness. Usually, I don’t like Malaysian style, but this char kway teow is so complex with layers of flavors that I fell in love with it.
The nasi lemak (above) is amazing, easily better than the best nasi lemak in Singapore. The rice is so robust with coconut and it’s paired with Nonya chicken Kapitan, a dry curry chicken, almost like rendang, redolent of dark and deep Indian-tasting spices. This is Mr Fitness’s favorite.
My personal favorite, kway teow soup, blew me away. It looks like a sick person’s food, but the broth is so rich and robust. You can’t eat this in Penang because the hawker has already retired! She’s here just for this event.
The ban chang kueh (above) is so good I returned for second helping. The golden brown pancakes are paper-thin and crispy. The slight saltiness from the margarine offsets the sweetness of the sugared ground peanuts. I want to eat this everyday!
I don’t want to give the impression that all the food are fantastic. There are some fillers, like rojak and lor bak, Penang’s version of ngoh hiong. I didn’t quite like prawn mee soup (above) because there is a pungent aroma I didn’t take to. The ice kacang and chendol are way too sweet. There is too much carb in the buffet, not enough protein.
But at the end of the meal, I felt so elated by the food that I told Mr Fitness I wanted to return. And I very seldom return to a place. I need to bring my parents here.
The one bad thing is they don’t take reservations because many people are late, and when walk-in customers see that the tables are empty, they question why. We heard the lunch buffet starts at noon but there is already a queue at 11.10am! Damn, I need to strategize to minimize queuing time into the restaurant.
In the meantime, I shall dream about the ban chang kueh. It’s stuck in my head like a love song.
Note: The buffet is available on these dates-
11 Mar – 27 Mar 2016
2 Sept – 18 Sept 2016
16 Dec 2016 – 1 Jan 2017
White Rose Cafe, York Hotel
21 Mount Elizabeth, Singapore 228516
T: +65 6830 1156
Lunch 12pm – 2.30pm
Dinner 6.30pm – 10pm
Service: NA (tasting)
Written by A. Nathanael Ho.
This is a hosted meal.