LIKE slicing through butter and melt-in-your-mouth tender aptly describes the appetising smoked beef brisket.
Hailed as the star of Hotel Istana Kuala Lumpur City Centre’s 2019 Christmas Eve buffet, this carvery item uses the belly of Australian grain fed beef.
Chilled for 90 days, this cut is often reserved for beef bacon due to its rich flavour and is suited for long, slow cooking.
For the buffet spread, the brisket was treated to an overnight Texas style marinade of black pepper, chilli powder, raw brown sugar and Himalayan rock salt. The latter is preferable as table salt tends to impart a bitter aftertaste.
The brisket is then smoked with hickory wood chips for 10 hours.
A smoke ring, indicated by a dark red layer measuring some two centimetres from the outer crust, is a sign of heat from the smoke penetrating into the meat, cooking it to a pink, medium-well doneness.
This is executive chef Al Fitri Al Bakri’s formula for maintaining texture, tenderness and flavour.
Served with roasted baby carrots, potatoes and Brussels sprouts, the brisket is relished with house-made mushroom sauce.
Made from beef juices, the sauce is thickened with cream, with sliced button mushrooms added in.
Of course, a Christmas buffet is incomplete without turkey and diners must keep a look out for this roasted bird.
Resplendently presented in golden crisp coat, the bird owes its shiny outlook to pineapple and brown sugar glaze.
Baked in a combination oven at 170º Celsius for an hour and 15 minutes under the supervision of Urban chef de cuisine Sharus Mizal Salleh, the bird is basted with pineapple juice every 20 minutes. This is necessary as the fat content in turkey is over two times lower than chicken.
Hence it is important to keep moisturising the bird to prevent the meat from drying.
Sharus’ appetising stuffing of mushrooms (portobello, button, cep, porcini, bunapi and shimeji) sauteed in olive oil with sage, thyme, chopped chestnuts, cubed croissants, leek, onions, celery and full cream give flavour, adding further moistness.
Tender cuts of turkey, from thigh to breast, is the result of all that hard work.
There is a choice of giblet, bread and cranberry sauces for the turkey.
The last, looking more like an abundant fruit jam, had diners using it as a spread for bread rolls.
Enhanced with five spice powder, trace amounts of vinegar, orange juice and zest, it also worked well as a topping for vanilla ice cream and ais kacang!
The cranberry sauce also tasted good with crackers from the cheese platter.
The blue cheese, especially with its salty, pungent notes, complemented the cranberry sauce’s sweet and fruity characteristics.
The Seafood Gratin swimming in rich, creamy bechamel sauce and gratinated cheese top is a delight for it features salmon, prawn, squid and New Zealand mussels.
Fish lovers can go for the Salmon Cutlets Crusted with Herbs, served with pomegranate and couscous which is enriched with butter and generously flavoured with parsley, lemon juice, salt and pepper.
Another main deserving mention is the sticky Barbecued Beef Ribs with Root Vegetables. Roasted at high heat for 20 minutes, then slow-cooked in thick tomato paste and demi-glace, the ribs offer hints of sweetness and tastes somewhat like meaty acar.
For a taste of fruits, the Chicken Roulade Stuffed with Apples and Walnuts comes to mind.
Surprisingly, this dish easily agrees with Asian palates for its earthy flavours. Its tender meat was a boon to the dish.
The dessert counter is the domain of pastry chef Wong Yuan Jiunn whose strength lies in the delicate art of fondant, sugar and chocolate works.
Look for the dark chocolate yule log and Santa sugar cookies.
Wong’s signature is his gingerbread men, the only ones in town with fruits and nuts — a recipe he learned from an Austrian master.
There is no alcohol in the festive desserts, not even the Christmas pudding and fruit cake.
Instead, Wong relies on black treacle or molasses, for the strong, slightly burnt flavour typical of festive sweets.
The buffet is prepared by the team that took part in the recent Food and Hotel Malaysia culinary championships, who will be heading to Stuttgart, Germany, for the Culinary Olympics next February.
Priced at RM148 nett per adult, the Christmas Eve Buffet Dinner is at Songket Lounge from 6.30pm to 10.30pm on Dec 24. It includes a glass of wine or Santarina mocktail.
Christmas carolling is from 8pm to 9pm.
Christmas Day Buffet High Tea from 12.30pm to 4.30pm on Dec 25 at Taman Sari Brasserie is priced at RM98 nett per adult.
HOTEL ISTANA KUALA LUMPUR CITY CENTRE, 73, Jalan Raja Chulan, Kuala Lumpur. (Tel: 03-2141 9988).
This is the writer’s personal observation and not an endorsement by StarMetro.