Sajian Tradisi Ramadan at Holiday Villa JB

The elevator doors open on Level 9 of Holiday Villa Johor Baru City Centre and I step out to join guests who are being welcomed into the Fern Pine Café.

A range of traditional local Appetizers at the central
island in Fern Pine Cafe, Holiday Villa JB City Centre
At the café entrance, the festive décor is reminiscent of a kampung scene with a vintage bicycle parked next to a buffet of dried dates and preserved fruits.

The backdrop to this welcoming display is a replica of a traditional kampung house which is partially surrounded by picket fences with a few goats grazing in its garden, under a tall palm tree.

Standing close to the bicycle to look at the details in this traditional house, I discover that the baskets at the front and rear of this parked bicycle, are filled with traditional sweets and snacks – the kind that we used to buy from our school tuck-shops!

Executive Sous Chef Abdul Halil Salim, proudly
presenting a range of Ramadan must-have dishes
I remind myself to stay focused on the preview of Sajian Tradisi Ramadan buffet spread so I make a mental note to help myself to rolls of Haw flakes and golden tubes of Lemon tablets, later on.

It’s still light outside so I can see through the glass walls to the outdoor terrace where stalls are set up and chefs are busy preparing food at their live-cooking stations.

Food & Beverage Manager, Warren C Kamalaswaran, must have been anticipating my arrival because he pops up next to me, ready to take me a tour of the buffet spread.

This Gulai Kawah Lamb Stew is
made with evaporated milk!
Warren introduces me to Executive Sous Chef Abdul Halil Salim who promptly leads me to the outdoor terrace to point out the range of food, served from live cooking stations.

These include whole roasted lamb, freshly-grilled skewers of satay, Asam Laksa, Char Kway Teow or stir-fried flat rice noodles, deep-fried snacks like fried banana fritters, prawn fritters, slices of banana and sweet potato, and irresistible deep-fried durian.

Back in the café Chef Halil insists that I must sample their Ramadan staples, especially the Gulai Kawah Lamb Stew, which is specially prepared with evaporated milk instead of coconut milk.

Traditionally stewed in a giant pot or kawah, this lamb stew is both tasty and tender, best savoured with a bit of rice and vegetable pickles.

The festive mood is further enhanced with a taste of ketupat (rice cakes) and lemang (glutinous rice rolls) topped with a choice of chicken or beef serunding (meat floss).

A young diner who appreciates the taste of whole roasted lamb
I watch as other guests are helping themselves to the food presented in the hot buffet.
I spot mouthwatering dishes like Gulai Ayam Masak Lemak (chicken), Daging Dendeng Indonesia (beef), Asam Pedas Ikan Nenas (fish), Dalcha Kambing (lamb), Chili Crabs and Kacang Panjang Tumis Kupang (mussels).

Another highlight at this buffet must be the comforting brew of traditional Soup Gearbox where diners can help themselves to various ingredients like lamb knuckle, cuts of meat and other parts, before topping it with warm soup.

I observe that one of the pleasures of tasting this soup must be the fun of retrieving the marrow from within the knuckle bone…

Self-serve station for traditional Soup Gearbox
In a warming tray, I see Ayam Berempah – deep-fried chicken marinated with spices – and next to the pot of Chinese soup, I discover Bubur Lambuk, a traditional rice porridge served during Ramadan.

Meanwhile the counters on the central island are creatively displayed with sections for choices of local and western Appetizers like ulam-ulam and kerabu mixed salads, and a variety of cut fresh fruits.

I like how the liberal use of ceramic pots and stone mortars in the display presents a charming and rustic setting, reminiscent of traditional breaking-of-fast meals with the family at home.

A charming and rustic display of traditional salads
I guess this ambience is a subtle reminder to diners that these dishes are prepared in authentic home recipes, along with that special ingredient which Chef Halim insists is, love!

Throughout the meal, serving staff are moving about holding pots of hot coffee and tea, ready to top up diners’ cups with these beverages.

There are also self-service counters for refreshing cool drinks and a counter equipped with an ice-shaver and a variety of ingredients for diners to create their own Ayer Batu Campur or ABC, shaved ice dessert.

Besides ice-cream (stored in a chiller!) there is a range of cakes, cookies, jellies and puddings like Sago Gula Melaka (palm sugar) and Chocolate Mousse to choose from.

A range of local Malay kuih in the Dessert section
I also see a choice of local Malay kuih and curry puffs, but I pause when my eyes lock onto a tray filled with a dark layer of what looks like glutinous rice.

My guess is confirmed when I read its label: Wajik!

This traditional dessert delicacy made with steamed glutinous rice, palm sugar and coconut milk is a rare find and the first that I’ve come across in the Ramadan buffet previews this year.

As I help myself to a portion of Wajik, I’m glad that this Ramadan buffet is living up to its theme, Sajian Tradisi.

Elegant serving of Sago Gula Melaka
Later on my way out of the café, I also remember to stop at the parked bicycle to pick up two each of Haw flakes and Lemon tablets, for an additional touch of fun and nostalgia.

The Sajian Tradisi Ramadan buffet at Fern Pine Café will be served from May 6 to June 4 every evening from 6.30pm to 10.00pm.

Rate at RM128 nett per adult and RM68 nett per child aged four to 11 years.

Enjoy Early Bird rate at RM108 nett per adult for vouchers bought before May 5.

For enquires and reservations, Tel: 607 – 290 3367 and +6016 – 679 4278 or email:

Note: There is a designated room prepared for Maghrib prayers.

Fern Pine Café is on Level 9 of Holiday Villa Johor Baru City Centre, No. 260, Jalan Dato’ Sulaiman, Taman Abad/Century, 80250 Johor Baru, Johor. 


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