Over the weekend, I was invited by Mike to the Raintree Restaurant again, this time for a tasting of an international buffet dinner, something I've yet to try here. Whilst they are best known for their epic Ramadhan buffets, they also occasionally have other themed buffets which I find are on the whole, excellent introductions to various foreign cuisines and new foods.
Bearing that in mind, I happily accepted the invitation, and went there not quite knowing what to expect from a theme as wide-ranging as the word "international" denotes, as I missed the one they had in the previous year.
Anyway, I guess you guys should be used to the format by now - the next part consists of an image dump of food pictures you guys are probably going to curse me for... We'll start with a shot of the interior of Raintree Restaurant. I just realised that as food-obsessed as I am, I've neglected to show a picture of how nice the place actually looks, all wood and glass and funky Sarawakian-inspired decor:
And a whole bunch of appetisers...
Those floral-looking things are actually the cold cuts. If you scroll through the rest of the pictures you might notice what struck me almost immediately: they've changed things up to place a little bit more emphasis on a more creative and eye-catching display.
Sort of reminded me of a candy-store/carnival sort of vibe. Very pretty. I got apprehensive at this point, because I've often found that a beautiful presentation often means the quality of the food is compromised. That said, I'm also a sucker for nice-looking things, and admittedly beautifully done up food does offer a visual feast, which does sort of stimulate the appetite.
I'm embarrassed to have to admit I didn't try most of them because I was so busy snapping shots and eyeing the mains. However, this one in particular deserves a bit of a mention:
It's some sort of noodle-wrapped prawn thing which is then deep-fried and served with some salsa atop of some blue jelly, in a shooter glass. Pretty nice tangy contrast, and a beautiful way to serve it. Very weird and wonderful, and taste-wise, this was a winner.
Not sure what this is, wanted to try it, but forgot to because there were so many things to eat. That should be a testament to the range of food offered at this buffet, quite a pleasantly comprehensive variety, although not as large as I initially expected it to be.
I really love the idea and the presentation of these... if you can't tell, they're actually smoked salmon wrapped around a bread stick. I love smoked salmon. I love bread. Combine the two this way, and I get all sorts of impressed hehe.
As usual, there was a pretty good selection of crusty French breads, baked in-house. I might have mentioned this before in the past: some of the best bread in Kuching is probably from here. I'm fussy about baked dough as my mother's an avid baker, and a pretty good one at that. BCCK consistently churns out bread that I'm sure even my mother wouldn't find fault with.
I stood for the longest time in front of the cheese section. Very unique Christmas-coloured display. The cheeses were good, but I felt that the selection was slightly limited. No blue cheese, for one!
However, they did offer not one, not two, but THREE varieties of dried fruit to go with them: fig, pineapple and apricot. Loved it.
Salad section was a lovely surprise. I actually took photos of it but accidentally deleted them so you'll just have to make do with a description. What made an already consistently awesome salad bar even better, this time around? Well, this:
Which if you can't quite figure out yet, are marinated mushrooms, olives, and capsicum. They also offered a rather wide range of dressings, anything from your stock standard thousand island to various varieties of olive oils and vinegars. The olive-oil-and-vinegar-dressing-lover here strongly approves.
Also, toppings to go on your salad, such as grated cheese, croutons and other stuff I don't have pictures of. The selection of very fresh vegetables was pretty large, and I was a very happy trooper that night.
And then the roast section... Roasted peppers:
Roasted onions, carrots, sweet potatoes, potato wedges...
All to go with this gorgeous hunk of meat:
It was the roast beef we were all waiting for. This obliging chef had to pose like this forever just for a certain member of the media, to take countless shots of him carving that piece of beef haha!
As usual, roasted to perfection, still juicy and pink on the inside...
The verdict? Pretty good. I was disappointed though, but only because the roast lamb of the Ramadhan buffet and the slow-grilled sirloin of the Christmas five-course set of past tastings has raised the bar to such unreasonable heights, it's really hard to best them. I know, I'm quite spoilt by these lovely people here.
Of course, not to forget this poor chook we almost neglected to try, we were so stuffed by the time anyone remembered to try it:
Was given a slice of breast meat by the chef manning the section, and was bitterly disappointed at how dry it looked. Took a reluctant mouthful and changed my mind immediately. That was the juiciest, fall-apart-in-your-mouth piece of chicken I've had in my life. IN MY LIFE. I AM NOT EXAGGERATING THAT POINT. It was amazingly flavoursome, whatever herbs it'd been marinated it fully permeated the flesh, and the skin was crisp and simply tear-inducing, it was so damned good.
The unanimous star of the show, however, turned out to be humble little beef lasanga:
Doesn't look like much but after tasting it, we all went back for seconds, it was so rich and creamy and full of rich, beefy flavour that it was utterly impossible to resist more.
Sadly, some other mains weren't as impressive. The lamb tagine did not garner favour with many, as it did the meat not much justice.
The pan-seared fish with tomato coulis was rather eye-catching in its servings, and was a nice alternative to all the other heavier meat dishes, but I found it fairly mediocre after the mouthgasms some of the early dishes gave me...
They also had pumpkin soup on that day. Incidentally I'd just whipped up a batch the very same day. I wasn't a big fan of Raintree's versh, but then again, these things can be subjective. I found it a little too runny (I like my soups rich and thick) and the flavour of the celery added in might be a bit overwhelming for some.
The dessert section of every buffet here is always worth a mention though. They brought back waffles! If you can't tell yet, these waffles are da bomb:
Next to the waffles is the bread and butter pudding, which I found a tad too soggy, but otherwise excellent, taste-wise:
I wish I'd taken more picture of the desserts, but I got hungry. You cannot blame me for that when there are displays such as these:
Their chocolate fountain is always a hit with both children and over-grown kiddies alike. This time round, the way they displayed the fruit skewers really enhanced the visual appeal. I stood entranced in front of the chocolate fountain for a full minute, and there were a few little children standing next to me doing the same LOL.
The chocolate fountain is amazing - might be the quality of the chocolate used, or the freshness of the fruit they put on those tasty, tasty skewers of happiness. One thing Raintree's never let me down on yet is how amazingly crisp and fresh their fruits and vegetable ALWAYS are.
Anyway, they say colourful food is good for health. At this buffet, I was never short of a gaily-coloured platter:
Yes, I had the brie as both starters and dessert. The cheese was delicate and creamy, and I really loved the figs and apricots that came with it.
There was caramel sauce for the waffles, and vanilla cream to top the bread and butter pudding. I decided to break the rules a little and spice up my pudding with BOTH the caramel and the vanilla. It was a good decision... the combination was heavenly.
I must really say, despite my misgivings, all the colours and interesting new ways of presentation did win me over. Look at this little tartlet - just the mere sight induces copious salivation, doesn't it?
So my conclusions for this buffet dinner:
- The roasts are a must-have. Especially (and unexpectedly) the chicken.The beef is quite good, despite all my belly-aching above
- Amazing ambience and gorgeous displays
- Interesting experimentation with the starters, with special mention to the salsa prawn thing
- I LOVE THE SALAD BAR
- Yummy selection of crusty bread om nom nom nom
- One of the better beef lasagnas I've had in recent memory
- Impressive selection of desserts for those with a sweet-tooth
- Plenty of extremely healthy/vegetarian/vegan options here for those who are health-conscious or unable to consume meat for some reason or other
- The service is excellent - the staff are extremely well-trained and super-polite
- Group booking package available (see below for details)
- Not as diverse a range of food as I'd expected an international spread to be, but then again what I had in mind is probably unreasonable even by any standards
- The sushis weren't the best I've had. Then again, Raintree does not specialise in Japanese cuisine
- Dimsums were OK taste-wise, but DO NOT even attempt to consume it after it's cooled down from the steamer - the skins toughen up dramatically
- Mediocre lamb tagine and pan-seared fish
- I still prefer the Ramadhan buffet. Maybe because the foods are more to my preference, and there is a much wider selection of food for that one, with the inclusion of individual "stalls" dedicate to specific foods
To be honest, most of my "not-so-goods" sound more like me being nit-picky. I would probably agree, it's just that I've been so spoilt by all the tasty food they've come up with over the years, been invited to so many impressive events, that my standards for the place has been set rather high. For all it's worth, I'd still recommend this one, if just for the amazing selection of desserts and the impressive salad bar.
Also, I'd like to point out that they are planning to change their menu on a weekly basis for this buffet. That means that many of my negative points here might just not apply by then.
The buffet is available at RM72++ per person for adults, RM34++ for children between the ages of five to twelve, and free for those under five, with a 15% discount off the total bill for those who hold the Raintree Restaurant Privilege Card and Maybankard.
Group booking packages are available as RM60++ for adults, RM28++ for children for bookings of ten to nineteen adults, and RM55++ and RM25++ respectively for bookings of twenty adults and above.
For enquiries and reservations, call 082-392889 anytime between 11am to 10pm daily.