Let's be honest here, most of us who have visited East Malaysia find it hard to get good food there. Its not that they do not exist but rather we do not know where they are located. Sugarbun has had a long history and footprint in East Malaysia. However it is not the usual Sugarbun outlet that is opening here. Its the holistic approach to present very good East Malaysian food types in the form of a multi station restaurant concept, Borneo Asian Food.
I had the opportunity to taste almost every single item on the menu the other day for "food tasting". Here I have to say that I have not been paid to write this and actually they did not even ask me to blog about this.
A lot of thought and planning has gone behind the dishes, though most are simple stuff but the ingredients are well sourced with plenty from eco farms in Sabah. Trust me when I say the fish dishes were superb. It will probably take you 3-4 visits to try all dishes but its worth it.
I think Borneo Asian Food will be a success because there is a huge gap in the culinary stratosphere, even in the abundant foodie paradise that is in the peninsular. Maybe they will even get reprimanded by the government tourism offices in East Malaysia for being too successful - thus causing many not needing to travel to East Malaysia for food ... but of course there is still the scenery and fresh air to look forward to.
Let's drill down:
This is from Sugarbun's original kitchen. Suffice to say their Broasted chicken is excellent, seriously better than KFC. they also have a sambal fried Chicken which is not bad.
Why their chickens taste better ... its broiled then roasted, which strips off a lot more excess oil thus the skin is crispier and you do not get the oily jelly feeling from KFC. The seasoning is pretty tasty too.
A popular chicken dish is their Kano chicken, which may have been very popular among East Malaysians but may not suit the taste buds of West Malaysians as its a bit tomatooey, but I am sure some may like the taste.
Broasted Chicken 9.5/10
Sambal chilli Chicken 9/10
Kano Chicken 7/10
Their fish section should be the most popular once patrons get a taste of the fish. The garoupa fish soup is outstanding - taste of the sea and the garoupa tasted better than even live fish (if thats possible). According to the manager, all their fishes are "blast-freezed" which is technically the best way to preserve fish caught from the sea. Killing it while alive actually may cause their flesh to tighten up. You can have it with meehoon or served with soup of just fish and soup - all outstanding. Seriously the whole shebang is among the best "fish based soup" I have tasted. Its a lot like the fish head meehoon but better - you can see why as they do not need to fry the fish at all (which is a masking tactic for lack of freshness). I can have this everyday.
They also serve a milky version of the fish soup, which to me clouds the freshness of the soup a bit but that version would be closer to the local fish head meehoon.
But seriously, if you go to a full service Chinese restaurant, be prepared to pay 3x for these dishes. Great value.
Garoupa Fish Head Soup 10/10
Group Fish Head Milky Soup 8.5/10
This deserves a separate mention as they are very proud of their Eco farms for this fish. Its actually tilapia, which has had a lot of bad viral news of late. However, these tilapias are from their eco farms in Sabah. It has to go with rice as its fried to a crisp, the meat is juicy and sweet, and goes so well with their two chilli sauces - both made in house with distinctive Sabahan flavours. Its always fried till golden brown, crispy and I keep seeing people eating everything right down to the bare bones of the fish. We know how good well fried seafood can be dipped with the right chilli - thats the mantra.
Eco Fish with Rice 9.5/10
ASSAM FISH HEAD - A very decent version. 9/10
MUSHROOM CHICKEN SOUP - Don't be fooled by the common sounding dish, this surprised me on many levels. Together with ginger, it comes together very well, much like Drunken Chicken Ginger broth but there is no wine here as its halal. Still, the broth presents a flavour that reminds me of that dish and more. I guess I do not have to go to East Malaysia to get this dish ... as I certainly haven't found it in West Malaysia ever. Great find. 10/10
SARAWAK LAKSA - Unfortunately I did not get to take a picture of the dish but its more than excellent. Certainly not watery like some of the other versions we get here. Has depth of flavour in its soup base. Might not be the best Sarawak laksa I've had but this will do. 9/10
FRIED CABBAGE with DRIED PRAWNS - This is a simple dish but they do it oh so well. Must be the dried prawns, which is not that salty but very aromatic. Just a simple cabbage with fried prawns, you didn't know it could be so tasty. Best way to have it is with fried meehoon. Spectacular yet simple. 10/10
SABAH SEAWEED - Its a popular product in East Malaysia, and they have introduced it as a refreshing salad, or you will also come across it in their luxurious "ice kacang" - its got a good crunch to it. Btw the ice kacang is pretty good too and they use "attap (palm) sugar" which is aromatic but less sickeningly sweet.
SEA SALTED MACKERAL/SARDINES - We go to East Malaysia to try their seafood , just try these two dishes and you get really fresh seafood, now at decent prices without having to go to a Chinese restaurant with live aquarium. 9/10
OPENING DAY MONDAY 9th May 2016
Menara Hap Seng, Level 1
Jalan P. Ramlee