Lunar New Year at the Amari

Since the Amari opened its doors in Johor Baru last May, I’ve been to the hotel countless times for various events, including meals with family and friends and even a takeaway order last Christmas.

Tossing Yee Sang at the media preview of the 8-course
dinner at the Amari Food Gallery in Amari Johor Baru
In just a few months, I’ve become quite familiar with the sumptuous spread at the Amaya Food Gallery and I’m delighted to discover a new and exciting range of Chinese and Thai specialties in the South East Asian and International spread this festive season.

That’s because the culinary team led by Executive Chef Simon Tam has a new team member from Thailand, and she is Executive Sous Chef Gina Kanokwan. For the Lunar New Year, they have pooled their culinary skills to create a collection of tasty menus.

I’m at the Amaya Food Gallery again. This time it’s for a preview of the Lunar New Year sit-down dinner because in addition to the popular dinner buffets at the Amaya Food Gallery, they are also offering two eight-course set menus for 10 persons.

A platter of the Amari Prosperity
Yee Sang topped with salmon curls
From now to March 2, diners have a choice of The Great Prosperity with Wealth menu (RM1200 nett) and The Great Prosperity with Enormous Wealth menu (RM1388 nett).

I take a quick look at the former and raise my eyebrows, quite impressed by a few dishes that are a little different from those in typical Lunar New Year menus and eagerly anticipate a taste of it.

Following the Lunar New Year tradition, the meal starts with the Amari Prosperity Yee Sang or raw fish salad topped by curls of raw salmon as an appetizer.

With an appetite whet by the refreshing taste of the salad, I’m ready for the Braised Crabmeat with Seafood Treasure Soup.

In the soup, rich with crabmeat, I not only can see generous chunks of prawns, scallops and other seafood but am also able to chew and taste them.

I’m not a great fan of ginger but the green ginger sauce that almost drowned the Steamed Seabass, is a house-made sauce in a smooth blend which is neither too hot nor pungent but tastes just right with the tender fish meat.

Steamed Seabass in house-made green ginger sauce
Prawns is an auspicious food item for the Lunar New Year and here whole prawns are steamed with a dash of Chinese wine and superior soya sauce.

The platter of prawns are arranged around a dip bowl of toasted chilli and as I peel the plump prawn for my first bite, its tastes so fresh that I hardly need to use a dip sauce.

The sight of the whole Roasted Chicken garnished by fried prawn crackers gives me a sudden flashback because it’s the old-school roast chicken, chopped into pieces of tender meat flavoured with five-spice and coated with golden crispy skin.

And when I taste it, it’s just like how it used to taste generations ago!

Steamed whole prawns with a toasted chilli dip sauce
When the vegetable dish is served, I look at my Cantonese-speaking media friend across the table and ask, “Ho See Fatt Choy?” and he nods to confirm that I’ve got the Chinese name of this dish right.

This is the auspicious name for a typical Lunar New Year favourite for its auspicious ingredients and here the braised vegetable dish is made up of broccoli florets with pacific clams, black sea moss and two types of mushrooms.

I guess the chefs wisely substituted the ho-see or dried oysters with pacific clams – both high value seafood items – as eating dried oysters is rather an acquired taste!

Finally, it’s the rice dish. The fragrance of the steamed glutinous rice wafts up enticingly and I recognise this familiar flavour because it’s topped by slices of Chinese sausages and cubes of waxed duck – traditional Lunar New Year preserved meat specialties.

A version of Ho See Fatt Choy topped with pacific clams
To strike a balance with the range of savoury tastes, this set meal ends sweetly with a dessert of chilled longan and sea coconut.

Fans of the popular dinner buffets at the Amaya Food Gallery will not be disappointed by the abundant range of food in the buffet for an auspicious family celebration.

Among the mouth-watering items in the South East Asian and International spread are Thai specialties like Thai Chicken Curry with Coconut Milk, Thai Beef Green Curry and Stir-Fried Mixed Seafood with Thai Chilli Paste.

Some European dishes to look forward to are Spring Chicken with Smoked Barbecue Sauce, Roasted Striploin, Roasted Cajun Leg of Lamb and Seafood-on-ice.

Steamed glutinous rice topped with Chinese sausage
and cubes of waxed duck meat
In the Asian section, there are local favourites like Soto Ayam (chicken soup), Massaman Duck Breast Curry and Chicken Murtabak, among others.

Over at the Chinese kitchen, some popular items are Chinese Braised Lamb Stew, Fried Rice with Waxed Meat and Fillet of Fish with Golden Pumpkin Sauce.

Choices of soup include Chinese Chicken and Crabmeat Soup and Tom Yam Soup.

Some of the Lunar New Year desserts in the buffet are festive cookies, assorted mochi, fried glutinous rice cakes (kueh bakul), glutinous rice balls in soya milk, French pastries, Apple Crumble, among other sweet favourites.

The Lunar New Year Dinner Buffet at Amaya Food Gallery is only from Feb 15 to 17, from 6.30pm to 10.30pm, priced at RM128 nett per person with 50% off for children aged six to 12 and seniors aged 60 and above.

A table of 10 persons at the buffet will enjoy a complimentary platter of Yee Sang.

Look out for the Chinese God of Prosperity who will drop by to bless diners with abundance and good fortune by giving out Red Packets and Fortune Cookies!

From Feb 15 to March 2, the Amaya Café will serve a Lunar New Year Afternoon Tea Set from 12pm to 6pm.

Priced at RM75 nett per set, it comes with a choice of TWG tea and a three-tier tray filled with tasty snacks like chicken floss buns, herbal jelly, crème brulee, sesame mochi, almond cookies, baked egg tarts and many more tea-time delights.

Amari Johor Baru is at No. 82-C Jalan Trus, 80000 Johor Baru. For reservations, Tel: 607 – 266 8888 or email: 

Visit website: for full details of menus and special promotions at the hotel and restaurant.

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