The hallucinations usually start about 4pm. That's when that gnawing in your tummy starts drowning everything else and your throat feels as parched as Mumra's cough. It's amazing how often I fantasize about Sahara Tent's buffet during Ramadhan.
I dare you not to overeat...
Hotel Fortuna 87, Jalan Berangan,
Off Jalan Bukit Bintang,
Tel: 03 2144 8310
Open daily, 12noon-12midnight.
Great value and has never let me down
Crazy traffic and erm... Arabic buffet manners
RM 100 - RM 200
That tender fall-off-the-bone lamb. Mounds of golden fragrant rice with spice-massaged chicken buried like succulent treasures. Hummus- creamy ambrosia on warm pita. Eggplant done the most insanely delicious ways, baked tender in a moussaka, grilled with parsley or sultrily smoked then mixed with yogurt into a baba ganoush. Now this, is a buffet worth braving Bukit Bintang traffic for.
Not especially a buffet fan, my three criteria for a worthwhile queue is 1. It's quality not quantity. This means it's about 10-15 starters and about 10 mains. So you can have a little nibble of everything and then come back for your favourites. 2. Do not skimp on the good stuff. If lamb is what I want, then don't run out. Nothing worse than Scrooge portions. 3. The price. At RM49nett, Sahara Tent still has one of the most affordable buffets in town.
Originally, the buffet was housed in-doors in a little cul-de-sac. Now, it's outside which is probably a better idea so the food doesn't get cold and there's more space to move around.
Warm up that aching belly first with a great Moroccan vegetable soup full with bits of skinny pasta and lentils. On the sides you can munch on falafel, some fried fish fillets and sambosa lamb. This is the love child of a samosa and a spring roll- pastry rolled around minced lamb then fried. Gosh it's good.
Dips are my beeline. I reckon Sahara Tent has one of the best hummus in town, thick and creamy. The creatively titled Chef Special is special indeed, eggplant braised in tomatoes until it wilts and infuses its rich, earthy flavour to the sourness of the tomato. It's got the intense flavour of sundried tomatoes coupled with the lushness of eggplants. I had four helpings.
Moving down the line are rice fluffed with spices and tomato gravies with vegetables like stewed stuffed peppers, ladies fingers and cabbage leaves rolled around rice and minced meat. There's also a rather bizarre Arabic spaghetti bolognaise, a little spicier than the Italian counterpart but it totally works.
To the big stuff. They have very good kofte, grilled tender inside and of course their superb Sahara roasted lamb. The meat clear sighed off the bones. I would usually take a warm pita, slather it with hummus and insert some slivers of lamb. I'd top it off with tabouleh and some chef special, before greedily devouring it. This is a Honey Fantasy Kebab Special.
This year though, it's the Mandir Chicken that truly stole the show. Roasted to perfection and buried in briyani-style rice, the chicken is juicy-tender. And of course the eggplant mousska, the object of my 4pm dreamscape on a hot Ramadhan afternoon. Layers of eggplant bedding down with minced meat, topped with a white sauce and baked until golden. The lasagna of Arabic conquerors. The only time worth having their moussaka is during Ramadhan because it comes hot from the kitchen. On normal days they make it in the morning and reheat it. There is nothing quite like moussaka fresh from the oven.
Dessert-wise there's the usual oversweet desserts like some baklava variation and semolina porridge. But I like the balls of fried dough doused in honey. The name? Unsurprisingly- Sweet Balls. LOL. You can then have cavity-tingling mint tea to wash it all down.
This is still an institution. They will be moving soon to another building nearby. And they now have branches in Shah Alam and Alamanda. I'll miss the original though, now a little tatty on the edges but still homey. Folks, there's still 20 days left to this year's Ramadhan. Get yourself there. Bring your appetites. I dare you to not overeat.