Kuching, the capital city of Sarawak state on Malaysian Borneo, is a vibrant metropolitan centre of some 330,000 people. There is an incredible ethnic diversity about this part of Borneo Island, and for this reason visitors really are spoiled for choice when it comes to sampling the best of the cuisine on offer.
Bla Bla Bla
Into this restaurant you are immediately struck by its unique style and innovative atmosphere. Everything from its décor and koi ponds to a Balinese Buddha pays homage to its distinctly Chinese-inspired dishes. The chef specialities in Bla Bla Bla include midin salad (a prime constituent of which is succulent jungle ferns), mouth-watering cashew nut prawns, and ostrich steaks stuffed with mozzarella. You can indulge yourself in home-made cheesecake. The portions served in Bla Bla Bla are always generous, because the tasty dishes are designed to be shared amongst friends.
Only Arab restaurant that you'll find on the entire island of Borneo is here in Kuching. As belly-dancing music drifts through the air, customers are served fragrant and deliciously muddy Turkish coffee. Pita pillows are passed around to be dipped into mashed hummus, providing a tempting aperitif prior to the main courses. As the sun melts into the South China Sea, sheesha pipes are provided for a truly authentic taste of North Africa and the Middle East.
This Sarawak restaurant is actually more of a sophisticated eating place-cum-bar. Since opening in 2012 it has proved to be very popular with young professionals, mainly due to its eclectic offering of Asian and Western dishes. Fusion dishes, including pasta, are especially popular, with particular approval for the grilled meats and fish (of which snapper is a speciality at 21 Bistro). As diners enthusiastically tuck into their dishes, the PA system provides an effortlessly cool soundtrack of chic jazz, making way for serious chill-out sounds as the evening progresses.
Popular with courting couples and business associates alike, Lok Lok is known as a nocturnal eating place. The subdued, candlelit atmosphere makes for the perfect backdrop for the variety of speciality dishes. Amongst the most requested are skewers with prawn, cuttlefish or bean curd). These can be deep-fried or boiled, before being served with sweet and sour or satay sauces. Lok Lok also provides its hungry customers with rojak and curried chicken – traditional fare that is always given a unique twist.
If urban vicinities tend to evolve over the years, the somewhat downcast riverfront overlooked by Benson Seafood shows every sign of becoming one of Kuching's trendy areas. Laid out as an open-air pavilion, this restaurant boasts large round tables that are adorned with red tablecloths, and surrounded by matching plastic chairs. Naturally, being so close to the sea it serves fresh fish, cooked Chinese-style. Also on offer are local Sarawak classics, such as stir-fried midin, served with belacan (a kind of shrimp paste with a delicate but unmistakeable flavor).
The indigenous Dyak cuisine of Borneo has often been unfairly overlooked by local restaurants. However this situation has been remedied by the opening of its first dedicated Dyak restaurant. Consistently highly-regarded by critics and customers alike, this is the first in Kuching to treat the Dyak menu as the true home cooking.