Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2019 Is Out! Here Are My Reviews. 📝 Looking Forward to Dewakan – First Malaysian Restaurant on the List!

Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants winners are out! 🙌 I’ve eaten at 6 (soon to be 7) of the restaurants in the list, including 2 restaurants from the Top 10 (Gaggan and Burnt Ends). 🤤 This list is starting to get a lot of traction – it’s not exactly a rival to the Michelin Guide yet, but widely considered as authoritative. ✅ The 50 Best list also goes into countries where the Michelin Guide doesn’t have a presence. Here are my reviews on the ones I’ve been to:

1. Odette (Singapore)
2. Gaggan (Bangkok, Thailand) 🌟🌟
3. Den (Tokyo, Japan)
4. Sühring (Bangkok, Thailand)
5. Florilège (Tokyo, Japan)
6. Ultraviolet (Shanghai, China)
7. Mume (Taipei, Taiwan)
8. Narisawa (Tokyo, Japan)
9. Nihonryori Ryugin (Tokyo, Japan)

10. Burnt Ends (Singapore) 🌟
11. The Chairman (Hong Kong)
12. Otto e Mezzo (Hong Kong)
13. Mingles (Seoul, South Korea)
14. La Cime (Osaka, Japan)
15. Belon (Hong Kong)
16. Gaa (Bangkok, Thailand)
17. Indian Accent (New Delhi, India)
18. Il Ristorante – Luca Fantin (Tokyo, Japan)

19. Bo.Lan (Bangkok, Thailand) 🌟
20. Le Du (Bangkok, Thailand)
21. Amber (Hong Kong)

22. Nahm (Bangkok, Thailand) 🌟
23. Sazenka (Tokyo, Japan)
24. La Maison de la Naure Goh (Fukuoka, Japan)
25. Sushi Saito (Tokyo, Japan)
26. L’Effervescence (Tokyo, Japan)
27. Jade Dragon (Macau, China)
28. Paste (Bangkok, Thailand)
29. Fu He Hui (Shanghai, China)
30. Raw (Taipei, Taiwan)
31. Shoun RyuGin (Taipei, Taiwan)
32. Jaan (Singapore)
33. Les Amis (Singapore)
34. Vea (Hong Kong)
35. Ministry of Crab (Sri Lanka)
36. Wing Lei Palace (Macau)
37. Neighborhood (Hong Kong)
38. Lung King Heen (Hong Kong)

39. Nouri (Singapore) 🌟

40. Waku Ghin (Singapore) 🌟🌟
41. Toc Toc (Seoul, South Korea)
42. Locavore (Bali, Indonesia)
43. Toyo Eatery (Manila, Philippines)
44. Seventh Son (Hong Kong)
45. Quintessence (Tokyo, Japan)
46. Dewakan (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)
47. Sugalabo (Tokyo, Japan)
48. Sorn (Bangkok, Thailand)
49. Corner House (Singapore)
50. Ta Vie (Hong Kong)

All the restaurants above have at least 1 Michelin star. Gaggan and Waku Ghin has 2 Michelin stars. You can read more of my Michelin star reviews here. My Michelin star restaurant reviews are mostly in Singapore and Bangkok but there are some from Japan (1 Michelin star Isezushi in Otaru, Sapporo) and Paris, France (2 Michelin star Le Relais Louis XIII) whenever I go on vacation.

However, the big news this year is Malaysia’s first entry into this illustrious list! 😱 Dewakan is the first Malaysian restaurant to make it into Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants at #46. 🇲🇾 I’ve heard about this restaurant helmed by Chef Darren Teoh but I haven’t had a chance to check it out yet. Their website mentions they only do dinner with two menus – 9-course Menu Nusantara (RM 300 nett) and the longer 15-course Menu Kayangan (RM 370 nett)

My birthday is coming up next week, so what better time to check out Dewakan? 🎉 Psst…this is my real birthday this time 🎂, not the “birthdays” I’ve enjoyed multiple times at places like Shinji by Kanesaka. 😄 I’ll report back with a full review of the food at Malaysia’s first restaurant to be listed in Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants! The other restaurants on the list are all very solid, so I’m looking forward to it.

Pontianak Trip Part II: Oukie Bakmie Kepiting, Kopi Asiang, Gado Gado Jln Merapi, Es Krim Angi, Bebek Boedjang, Mie Tiaw Apollo Daging Sapi, Roti Durian Cheese, Bubur Ikan Ahian, Che Hun Tiau Ahui

Bong came to pick me up the next morning for a Pontianak breakfast special. I haven’t seen him for at least 10 years! I knew he was working in Kalimantan and it turned out that he was in Pontianak at this time too. One of my to-eat items was Bakmie Kepiting. This is a local specialty of dry tossed noodles with crab meat (!). We headed down to Oukie Bakmie Kepiting (Oukie Crab Bakmi). 🦀

1. Oukie Bakmie Kepiting (Sibu)

There are several bakmie kepiting (crab bakmi) stalls in Pontianak, all bearing the same name – Oukie. Turns out Oukie was the original guy who brought this dish here and all the current stalls are his descendants (sons, daughters, nephews). Strangely, they all bear the name “Sibu” which my hometown!

We puzzled over this. Did the original Oukie come from Sibu? Do they claim that this bakmi is exactly like what Sibu offers? Coz it’s definitely not. We don’t have a similar dish in Sibu. Nothing close. The closest is probably Foochow noodles with crab, which is a relatively new invention.

Sometimes Bakmi Kepiting is served with a whole crab claw but these items are in high demand and sell out very fast. They were all sold out at this stall by the time we got there.

In addition to the crab meat, there’s fish balls, fish slices and a piece of crispy deep-fried wonton. The noodles are tossed with a variety of sauces and you’re served a hot bowl of soup on the side.

I really liked these crab noodles! I thought this will be a perfunctory visit just to experience their local noodles but I loved the combination of flavors in this bowl of noodles. It’s very good! There wasn’t a lot of crab meat though – just a sprinkling, but crab is expensive and this is street food.

I can’t remember how much it cost coz Bong insisted on buying me breakfast. Cheers!

2. Kopi Asiang

Bong also brought me to this local Pontianak coffee shop. I went to Aming Coffee yesterday and he said this place was very good too. It’s exceedingly packed and we had to take a table under the hot sun but the coffee was indeed excellent!

I tried the regular ones without condensed milk this time. Rich, fragrant and delicious – coffee here is a real treat! You can see the grease slick at the top of my coffee shimmering in the sun. The coffee beans are usually fried with butter or margarine, which is where the oil comes from.

He also ordered soft boiled eggs for us. This was served in a glass, complete with spoon so it’s easy for you to consume.

3. Gado Gado Jln Merapi

Gado gado is another food item on my hit list. It’s basically a cold noodle dish that’s more like a salad.

Rice vermicelli is topped with vegetables like bean sprouts and kangkong are tossed with tofu and crackers and the whole thing is doused with peanut sauce.

This is what it looks like when it’s served – the different crunchy and soft items make for an interesting dish with good mouth-feel. I enjoyed this one as well! It’s 24,000 IDR (RM 7) for this plate.

4. Es Krim Angi

This is probably the most famous ice cream parlour in Pontianak. They’re known for serving home-made ice cream in a coconut shell complete with coconut meat you can scrape up and eat together with the ice cream!

This “parlour” is actually a converted residential house that’s located beside a Catholic school. The place was *packed* despite being the middle of the afternoon on a working weekday. Motorcycles are the preferred mode of transport here so you’ll see heaps of them parked haphazardly in front.

The guys will tell you the flavors of the day and you choose which one you want. I went for all three – pandan, durian and chocolate. The chocolate and pandan was the best.

The ice cream is “sliced” out of the vats with a spoon so you get thin segments instead of a round scoop. I like this format, it makes for good eating! The flat surface fits perfectly on your tongue.

You can also choose the toppings you want – all complimentary. I went for a little bit of everything but I liked the squiggly transparent noodles best.

This coconut bowl of ice cream cost 23,000 IDR (RM 6.70). Excellent value! I like the combination of the slippery coconut flesh and homemade ice cream.

5. Bebek Boedjang

This spicy duck recommendation came from Bong. It didn’t even register on my radar and didn’t make it to my original list. I’m glad I tried it though coz it’s the best meal I’ve had, other than Pondok Kakap! This restaurant is in a huge wooden complex and I saw many Gojek and Grab Food drivers waiting in line to fulfil food deliveries.

To drink, we have an iced mango drink called Es Mangga Boedjang (15,000 IDR) with mango cubes at the bottom. This came recommended by the menu and the waitress but it was so sweet I didn’t care for it. I find most drinks in Pontianak overly sweet and cloying but if you like tons of sugar in your drink, you’ll enjoy this.

Bebek Paha Bakar Bumbu Rica (30,900 IDR) is the main event! This is smoked duck leg with spices. It’s served with rice, which is a 5,500 IDR add-on. The duck leg is still fork tender and has an intense smoky quality that I enjoy. The spices are a sweet-spicy blend that lends itself very well to nice. I wish I had space for 2 of these babies.

Cumi Tumis Cabe Ijo (16,960 IDR). Cumi means squid (sotong) in Indonesian. This is one of their flagship sides – squid cooked with green chillies. Wow! Does it pack a flavour punch! I was almost knocked out by the sheer intensity of seasoning on my palate. Welcome to Flavortown! There are tomatoes to add umami, onions for that pleasing aroma, tender squid and a gravy that’s sweet/salty/spicy. I used all of the gravy with rice, and when my rice was finished, I drank it by the spoonful.

Tumis Jamur Tiram (9,790 IDR) is another one of their signature side dishes – oyster mushrooms cooked in some kind of sauce which hits all the 5 flavor profiles at once. There’s some insane flavouring alchemy going on here. Delicious.

I left Bebek Boedjang a very happy man. The bill came up to 78,100 IDR (RM 23). That’s an exceedingly fair price for such a decent spread. An excellent meal that I wish was closer so I can partake of it once a month.

6. Mie Tiaw Apollo Daging Sapi

I have read stories about these two neighbours. Apollo was the original beef kueh tiaw and is run by siblings. Unfortunately, they had a huge falling out one day. One of the brothers moved out and rented a shoplot right beside Apollo and called it Mie Tiau Polo. They even had snarky signs put up!

Apollo said “Mie Tiaw Apollo. Sejak 1968. Tak Pernah Pindah.” (Apollo Mie Tiaw. Since 1968. Never Moved.). Polo put up one that read “Mie Tiau Polo. Pindahan Dari Sebelah.” (Polo Mie Tiau. Moved From Beside.) I thought that was hilarious! Unfortunately, the crabby signs have since been taken down so you can only see them in Google Images.

They only serve one thing – beef mie tiaw (which is something like kueh tiaw). They use all parts of the beef, including innards. You can see tripe, beef slices, tendon and even stomach on offer. The mie tiaw is fried in huge woks on high heat and the beef parts added.

I went to the original Mie Tiaw Apollo and the version they do is a wetter style. This isn’t as wet e.g. gravy filled as local Malay kueh tiaw but merely very moist. It’s also quite oily! The sodium levels are really high too. I found it almost unpalatably salty and had to struggle to finish it. I might enjoy it more if it were less greasy and salty coz the beef tasted pretty good and the flavors were decent. It’s 28,000 IDR or RM 8.50.

7. Roti Durian Orchard

What is this, you might ask? It’s a loaf of bread spread with durian jam and sprinkled liberally with grated cheese. If that sounds awesome to you, you’re at the right place! I didn’t know Pontianak is famous for this and only chanced upon this beacon of light while walking back from Apollo. I popped my head in and asked what they serve and immediately decided to try.

The loaf of bread is actually made up of 5-6 long buns and the clerk slices it in half and spread massive quantities of durian jam into the soft pillowy bread.

The entire shebang is then topped with prodigious amounts of grated cheese. It tastes heavenly!

This loaf was too much for me to finish so I had to eat it over two sessions – for supper and as a snack the next day.

I really enjoyed the flavors here. It’s rich, sweet and savory at the same time! The bread remains ultra soft even the next day. 32,000 IDR (RM 9.50) for the durian cheese loaf.

8. Bubur Ikan Ahian

This was my last savory meal before leaving Pontianak. My flight to KL was at noon so I woke up early to have fish porridge at Ahian. This isn’t really porridge/congee per se but fish soup served with rice. You can also opt to have the rice dunked into the soup, which they call “porridge”.

The front part of the restaurant is taken over by a fish processing station. Different types of fish are brought here to be broken down into slices and bones for cooking soup. They have a selection of different types of fishes at differing price points.

I opted for a mixture of all the fishes for 55,000 IDR (RM 16). It’s a little steep for local standards but a steal in Malaysia. The fish slices were all very fresh!

I loved the flavourful soup too. I don’t normally like soup but I enjoyed the strong flavors and sesame oil here. The soup is very different from the bland soup we get locally. This is savory and packed with taste! It goes so well with rice.

You can mix the remainder of your rice into the soup for the porridge style too!

9. Che Hun Tiau Ahui

Che Hun Tiau is a local shaved ice dessert. The famous one is called Ahua and located a stone’s throw away from Ahian fish porridge. Unfortunately, it was still closed when I went, although it opened 30 minutes later when I was leaving to return to my hotel). There are several other che hun tiau carts in that area so I picked one at random.

Ice is shaved on top of various items like red bean, a gelatinous mass of jelly, and my favorite – slippery strands of transparent noodles.

Here’s a closer look. I really enjoy the mouthfeel of the noodle things. This cost just 6,000 IDR (RM 1.75).

I had a fun 3D/2N trip to Pontianak. This was my first time here but I’ll be back for more eating adventures in the Kalimantan region! I like these remote semi-developed areas. I find them relaxing and unpretentious. It’ll be nice to head to a more rural area next time.

Pontianak Trip Part I: Nasi Ayam Asan 333, Aming Coffee, Chai Kue Panas Siam Ahin, Pondok Kakap, Thien Mie Mie durian, Tugu Khatulistiwa (Equator Monument)

I was really hungry upon touching down in Pontianak. My flight from Kuching was delayed for more than an hour! I had a list of everything I wanted to eat during my short 3D/2N stay in this remote part of Indonesia and I wanted to make sure I hit every single one. I did, and more! Here’s a list of the things I ate, drank and saw during my time in Kalimantan – in chronological order:

1. Nasi Ayam Asan 333

I wanted to try Nasi Ayam Afu but they were closed for renovations. Nasi Ayam Asan 333 Pontianak was my second choice – they’re just a 6-minute walk away.

The owner here is Indonesian Chinese and she told me they have an air-conditioned outlet just beside, which might me more comfortable. She pegged me as a non-local instantly.

I chose to sit here though coz I thought I’ll be really fast. The seating is via long rows of shared cafeteria-type tables.

This is what “nasi ayam” in Pontianak looks like. It’s a selection of many different meats – Indonesian Chinese style char siu, siu yoke, pork sausage, and chopped up roast chicken. Everything looks familiar, yet slightly off, like a strange alternate universe. The sauce is THICK and flavorful and there’s bits of pickled vegetable to cut the strong flavors. I really like it! It’s different from local Chinese chicken rice in Malaysia. It’s 33,000 IDR (RM 9.50) for this plate.

2. Aming Coffee

This is a sprawling coffee shop with two outlets located opposite each other. Locals come here to smoke, play games, hang out and drink coffee.

Just look at how packed it is!

Pontianak is majority Muslim so alcohol isn’t a common form of socializing. Instead, they drink coffee – even late at night!

It’s so busy here even during a weekday off-peak afternoon. Every single table was occupied and I had to share one with a local Muslim girl. She turned out to be a university student and was on her laptop doing some slides.

I ordered an iced coffee and a Milo toast (basically Milo powder and condensed milk inside one slice of toasted bread folded together). 16,000 IDR or RM 4.70.

3. Chai Kue Panas Siam Ahin

This is a shack located around the corner from Aming Coffee. Most places in Pontianak town are within walking distance of each other, if you don’t mind walking up to 10 minutes under the hot sun. Gojek is available for little more than ringgits for a short ride, which I took advantage of more than a few times.

This is the Indonesian take on chai kueh – a vegetable stuffed kueh. The Pontianak version is very, very oily though – they literally brush each kueh and the banana leaf it is steamed on with cooking oil! Minimum order is 5 pieces and I struggled to finish it due to the oiliness. I like how they’re steamed to order though. 7,500 IDR (RM 2.20).

4. Pondok Kakap

The best smoked crab ever! This is the first time I’ve had smoked crab and the intense smoky rendang flavors are awesome! It’s so delicious, I felt it deserved its own blog post. Read my review of Pondok Kakap in Pontianak here. It’s a bit expensive compared to the others but definitely worth the price.

5. Thien Mie Mie durian

This is a durian hailing from Sungai Jawi. I gather it’s a popular breed here. I paid 60,000 IDR (RM 18) for a small durian with only 5 seeds.

This is likely coz I found the durian stall outside Pondok Kakap – a high end seafood restaurant, among the best in Pontianak. I later saw durians of the same breed being sold for 5,000-15,000 IDR (RM 1.50 – RM 4.50) elsewhere.

Taste wise it was decent, although a little less ripe that most Malaysians would prefer.

6. Tugu Khatulistiwa (Equator Monument)

This was the only touristy thing I did in Pontianak. I heard Pontianak is the only city in the world to sit along the equator line so I thought I’ll go visit the Equator Monument. This monument slash park is located 30 minutes from town – a 64,000 IDR (RM 19) Gojek ride away.

It’s supposed to be a place of interest but the park is so run down and ill-maintained that I do not think a visit is warranted. It looks like a forgotten and deserted government-run attraction that time forgot. There’s a sleepy security guard but all the F&B stalls and kiosks were closed, probably due to lack of business.

There’s no entry fee but there’s nothing much to see here either. I found 2 other souls there – a couple from Surabaya. Including the security guard and the old makcik running the dusty and sad souvenir shop, only 5 people were present at the park.

It was disappointing. There’s not much to see or do, and I would recommend you skip this place unless you really want a photo with the equator monument.

Part II of my Pontianak trip coming soon!

Topspot Seafood Kuching: A CNY dinner with Mandy

I’m currently in Kuching to celebrate the tail end of CNY with Mandy (and to meet her family 😱). One of the things we wanted to do in Kuching was to eat a seafood dinner. There are many great places for seafood like Buntal and Petanak but we thought it’ll be a safer bet to eat in the city. Lots of places are closed during Chinese New Year.

I’ve been to Top Spot in the past, and even blogged about ABC (Ah Seng Seafood) and Bukit Mata Seafood Center. We went to BBQ Topspot Seafood (Ah Hock) this time. The guy warned us there’s a 1 hour wait and we’re on a special CNY pricing structure so it’ll be more expensive than normal.

One of the interesting things that all Topspot outlets share is the ability to choose your own mixed vegetable dish. There’s a row of various types of pre-cut vegetables, seafood, and other small assorted items and you take a plate and pile it up with the things you want. You pass it to the chef and he’ll cook up your special mixed vegetable dish. My favorite things to add in this are quail eggs and deshelled prawns.

I was also tempted to get a lobster (or at least one of the local slipper lobsters) but settled for King Prawns instead. These are huge freshwater prawns with big heads and long claw-like appendages you can eat.

Nowadays they even print and laminate menu cards with the updated CNY pricing so you know what you’re getting into. Off the top of my head, the huge freshwater King Prawns are RM 14/100 gram. I got two of those – one for each of us. I also wanted to eat fish and that limited the things we could order coz each fish is so large that you can’t eat much else.

This is o chio (black pompfret). RM 60 for this +- 800 gram fish. They recommended sweet and sour fish which turned out really good. This was the best dish of the night. Unfortunately Mandy isn’t a huge fan of fish so I ended up eating most of this myself. To be honest I didn’t know this was a black pompfret at first or I’ll have chosen a different fish coz I eat o chio a lot at zi char places.

Kuching-style oyster omelet (RM 28). This is how we do it here – the distinctive shape is from the wok. It comes out as a huge half sphere. The edges are crispy while the bottom bit is more moist. It’s not the soggy o chien that you get in Penang. This is a more crunchy variation. Served with fish sauce.

Midin! RM 14. This is a must eat in Sarawak. It’s a toothsome jungle fern usually cooked with belacan. This one is cooked with Shaoxing wine. We both liked it but it was served last and we were so full then we couldn’t enjoy the midin. There was at least a 30 minute lag between the first and last dish.

King prawn stir-fried with egg (RM 63). I went with their cooking recommendation but this turned out so oily and disgusting I immediately regretted it. Easily the worst dish of the night, without doubt. I should have asked them to simply steam it with Shaoxing wine. That would have tasted so much better. Urgh. The amount of cooking oil that the prawn retained is shocking. I tried sucking on the head and only got a mouthful of oil.

The food bill for 4 dishes with rice came up to RM 165. This is more expensive that what a normal meal here would cost due to the CNY surcharge. All this is communicated in advance and a proper menu with the updated prices given to customers – that’s a good thing. However, the 1 hour wait was excessive and the neighboring table (who came from KL and struck up a conversation with me) told us they found their meal underwhelming. They also found the seafood less than fresh. I agreed and said we could get better seafood in KL.

Syarikat Kiong Chuong Cafe – Malu apa bossku?

I used to date a married woman when I was working in Sibu more than 10 years ago. Malu apa bossku? I’ve always been very open about my colorful past. She tackled me at a vulnerable time in my life – I had just gotten out of drug rehab and started reintegrating back into polite society. This older person/cougar tackled me on my first week out! I know now that she was after my (relatively) young and succulent body but hey, sometimes we the buaya, sometimes we kena buaya. 🐊 It all works out in the end.

Anyway, this older person used to pick me up from my workplace and bring me out for lunch. Her favorite place was Syarikat Kiong Chuong Cafe. This was an old eatery behind my office then. My current girlfriend, who is infinitely more beautiful and younger than this old hag, commented that the owner must be OCD to arrange the soda cans like that. It’s actually a very common decoration in old coffee shops like these. BTW, I’ve also told her this anecdote from my past coz I love her.

The interesting thing about this place is that they’re renowned for their speed. Most of their items are already pre-fried and placed in the cabinet within easy arms reach. You’ll get your food within 5 minutes of ordering – no kidding. The corporate workers with their 1 hour lunch break practically demands this efficiency. I had missed this place so I thought I’ll come back with my dad today for lunch.

We arrived at 11:20 am before the lunch hour rush and ordered their famous sweet and sour fish. This is o chio (ikan bawal hitam) for RM 26. It’s a pretty good sized fish and it’s been deep fried so all the bones and fins are edible. I love their sweet and sour sauce too – I’ve also had their sweet sour prawns and both are equally good. I would say this is one of the items people order most often here.

I also got their pig brain’s soup since it’s the Year of the Pig. You hardly ever see pig brain being offered in KL – these more intense and unapproachable types of offal are usually more common in smaller towns. The pig brains here is quite intense tasting – you won’t mistake the flavor. I like it though. It’s stewed with chicken feet, pork bones, and their homemade pork balls so there’s not just pig brains inside this soup.

The vegetable quota was filled with this bitter gourd stir fried with taucu and assorted seafood and pork. I like the addition of sweet prawns and sotong. The chaps at Syarikat Kiong Chuong Cafe are friendly and the food comes out fast. The total for these 3 dishes including rice was RM 43. The food is more like Foochow home cooking so don’t expect fancy fireworks but if you’re after a hearty Sibu-style meal, you can’t go wrong here. I highly recommend them.

No. 16 Bus Café in Sekinchan review: Excellent photos, mediocre food

“Do you want to go to the bus café in Sekinchan that’s inside a real vintage bus?” I asked Mandy. “Oh! That one lots of 小妹妹 (xiao mei mei) go one.” The irony of her reply is that she’s also quite young. She’s 24. Haha. I’m clearing my annual leave so I took yesterday off to go to Sekinchan with my Mandy. I’ve never been to Sekinchan. It’s about 1.5 hours away from KL/PJ and we had fun in another rustic, rural setting (Pulau Ketam) so I thought we’ll enjoy the day trip.

I timed our journey so we’ll arrive at Sekinchan Bus No. 16 Café right when they open for lunch. The café is an air-conditioned bus that’s mounted on a few shipping containers.

The kitchen is inside the shipping containers and the shell of the bus contains the café proper. There’s also al fresco seating at a small balcony to the side but the main draw is the authentic, vintage bus.

These are the types of buses that used to ply Malaysia’s roads. We had the exact same bus in Sibu! The green ones work the Lanang routes. I lived closer to town so I took the red Sungai Merah buses but the fittings are the same.

I remember the dingy interior, faded seats and the large “PRESS ONCE” button you push to let the driver know you want to get down at the next stop.

It’s very nostalgic!

It’s one of those themed cafes that people come to for the perfect Instagram shot. They’re not exactly known for their food. I knew that coming in. I’ve been to a few character cafes in Japan (where the food is generally excellent), only to be disappointed by their dismal attempts at a meal.

You’re here for the environment, not the food. You need to have this mindset when you come to No. 16 Sekinchan Bus Cafe coz the food is very subpar.

They have a very limited and streamlined savory menu under “No. 16 Sekinchan Bus Bento Boxes”. We ordered the chicken chop meal and the Korean fried chicken wings. Unfortunately, they said the Korean fried chicken wings weren’t ready yet so we switched to the Korean-style Chicken Bibimbap.

Mandy had a mango Barbican soda and I had their White Coffee. You can’t go wrong with bottled soda but the brewed white coffee was extremely diluted and borderline tasteless.

Mandy is laughing here coz she thought the shaved ice in the bucket meant to cool your drink is for pouring the drinks into, until I corrected her. Haha.

I thought both our food orders were horrible – I honestly don’t have anything good to say about the mains we ordered except that they’re both dreadful. Food isn’t their forte. I compared it unfavorably with airline food! Service was also spotty – the Chinese girl was disinterested and low-energy but the Malay girl fared better. Another gripe of mine is that the bus was way too stuffy during the afternoon heat despite the air-conditioning going full blast. I shudder to imagine how hot it’ll be with more people inside.

We also ordered their Dark Chocolate Cheese Cake with a LEGO chocolate dude on top. I did enjoy the malty chocolate cake – it tasted like it was made with Ovaltine, which is a nostalgia tinged memory for me. This was the only thing I enjoyed. I recommend you go for the cakes and drinks if you want to meet the minimum RM 30 per table spending. This minimum spend is only for weekends and public holidays though. We were hungry so we ordered a full meal. Our bill came up to RM 59 for two.

I really like the ambiance of No. 16 Sekinchan Bus Café. You can get excellent photos here. It was also empty when we came so we could take as many photos as we wanted. Don’t come here for the food coz you’ll be sorely disappointed. Think of it more like rent for use of their photography studio e.g. the bus café. I loved going with Mandy coz she’s really good with photos and she’s interested in taking nice photos so we had fun here.

Whether you’ll enjoy it depends on what you want to get out of this experience.

Nakiryu 1 Michelin star instant ramen review – a collaboration between Nissin and 7Eleven Japan

Nakiryu means “Screaming Dragon” in Japanese and they’re the second ramen shop to get a Michelin star after Tsuta. The ramen they do is very different from the light tasting Tsuta – Nakiryu’s tantanmen is unapologetically heavy, spicy and rich. I’ve eaten a previous version of their instant noodles (also by Nissin) in 2016. This was before they’ve won their Michelin star and the Nissin version then was in cup noodle format with all the seasoning and dehydrated protein bits inside the noodles. There was a sachet of hot oil to finish the ramen with and it tasted really good and nutty.

Their latest is a collaboration with 7Eleven Premium Japan. The recipe has been refined and inside the bowl ramen is a packet of powdered soup and dehydrated meat, a sachet of hot oil and a pack of finishing oil. You’re only supposed to put the powdered soup + dehydrated meat inside with the noodles when hot water is added. The other two goes on top of the lid to absorb residual heat and they’re only added when the noodles are done.

Nakiryu’s broth is so thick and creamy it’s almost like a starchy stew! There’s also bits of dehydrated meat inside to add texture. This is a type of ramen called tantanmen which is a Szechuan inspired ramen dish. It’s spicy and flavorful and there’s nutty undertones in the soup base. This isn’t a refined and gentlemanly ramen like Tsuta – the Nakiryu instant ramen is overpoweringly in-your-face.

I liked it but the previous discontinued cup version had a better ratio of dehydrated meat to noodles. The portion in this variation seems miserly in comparison. The powdered soup base also didn’t fare as well as Tsuta’s liquid soup base. I must compare these two as they’re both Michelin starred ramen outlets that produced an instant ramen version by 7Eleven Premium. I’m glad I tried it but both Mandy and I felt it’s overshadowed by it’s much superior and delicious tasting Tsuta instant ramen sister product. Or maybe I just don’t know how to appreciate these Japanese-Szechuan flavors – I was also decidedly unimpressed by 2 Michelin star Shisen Hanten.

Nissin x 7Eleven Premium Japan x Tsuta Japanese Soda Noodles – 1 Michelin star instant ramen review

Tsuta is the first ever ramen shop to get a Michelin star in 2015 and they’ve retained that star every year since. They recently did a collaboration with Nissin and the 7-Eleven Premium line of instant ramen to produce a ready-to-eat version of their famous noodles, sold exclusively at 7-Eleven Japan. As a Michelin star chaser, I owed it to myself to taste this interesting instant ramen. I shipped a few bowls in via personal shopper at a cost of around RM 400, which works out to RM 45 per bowl. Spoiler: It was damn worth it!

As the name suggests, Tsuta doesn’t serve typical ramen – they do soba noodles in ramen style. The broth they use is a chicken and clam combination, which is a lot less heavy than the typical pork stock. They’re also famous for finishing all their ramen with truffle, and this holds true for their faithful instant ramen adaptation too! This isn’t just a meagre drop of truffle you can barely taste – the broth is richly infused with truffle flavor and it shines through with every slurp of the ramen.

There are 4 packets of inside the bowl – a vacuum packed sachet of bamboo shoots, a piece of dehydrated pork belly with green onions, a sauce soup base and a foil of truffle oil. There are no powdered flavorings here. The thin, curly noodles look different from most ramen too. You’re supposed to put the dehydrated chasiu + green onion into the noodles and add hot water for 3 minutes. All the other packets go on top so it gets indirect heat and they’re only added after the noodles are cooked.

I love the light tasting broth that’s packed with umami flavor. You can really taste the seafood and chicken in it and there’s yummy notes of truffle in every mouthful that elevates this instant ramen head-and-shoulders above all its peers. This is truly the best instant ramen I’ve ever eaten – no contest. My housemate Mandy loved it too. Nothing comes close, not even its sister 7Eleven Premium instant ramen by 1 Michelin star Nakiryu. Tsuta’s instant ramen is breathtakingly delicious! 🤤

Nuromen Café Uptown PJ – Sarawak beef noodles from Kuching

I went to check out Nuromen Cafe with my housemate Mandy last night. I saw a video on Facebook and told her about it. To my surprise, she said she’s been there many times! I was puzzled coz she just arrived in KL 3 weeks ago and I’ve been out with her almost every time. I know I haven’t been here. It turns out that Nuromen Café in Uptown PJ is the official branch of Nuromen in Kuching. It serves Sarawak style beef noodles and Mandy’s a regular at the Kuching outlet.

As an illustration of how small the Sarawakian community is, a friend tagged the artist who drew this mural (also from Kuching) when I posted it on Facebook yesterday. Both Mandy and I are from Sarawak too. I guess Sarawakians just have an incestuous tendency to stick together.

I miss Kuching style beef noodles. I believe Open Air Central Market in Kuching serves one of the more definitive versions. That was my first experience back when I was living in Kuching as a kid. My sister was actually born in Kuching and our family lived there for the first 7 years of my life. I was born in Sibu due to an accident – my mom went into labor when they came to Sibu for Ching Ming. That’s also why my birthday is in Ching Ming. Haha.

Nuromen Café also serves a few Sarawak classic drinks like Teh C Special (RM 4.50) and Teh C Pandan Special (RM 4.50). This drink was created by a coffee shop in 7th Mile, Kuching. We got both to try. It was diluted, not the best representation of Teh C Special.

The interesting thing about Nuromen is the way they do hot pot style beef noodles. You’re given a simmering bowl of beef soup a la hot pot and you cook your own beef slices inside. It’s a cross between hot pot and beef noodles. Mandy told me she usually orders this to eat with rice. You can also pair it with noodles.

We ordered their signature Premium Sirloin Beef Platter Special (RM 42) – it’s a set for 2 pax with 160 gram premium sirloin beef slices, stewed beef, assorted vegetables and beef stock. Nuromen claims all their beef is sourced from Australia and NZ. It’s not local beef or Indian buffalo. This set comes with the more premium marbled sirloin cut. The beef slices are ultra thin so it cooks in just a few seconds.

There’s a separate bowl of cooked stewed beef. We didn’t quite like this. I think my buffalo stew is way better.

I also made a separate a la carte order for 100 grams beef slices (RM 11.50). This is a leaner cut of beef. I wanted to see the difference between the sirloin and regular beef. We preferred the sirloin.

Of course, it’s not beef noodles unless you have noodles. You can order their garlic tossed kolo noodles for RM 3. This is the classic beef noodle pairing. I love the strong scent of garlic and the familiar smells and aromas. This is my kind of comfort food. The noodles are the proper kind we use in Sarawak too.

The staff gave us free ice cream when they saw we’re finished with our meal. This happens in Kuching too according to Mandy. It’s a nice touch.

The food at Nuromen Cafe is pretty good – some misses on the drinks and stewed beef but their signature noodles and beef slices are legit. The bill came up to RM 68.50 for two with drinks. It’s an authentic Sarawakian taste that we’ve both missed. We’ll be back for sure.

Restoran Kar Heong SS14 – best chicken rice in Subang!

I am a huge fan of chicken rice. I had a dark (?) period in my life where I ate poached chicken rice every single day for lunch for almost a year. And I enjoyed it! Haha. There was a really good chicken rice place at Pusat Bandar Damansara back then. I’ve also eaten Michelin Bib Gourmand award winners in Singapore like Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice and Tiong Bahru Boneless Chicken Rice. I consider myself a bit of a chicken rice connoisseur.

Restaurant Kar Heong in SS14 is one of my favorite chicken rice places around my condo (the other being Kong Sai). It has a stellar reputation among Subang-ites and their white chicken is very tender and juicy! The best benchmark for great poached chicken lies in the breast – it should be soft and succulent instead of dry and stringy. Kar Heong does perfect white chicken with moist meat and slippery skin. We shared ½ chicken between the two of us.

The chicken rice here is also extremely flavorful. There’s so much taste packed into every grain that it’s almost like an umami bomb. This is the 1% of chicken rice – rich, superior and piquant. A lot of people drizzle black sauce or their chicken gravy on top. I prefer the latter – I adore the combination of soy sauce, sugar and coriander stalks that makes up the sauce you see at the bottom of poached chicken. It’s perfect with rice. Kar Heong has good garlicky chilli sauce too.

Mandy also ordered a side of roasted pork. The roast pork here is decent but not the best I’ve had. I feel like the fat to meat ratio is a bit off. I don’t enjoy overly fatty pieces of pork belly. It’s not the worst, but doesn’t rank among the best siu yuk I’ve had in Klang Valley.

Kar Heong is my favorite place to have chicken rice in Subang. I can’t vouch for their roasted chicken though coz I only like poached chicken so that’s what I always order. I also enjoy Restoran Kong Sai in Puchong (their original shop is in PJ). This place has the edge in the chicken rice while Kong Sai’s dipping sauce is better. I haven’t found a better place, but if you know of one, please leave a comment below.

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