Motormouth in Sabah – Seafood @ Filipino Market, “Getaran Jiwa” & The 2 HotelsJune 17, 2011 | 5,025 views
#1 – Gorgeously fresh, plump prawns with orange-hued shells grilled with minimal marinade, topped slightly with a dollop or two of spicy sambal (chili paste pounded with spices) before being served.
And then the wind changed directions; gently swayed to these droolworthy posts from Kota Kinabalu, Sabah. What was I thinking? Hong Kong, Ipoh, KL, and now Sabah?! Yup, a matter of time before I myself get caught up in confusion on where I actually wake up in the morning.
The last 30 days have been hectic; to say the least. Almost immediately after the Hong Kong/Macau escapade (a timely one, I might add … for the past 6 months were trying times, seriously), I was thrown on a plane to Singapore for a short 2 days excursion. And on the very next day I embarked on the customary Ipoh pilgrimage (read this, this, this, this and especially this for an idea on how 2 full days can be squeezed dry with good time management), before jumping back to the fray. Not for long though, as duty calls and had to travel eastward for a rushed 3 days in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah …
#2 – Pasar Filipina (Filipino Market) @ Jalan Tun Fuad Stephens, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah – In the heart of the city, this night market is famous for the handicrafts (skipped all those), salted fish, various tidbits in packs for bringing home (skipped these as well), and the many stalls serving local favourites like fresh grilled seafood, noodles, burgers and more.
#3 – Sharp edges punctuated with colourful wooden architecture with a prominently Filipino immigrants-dominated clientele and workers @ Filipino Market. Did not seem so awkward in the beginning, but soon enough we felt out of place. Read on to see why.
#4 – An impressive lineup of hawker stalls selling exactly the same stuff; at least 10 or so vendors pushing for their respective rendition of grilled seafood; from lobster to huge prawns, seawater fishes to clams and squids, as well as funky vegetables from the depths of the sea.
#5 – Fiery hot sambal belacan for the seafood, the baby squids all skewered and grilled with a lashing of spicy sauce, and the crunchy, bursting-with-juice seaweed for the adventurous diners.
#6 – Once again, there were plenty of stalls selling the same food parked almost side by side. This lady was seen busily grilling her chicken wings, various skewered parts of a chicken (‘buntut’, anyone?)
#7 – Almost like chicken satay, but without the predictable peanut sauce. You either eat these plain, with the accompanying sambal belacan, or liberately squeeze some fresh calamansi juice onto them, before consuming the meat.
#8 – Like a long communal table feast, we were at elbow’s length from each other; minding our own business, wiping beads of sweat from our foreheads while tucking into the array of seafood on the table.
#9 – Lurve some Cili Padi? Yeah, you’re supposed to CHEW on these power-packed babies, complementing the grilled seafood and various tossed vegetables. If you can even call them that.
#10 – And an Avocado Shake that was by far, one of the BEST I have tasted in Malaysia. Seriously. The other Indonesian restaurants (or wanna-be’s) did not make the cut with diluted offerings, extra sweet and artificial chocolate syrup etc.
The 5 of us had a HUGE fish (forgot the name), 3 large prawns, 2 skewers of baby squids, a plateful of chicken wings and various parts, fresh coconuts and avocado shakes for less than RM100/USD33. Yeah, guess inflation has yet to set in on this part of town?
Verdict? Far from the best seafood feast, with more misses than hits. We picked this particular stall (sorry, all without names, so you can just say your prayers and hope for the best?) because of the crowd. You know the typical ‘kiasu spirits’ in all of us;
“Where there’s a crowd, the food’s gotta be good!”
In this case, we unanimously did not think so. The avocado juice was brilliant though; being the perfect concoction of creamy, sweet and buttery all at once, without being cloyingly sweet nor reeking of that unpleasant raw flavour. The seafood? So-so …. but the dining ambience was a sight to behold though. Unless you’re one who abhors unhygienic street fares, then come here at least once and soak in the unmistakably streetwise atmosphere.
#11 – Imperial Boutec Hotel @ Warisan Square – On the 7th floor of the shopping centre, next to the ubiquitous Centrepoint of Kota Kinabalu, Sabah.
Imperial Boutec Hotel is a no-frills boutique hotel with a budgeted option in mind. The room was about RM145/USD48 per night, and this was a steal considering that this is within the heart of the city. But don’t expect posh furnishings, swimming pool, conference halls or even a proper cafe. Yeah, breakfast was included and served on the 11th floor, but we had to take the lift to the 10th floor, then proceed on foot up the stairs from there to reach The Roof cafe, serving a lacklustre range of generic hotel breakfast.
Save the hassle, and walk down somewhere for mee tuaran or roti kahwin instead.
That being said, the room was clean and tidy, with proper amenities; an elaborate hot shower (took me a few minutes to figure out the 6 valves), and a built-in LCD showing local channels and Vision Four. The lack of a proper lobby got us reeling initially, as you won’t be able to unload your baggage downstairs or hope for the concierge staff to come for you. Instead, you walk into Warisan Square, take the elevator to the 7th floor, and then only you will reach the lobby with a few desks for checking in and such.
But this was not the only place we stayed in KK. We were at Grand Borneo Hotel the night before. And let’s rewind …………..
#12 – Sweet pineapples got me falling in love all over again. With the fruit, of course. Filipino origin, most probably. Lucky people get all the good mangoes and pineapples!
#13 – Nasi Ayam Lalap P.Ramlee & Saloma (RM10/USD3.30) @ Restoran Getaran Jiwa, Alam Mesra opposite 1Borneo Mall.
#14 – Smokin’ some shisha (flavoured tobacco), cracking some coconuts (flesh-less, or naked if you will), char siew-like chicken satay, or a plate of mee goreng tuaran with seafood?
#15 – Grand Borneo Hotel @ 1Borneo Mall – Small, cozy, comfortable with a sexy, transparent shower cubicle. Just don’t come with your parents.
The room at Grand Borneo was small too, barely enough for two. Let alone a whole family. I was comfortable enough to be staying by myself, a room with cable channels, hot shower and the usual facilities. Nothing to lament but the lack of space, obviously. If you’re sharing the room, get a bigger one at Novotel two doors away. In fact, there are about 4-5 hotels at 1Borneo, an amazing feat considering that this area opposite of UMS (Universiti Malaysia Sabah) is not a fully developed area yet, aside from this hypermall. And the distance from town area and airport only made logistics planning a little cumbersome. But the room was certainly better than Imperial Boutec Hotel‘s. This was priced at RM178/USD59 per night.
Dinner on the first night was not a memorable fare, since we avoided eating at the mall (go to 1Borneo’s website for all the choices) and ventured out to Alam Mesra, an area opposite of our hotel.
Only to walk a short distance and gave up. The area was not your idea of a bustling business area or packed with eateries. Walked into one Getaran Jiwa Restaurant with a cheesy throwback to the P.Ramlee’s era, a singer bellowing tunes from the legend’s glory years.
The Nasi Ayam Lalap reminded me of ayam penyet, with a milder sambal and less crispy skin. The Mee Goreng Tuaran was tasty, yet not appealing enough to warrant another visit. The chicken satay was in an interesting red shade and had this sweet nuance to them; almost like a halal version of char siew (BBQ pork). The fresh coconut was completely devoid of edible flesh, but my order of air kelapa gelas with susu manis came loaded with tender coconut flesh. Go figure.
#Still to come : The second part of this story; and discover why I gulped down more breads than seafood in Sabah, and did not regret the experience one bit.
*Filipino Market @ Jalan Tun Fuad Stephen.
Opens from about 5-6pm onwards.
Facing Warisan Square/Centrepoint Sabah/Le Meridien Hotel.
*Grand Borneo Hotel (www)
*Imperial Boutec Hotel (www)
*Restoran Getaran Jiwa & Katering (Halal) – Opposite of 1Borneo Hypermall
Lot 9, G/F, Block B, Alamesra Utama, Jalan Sulaman, Sabah.
Tel No : 014-379 8478