Chinese New Year Hi-Tea Buffet 2023 @ Paya Serai, Hilton Petaling Jaya

Back when I was still working in media, the festive season always meant food reviews. I haven’t been to one for over three years now due to the pandemic (and also because I left the field last year)–so when the Bro said he was going to treat the fam to a CNY Hi-Tea buffet at Hilton Petaling Jaya, I felt a twinge of excitement (and also nostalgia!)

Strategically located next to the Federal Highway, Hilton Petaling Jaya is one of PJ’s most iconic landmarks, and also one of its older hotels, having rebranded from the Jaya Puri Hotel in 1984.

Over its close to 40-year history, the hotel has undergone numerous refurbishments. Although parts of its interior still look a bit dated, it still looks classy, and as such is a popular place for businessmen, tourists, and families. Paya Serai is Hilton PJ’s all-day dining restaurant and coffee house – and this is where the fam and I had our CNY Hi-Tea Buffet. While it’s probably too late to avail their promotion this year, I hope sharing my experience can help you gauge if you’d like to spend the next one here!

The space looked festive, as it was decorated with dozens of lanterns that matched the coffeehouse’s red, green, and beige decor. There were several islands featuring different cuisines, including a dessert counter as well as Western, Malay, Chinese, and Indian dishes.

While the spread was not super extensive, there was still a good selection of items to choose from, which befitted its RM138 nett price tag. The carvery station had a whole lamb on a spit, although it was more for display as the meat had already been served onto a platter. There was also roast chicken as well as beef and chicken satay.

The latter was excellent – I think they used the thigh portion so the meat was tender, soft, and juicy. It was also basted well, with a sweet, smokey taste. I wasn’t the only one who thought so, as the chicken satay ran out almost as soon as new batches were served; the kitchen had to continually replenish the trays.

There was a pasta station where a chef whipped up pasta and sauces on a grill. I saw many tables having customized pasta, but I did not try this as I didn’t want to fill myself up with carbs.

Another live cooking station, this one with the chef serving up freshly made appam balik (peanut and corn pancake).

A selection of Western dishes: (from left to right) roast chicken in gravy, beef goulash, mashed potato, roasted vegetables. The food was kept hot on induction stoves.

For the sweet-toothed, there was a whole island dedicated to desserts, with cupcakes as well as a ais kacang station where guests could mix and match their preferred condiments.

Other notable counters that I didn’t manage to take photos of: a soup section, a seafood-on-ice section, a DIY-noodle section where guests can make their own assam laksa/curry noodles, as well as a teh tarik machine where you can spice up your drink with masala powder and ginger slices.

Time to tuck in!

My strategy at buffets is usually to avoid rice and noodles (unless I’m really, REALLY craving for them), and to get just one or two pieces of everything so that I can maximize the variety of dishes I can try.

Round 1: Chicken satay, Hainanese roast chicken, roast lamb, cold cuts of turkey ham and smoked chicken, fresh mussels, fried spring roll, and beef rendang.

Winner: Chicken satay, hands down. As I mentioned earlier, super tender and flavourful. You don’t even need peanut sauce to accompany it. The beef rendang was excellent as well, but perhaps a bit salty to eat on its own. If you like rice, then it would be a great dish to go with it.

Loser: None. Everything else was pretty good.

Round 2: Going for a mix of items, such as mashed potato, roast chicken with gravy, sliced beef with onion, Chinese-style broccoli and mushroom, beef goulash, tofu with mushrooms, teriyaki chicken, and kam heong prawns.

Winner: Beef stew. Meat was, again, super tender, almost melt-in-the-mouth, with a nice balance of lean and fat. The carrots and onions were cooked until soft, so it was easy to eat, and sauce’s tomato base brought everything together well. I also enjoyed the mashed potato, which was creamy but not too mushy. Kam heong prawn was great too, but ultimately I was too lazy to peel the shell 😛

Loser: The roast chicken with gravy was disappointing. Meat was drier than the Sahara dessert, gravy barely had flavour.

Round 3: I know people usually go for salad as an appetizer, but I don’t follow orders when eating lol. Got more chicken satay, more mussels (but with Caesar salad dressing), more cold cuts, smoked salmon and lettuce with thousand island sauce, a bit of mutton briyani, and kupang masak lemak (mussels cooked in coconut milk and chilli). Not pictured here is a bowl of sup kambing (mutton soup).

Winner: Everything on this plate was pretty good. Salmon was fresh, mussels were fresh, and the cooked one was very spicy. Mutton soup was hearty and comforting too.

Round 4: Dessert. Bread and butter pudding, chocolate cake, chocolate cake in a cup, fresh fruits, pudding.

Winner: The chocolate cake was good. Dense and not too sweet.

Loser: The pudding. For some reason it did not set properly and was just loose and watery. Bread and butter pudding was okay on the top but super hard on the bottom.

So a lot of hits and misses with the dessert. There was more to try, like the Malay-style kueh, the ice kacang, and ice cream, but the food was already up to my nose by then lol.

Unfortunately, like everyone else, I am not immune to the rigors of time, and my 30-something-year-old stomach no longer has space nor metabolism to eat as how I would in my 20s. But I think it is a good indicator as to the variety that Paya Serai offers, as I was not even able to try everything despite only eating a bit of each dish. Overall, I think it was a good experience, and something different from our usual celebrations. Something to consider if you’d like to treat yourself and your family during CNY 🙂

PAYA SERAI

Hilton Petaling Jaya, 2, Persiaran Barat, Pjs 52, 46200 Petaling Jaya, Selangor

You can check out their different promotions here : link

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