Our biannual staycation in KL!

Hotel Royal

We have made a tradition of taking time out to do a staycation (which refers to staying at a local hotel, not staying at home) twice a year in addition to our yearly overseas trips (Melbourne last year and Frankfurt and Paris this year) and our shorter trips like to Hat Yai about a month ago.

Pavilion KL

You could say that travelling is our passion in life. :)

Timelapse Hotel

It’s actually a lot of fun and you get to experience the city where you live from a visitor’s perspective!

Hotel Royal KL

This time around, we stayed at Hotel Royal in Kuala Lumpur and basically:

Staycation Food

1. Ate a lot of food

Mamma Mia Musical KL

2. Caught a musical

Blurry Photo

3. Enjoyed each other’s company.

Staycation 2014

I’ll write more tomorrow, part of the purpose of having a staycation is to get away from the daily things you do and not do anything remotely work related. smirk

Posted: 10:38 pm Kuala Lumpur time

12 things I bought for Christmas

1. Chocolate Monopoly

Chocolate Monopoly

This is an awesome find for RM 59.95! It’s a licensed Monopoly board game but all the cards, game pieces and property are replaced with chocolate pieces. The rules are somewhat similar but it’s of the spinner variety (there is no Monopoly money) so I thought it’ll be a great game for us to play with the kids on Christmas coz you can eat the chocolate pieces afterwards.

2. Christmas crackers

Tom Smith Selfie Christmas Crackers

An essential for the festive season, Christmas crackers are large pieces of cardboard with a snapper firecracker inside that explodes with a bang. The fun bit is that there’s miniature toys inside – usually tiny keepsakes that can range from a small compass to fart cushions. I bought a pack of six of the Tom Smith luxury version (RM 59.90) – one each for us and the kids plus two extra for my dear’s parents.

3. Snickers Slice n’ Share

Huge Snickers Slice Share

This is a *gigantic* bar of Snickers! It’s not pre-cut so it’s a solid block of candy that weighs 453.6 grams. You have to slice it into pieces yourself, thus the name. I’ve never seen this format before. I think it’s specially made for the 2014 festive season since it fits well with the large family dinner and sharing theme. This solid 1 pound (!!!) block of Snickers costs a staggering RM 68.95.

4. Porky Salt

Porky Salt

Haha! This is made by Garam Haram which literally translates to Forbidden Salt (and it rhymes too). It’s a play on the fact that pork is forbidden (haram) to Muslims and this is literally bacon infused salt. Porky Salt is a local artisanal product that’s just RM 15 and I can think of many ways to use it this Christmas dinner, whether we roast a traditional turkey like last year or go Asian.

5. Panettone

Panettone

What is Christmas without panettone? This brioche like edible is a Christmas staple in Milan and I’ve only seen it suddenly appear on the market in the last few years. I went to an Italian restaurant and had a wonderful “tiramisu” made with panettone in 2012 and I thought it was lovely. We also bought one last year for our Christmas celebrations. It’s tastier than the rock solid fruitcake that we’re used to eating before panettone started to flood the market as an alternative.

6. Giant Juicy Fruit

Giant Chewing Gum

Yup, this classic by Wrigley’s is supersized for the holidays! smirk I loved chewing on these when I was in high school – so much so that my Physics teacher in Christchurch called me “Eater”. Needless to say, I wasn’t a model student but I quite liked that nickname. You can eat in most classes in New Zealand (they’re not as strict as over here) but that particular educator didn’t like anyone doing so.

7. Huge roll of Life Savers

Giant Lifesavers

This classic sweet has put on some weight for the festive season too. The plus sized roll of Lifesavers is now 30 times as large as a regular roll! I used to eat this in high school too, it was cheap and I’m particular to the Musk flavored ones but you can’t find that flavor outside of Australia and New Zealand for some reason. Musk is not a popular flavor except down under.

8. White Cheddar Popcorn

White Cheddar Popcorn

You know how some people decorate their Christmas trees with popcorn? Well, not us, we prefer to *eat* popcorn. Especially if it’s this expensive! This bag of savory popcorn costs RM 21.90 and it’s made in the US by Angie’s. This is the White Cheddar flavor and they use all natural organic ingredients. It also checks all the healthy tick-boxes by being gluten-free, low trans fat, and whole grain.

9. Crème Brûlée

Creme Brulee

I accidentally bought this RM 12.50 packet of crème brûlée, thinking it was crème caramel. I love the latter, have eaten heaps of them as a kid (my mom used to make them) but it seems like they dropped off the face of the Earth! Since the advent of crème brûlée, the preparation without the blow-torched hard crack top seems to have disappeared. It used to be served in coffee-shops and I’ve been missing crème caramel since.

10. Christmas hampers

Christmas Hampers

‘Tis the season to be giving! I bought a RM 280 Christmas hamper for my better half so we could open it on Christmas Eve. I was torn between the one inside the sleigh and the one that’s in a large tube wooden reusable box (there’s only a RM 20 price difference) and after much consideration, chose the former. The retail assistant told me they both contain the same thing, it’s the wooden sleigh that’s more expensive due to craftsmanship.

11. Valrhona chocolates

Valrhona

It hurts my brain to even see this. Haha! We had gotten Valrhona chocolates from France – they have really good single origin Grand Crus and it’s the chocolate of choice for many high end Parisian fine dining restaurants. It’s very expensive to source your own Grand Crus from small gourmet purveyors like what Michelin starred restaurants do so this is the next best thing. I found it while shopping at BIG in Publika – I didn’t even know Malaysia stocks this.

12. Eggnog

Eggnog

You can’t have Christmas without eggnog. I have tried making my own but it’s a time consuming process if you have a turkey and other sides to take care of and store bought tastes just as good. They even have eggnog with alcohol included (mixture of brandy, whisky and rum for 14.75% alcohol) for RM 85.90 for 1.75 litres but if you have your own spirits, you can just get the regular 1 quart (946 ml) Grade A Eggnog for RM 23.90 and add your own to taste.

Short mention:

Christmas Hamper Ling

I used my credit card to purchase this Christmas hamper that I got my better half. I wanted to get my dear something nice and this beautiful reindeer sleigh contains all her favorites – hot chocolate, cookies, Turkish Delight. There’s even some marshmallows for the kids and a stuffed toy that looks suspiciously like Olaf from Frozen. I’ve been using my Maybank credit card for *everything* since I can get my purchases for free with their I LOVE 100% Cashback campaign! Just spend with your Maybank cards from now until 31st January 2015 and get your expenses paid off!

Check it out – there’s nothing better than getting your festive season spending paid off with a 100% cashback to spread some festive cheer! :)

An unexpected meal by 1 Michelin Star Chef Dirk Maus in Germany

Lufthansa Dirk Maus

I was fortunate enough to be in the right place at the right time to experience this exclusive event – a meal prepared by Chef Dirk Maus of Restaurant Dirk Maus in Domherrenhof, Essenheim in Germany. He holds One Michelin Star and was invited to do a short collaboration – Lufthansa x Dirk Maus.

Lufthansa

His meals are only available between April – October 2012 for European flights on Business Class only (there is no First Class for domestic flights). I fulfilled *all three criteria* when I flew from Berlin to Frankfurt on the 25th of June 2012 and was pleased when the cabin attendant told me about the specially crafted menu by Dirk Maus.

Warsteiner Beer

The dishes are all from Rheinhessen – this is Chef Dirk Maus’ interpretation of the cuisine in the largest wine producing region in Germany. He’s taken the time to perfect his creations for 35,000 feet since things tastes different when you’re flying. My better half (who shared a delightful meal at the 2 Michelin Star Relais LOUIS XIII with me earlier this year) told me about how tomato juice goes well with flying and it actually has a scientific reason!

The two culinary treats awaiting for us on board was:

Chef Dirk Maus

Brennnesselsalat mit Grapefruit und Orangensegmenten
Nettle salad with grapefruit and orange segments

I had just recovered this batch of photos from a damaged HDD and also found the “tasting notes” which I have recorded on my phone as soon as the flight attendant told me that I’ll be having a meal created by a One Michelin Star chef. Heh. I liked the nettle salad – some of the leafy greens in there are quite bitter but it’s tempered well with the mild nettle and the juicy grapefruit and orange segments.

Auberginen-Ziegenfrischkäseterrine
Terrine of eggplant and goat’s cream cheese

I’ve eaten a lot of terrine and this is visually different from the terrine which I’m used to eating. The contrast between the white goat’s cream cheese in the middle and the aubergine outside was accentuated with a chunk of apricot in the middle. It makes for a very rich and rewarding experience – I didn’t know eggplant could taste this good and it’s seasoned well – salty, but not overtly so.

Dirk Maus HB

I wished that I was on a longer flight so I had a more substantial meal. This is just a small meal on a short hop on a domestic flight in Germany but I’m glad I had the chance to eat Chef Dirk Maus’ creations during such a limited time (and place) promotion. Eating a Michelin star meal at 35,000 feet is one of the more unusual places I’ve done it too (the other being our rented apartment in Paris). smirk

How I came back from Frankfurt with more Euros than I went with

euro 700

This is a funny (and true) story which I haven’t written about. I’ve been recovering my crashed HDD photos and came across this bunch. This is from my third Europe trip in 2012 and I actually didn’t bring much Euros there coz the hotel and food was paid for. Thus, I went to Germany with a total of 400 Euros in my wallet.

I travelled the country from Dresden to Berlin and when it was time to come back home, I took a flight from Berlin to Frankfurt. Yes, this was the ill-fated flight that delayed me for almost 2 days. Thank God I was flying Business Class so I had a hotel room and food comped at Sheraton (heard the Economy passengers had to choose between either a shower or a meal).

frankfurt casino

Long story short, I was stuck at Fraport for a long time so I thought I might go to the Frankfurt Airport Casino to see how my luck holds up. The good thing about casinos in airports in Europe is that they actually allow cameras – as long as you don’t take photos of other patrons (croupiers and tables are okay). I did the same at Holland Casino in Amsterdam.

Anyway, I tried putting 100 Euros on Player. They only had a Baccarat table open at the time but that’s my game of choice anyway so it’s all good. I ended up losing all my 400 Euros *and* an additional 1,000 Euros to the house! A friend of mine had joined me at this point and was playing at the Blackjack table. I told him I’m out to withdraw more money and I’ll join him in a bit.

frankfurt casino 500 chip

He later told me he was quite worried about me. I had withdrawn 2,000 Euros at this point and it was all from my credit card! My ATM card had not worked the entire trip. He was there on business so he had a bit of petty cash to play around with but I was using my own money and I was losing lots of it. I decided that the last 1,000 Euros be dedicated to the Blackjack table – a game I do not play much.

frankfurt casino chips

However, as soon as I sat down, I kept winning. I lost count of how many times I got a natural 21, which pays 3-2. I was so caught up with the game that I didn’t even realize I had gotten my bankroll back until my friend nudged me and asked me (he knew I was down 2,400 Euros at this point). I just wish I’ll be somewhere close to this lucky as well when I go play on www.ipadcasino.com.au later! I was actually hovering around the Euro 2,200 point so I took the 2,000 Euros and cashed out, with only 200 Euros to win back the remaining 400 Euros I’ve lost.

fraport casino win

I did have a nasty thought run through my mind at this point – I had tipped the croupier almost 500 Euros at this point (!!!) and would have won if I hadn’t tipped him (tipping the dealer is not allowed in most Asian casinos and will likely get you kicked out). I didn’t realize it, I subconsciously threw a Euro 20 chip his way every time I got Blackjack (that was the second reason my friend nudged me). It almost caused an argument with the dealers when it was time for a change in croupiers. smirk

However, I still believe to this very day that I wouldn’t have won if I had not tipped the croupier so much. I had uncontested wins (where the dealer doesn’t hit to try and better you) a lot of times when I was the only person who didn’t go bust and I think a lot of that had to do with my generosity.

frankfurt casino blackjack

…and with that last 200 Euro in chips I managed to win 700 Euros. I had already cashed out the 2,000 Euros I won prior to this to avoid the temptation to hit the reserves, and that was the story of how I managed to come back from Germany with more money than I went with. :)

Our (potentially) free anniversary, trips and presents!

Pandora Essence Bracelet

It’s our anniversary last week and I bought a new charm for my better half to add to her new Pandora Essence bracelet. This bracelet is a new one that I bought for her last month, the previous Pandora bracelet is full to capacity!

Pandora Essence Charms 2014

I chose the Intuition charm coz I like the backstory and text – it says “The wisdom of the soul/Follow its guide” and it’s priced at RM 633. It’s a little more expensive than regular Pandora Essence charms coz it’s made with 14k gold.

Pandora Intuition

I went very early in the morning and bought it with my credit card, hoping to get RM 300 off (more about that later) but unfortunately I was too late. Not to worry though, I use my Maybank credit card quite often so it’s just a matter of time!

Pandora Essence Intuition

I actually learned of the Maybank I <3 100% Cashback Every Day promotion when I bought a LEGO Movie set for my dear. I was surprised to see the promotional banner for it just inside the store. The kids are really into Lego nowadays and we just bought another LEGO CITY box originally priced at RM 179.90 for the kids when we went back to Sibu during the weekend.

Lego Cashback

The kids love exercising their creativity with LEGO and we have happily indulged them in this mind building investment – it’s better for them to build something than to be stuck to the iPad playing games the whole day and we are collecting the LEGO CITY series for them to create their very own city!

LEGO Maybank

I bought them three sets of LEGO since they’re so into it now. Yup, we got them all in Sibu as a present for them and we plan to give them one when I come back and leave the other two for Christmas.

KitKat Oreo

It’s always fun to spend with my Maybank credit card since there’s a chance I would get the item for FREE with the 100% cashback promotion. I also bought our flight tickets back to Sibu during the weekend and the return trip to KL using my credit card.

Krave Cereal

We went to Hat Yai last weekend and I used it to purchase some candy for ourselves and the kids at the grocery stores over there. It’s cheaper in Thailand and there’s no minimum spend! I travel so much that my credit card is authorized to go around the world anyway.

Panettone Cookies

Christmas and the festive season is coming very soon and it’s always good to get presents for friends and loved ones. We bought two boxes of panettone (an Italian sweet bread loaf eaten during Christmas and New Year) and a pack of holiday cookies made in Germany as gifts for my dad and our friend Arthur before we flew back to Sibu for the weekend.

Hokey Pokey Squiggles

You might want to begin using your Maybank credit card for the festive season for everything from presents to trips to dining, depending on your inclination coz there’s a chance you’ll get a 100% cashback – making your purchase free! There’s no minimum spend required and the campaign lasts until 31st January 2015.

Sarawak Sambal Laksa Paste

I even used it to buy Sarawak sambal laksa paste from Sibu to bring back to KL. :)

Flight Sibu

Don’t have a Maybank credit card? No worries, just apply for one and you just might get a free trip with the I <3 25,000 Bonus Air Miles campaign! Get more details about how to apply for the premium credit cards and the promotion at the I LOVE 25,000 Bonus Air Miles site.

DQ Blizzard Thailand

You can also win yourself a Polo Sedan with the I <3 5 Polo Sedan by just applying and spending with your new Maybank credit or charge cards! You will also get complimentary gifts from spending certain amounts and this campaign period is from now till 28th February 2015.

LEGO City

There’s just plenty of love to go around this festive season, whether you’re an existing or new premium or regular Maybank credit card owner. I’ve been with them exclusively since 2008 and I’ll be using my Maybank credit card for *everything* daily from petrol to dining to take advantage of the I LOVE 100% Cashback Every Day campaign!

My new Toshiba Pro Theatre Full HD Smart TV powered by Android

4KTV unboxing

I have been using a review unit of the Toshiba Pro Theatre L54 series with a 40” screen for more than a week!

4KTV setup

It’s very easy to set-up using the provided remote (which has a trackball in the middle).

typing 4ktv

Typing is easily done by an on-screen keyboard too (you can also purchase an external keyboard) – this is me setting up the Android system, signing into my Google account and most importantly, linking it to my high speed TIME Home Fibre 30 Mbps connection to view YouTube videos in Full HD resolution!

4KTV WiFi

The set-up process for the Toshiba Pro Theatre 40L54 is so easy it can be done in less than 5 minutes – all you really need is a WiFi connection.

Smart TV Apps

Smart TVs are getting more and more prevalent in the market. No longer can the television set be accurately called an “idiot box” – it’s a lot smarter than humans nowadays!

Toshiba Smart TV

Toshiba is leading the charge with its range of high end large screen Smart TVs powered by Android. The high range Pro Theatre L9450 Series ranges in size from a whopping 84” to 64” and 50” – it’s a UltraHD 4K Immersive Unlimited with more natural color and texture, richer contrast and higher brightness enhanced by Toshiba’s High-brightness panel, wide color gamut panel, revolutionary UltraHD 4K technology and CEVO 4K image processing engine.

UHD Android TV

The narrow bezel makes it perfect for maximum screen real estate – you can really get an immersive viewing experience. It also fits into a relatively thin space – whether it’s your living room or bedroom. There’s Audio Source Filtering, Intelligent Scene Optimizer and Intelligent Auto View to get the most out of anything you’re watching.

4KTV USB

The USB Movie supports 28 different video formats too!

4KTV football

Plus, there’s a Football Mode for fans of the beautiful game out there. The FIFA World Cup 2014 was broadcast in 4K for the first time and I highly regret not having a UltraHD 4K LED TV to watch it for the best experience.

Alchemy 4K

There are people who’re still wary about the availability of 4K content. I’ll tell you right now that there’s a wealth of 4K content out there right now – you just have to know where to look. Netflix is broadcasting in 4K for some of their series like Breaking Bad and you can easily get access to that (they accept Malaysian credit cards) if you use a VPN.

4KTV viewing

I have a 30 Mbps fibre connection at home with no ridiculous restrictions, and with that kind of broadband you can comfortably watch streaming content (it just needs half the speed) on Netflix or Hulu Plus. Just hook up a Xbox One, do a little bit of configuring on your router and you’re good to go. I actually have Netflix at home right now and I’m paying less than what I’ll pay for a local satellite TV provider *and* I get Full HD content to boot!

tv google play

You can do everything you want on the Toshiba Full HD TVs powered by Android too – even run Microsoft Office documents with the popular Android app OfficeSuite 7 and do your Excel spreadsheets! Facebook, Picassa, Twitter, and all Android apps from the Google Play store are available. That means you can play games on your large screen Full HD TV too!

4k apps

Imagine playing the latest Android games like Monument Valley, The Walking Dead, Final Fantasy VI, and Angry Birds: Epic on your large screen Full HD TV! I’m an avid gamer and man, the games look *awesome* – especially Unreal Engine powered titles which can scale up.

4k gaming

Look at the awesome quality! I can’t wait to play Forza Motorsport 5 and Watch Dogs on this high resolution TV!

4k games

Besides playing games, you can also view photos which you take on your camera in the full resolution that it’s meant to be viewed. Do you have a camera that’s above 8.3 megapixels?

4KTV pictures

8.3 MP cameras shoots in 3840 x 2160 and if you’re viewing that using a Full HD 1080p TV, you won’t be able to see the photo as it’s meant to be seen.

4k google

The best part about having a smart TV is that you can multi-task and surf the net using your Android powered TV!

4k sixthseal

I also used my Toshiba Pro Theatre 40L54 to reply comments on my blog. :)

4k cnn

There’s really something for everyone, I found it useful to browse CNN while watching CNN! There’s often updated content on the website that didn’t make it to the broadcast and this is the future of “smart TVs” powered by Android.

4k bookmarks

There’s even the usual suspects provided in the Bookmarks centre – everything from Picasa photos to Twitter.

8MP Photo

You already have the tools necessary to shoot 4K resolution photos. The high end Toshiba Pro Theatre L54 Series Full HD with Android LED TV can support your current camera/smartphone (which is likely higher than 8.3 MP) and show your photos on the large screen in its native resolution.

4KTV YouTube

It’s an exciting time in the Smart TV market and UltraHD 4K resolution is coming – with Toshiba’s UltraHD 4K Android powered TV, you can also watch YouTube in 4K which a lot of content creators are already streaming in. It’s 4 times sharper than FullHD and with the third-generation CEVO 4K Engine you can retain stunning picture quality, regardless of screen size!

4k video

Look, now I can watch all my Youtube videos in Full HD! I wish I can keep this, it’s so amazing you have to see it to believe it!

RM 30 Coconut Tom Yam Big Prawn Noodles @ Dian Xiao Er

dian xiao er prawn noodles

I’ve heard people telling me about this after I posted about the RM 33 big prawn noodles in a coconut available at Glory Cafe in Sarikei. Rowena and Alex both told me that Sibu itself has a version of this which they copied from Glory Cafe so I went to check it out with my dad yesterday. It’s located far inside the Ding Lik Kong industrial area near Igan River, which is about a 20 minute drive from Sibu town.

ding lik kong 31

It’s actually quite easy to find, I just forgot about the place. My dad called my uncle and got us oriented and it was just a matter of following road signs after that.

dian xiao er

The name of the coffee shop is Dian Xiao Er and it’s located along a block of shophouses that has three (!!!) coffee shops – it’s the middle one and they have a large banner promoting their Coconut Tom Yam Big Head Prawn Noodles.

dian xiao er sibu

The guy taking our order was a very friendly and chatty young kid who seemed to take a liking to me. He told me that there’s at least 5 different places in Sibu that offers the same thing now – all duplicates of the original recipe from Glory Cafe. He also confided that he’ll be shifting work places at the end of the month and he personally did not think this was as good as the Sarikei version.

sibu coconut big prawn noodles

I was pleased to see that the big head prawn (大头虾) is indeed quite large with claws intact.

big head prawn

The big head prawn (Macrobrachium rosenbergii) is favored by Sarawakians due to the more intensely flavored meat. The other common type of prawn here is the big white prawn (Litopenaeus vannamei) which is milder. You can see the difference – the former really has a huge head in relation to the size of its body. If it were an inanimate object, I’ll compare it to a bobblehead or a chibi anime character. smirk

claws 2B pencil

The claws are very important too as the meat from them is equivalent to a *2B pencil*!

me big prawn noodles

I had a taste of the tom yam soup and I thought it was quite similar to Glory Cafe except for five key differences:

  • Calamansi lime not cooked in
  • Lemon grass stalk is chopped up (makes it hard to eat with the short inedible bits)
  • Cheap canned mushrooms from China used here
  • Not as much coconut juice
  • Spicier tom yam soup but less prawny broth

uncooked calamansi lime

The uncooked calamasi lime is the obvious one as Glory Cafe in Sarikei has a very mushy lime that’s almost *disintegrating* compared to this relatively fresh specimen and that adds a lot to the tom yam flavor profile.

sibu me dad

Nevertheless, I enjoyed my meal and it turns out to be cheaper than driving down to Sarikei for their RM 33 Tom Yam Coconut Big Prawn Noodles. It’s also better than the notorious RM 35 big head prawn noodles in Min Kwong. There are some problems with the recipe and it’s not exactly similar to the original one in Sarikei – anyone would be able to tell from a blind test taste.

sibu big prawn noodles

However, the one in Dian Xiao Er is a reasonably good facsimile of the original Glory Cafe Tom Yam Coconut Big Head Prawn Noodles and I’ll recommend it if you don’t feel like driving down to Sarikei – you can have your fix right in Sibu! It’s located at Lorong Ding Lik Kong 31.

Ruby Restaurant revisited

big prawn rice

I haven’t been to Ruby Restaurant in quite a long time. My dad and I wanted to go on Wednesday but that was their off day so we had to go somewhere else instead. However, I was quite determined to head over since I’ve enjoyed their food a lot and so I went with my dad again and found them open.

ruby restaurant christmas

The place is much as I remembered, with a warm inviting interior and their small neon sign outside (the large signboard seems to have been taken down). The Christmas decorations are up though! :)

ambarella juice

We both ordered kedondong juice. Kedondong is a tropical fruit also known as ambarella (Spondias dulcis) and it’s makes for a tart and acidic drink.

butter prawns

I wanted to have their creamy butter prawns and the owner told me they have the large prawns that I like so I jumped at the chance to have that. This seems to be big white prawns instead of big head prawns but delicious regardless – the prawns are so crunchy you can eat them, shells and all but still soft and moist inside. I love their butter sauce – it’s so rich and appetizing.

puo chai chinese wine

My dad also ordered a vegetable dish – puo chai cooked in Chinese white wine. I was quite surprised at how good it tasted. Ruby Restaurant used to be a favorite of mine before I switched to Ming Mei Shi – which serves a more KL-style dai chow. I like the localized Ruby Restaurant better now. This is delicious, not overcooked, with a hint of raw Chinese white wine.

sour mayonnaise lamb

The other dish we had was recommended by the owner when I asked for something new. She suggested sour mayonnaise lamb. I asked her what the acidic component is and she *pretended* not to hear me twice before smiling and said it’s a trade secret. That definitely sounded promising and even my dad loved this – the addition of citrus or vinegar brightens up this otherwise cloying dish and the lamb isn’t overtly gamey too.

ruby restaurant sibu

The bill was quite reasonable – the prawn dish *alone* came up to RM 40 due to the two large prawns but the lamb and vegetables are surprisingly affordable. The two of us polished off everything in sight!

ruby dad me

My dad mentioned that everything they served tasted delicious and I have to agree. We had just come from a terrible dinner the night before and it’s nice to revisit an old favorite like Ruby Restaurant again.

sour mayo lamb

It’s even better when you find that the standards have increased and not dropped – Ruby Restaurant is truly a gem! smirk

Umai and other local delights @ Fisherman Restaurant

claypot tom yam prawns

I’ve been craving for umai lately and had the chance to eat it again for dinner with Arthur last night. Fisherman Restaurant is a popular local restaurant to bring visitors coz it has a lot of Melanau native delights like lokan, umai and ikan terubok. These are all Sarawakian dishes – they even have dabai (a local type of olive) when it’s in season.

umai

Umai is a local version of ceviche. Fisherman Restaurant does it in a style that’s similar to umai jeb in Mukah. I’ve had it when I went to Mukah in 2008 – it’s very fresh fish (in this case white pomfret or ikan bawal putih) that’s been cured with lime and mixed with chopped onions and chillies.

sarawak prawn crackers

It’s delicious when you eat it with the prawn crackers they serve as an appetizer.

prawn crackers umai

(although it’s traditionally eaten with sago pearls)

individual prawn claypot

We also ordered an individual serving of large prawn in a mini claypot. These prawns are huge and used in big head prawn noodles. The prawn is cooked in an assam tom yam broth soup and it costs RM 20 per prawn. It’s worth it though coz they do it very well – the broth is flavorful and spicy and the prawn meat is firm and juicy and sweet.

paku santan

The fibre quota was fulfilled by paku santan. It’s a local fern cooked Melanau style in santan (coconut milk) and shrimp. I really liked this dish too, everything the cook sent out really hit the mark.

fisherman restaurant

That’s why Fisherman Restaurant is so popular despite being relatively decrepit – peeling paint on the walls, dated single-unit wall air conditioners, and a musty interior. There were a lot of people who came after us coz we went really early – the place was quite full. I do wish that they put some money into renovation though – it looks the same (except a bit more worn) as when I went in 2008!

fisherman restaurant sibu

This isn’t even the original restaurant – they were located at a different part of town at first and shifted to this place.

fisherman restaurant us

I have to say that the best dish of the night is the roast lamb with mint sauce. This is a newer dish that came to pass with the current generation (the son came back from New Zealand where he had his own restaurant and brought some recipes home) and it’s cooked really well. I have to say that it’s even slightly better than my late mom’s famous lamb (sorry ma). smirk

roast lamb mint

The roast lamb here is sliced generously thick and the meat is juicy. You’ll love this if you’re fond of the slightly gamey taste of lamb, and they don’t overcook it unlike other places. They have two sauces – the mint sauce and a garlic inspired Asian dip, the former is the one you want since the latter is uninspiring. It costs RM 50 for the dish with two large slabs of lamb, definitely a must-order if you visit.

thick lamb slabs

The bill for the two of us came up to RM 126.40 but the roasted lamb (RM 25 per slice) and the tom yam prawns (RM 20 per prawn) accounts for RM 90 so the dishes aren’t really that expensive if you don’t order the premium stuff. Thanks for dinner Arthur! It’s always good to catch up when I’m back home. :)

Dinner at Payung Cafe, Sibu

Payung Cafe Sibu

My better half came back with me to visit my dad during the weekend and since it was just a 24 hour trip, we only had *one* dinner and this is the place we chose to go to – Payung Cafe! I was one of the first people to visit when they started six years ago (we were even asked to name the first iterations of the desserts which are refined staples now) and I make it a point to visit when I’m back in my hometown.

Payung Cafe Sibu 2014

Payung Cafe opened in 2008 and it was very unknown back then since they only had dinner service and the place was shuttered during the day with no signboards. It didn’t help that it looked like the reception area for a marine survey company either. However, the same Joyce who gave us the number of Glory Cafe in Sarikei is also very active in a Chinese language local forum and a bunch of us paid this newly opened place she heard about a visit.

Payung Cafe Couple

The rest, as they say, is history. smirk

Payung Cafe Christmas

The food here is unique and the service is great. That’s what makes Payung Cafe a favorite among certain locals and visitors alike despite the relatively higher prices it charges on average. The Christmas decorations are up when we went – we opted to go to the original al fresco outlet instead of the new Payung Mahkota (which is located in the lobby of a hotel). I feel the former has a much better ambiance since the latter can be a little antiseptic due to it’s location.

For starters, we all shared a Pomelo Salad (RM 8). I love the choice, the pomelo comes in large chunks and the dressing is restrained, making it a fresh and vibrant dish. My late maternal grandma used to have a pomelo tree and I remember this fruit as being bitter but like Brussels sprouts, it seems to have been genetically modified to be less bitter nowadays!

Pomelo Salad

It’s sweet and juicy and we all were ready to dig into our main courses after popping a couple of the large chunks of fruit.

The special of the day is Sour Chicken (RM 16). It’s not on the regular menu, this is written on the chalkboard that lists what’s fresh and cooking on that very day and I like to order from here since I’ve tried most of their menu items. This is something I’ve never had before and all of us loved it! The chicken is moist and tastes appetizingly sourish.

Sour Chicken

I asked how it was made since we were all trying to guess what the sour element is and was told it’s a mixture of laksa leaves (Vietnamese coriander/Persicaria odorata/daun kesum) and coriander seeds (which provides the sour citrus tang). I highly recommend this dish – it’s delicious!

I also ordered Kacama Chicken (RM 16) for my dear. I wanted her to try this uniquely Sarawakian dish while she was here. Kacangma chicken is made from a herb the Hakka people call yi mu cao (益母草) or motherwort. The taste is like nothing else, it’s traditionally used as a “confinement dish” and the liberal use of pounded motherwort makes this dish taste bitter and earthy.

Kacangma Chicken

Kacangma chicken is always doused with copious amounts of alcohol which is intentionally *not* cooked off. It’s meant as a tonic as thus the alcohol is never fully evaporated or burned off – some preparations are so strong you can get *tipsy* from drinking the stew! Payung Cafe’s version is quite strong too but it’s delicious to me! It’s an acquired taste, kacangma…

Of course, the Otak-otak Fish (RM 13) is always a must-order when you’re there. The price has more than doubled since 2008 but if Payung Cafe had a flagship or signature dish, this would be it. They actually make it in-house every day! The ground fish meat with tapioca is wrapped inside a banana leaf and baked to perfection.

Otak Otak Fish

The otak-otak is served bursting from the seams and the generous use of chilli and tumeric makes this a dish not for the faint-hearted. It’s very spicy but if you can take the heat, you’ll love it. It’s very different from the steamed otak-otak from Johor or grilled otak-otak we get in Malacca. They really make one of the best versions around.

Durian Shake

My better half also had the Durian Shake (RM 8) – a very thick concoction sure to please all durian lovers and connoisseurs of milkshakes.

Payung Cafe Ling Dad

The bill came up to RM 82 for the three of us, which is quite reasonable for dinner at Payung Cafe.

Sambarina Ice Cream

We made room for dessert and shared a Sambarina Ice Cream (RM 8) which is made in a yin-yang fashion with large scoops of chocolate and creamy vanilla ice cream stuffed into a jumbo sized ramekin and topped with a mixture of crushed nuts and other crunchy bits. I approve!

Mulu Ice Cream

My dear loved the Mulu Ice Cream (RM 10) – a beautiful creation of huge slabs of their own ice cream layered and sandwiched with cake and cream and sprinkled with muesli. It’s a gorgeous and deliciously messy end to a wonderful dinner together.

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