THE way some people talk about the food from Penang, you would think it is the ultimate in world cuisine.
Not all would agree. But there is no denying that the dishes from that part of Malaysia are rich in flavours and ingredients.
I do mostly like what I taste.
Swissotel Merchant Court obviously feels the same and has initiated a Penang buffet.
However, instead of featuring hawkers, it is serving up the best of Penang hotel fare at its Ellenborough Market Cafe.
Entertainer Moses Lim - a food ambassador of Penang food appointed by Tourism Penang - found a caterer that supplies the top hotels in Penang and who holds dinners on its own premises.
It is these chefs who will be cooking in Singapore from now until 29 Jul.
My favourite is the chit teow lor kari kay (7th Street curry chicken).
This is a dry curry made with a very good paste. The result is fragrant, spicy and the aroma hits you immediately. It is slightly oily, but not frighteningly so.
It's so good that the chicken is almost unimportant. What I really enjoyed are the potato cubes - soft and full of the flavours of the curry.
Another item to try is the char moey (fried rice congee).
Though the concept is not new and some Singaporeans have tasted it at some coffeeshops, this version is rich and full of ingredients.
The slight burnt taste is most appealing.
If you like cockles, try the char hum (fried cockles with garlic, chilli and ground peanuts).
However, the sauce was a bit too strong and it overpowered the cockles, rendering them almost tasteless.
This dish is done at one of the 'live' stations, so you can ask for less spice. If not, it can get rather spicy.
Other dishes in the buffet include cuttlefish kang kong, Penang fruitrojak, ikan bilis with onion sambal and cheekiong ark (deep-fried duck with young ginger).
Another popular station is the durian store. Non-lovers will appreciate that this is served al fresco.
This short promotion is one of the best offerings in town.
But to enhance that - there is a surprise at the Ellenborough Cafe that has nothing to do with Penang food.
I re-discovered Chef Shirley Tay cooking at the cafe's Peranakan section.
Chef Tay was formerly from Furama Hotel and is the creator of a killer ngoh hiang (spring roll).
She is one of the most popular chefs around, specialising in Nonya cuisine.
The Penang food is already a draw, but the bonus that is Chef Tay makes it a must-try.
Home-Cooked Style Penang Cuisine
Ellenborough Market Cafe
Swissotel Merchant Court
Price: $42 for lunch or dinner (Mon - Thu), $45 for dinner (Fri - Sun)
Buffet hours: Noon to 2.30pm, 6.30pm to 10pm
For HSBC credit cardholders, one dines free with every three paying adults
Barbecued items, crab to go with your durian
IT is called A Tribute To Singapore, but really, it is more about the durians.
In conjunction with National Day and the ongoing Singapore Food Festival, Orchard Hotel's Orchard Cafe presents a spread of local delights.
The most important element: There will be free servings of durians at lunch and dinner time on Sundays from now until 12 Aug.
Those who love local food will enjoy the savoury fare on offer, with dishes such as black pepper crab and assam pedas.
There are also barbecue items, the cafe's signature dishes.
The durian station is in the outdoor area and those who want to eat the fruit may do so outside only.
Those who find the smell overwhelming may want to give the ala carte experience a miss during this period.
I'm allergic to durians, but fans of the fruit tell me that eating durians in the open air, with a plate of barbecued meat and a cold drink next to you is heavenly.
If you're in the mood for a celebration (or if you really want a discount), between 1 Aug and 12 Aug, go to dinner dressed in our national colours - red and white - and you'll get a 42per cent discount on the buffet lunch or dinner.
Opening hours: Noon to 2.30pm
Buffet price: $36 (Mondays to Saturdays), $46 (Sundays and public holidays)
Opening hours: 6pm to 10.30pm
Buffet price: $46 (Sundays to Wednesdays), $52 (Thursdays to Saturdays)