Take my breath away…

For dinner that night on the day the guys from Kuching arrived in Sibu, they wanted to go some place else but I was the chauffeur and I insisted that we went here (2.283419,111.833454) instead…

Payung Cafe decor

…so they did not have much of a choice. Hehehehehe!!! The moment they stepped into the place, they were stunned by the breathtaking exotic and ethnic decor and started taking photographs of every nook and cranny while I stood around and waited till they were done. So impressed was Gerald, with his background as an artist and officer in charge of Sarakraf, that he candidly and spontaneously remarked out loud, “This is what tourists would love to see!”

There was a party in their air-conditioned private function room on the second floor upstairs and since the guests had not arrived, I urged them to go up…

Payung Cafe up the stairs

…and have a look. Of course I just waited for them downstairs – walking is not in my vocabulary, much less climbing up stairs. LOL!!! When they came down again, they showed me the photographs that they had taken, full of praises and admiration of what they had seen.

For our dinner, I ordered my missus’ favourite, their green chicken curry…

Payung Cafe green chicken curry

…and yes, they all loved it a lot right down to the inclusion of the long beans and terung pipit (pea eggplant) in it! Besides his artist background, Gerald was also a restauranteur with an authentic Thai chef working under him and this was his comment on this dish when I shared the above photograph on Facebook: “Authenticity in taste is very important for me. Variations may come in as a unique individual signature but it should not be too far off if it carries the name. This one is close enough.

But of course, they never declare that this is the celebrated Thai favourite – there is no mention of that in the name of the dish and I would dare say that it may be even nicer than those at some self-proclaimed Thai restaurants that I had been to. That is the beauty of this place – it is not devoted to any specific cuisine though the dishes served here may be “inspired” by some popular dishes of some countries – a few of the names have been retained, not all, but the thing is they have been adapted, improved upon to make it their own like their otak-otak, for instance…

Payung Cafe otak-otak

One of the guys saw it on the menu and straightaway, he said that he wanted that to see if it was any better than what he had at Tangkak. I told him that the one here is unique, not the same as any other – north, south, east or west…and even if he had not said that he wanted it, I would have ordered that for them to try as it is definitely one of the best that this place has to offer. He loved it so much and sang its praises on and on while helping himself to more and more! I would say that he actually finished most of it himself.

Nobody touched the mushroom roll…

Payung Cafe mushroom roll

…when it was served until one of them tried and got all excited. It’s not soft, he said, it is crispy and so very nice, served hot from the oven. Upon hearing that, everyone tried and everyone loved it! They were trying to guess how it was done but I told them not to bother as my missus had tried and failed. This is a Payung original creation, one of the bestsellers at this cafe, and though it is classified under “western” probably by virtue of the fact that a lot of parmesan cheese is used in the preparation, I would not think it can be categorised as such nor is it really all that Asian – it’s just Payung!

Now, because they were all from Kuching and obviously had had their fair share of some very nice kacang ma chicken there, they were not very impressed by the one here…

Payung Cafe kacang ma chicken

One said that the leaves were not fried enough and another would like it a little more “hiam” (with a lot more ginger). Well, this is the only place here where this is available on a regular basis so at least, visitors/tourists can get to sample a bit of the traditional comfort food for convalescing women in confinement in Kuching, if they are not heading that way or have missed it there before coming to Sibu. For one thing, perhaps, this may go down better with those first-timers who have yet to acquire the taste for the local culinary delight as it is a little milder than those that the die-hards would prefer. I should have ordered the Payung fish for them instead – the ikan keli (catfish) cooked in what I believe to be the Foochow style – with soy sauce and ginger and at home, we would usually add the traditional Foochow red wine…or brandy, X.O. no less!

The Payung rojak

Payung rojak

…was a hit and it certainly is nothing like the regular ones that most everybody would be familiar with. There are no pineapples, no sengkuang/mangkuang (turnip) but there are the cucumber and tofu puffs…alongside the cabbage, four-angle beans, the torch ginger flower petals and belimbing (starfruit) leaves. The sauce may look similar but the one here is not sweet plus it is cooked. It so happened that I dropped by one afternoon sometime ago and I saw the boss’ elderly auntie cooking one huge cauldron of it! Unfortunately, she was done or I would have loved to watch to see the ingredients that went into the pot and how she went about cooking it.

The boss, Peter, served us this complimentary ulam platter…

Payung Cafe ulam

…with his very special sambal that all of them loved to bits! I cannot remember exactly but if I am not wrong, this was the sambal that he learnt how to make from his friend’s mum in Myanmar and he changed it a bit to come out with his own version of it.

That was also the same with the dessert that I ordered, the Dreamy Nite…

Payung Cafe dreamy nite

He would not reveal the recipe when I asked him and he only said there were oats in it and also that it was originally an Indian dessert but it was way too sweet so he had to cut down the sweetness drastically and I would not know what else he did but I sure liked the final outcome and so did everybody else that night.

The belimbing prawn spaghetti…

Payung belimbing prawn spaghetti

…is, of course, a 100% Payung original as well, none like it anywhere else, and we requested for it to be extra spicy. With every mouthful of it bursting with the blend of flavours of the exquisite ingredients used, of course, everyone enjoyed it to the max, no doubt about it…and on top of it, like everything else here, this is msg-free.

Gerald was indeed so very impressed and that prompted him to make these remarks on my album on Facebook:
Creativity and innovativeness in managing surprises is what I am after. I witnessed and experienced all the five senses of sight, taste, smell, sound, and feel hereI can feel the intense effort of the owner in trying his best to create a piece of heaven in each dish. Some restaurant owners create heaven in pricing and compromise on ingredients while others try to tag fusion into their menu and add diversity into their so-called “creation”. But at the end of the day, smart owners will just be creatively sincere in the best of their knowledge to the right combination…I don’t mind to fly to Sibu with my loved ones just to pay Payung a visit, because I feel and see so much of what a good eatery should be in here.” Need I say more?

Peter also treated us to his paku (jungle fern) in santan (coconut milk)…

Payung Cafe paku lemak
*Archive photo*

…but the photograph came out blur so I am using an old one here.

The highlight or climax of the evening had to be the moment when Gerald has his first spoonful of the durian ice cream…

Payung Cafe durian ice cream 1

He had a scoop of the vanilla ice cream and the fresh durian cream inside and that literally took his breath away…completely and rendered him absolutely speechless. All he could manage to say eventually was, “Wowwww!!!!”

Service was excellent – every dish came pretty fast and each time, a waiter put down a dish on the table, he would say what it was. The empty plates were quickly removed and we were served glasses of iced water to go with the desserts even without our asking for them. The nice ambiance was there, as always, and the beautiful and soothing keroncong songs sure helped to create a mood that matched the food and everything perfectly. I do not know if they will win the coveted award or not in the end – that will depend on the decision made by the committee eventually but on my part, I do feel very strongly that for all that there is to see, experience and enjoy at this little cafe here in good ol’ Sibu town, for both locals and visitors and tourists alike, they sure do deserve the recognition and acknowledgement.

Well, that wasn’t all! The next day, after checking out from the hotel, seeing that Gerald loved the durian ice cream so much, I took them back to the place for another round of that – one for the road…

Payung Cafe durian ice cream 2

You can see the fresh durian cream inside in the above photo.

I also got them to try the jelly pisang

Payung Cafe jelly pisang

….something that goes back a very long way to my teenage years when it was THE drink that everyone would order at the coffee shop (minus the scoop of ice cream) where all of us used to hang out and many of us from the time, including those residing in other towns in the country and others coming home from abroad, would drop by here just for this for old times’ sake.

Again, the nice and generous boss, Peter, treated us to something while we were there – their mango ice cream…

Payung Cafe mango ice cream

…with fresh local mango (quinee) cream, inside. No, they do not serve it like this and no, I did not do that – I never do such things. All that I would do is to just click…click and eat. The guys did it!!! *pointing the accusing finger* LOL!!!

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Author: suituapui

Ancient relic but very young at heart. Enjoys food and cooking...and travelling and being with friends.

32 thoughts on “Take my breath away…”

  1. I really like how they decorated the stairway! 🙂

    That’s Payung for you – out of their own initiative, going that extra mile. They do not have to do it…but they always do.

  2. Oh wow! I totally want to try that durian ice-cream. I can almost smell and feel it in my mouth dy… 😦

    Told you to come over, lots to offer. You’re just like the guys, and most everybody else – what is nice in Sibu, nothing nice in Sibu – I hear that all the time.

  3. I love the first picture! Very artistic. 😉

    Been there for a long time now, took an artist to spot it. I never noticed how nice it was before till I saw him taking photographs and showing off to everybody how nice it looked.

    1. pointing that accusing finger again ai? yup, that is just me…… i just couldn’t resist capturing beauty around me…… and I am allergic to colors, they make me itchy….. for keeps…..lol

      I get what you mean. Some places are painted in such blindingly striking bright colours that can be quite an eyesore. Probably will go down well with the more vibrant young crowd but I prefer soft soothing pastel colours. This place, the boss left it to the workers – the ones who did the colour chalk drawings on the wall. They painted the inside with a nice shade of green and the wall by the side on the outside in blue, probably symbolising the land, the jungle…and the sea. Nice, eh?

  4. Payung! Wow to think Gerald says it is worth it to fly to Sibu just to eat at Payung. The way you phrase the sentence that you don’t know whether it will win – does it mean Payung has already been nominated for the award and was on the list to be visited?

    It is in their list.

  5. walking is not in your vocabulary eh? Tsk tsk.. 😛

    Do i see the durian ice cream in a bun up there? Drools, I need one of that now!

    No, it isn’t. That is why when I hop over to KL, I hope some kind soul will offer to chauffeur this old man around in his flashy luxury limo. Hint! Hint! 😀

    Bun? What bun? Gee!!! You need new glasses. It is fresh durian cream enclosed in vanilla ice cream.

  6. Beautiful place. I love it. A great place for nice photoshot. And food is something nowhere to find in Kuching.

    Indeed. Not in Kuching, not anywhere else. It is uniquely Payung!

  7. My love for Payung, from the food to the decor & of course your photography skills too. Every dish looks simply awesome. Hopefully they will win the award.

    I do hope so too.

  8. So many dishes that i would love to try here! Too bad there isn’t any direct flight from Pg to Sibu right now 😦

    Yes, that’s one thing I have been wishing for ever since my girl was in SP, had to go via Penang. Transit stops at KLIA or LCCT were such a chore, a real nuisance. 😦

  9. I must whatsapp Mama Kucing liao, ask her when wanna go Sibu… hehehe…

    Why can’t you come on your own, drag a few of your Singaporean friends along? They will thank you for it, I tell you. Like those who came – they liked it so much that they came again…a couple of months later, via Senai, JB…very cheap.

  10. The ice cream part is interesting, especially the durian one, not many place has it

    Not the food? Maybe you are not adventurous, not into any exotic stuff? The mushroom roll should be good for you and there are a few items on their menu for those more mildly-inclined.

    Dunno of any durian ice cream elsewhere other than the durian essence-flavoured ones at the supermarkets but I do know of fresh durian with pulut in place of the mango in Thai dessert and isn’t there some place where they add fresh durian to cendol? This one, they make use of fresh durian cream – they cook it so it can keep longer in the freezer…and they cannot cook too long or it will taste like dodol, not as nice…and is available only while stocks last.

  11. i love your topmost photo … the play of shadow and light … the patterns are beautiful 😀

    Yes, the shadows on the wall and all. That standlight has been there for as long as I can remember and I’ve never given it a second glance. I guess it takes an artist’s eye to see what others may miss. Gerald took a few snapshots of it and gee!!! I thought it looked real nice so I went and snapped one of my own. Copycat,eh? Hehehehehe!!!!

  12. Well, how could your friends not be impressed with Payung, eh? Me over here just looking at photos from your current and previous posts, already longing to go there hee..hee… From what your friend Gerald wrote, it appears that this gentleman is also very articulate.

    Come, come…make your plans, hop over for a few days. You will not regret it, I assure you.

    Yes, his English….ummmmm…no comment. Hehehehehe!!!!

  13. Not only has this place got an excellent menu, but it also plays keronchong music! I have a small collection of keronchong from the fifties and try to get some cds when ever I go to Singapore. Not much there though.

    I love keroncong – it is so soft, soothing, so melodious. I remember the late Kartina Dahari from Singapore and one of my all-time favourites, Terkenang-kenang.

    The ones they play here are mostly old English favourites sung keroncong-style. I shared with my friend in KL and he loved them so much, went and downloaded from dunno what website – 4 cd’s and he made copies for me…and I also made copies for them to play at Payung. I do think that at a place like theirs, they should play keroncong, no less.

    1. Thanks for the recommendation. I’ve found I can buy that online at the iTunes store (I’m an Apple user).

      Yes, I googled to see and saw that. I think there are 4 altogether: Safitri Keroncong in Lounge Vol. 1 to Vol. 4.

  14. LOVE the surroundings and decor! I will have to make it a point to do more with turnips and turnip greens soon!

    Lovely place indeed, not to be missed if anyone cares to drop by our little town.

  15. Dear uncle arthur,

    I will be traveling to Miri on business at the end of the month, was thinking of bringing down some of those ikea curry puffs from KL that you wanted to try and will freeze and send it to you via express bus from Miri to sibu, I presume I will need your contact details. I will inform you of the bus details once I’m in Miri and the arrangements hv been finalized, thank you,

    I trust this post shall not be published…you can just email your email contact if you prefer.

    Regards

    Erni

    Oh no!!! Please don’t go through all that trouble – I will hop over to KL someday and I can get to try them there. Best eaten fresh and piping hot from the wok, that’s for sure. Thank you so much for your thoughtfulness and for offering to do all that.

    I’ve taken note of your hp contact number and removed it from the comment – perhaps I can get in touch with you if ever I go to KL and we can meet up there. Do let me know if ever you will be here in Sibu – would be my pleasure to take your around for the best in town.

    1. No worries uncle Arthur, now that hv my contact pls feel free to call me whenever you are in kl..wil be my pleasure to take you around (guess ur right the curry puffs are best consumed pipping hot) and yes will make sure I contact u when I visit sibu in the future,

      Best rgds to u and ur family

      Erni

      Do drop by, most welcome anytime. Grab the zero fare or chep premier, cheaper than taxi fare from the airport to the town! Worth a trip, you’ll love it here.

      1. I am sure I will love it…haven’t been to sibu in many years – will be in touch….blessed weekend to you and your family…

        Thank you! Looking forward to that! 😉

  16. Interesting nobody touched the mushroom roll at the first instance, it will be different if I am there I love mushrooms and thats the first one to grab

    I guess it was not colourful…and they probably thought it was just like any other spring roll they had had – pretty common around here and they did not know this one here was very different and a whole lot nicer. As they say, never judge a book by its cover!

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