Weekend buffets at Cafe BLD

“What better time for a leisurely buffet dinner than on a weekend evening?” It’s just a rhetorical question because we are all, already in agreement.

A choice of sambal at the Appetizer section in Cafe BLD
My friends and I enjoy dining at buffets to have tasting portions of a wide variety of food items and we are still talking about the good dining experiences at various buffets presented in hotels here.

So when I suggest dining at Café BLD, the response is unanimous.

I remember dining at Café BLD, not just during my hotel review stay at the Renaissance Johor Baru but also on other occasions when organizers hosted their events in this hotel.

I recall the various food sections in the café, including the outdoor section of the buffet that serves grilled items, and wonder if there are any changes since I last dined here.

Curious about the café, Florence asks me, “What’s BLD?”

Just tasting portions from the buffet will do...
It’s a good question as she wants to have an idea about the café or restaurant that we will be dining in.

In fact, I asked the same question during my hotel review so I’m ready to furnish her with an answer.

Café BLD is an all-day dining restaurant and is aptly named “BLD” because it serves freshly prepared meals throughout the day where meals may link from Breakfast, Lunch to Dinner!

Satisfied with my reply, my friends and I arrive by 6.45pm for an early start to experience and enjoy the International buffet spread. This month, the buffet features a section for Peranakan cuisine.

While we enjoy buffets, we have an ethical practice where we strictly adhere to the principle of: Take only what you can eat, because we can return countless times to the buffet to take more of our favourite items and avoid any food wastage.

At a buffet, we practice: Take only what you can eat!
After being shown to our table, we take our usual slow walk around the various sections to explore and discover the food options before helping ourselves to our choices.

I like how the names of the items are written on small chalk boards so that diners have a clear idea of how the meat, poultry or vegetables are prepared.

In the Western section, I spot Chef James carving and serving portions of roasted leg of lamb to diners and he calls out an offer, asking if I needed any help.

Once he’s done serving the queue for roasted lamb, he kindly points out to me, the nearby sections for Indian cuisine, the Chinese section, the noodles counter and the featured Peranakan dishes.

Chef James carving and serving
roasted leg of lamb to diners
Among other Peranakan dishes, I see Nyonya fried bee-hoon or vermicelli, Sambal bendi or okra, Assam fish and Lemak prawns.

At the soup counter, there are two soup choices but I only have eyes for the Itik Tim, a comforting Peranakan recipe for clear soup brewed with main ingredients, duck and salted vegetables.

Another section is devoted to appetizers like salads, ulam, pickles and a variety of crisps or keropok including the emping belinjo – a tasty crisp with a slight bitter after-taste.

Besides slices of fresh spring rolls, there are stuffed tofu and even a ceramic bowl, complete with spatulas for diners to toss the fresh vegetables with peanut sauce to create our own portion of gado-gado, an Indonesian-inspired salad.

I watch as the staff at the Japanese counter top-up slices of fresh sashimi and freshly-made rolls of sushi onto the platter and remind myself to save some space for this.

At the seafood-on-ice section, the bright orange shells of plump prawns are both eye-catching and appetizing. Next to the segments of fresh lemon, a bottle of Tobasco sauce is chilled along with the split fresh oysters and mussels on ice.

Food items are labelled on tiny chalk boards
They, however, missed out on labelling some sauces and condiments here and when I venture to dig into the jar, I’m pleased to discover a tasty pesto sauce!

During the Peranakan cuisine promotion, there is an entire section devoted to a range of Nyonya kueh and chilled desserts like cendol.

I turn around to watch as the staff skillfully prepares the pancake and rolls it up, stuffed with a generous portion of shredded coconut flavoured with Gula Melaka or palm sugar, to make Kueh Ketayap.

“You must try our Kueh Ketayap and Pisang Goreng,” said Assistant Director of Food & Beverage, Suresh, who joins me at this live-cooking station.

Skillfully rolling Kueh Ketayap at the live-cooking station
Why not? So while Suresh looks on, I help myself to two freshly-fried bananas and reach for the spoon to drizzle spicy dark sauce over them.

I observe his quizzical expression and realise that he’s unfamiliar with how fried bananas are savoured here. So it’s an opportunity for me to share with him a bit of Johor heritage…

While I’m busy with surveying the buffet, watching the live-cooking and chatting with friends in the café, my dining companions are steadily progressing with their meal.

By the time I finish enjoying minute portions of the main course items, Emily, who has explored the dessert section, volunteers her advice on the semolina pudding – (which she thinks I will like!) and is situated next to the bread & butter pudding.

Freshly prepared items from the live-cooking station
Florence also reminds me to help myself to the slices of Kek Batik, a non-baked dessert made with traditional Marie biscuits, layered with a chewy blend of Milo and chocolate.

“Take two slices,” she gently suggests – probably because she knows once I have tasted it, one slice will not be enough!

So I’m off to help myself to a bit of the semolina pudding which Emily says tastes like a type of kesari, an Indian dessert, but without the fragrant spices!

The watchful eyes of the serving staff are upon us while we are exchanging comments on the desserts, and soon the young lady approaches our table with a request to place an order for coffee or tea.

In Johor, fried bananas are savoured with spicy dark sauce
I’m delighted that coffee comes with the buffet and Florence reminds me about how it will go down so well with my Kek Batik!

At this hour, I only drink decaffeinated coffee so I ask the staff if they serve decaf coffee.

She hesitates briefly as the thought registers and when she replies, No, they don’t stock decaf coffee, I decide not to have a hot beverage after all.

It’s only a minor setback but I would rather enjoy a good night’s uninterrupted rest than risk losing sleep after drinking coffee at this hour.

Just as we are resigned to a no-coffee end to our buffet dinner, the young lady approaches our table again, this time with a positive message: “Yes!”

I’m so pleased that she went to check and is back to say, “There is decaf coffee!”

A range of local kueh for dessert during
the Peranakan cuisine promo
So we place our orders and ask for a side of warm milk.

I thank her with warm appreciation as she serves our decaf coffee and when asked, she explains that she’s a trainee assigned to the hotel from a college for hospitality studies.

At the first sip, I’m pleasantly surprised at how it tastes so strong and so delicious!

I call the young lady over again to ask if she is sure the coffee is indeed decaf – because this brew tastes so good and quite unlike the usual decaf.

I tell her in jest that I will look for her if I lost any sleep after drinking it…

I’m sure she is aware that I’m only teasing but her eyes are wide and smiling as she confidently assures me that it is indeed decaf coffee.

The next morning I checked with my friends and am pleased that no one lost any precious sleep from drinking that delightful cup of decaf coffee!

Thanks, Hanisah. Your can-do attitude is the icing on the proverbial cake for our weekend buffet experience at Café BLD.

With Good Friday (March 30) just around the corner, Café BLD has planned a traditional Good Friday meal with a no-meat option.

Meanwhile, the popular weekend International buffet spread is still available for diners to enjoy on this special weekend. Every Friday and Saturday at RM123 nett per person.

On Easter Sunday (April 1) enjoy a traditional feast for this holiday weekend and have dinner with some fun in games and activities for all ages. Only RM123 nett per person.

Café BLD is located at the lobby level of Renaissance Johor Baru Hotel. For reservations, Tel: +607 – 381 3322.