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Do it all again…

Last Sunday, since the school holidays had started and we did not have to drive my girl back to her school, we went to the midday service at the cathedral in town and when it was all over, we stopped by here again…

Zen, Sibu

…for lunch before heading home. I am quite sure that even if you do not click the link to check, you can jolly well guess what kind of cuisine we would be having simply by looking at the bamboo in the decor outside.

They had run out of their kim chi fried rice the last time we were here early last month so this time around, we asked first and only when they said it was available did we take our seats…

Green tea & pickled ginger

…and place our orders.

We had this very colourful sashimi salad (RM15.90)…

Zen, sashimi salad

…which we liked a lot. The sesame salad dressing was very nice and they were very generous with the salmon and tuna.

The onion karaage with kim chi sauce (RM9.00)…

Zen, onion karaage

…was pretty good too – we thought the onion rings went very well with the delightful sauce but perhaps they could give a little bit more of the latter, I think.

These yakiniku rolls (RM16.00)…

Zen, yakiniku rolls

…tasted really great too. There was beef inside rolled around some very thin strips of vegetables and mushrooms, and wrapped in bean curd skin.

The kim chi fried rice (RM12.00)…

Zen, kim chi fried rice

…was not too bad – it had the very strong wok hei fragrance and I did not mind the kim chi. Prior to this, I had tried it a few times and I never liked it but I still wanted to order to try as I had seen blogger-friends raving about the kim chi they had made themselves and using that for their fried rice, and praising it to the skies. I thought it was quite nice but no, it did not get me that excited, not at all. I would think that the salmon fried rice that we had on previous occasions was much nicer.

Now, this was rather disappointing, their soft shell crab agemon (RM16.90)…

Zen, soft shell crab agemon

…but it had nothing to do with the taste. For one thing, there was so very little of the crustacean and for another, they did not even bother to make it look a little bit more presentable unlike the last time we had it in 2011

Zen, soft shell crab agemon 2011
*Archive photo*

…and if this is what it is going to be like now, we would much sooner order something else the next time we drop by here.

This, however, was a different story altogether – their mentai prawns (RM26.00)…

Zen, mentai prawns 1

Not only was the plating very well done, but the prawns were really very good too…

Zen, mentai prawns 2

All in all, we thought that was a pretty good lunch and of course, my girl, who is a true-blue die-hard fan of Japanese cuisine, was the happiest…and when she is happy, needless to say, the father is happy too.

That day, they were playing some Christmas songs and carols instead of their usual Japanese repertoire and I did see that they had put up a bit of the decor as well…

Zen, Christmas decor

Well, time certainly is rolling by fast and it’s now less than a month away. What have you done so far?

Unintended…

Last Saturday, my girl had to attend a lunch function at this hotel in town…

Paramount Hotel, Sibu

…and I thought my missus and I could just go to the coffee house there for ours and hang around till Melissa was through with hers and we could all go home. Unfortunately, it was booked for some private function so we decided to just walk over to Sri Pelita instead. For the uninitiated, this is the first one in the block of shops to the right of Paramount Hotel along Jalan Kampung Datu.

I thought I would want to try the ayam penyet at the stall there but unfortunately, it was no longer on the menu and I did not feel like having the guy’s ayam madu (roasted honey chicken) or Hainanese chicken rice. In the end I settled for the nasi campur (mixed rice) and these were my selections…

My nasi campur platter

- a generous serving of the lamb curry with extra potatoes and this very nice fried fish, very fresh…

Fried fish

…and one egg…

Egg

…plus the fried mani cai/cangkuk manis

Cangkuk manis

Somebody commented on my Facebook page that this must be so spicy but no, actually, it wasn’t, not at all. The curry was more Indian-style, very nice but not spicy, not even a bit, and the egg came across like the gravy in the Chinese sweet and sour dish. And don’t let the chili slices on among the vegetables frighten you – that seems to be the predominant problem these days whereby chilies are not spicy, bitter gourd is not bitter and terung Dayak/lakia kio (Dayak brinjal) is not sour. What is the world coming to, I wonder? I would say that most, if not all, of the things in the spread here for the nasi campur are not spicy so those who are not thus-inclined would have no problem at all unless they do what we did – ask for their special sambal belacan

Sambal belacan

Now THAT was hot and with that special on-the-house accompaniment, it certainly was a delightful lunch for my missus and I!!!

Of course, it did not come cheap – not with 3 meat and 1 vegetable. The total came up to RM10.00 though I would confess that I helped myself to a little more of the lamb curry than I should. This is one of those help-yourself or buffet-style nasi campur places and that probably would be enough for two servings but you can’t blame me really – I just could not help myself when everything looked so good and I would have wanted everything if I could! My missus was more disciplined – she had the lamb curry and the cangkuk manis plus another vegetable, bayam – one meat and two vegetables only and hers was just RM3.00. Cheap, eh?

While we were eating, I saw that the kampua noodles stall was open. It was closed for the day the last time we were at this coffee shop and I had no intention of waiting till the next time I drop by to try so I ordered a plate to see if it was any good…

Halal kampua with beef

They had a choice of beef or chicken and I chose the former…and boy, it was astounding! I would say it was much nicer than the other halal kampua place that I like very much, the one where for RM1.00 more, you would get a few of their very nice prawn fritters. Never mind the absence of lard, the onion oil was so very fragrant that it would put some of the regular kampua stalls in town to shame. It was pretty obvious that they do not scrimp on the ingredients here unlike those places where they would do that for a bit of extra profit and in the end, what you will get was something rather toned-down and not really nice.

This was RM3.00 though, 20 sen more but of course, beef is expensive and you get more than those 3 or 4 very thinly sliced red-dyed boiled pork. People have been commenting in general about Sibu kampua noodles that when eating, one should switch of the fan as if it is turned on full blast, the meat would all fly helter skelter. Other than that, at those places, they will give you a small bowl of very bland soup which would come across like plain water with light soy sauce and msg added, that’s all. Here, you would get this so very delightful sup tulang (bone soup)…

Sup tulang

…that was so thick and rich, so very flavourful and a lot nicer than any sup tulang that I had had at any Malay stall elsewhere even. You can catch a glimpse of the chili sauce in the photographs too and I  am sure you would have noticed that they give you their own-made Thai-style sauce, not those boring bottled ones that you will get elsewhere.

No, no, all you sceptics and non-believers! You don’t have to take my word for it and go there to give it a try. Just stick to those places that you frequent and spare me the caustic sarcasm in your comments. This place is enjoying brisk business with so many people coming and going the whole time when we were there (and they have even taken over the shop next door to increase their seating capacity)…so it would not make any difference at all whether you do drop by or not. Period!

The Christmas shoes…

Nope! I did buy a new pair of shoes the other day but no, they were not for Christmas. You see, I had one pair of shoes – yes, you heard me right! I only had ONE pair of shoes and when we got home from the wedding banquet that night, I noticed that the outer layer/skin of the PVC/fake leather was peeling off…like some cockroaches in the house had been having a feast in the night while we were sleeping.

And yes, it was PVC, not leather. The last pair of leather shoes that I bought was in London in 1994 – Clarks no less. I had picked out a nice pair at a clearance sale for over RM90.00 but less than RM100.00. It was just RM3.50 to a £ at the time. After that one, I found wearing leather shoes excruciatingly painful so over the years that followed, I would only buy those PVC ones. They looked like leather but no, they were not leather and they were soft and nice to wear especially some that were padded/cushioned inside…plus they were cheap – around RM39.90 a pair only.

So, that day, I went to this megamall…

Chirstmas decor at Star Megamall 1

…to the branch of the shop there where I usually bought my shoes and never mind that people always say that the name stands for “Buy and throw away”, I find their shoes very comfortable, not painful at all so I would buy from them and nobody else…everytime. For one thing, there is some truth in what people say – when I was still working and I would use the shoes every day, they did not last very long – maybe around 3 or 4 months only but it did not matter to me as they were cheap and at least, I had an excuse to buy and put on a new pair of shoes quite frequently.

I found a pair that was padded inside and looked very comfortable. I could not see the price tag so I asked the young shop assistant and he said, “RM90.00!” I looked at the sticker stuck to the sole – it read, “RM89.90.” I did not say a thing…and asked for my size. I wear size 10…and they only had 8 and 11…no 9, no 10. I tried the 11 and it was way too loose, very comfortable but no, they were too big for me. That was why I had to pick another one of the correct size that also seemed quite soft inside. It was on sale and I got a 50% discount…and ended up paying RM44.99 for that pair. Gosh!!! Gone are the days when I could get a pair for less than RM40.00…and it wasn’t even during a sale! Tsk! Tsk!!!

So now I have a new pair of shoes and I also got the chance to see the nice decor that they had put up at this mall for Christmas this year…

Christmas decor at Star Megamall 2

…and talking about Christmas and shoes brings to mind this very sad song – The Christmas Shoes” that I had blogged about many years ago in 2009. Well, if you have the time to spare (over one and half hours), perhaps you would like to watch the movie…

…but do not blame me if in the process, you use up a whole box of tissue paper.

Otherwise, you can just click the above link to hop over to that old post to listen to the song or watch this one here…

- the very sad and touching story is in the lyrics.

Let’s get to what’s real…

When my girl got back to town last Friday, I heard that she went to the franchise pizza place and was so disappointed with the seafood lasagna that she used to love a lot. They had a choice between beef and seafood before but eventually, they did away with the former which my girl actually preferred to the latter. I do know that owing to the poor quality control, there may be differences between outlets. She always complained about one in Sungai Petani and even here, she would prefer the one in the town centre after having had a few let-downs at the other outlet on the far side of Sibu.

Well, she went to the better of the two that day and she grumbled that they seemed to scrimp on the ingredients on the seafood lasagna now and instead of the tiny shrimps and whatever else, the one that she had that day had those imitation crab sticks instead. Between the two of them, she and her colleague, the bill came up to some RM60.00 plus…and with the 10% service charge plus 6% government tax, the total came up to around RM70.00!!!

Anyway, to make up for it, I decided to bring her here

Bistecca & Bistro, Sibu 1

…for lunch the next day – Saturday.

We did not want any steaks…

Bistecca & Bistro, Sibu 2

- I thought that would be a  bit too heavy for lunch and I, for one, would like to try something new instead of stuff that we had had before, nice though they might be. In the end, we ordered one Pizza Bracio di Ferro (RM29.00)…

Pizza Bracio di Ferro 1

…and yes, it was very nice. I don’t recall ever having any pizzas with egg on it like this…

Pizza Bracio di Ferro 2

…and I love eggs…and ham so to me, this one was a winner!

I had seen a photo of their new pasta dish with squid ink and it turned out to be their Pasta All’Nero (RM28.00)…

Pasta All'Nero 1

I was quite hesitant in ordering that as I had seen people sharing disgusting photographs of their black teeth after eating that and normally, when we buy squid, we would rinse and rinse to get rid of all the ink. However, my girl said she had seen and heard a lot of this squid ink stuff but she had never got to try – that was why, in the end, I relented and ordered it…

Pasta All'Nero 2

It was quite bland – not much taste at all which probably was a blessing in disguise as somebody said on Facebook that he tried it once somewhere and did not like the smell nor the taste.  This one that we had was all right, just that it did not have the wow factor and to me, it was not something I would be in a hurry to go back for more.

I cannot remember for sure if we had this before or not – their Pasta Tomato Amatriciana (RM19.00)…

Tomato Amatriciana 1

…which wasn’t too bad by us and anytime better than the one with the squid ink.

I’m not really a fan of tomato-based sauces for my pasta dishes…

Tomato Amatriciana 2

…but my girl loves it more than the rich and creamy carbonara ones. Anyway, there was bacon in this one and without fail, anything with bacon will get my double thumbs up.

The bill came up to RM76.00, a bit more than the previous day’s lunch for two and this time around, there were three of us and without a doubt, my girl enjoyed what we had here a whole lot more. I do hope they will add some lasagna selections to their menu one of these days and rest assured that we certainly would be making a beeline back to the place to give theirs a try!

That time of year…

It was that time of the year again when my ex-student, Julia, would be home from the UK for a few days…and like what we did last year, we arranged to meet one afternoon for tea. When it comes to afternoon tea, there are not many choices here in Sibu and we did not want to go back to the same place again and Julia decided to give this one a try since she had not been here before.

She thought the blueberry cheesecake (RM8.90)…

Blueberry cheesecake

…was good but she would have liked the green tea taste/fragrance to be stronger in the frappe (RM9.90)…

Green tea frappe

…that she had. I had the long black (RM5.00) which was all right by me and I asked for a slice of their turkey ham quiche (RM7.50)…

Turkey ham quiche 1

It certainly looked like they took the trouble to put in some effort and make it more presentable when they served it – I had expected it to come in a saucer or a small plate…

Turkey ham quiche 2

…and as far as the taste was concerned, I thought the chicken mushroom one that we had sometime ago when it was a franchise place was much nicer…but this one was o.k. too.

I must say that I loved the place though – it was not crowded and noisy and we could sit as long as we liked, chatting away and catching up with what each of us had been up to since a year ago. This certainly is a good choice for doing that. I particularly enjoyed talking about Plymouth where Julia is based at the moment and things way back in 1994 and are still around now, twenty years later in 2014, though I am very sure the city has changed a great deal and is no longer like what I knew it to be way back then. She stays around the Barbican/Plymouth Hoe or the harbour area and she knows the Church of Christ the King that I used to go to there

During my time, there were only two supermarkets…or at least, I only knew of two – Asda…and Tesco in the city centre. They have more now including Sainsbury’s which has come out with a very nice Christmas commercial for 2014…

With the theme – Christmas is for sharing, it commemorates 100 years since WW1 in 1914 and all profits (50p per bar) from the chocolate bar, available now at Sainsbury’s, will go to The Royal British Legion and will benefit the armed forces and their families, past and present. Personally, I feel it is like some epic war movie with a very meaningful message but I did not think it moved me as much as the John Lewis’ one did, plus it did not have a song…which I, being musically-inclined, would consider essential if it were to touch more hearts. In Shakespeare’s words, “If music be the food of love, play on!”

Anyway, going back to the place where Julia and I met for tea, I noticed that they had come out with some Christmas goodies for sale including these chocolate chip cookies…

Choc chip cookies

…and these gingerbread men…

Gingerbread men

Oops!!! Some had cracked, it seemed – they could have taken out those to let people try the bits as samples. At those prices, I  would expect them to be really very good and I certainly would not buy without having tried and confirming that it is really that good and worth forking out all that money for.

Anyhow, I already had these to enjoy…

M&S goodies from Julia

…all from Marks & Spencer. Thank you so much, Julia – I love their All Butter Viennese ones in the orange packs, my favourite, but I had never seen, much less tried, these blue ones before. Well, I had sampled a few pieces and I would say they were very very nice though I would very much prefer them without the chocolate coating on one side. My girl was so thrilled to see the all butter mintoes – she loves those a lot and of course, I let her take some back to her school after the weekend home. At the time of writing, the box of Belgian triple chocolate cookies has yet to be opened. Slowly does it! LOL!!!

It sure was nice seeing you again, Julia – too bad I had something on over the weekend when Judy would be back or I would have loved to get together one more time before you left town. That will have to wait till next year then…

I got you…

Not one to give up easily, I went back once again to this coffee shop and yes, the lady was around…but unfortunately, she did not seem to have anything ready. The first time I was there, they told me that she would come a bit later every day, past 9.00 a.m., as she would prepare most of the things at home to bring over to the shop. Well, it certainly did not look anything like it but I just asked, anyway, and was told that I would need to wait for around half an hour or so. Ok, I said, I would wait…

In the meantime, I decided to try the pan mee or 板麺, in Mandarin (RM4.00)…

Full Fortune Cafe, pan mee 1

I was wondering why it was thus called, seeing that it had got nothing to do with (frying) pans but according to Wikipedia, it is “a Hakka-style noodle, originating from Malaysia. Its Chinese name literally translates to ‘flat flour noodle’. It is part of Malaysian Chinese cuisine.” Hmmmm…interesting! I did hear before that it was hand-made and hand-torn but it seems that machine-made ones are available now, cut into strips like most regular noodles…

Pan mee

I was never a fan of the soup version so that was why I asked for it dry…

Full Fortune Cafe, pan mee 2

…and yes, it was very nice – definitely something I wouldn’t mind having again.

They gave quite a lot of the sayur manis/cangkuk manis so I took a bit of it and put it in the complimentary soup…

Lakia chai therng

…and it turned out to be like the lakia chai therng (Dayak vegetable soup) that my mum used to cook when I was small. For some reason or other, this vegetable is also called lakia chai and we loved to drink the soup as it would be so very sweet because of the vegetable…but we would leave all the leaves behind, much to my mum’s distress. LOL!!!

While I was halfway through, the lady approached my table, all apologetic and sorry that what I wanted would not be ready but no, I was not leaving without it! Tsk! Tsk! I just told her to carry on and we would see about it later…and I went on enjoying my pan mee. I had just finished when this was served (RM2.50)…

Full Fortune Cafe, popiah 1

…the popiah (spring roll) that I had been wanting to try!

The skin was not all that nice – in fact, it did not even look nice and I was wondering if it was one of those frozen ones available at the supermarkets, not something freshly-made locally. The filling was all right…

Full Fortune Cafe popiah 2

…and all in all, it was not too bad but unfortunately, it came nowhere near these awesome ones that I loved so much once. I heard that that lady is not based at any stall or shop anywhere now but anyone can call her to order and in fact, she does make them sometimes and goes around the shops and offices to sell, in packs of two. My missus met her at a bank once and she bought some home but I’m afraid they were no longer nice especially when she had packed them when still hot and by the time we ate them, it did not matter so much that they had gone cold but they had turned soggy in parts and were not all that palatable anymore.

On my way home, I spotted this in front of the mall near my house…

Delta Mall Christmas tree

I did see the Christmas decor outside a hotel in town as well but I have not been around so I wouldn’t know whether everyone has all gone full swing in their decoration and preparation for the festive season. Come to think of it, by this day next week, we would only have a month to go and the following week, another year would have gone by. Sigh!!!

No luck…

I said I would go back to this place to try the popiah (spring roll)…

Popiah

…but when I finally got down to it, the place was closed. I had no choice but to go back the following day and yes, it was open. According to the guy there, they only close once a month…and I just had to choose that day the drop by – that was the day before! No, that was not all! Despite the fact that it was business as usual in that coffee shop, the popiah stall was closed and the guy told me that the lady had some personal matters to attend to. Sighhhh!!!! It certainly looked like I was not destined to get to sample her spring rolls, after all.

Well, since I was there already, I thought I would try their kolo mee (RM3.80)…

Kolo mee 1

…with a special request not to add the char siew oil so that it would not be red – Rose‘s daughter had that the previous time I was here and looking at the comments,  a lot of people did not seem too comfortable with the colour.

This cost RM1.00 more than a plate of kampua noodles in most places but instead of the few paper-thin slices of red-dyed meat, this one had a lot more…

Kolo mee 3

- two pieces of meat and two fish balls and a whole lot of minced meat plus some green vegetables. But this time around, the chopped spring onions and fried shallots were not served separately in a saucer – maybe they only do that for children as some are not all that fond of those garnishings. My girl, for one, did not want any fried shallots when she was younger and even today, I don’t think she is all that fond of those.

I liked the complimentary soup that came with the noodles – at most places, all you would get would be something quite bland, just plain water with a bit of msg added. I did wish, however, that the guy had added some fried shallots and chopped spring onions to it though as they certainly would help enhance the taste and bring it to a whole new level. I also liked the chili in vinegar dip…

Pickled chili dip

…which you would get when eating the authentic kolo mee in Kuching. At many places here where they sell kampua noodles disguised to look like kolo mee, they would just give you the usual bottled chili sauce.

All in all, I enjoyed what I had…

Kolo mee 3

…but the next time I drop by here again, it will have to be the elusive popiah…or nothing. Tsk! Tsk!!!