Thursday, April 30, 2015

Eating in Kuching 2015 - Joyous Shanghai

Kuching used to have quite a number of good Chinese restaurants - Chia Heng Restaurant, Chui Hua Lau, Golden Dragon - these were familiar names and now they are no more. Perhaps it is due to the changing palate of Kuchingites. There are only a handful of good Chinese restaurants left in Kuching - and Joyous Shanghai is one of the best.

By KL or Singapore standards, the decor at Joyous Shanghai would be considered basic - but in Kuching this is considered one of the more opulent Chinese restaurants. The dining area is not very big - accommodating up to 10 tables. There are a few private rooms should you want a bit more privacy.

The menu here focus on Shanghainese Cuisine. You can order many of the popular Shanghainese appetizers here. We opted for the special appetizer platter that comes in a wooden boat. There are 3 items - fish cake, Maki rolls and crispy prawns. Not really Shanghainese - but all good.

They do their soup here really well - but it can get pricey. This is the soup with dried seafood which is really delicious.

The deep fried pork ribs is one of our favourites - crispy outside and the meat is a bit chewy - but that gives it a nice texture to exercise your jaw muscles.

Steamed Soon Hock fish - they are experts at steaming this fish which is one of the best local fish. Expensive, but the meat is so sweet and silky when perfectly cooked.

Chinese cabbage with crab meat. The sauce is rich and flavourful.

Prawns in two flavours - on side coated in salted egg yolk, the other side in mayonnaise. Interesting contrast of flavours and textures.

The only wrong note of the night was the braised pork leg in soy sauce. The pork leg wasn't cooked long enough - so it was not tender, and the meat was a bit gamey. Longer cooking and more judicious use of spices would have saved the dish.

If you are still not satiated with all the food above - you can have noodles. This one is cooked with fresh river lobsters. The noodles have soaked up all the sweetness of the prawns.

The one thing which most Chinese restaurants lack is good desserts - and Joyous Shanghai is no exception. Luckily you can order from their sister restaurants - this is the mixed Thai dessert from the Thai restaurant downstairs.

Dining at Joyous Shanghai is not cheap - but you are paying for the quality. The chefs are very good at their sauces and soups, and sometimes can surprise you with inspired cooking. If you are looking for great Chinese food in Kuching - give Joyous Shanghai a try.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Eating in Kuching 2015 - The Barber

The Junk F&B empire is one of the most successful in Kuching, and the latest addition to their stable is a restaurant called The Barber. Located 2 doors down from The Junk, this new restaurant is housed in an old barber shop - complete with mirrors and barber chairs.

The place looked like it hasn't been touched, but in fact quite a lot of work has gone into it. The renovation was so cleverly done that you can't really see what is original and what is new. The artful display of old barber shop paraphernalia add to the authenticity of the place. This is one trendy and chic venue to dine.

The new menu for the restaurant is still a work in progress, so for now you have to order from The Junk menu. 

Friday, April 24, 2015

Eating in Kuching 2015 - Boulevard Restaurant

There is a new Chinese restaurant in town and it is located in the new wing of Boulevard Shopping Mall - and its called non-other than Boulevard Restaurant. This is a non-halal Chinese restaurant that serves Dim Sum during the day. Many other restaurants have tried Dim Sum and failed - it is interesting to see whether this one be able to avoid the same fate. Kuchingites just don't seem to take on to the Dim Sum culture as readily as in other towns.

The restaurant is fairly big and the decor is quite typical of modern Chinese restaurants in Singapore or Malaysia. There is an open kitchen right next to the entrance where you can see the roasted goodies hung behind a glass case - very Hong Kong.

We were there for a Saturday lunch and the place was half full - which was surprising as we have heard about long queues. As is typical of modern Dim Sum restaurants - you write your orders on an order chit. I prefer the traditional Dim Sum trolley but sadly this tradition is dying off even in Hong Kong.

They have all the regular Dim Sum staples here. The quality and taste puts them at the top of Dim Sum offerings in Kuching for the moment. The Har Gao are suitably crunchy and tasty.

The Char Siew Puffs are very good - nice filling the crust is soft and crumbly. Our only complaint is they are a bit too big and really fill you up.

The Ham Sui Kok (Fried Cresent Dumplings) are another favourite.

The Yam Puffs have a flaky crust and tasty filling.

The Lo Bak Kou (Turnip Cake) is quite firm in texture, but has a distinct taste of white radish and Chinese sausages. Nice. 

The only low point was the Cheong Fun with Char Siew (Rice Rolls with BBQ Pork). The skin was not as silky as it should be. 

Besides the Dim Sum, you can also order noodles and porridge from the open kitchen. We ordered a dry wanton noodle. The wantons were good, and the noodles had good texture but lacked taste.

Having Dim Sum at Boulevard Restaurant is quite a pleasant experience, and the pricing is very reasonable too.  This is one of the best places to go for Dim Sum in Kuching right now.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Kuching Cafes 2015 - Caffeine & Cocoa

One of the newest kids on the block is Caffeine & Cocoa. Just opened a couple of weeks ago, this new cafe shares the same address as Earthlings - it is at the ground floor of CityOne Shopping Centre. 

The cafe itself is quite small, but they have a large outdoor terrace that can accommodate a lot more people. The interior is fairly simple - at one end is a bare-brick feature wall that is the in-thing now, The rest is bare concrete and recycled timber and wooden crates re-appropriated as shelves behind the counter.

The twist to this cafe is besides coffee, they also serve hot chocolate. For those who have overloaded on coffee, this could be a welcome relieve. Their cake selection is reasonable and feature heavily on chocolate as you would expect.

This is a cozy and unpretentious cafe that could become a regular haunt. My only peeve is that they use Illy which is not my favourite coffee blend.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Kuching Cafes 2015 - MK Classico Caffe

Another fairly new cafe in town is MK Classico Caffe which is located along Jalan Tabuan - near Borneo Hotel. Its in a double-storey old corner shophouse that is trapezoidal in shape.

This cafe is really big on style. All the plaster on the walls have been stripped to reveal the original brickwork, and every corner of the cafe is filled with vintage brick a bracks like old signages, picture frames, suitcases, clocks, toys, etc. There is even a corner dedicated to the Beetle and Mini Minor. Overall it needs a bit of curation to stop the place from becoming too much of a flea market.

The ground floor is mainly occupied by the service counter, and most of the seating area is on the 1st floor.

There is also a large al fresco area outside.

While we were there on a Saturday evening, the place was fairly busy. Being new that was not a surprise - but it was surprising to see Kuchingites queuing up for a cup of joe. We decided to give it a miss and go back when they are less busy.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Kuching Cafes 2015 - Earthlings Coffee Workshop

People always complain that there is no good expresso in Kuching, and up till last year I would totally agree. But complain no more - as now you can get expresso that is as good as anywhere else, and the place to get it is Earthlings Coffee Workshop

The minute you walk in the cafe, the smell of freshly ground coffee is intoxicating. You can see that this place is opened by people who are serious about their coffee. They have their own micro coffee roaster, and import their coffee beans from all kinds of exotic places. The selection of single origin coffee is impressive - they have Wallenford Blue Mountain which goes for RM 32 a cup, or the even more exotic Kopi Luwak from Mount Gayo which goes for RM 56 a cup.

The normal coffee here is good enough for me. It is easily the best you can get in Kuching. 

Having been there a few times, I have also tried some of their cakes. I have to say that the cakes are just OK, and can't really compare to the quality of the coffee.

Earthlings Coffee Workshop is located at a quiet corner on the ground floor of CityOne Shopping Centre. It is one of the few outlets worth visiting the gigantic shopping centre for.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Kuching Cafes 2015 - Cafe Cafe

Cafe Cafe is more of a restaurant then a cafe - even though the name may suggest otherwise. They do serve coffee too, but the main attraction here is the food. A bit of diclosure here, my firm is involved with the interior design of the outlet so I will not say too much about the design except to let you judge for yourself.

The original Cafe Cafe started in Sibu. They have done very well and have branched out to Kuching with 2 outlets here now. This latest one is located at Song Plaza - right opposite Coffee Clinic.

The food here is a mixture of Asian dishes with a Nonya bent, and Western dishes. The servings are really big so don't over-order  if you go for the first time. You may get a shock. Some of the dishes are big enough to share for 2 persons. I normally go for the Nonya/Asian dishes. The flavours are quite strong and the chefs have their own individualistic take on the dishes - so you may like them or hate them depending on your taste. I personally like them a lot.