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. :)

Aussie Story @ Sibu Bus Terminal

aussie story sibu

Aussie Story is new – very, very new. It has only been open for 4 days and we went on the fourth day of their operations. No newspaper advertising, no Facebook/Twitter/Instagram page, just pure old school word-of-mouth accompanied their soft launch and it’s been packed every single night ever since they opened their doors!

The congratulatory wreaths that celebrated the launch were still fresh! We didn’t know about the place, we chanced upon the restaurant by accident and decided to go in and take a peek at the menu. It’s a very nice place – you can say that the warm, soft-incandescent lit interior called out to us on a rainy day. smirk

aussie story restaurant

The place is a joint venture between two friends who’ve been classmates since their school days. Fredrick Wong is the barista and he’s in charge of the front-of-house while his partner Johnny Yong is the head chef and manages the back-of-house. I think this division of labor suits their personalities well, according to the long conversations we had with the both of them.

Aussie Story is still in the soft-launch stage so a lot of the items on their menu is unavailable, like the pita bread that I was interested in. Thus, we asked for recommendations and got:

Toasted French Loaf with Cheesy Egg Salad (RM 7.50)

toasted french loaf

This is the appetizer that Johnny the chef suggested. He almost insisted on it, so Arthur and I ordered it to see what the fuss is all about. It’s a baguette that’s been sliced and covered with melted cheese, finely chopped cubes of hard-boiled eggs, and an acidic element (the chef hinted it was based on the Thousand Island dressing).

However, it came out so fast I could see that only 2 of the 3 pieces had been browned properly. I don’t mind the chewy texture of the bread but I think it could have been on the oven/toaster/grill for a couple of minutes more so the Maillard reaction and caramelization would have been more even.

I thought I would dislike this pale looking appetizer but I thought it was delicious! The cheese and mayo works very well together and you can still taste and feel the texture of the tiny cubes of hard boiled eggs in the topping. There’s also a sour note which really made the dish!

The flavors works very well together and we both enjoyed it very much.

Irish Stewed Lamb Shank (RM 38)

irish lamb shank

I was surprised when this came out almost after the appetizer. It has barely been 5 minutes since we placed our order! The lamb shank is slightly smaller than the ones that I’m used to seeing but it tasted alright. The meat fell off the bone when picked at with a fork – a sign that it’s been slow-cooked to perfection.

I also liked how they left the cartilage on the top of the shank – the best part of ordering the lamb shank, I reckon. The mashed potatoes were good and I really liked their purple cabbage coleslaw.

However, one minor quibble I had was about the sauce – it was pretty evident that the gravy that came with the lamb shank isn’t the same reduced gravy that the lamb shank was cooked in – it tasted too watery, as if the gravy was sourced from generic stock and poured over the dish instead of the actual reduction from the lamb shank pot.

British style Fish & Chips (RM 15)

british fish chips

The fish and chips were made with good fish and the batter was seasoned well. It’s great value for the price too, since you get a huge fillet of fish (which is not the 50% filler, 50% fish abomination that’s been passed off as Dory fillets – they use proper fish fillets here).

The dipping sauce keeps up with the times too! They don’t use tartare sauce (despite what it states on the menu), it’s a pet peeve of mine when F&B outlets do, it’s so 90’s school canteen and it’s usually used to cover the taste of bad fish. Restaurants have found better combinations to go with good catches now and the last time I remember having tartare sauce was during my high school in Christchurch, NZ when the school canteen would serve fish sandwiches slathered with tartare sauce.

I’m sure I’ve had tartare sauce in bad local fish and chip outlets since but if I had, it wasn’t memorable enough to remember.

aussie story fish

Aussie Story uses a mayo based egg infused dip which I thought was very nice. It reminded me slightly of the dill aioli I had in CREST Café, Birubi Beach recently.

I think it’s actually the *same sauce* that goes on top of the baguette appetizer, but without the acidic component. The purple cabbage coleslaw is also the same as the one served in the lamb shank. Overall, I quite liked the dish.

white chocolate
White Chocolate Drink (RM 6.50)

I think it’s smart of them to incorporate similar and reusable things across dishes to minimize prep time. Fredrick and Johnny recounted the first day they opened and the trials of having to serve a full house, and having to comp a lot of tables since they couldn’t keep up with the pace of service.

One minor feedback that I have is that the appetizers and the main courses all came out at the same time – there’s no time for us to savor the appetizers and then wait for the main courses to arrive. Everything just came out almost immediately, it was so fast it made me slightly dubious on how they can cook everything to order.

CoffeX Bristot

Fredrick did address this when I raised my concerns though – it seems that Sibu people like having all their dishes on the table at the same time so they can share it. There’s no concept of waiting for a 3-course dinner here and I have to agree with him. It’s not Aussie Story’s fault, it’s the culture here and they have to accommodate for it lest people complain about their food not arriving promptly.

The service is impeccable and they really want to learn – we were solicited on our views of every dish. I told the owners that I was very impressed that the head chef and the front-of-house manager would take the time to go to every table and talk to the patrons about the food. We got all our drinks comped by Fredrick so the bill only came out to a discounted RM 60 for the food.

I would highly recommend this place due to the service – their PR is second to none and their food is pretty good overall. It’s up there with places like Tom’s Too but the service here is spectacular. It’s their passion after all, and I went back Saturday night with my dad to try and get a table, but the place was totally full.

aussie story

I really enjoyed the ambiance of the place and it’s the best service I’ve ever had in Sibu – totally customer oriented. Fredrick insisted on serving us coffee (they use CoffeX and Bristot) on the house when I asked to pay the bill too – which is a nice touch. There is a reason why the restaurant is called Aussie Story but I’ll let Fredrick tell the tale since it sounds more passionate coming from him – it is, after all, his story. :)

Aussie Story
Sibu Bus Terminal
(opposite 3° Celsius)

The best burger in Sibu (and possibly Malaysia)

burger sibu

Secret Garden Grill. Hands down. I was rather unimpressed by the place but damn, does the kitchen come out with one fine and juicy burger!

secret garden grill

I went out with Arthur to have dinner here. I was thinking burgers or Ming Mei Shi and went for the former coz we were just talking about Maple Leaf’s burger.

dayak

Secret Garden Grill does have a rather interesting photo wall though – there are photos of local happenings dating back to when the local Dayak tribe didn’t wear bras (which, if you’re interested to know, doesn’t happen any more unless you’re in a bedroom smirk).

secret garden sibu

Back to burgers, they have a double cheese, double beef patty version that I was tempted to order but since it doesn’t have egg (which can be an add-on), I went for the Secret Beef Burger (RM 14.90).

arthur wee

What makes it so special? It’s the handmade juicy patty which is easily an inch of dribbling juicy beef, the perfectly done egg, and the buttery grilled bread that’s just right.

secret garden burger

I had trouble stuffing this into my mouth but it’s a very rewarding and slightly orgasmic event to chew and see the juices from the rare/medium beef patty squirt out.

best burger sibu

Mmm…

fish chips

Arthur had the Fish & Chip (RM 12.90)

caesar salad

…and we shared a Caesar Salad (RM 8.90) for some greens to round off the meal.

yoghurt drink

I also had the Mixed Fruit Yoghurt Drink (RM 3.80 – marked down from RM 7.50). I thought it was alright, though this place seems to have slashing prices right, left and center. The burgers are awesome though – best in Sibu, and I’ll call it out on KL too.

hb arthur wee

Dessert was Mille crepe at Noodle House – we had two versions, the Double Chocolate Mille crepe and the Rum & Raisin Mille crepe.

mille crepe

I prefer the former coz it tastes chocolatey, I couldn’t taste the rum in the latter, probably coz I’m desensitized. Haha!

horlicks dinosaur godzilla

Horlicks Dinosaus vs Horlick Godzilla

noodle house

Noodle House was packed as usual – bumped into an old classmate there (Hello Peter!). It’s a nice place for food and drinks.

hb burger

Thanks for dinner and desserts before I go back Arthur! It’s truly an epic burger. :)

Cafe Ind – Indonesian and Indian food

cafe ind

I’ve wanted to come here for ages but it was always closed when I was out. I heard the food is good and they serve both Indonesian and Indian cuisine – thus Cafe Ind. My good friend Arthur came over and dropped off some of his muesli cookies…

(which I’ve almost finished, eating them as a midnight snack)

cookies

…and we headed out to check out the curiously named Cafe Ind(dehouse).

Nasi Pecel (RM 14)

Nasi pecel is one of the unique Javanese rice served with pecel (cooked vegetables with the classic Javanese spicy peanut sauce) and warm plain rice (nasi putih). It tastes best when eaten with fried tempeh and the traditional cracker called peyek. In reality pecel has a lot of versions and ours has it’s own uniqueness. It’s served with chicken satay on a lemongrass stick and herbal boiled egg.

nasi pecel

I got that from the menu liner notes and it doesn’t leave much to the imagination. It’s a really good dish where every single one of the sides tastes good. Arthur ordered this one and I tasted the tempeh, which I didn’t think was tempeh at first.

It’s not deep fried but cooked so flavourful that it made a convert out of me. I like the way they skew the chicken stay onto lemongrass stalks too!

Nasi Tumpeng (RM 15)

Nasi Tumpeng is traditional Indonesian rice platter served during special events such as birthdays, weddings, or any other occasions. It’s somewhat a Nasi Lemak for big occasions. Our aromatic rice, served on a bed of banana leaf, is complemented by several different which varies daily. You have the honor to have the Tumpeng as the mark of an achievement!

nasi tumpeng

That semi-garbled bit of liner note in the menu describes my dish perfectly. It’s santan (coconut milk) rice with with a nice hat made of banana leaf on top – cute! :)

There’s a side of kangkung, which goes very well with the peanut sauce from Arthur’s Nasi Pecel. The chicken kurma is superb too! Choice, tender cuts in a flavorful and creamy curry. I also like their spicy beef and the otak otak that’s made in-house.

Indian Ginger Tea (RM 6)

indian ginger tea

This is an iced ginger tea which is rather diluted from the vast amount of ice they put inside. It would have been much better if it had been thicker.

Butter Curry Chicken (RM 14)

butter curry chicken

This is something we ordered from the Indian menu. They have three menus – one for Indonesian food (which is what we had for mains), one for Indian food, and one for beverages. There are three (3) pieces of chicken inside, including a drum. I thought it was delicious!

mulu ice cream

We also went to the new Payung Mahkota and had the Mulu Ice Cream. It’s the best ice cream I’ve had in Sibu! Very complex textures with the cake, ice cream and muesli sprinkled on top. I said this would be national level ice cream – it’ll be great even in KL! One of the best ice creams I’ve ever had. It’s hands down the best dessert on their menu.

kahlua ice cream

The liqueur ice cream is pretty good too. There’s Kahlua and Blue Curacao. The former needs to introduction, being the most popular coffee liqueur around but if you’re not familiar with the latter, it’s used in cocktails for it’s blue color. The refinishing citrus taste from Blue Curacao comes from the laraha fruit, which is a predecessor to Valencia oranges.

blue curacao ice cream

The orange juice I drink back when I was studying in Melbourne uses Valencia orange concentrate around winter if they have a severe shortage of Australian oranges – it’s 100% orange juice squeezed daily otherwise and they’ll tell you when it’s not by stating it on the label – a very transparent move I love in Australian products.

payung mahkota

Dinner at The Cafe Ind is great! I had a lot of fun talking to Arthur about everything. Thanks for getting the desserts! :)

waitress

I like the service there – the waitresses are knowledgeable, speaks English and will take the initiative to ask if there’s something they don’t know (which a lot of Sibu and KL restaurants don’t do).

I asked her about the tempeh, which doesn’t seem like the usual deep fried ones I’ve had. This is much better.

peeping tom

The Cafe Ind charges for water though – RM 2 for a glass of RO water and RM 4.50 for mineral water. However, the meals are very reasonably priced and dinner came up to a little over RM 55 for the both of us. I love the ambiance too, Cafe Ind would be perfect if they turned off the flashing lights and pop music.

cafe ind sibu

You have the honor to have the Tumpeng as the mark of an achievement! smirk

Kampua @ Rasa Sayang Cafe and other tales from Sibu

kampua mee

I’m back in Sibu for Chinese New Year! The funny thing is that there’s no one at home then – my dad’s in Kuching, my mom and sister is in Singapore.

kampua tossing

My sister was supposed to come back earlier than me but changed her ticket and my dad got held up so I grabbed my keys from my grandma and had the dish I always have when I’m back in Sibu.

kampua noodle

Kampua mee!

pien nuk

Kampua noodles is a deceptively simple dish, but delicious. We also ordered a bowl of pien nuk – a pork dumpling soup that’s sold together with kampua.

kampua mee sibu

Kampua is tossed in lard and served with char siew and it’s one of the dishes I believe that only Sibu can do well (the noodles are all made daily).

kampua price

I haven’t had kampua at Rasa Sayang since it moved from their old place. The price is now RM 2.50 per bowl, which is pretty steep for Sibu standards. However, a lot of people say this is one of the best places to have kampua in Sibu.

kampua noodles

It’s a matter of personal preference, the one at Rasa Sayang is pretty good but I think Pedada has the best kampua in Sibu. The one at Siong Kee is also quite popular.

rasa sayang cafe

However, one good thing about Rasa Sayang is that they don’t use the radioactive red char siew but one with a more natural color. They also throw in some minced pork, an unusual addition that’s usually associated with kolo mee.

arthur hb

I ordered two bowls but didn’t manage to finish the second one. I figure my stomach has shrunk coz I used to be able to eat two, no problems. :x

ring for shag

Arthur was kind enough to bring me some souvenirs from his recent trip to New Zealand – there’s a bell that goes “Ring for a Shag” and a bottle opener in the shape of a kiwi bird.

cordyceps capsules

He also passed me some cordyceps capsules coz I’m still recovering from the flu.

nz shirt

In addition to *all* that – he also got me a shirt from NZ! I love it, I studied high school in Christchurch and went back to Auckland in 2010 when my mom did her first operation for small cell lung cancer. She’s still on chemo and due back on Tuesday after the course.

chicken pies

I have to say that STP is one of the most thoughtful and generous people I know – he brought me a bunch of chicken pies (still warm from the bakery!) and coconut ones for lunch yesterday. I was at home and about to head out when he buzzed me. Thanks buddy!

copyright

Arthur picked me up from the airport and pointed out one of the photos my blog posts about Kingwood Resort in Mukah is featured at a travel agent’s booth right outside the arrivals hall. How about that? smirk

Apple duck, prawn with black pepper and honey and midin

apple duck

I’ve never heard of an apple duck before – the waitress taking the order assured us it was a very popular dish and thus, we swapped one of the meat orders (black pepper beef) with this menu item. We were at Nice House Restaurant – me and Arthur originally wanted to go to Cafe Ind for some fusion Indonesian and Indian food, but it was closed.

Thus, we headed over to a place which serves a gigantic roti canai that I wanted to try but that was closed too.

nice house restaurant

We ended up eating at Nice House Restaurant. I’ve been here a couple of times before and it seems that their typical Chinese cuisine has changed into something which I’ll call quasi-fusion. It’s still Chinese food but it uses much more non-traditional ingredients to cook.

prawn honey black pepper

Arthur recommended the prawn with black pepper and honey. He said it was much better than Ruby Restaurant‘s famed butterscotch prawns and I have to wholeheartedly agree. The combination of black pepper sauce with honey creates a sweet and savory gravy that had us scooping up all the gravy till the plate was almost clean. :)

black pepper lamb

The black pepper lamb was really good too – the meat was tender and juicy, and it goes very well with rice. A superb dish which wasn’t as sweet as the prawns (coz it didn’t use honey).

midin sambal

We also ordered midin cooked with sambal – it’s a wild jungle fern that’s very popular in Sibu but hard to find anywhere else. It’s our vegetable quota.

green apple duck

I felt that the apple duck was the most interesting dish during dinner. We ordered half a duck since a lot of people don’t eat duck due to the gamey taste but both of us do and we have been rather deprived of this particular fowl. I quite liked it although I think Arthur didn’t enjoy it as much. He hasn’t tried it before so we ordered it and the two of us finished everything – right down to the lettuce and green apple slices.

me arthur nice house

I think a lot of people thought we were having a major argument coz when the time came to pay the bill, both of us stood up and insisted on settling it. It must have looked quite interesting since I was blocking his way to the cashier. Heh.

Thanks for dinner Arthur and see you next time I come back to Sibu! :)

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