Heads or tails…

Good Friday is a day of fasting and abstinence for us…but not for me. Being over 60 years old, I am exempted but yes, I do abstain from meat though not just on this day but every Friday throughout the year…as far as I can.

I read somewhere that fasting does not mean one has to go without food completely, just two snacks and one small meal in the day but anyway, we usually have a bite of something light in the morning, a cracker or a toast or an egg perhaps and nothing for the rest of the day, no lunch, no 10 o’ clock or 4 o’ clock tea and in the evening, we would have dinner as usual.

That was what we did this year too and at sundown, we went here for dinner

Nice House

…After the somewhat prolonged service that afternoon, the ladies were in a rush to go to the washroom and so they did, leaving me to grab a table and place the orders.

The rule in the past was not to eat meat on Fridays but we could eat fish instead. Maybe that was because fish came easy then and meat was more of a luxury – some of us would recall those times when we only had meat once a year, Chinese New Year! Times sure have changed and these days, some fish may be worth its weight in gold…so it would not be much of a sacrifice to go for fish and seafood instead of meat, actually.

They had lajong and as my girl did not get to enjoy that the last time I took her to go and have some, I decided to order that without a second thought. I was asked to choose whether I wanted the head or the tail. Hmmmm…I would have loved the head but when it comes to fish, my girl prefers the tail so that was what we had in the end…

Nice House steamed lajong, tail 1

I was wondering why I was given the choice. Usually, it would be one slab of it, big enough to go round and I was thinking that perhaps, they had run out of all that was in between and all they had left was the head part and the tail part. When it was served, it looked like it was a very small one cut into two – hence, the head or the tail but it was no matter, as despite the size, there was a lot of it to eat (RM21.00)…

Nice House steamed lajong, tail 2

…and it was very fresh – so smooth, so soft and so sweet – and we sure enjoyed it to the max. My girl was never a fan of steamed fish before this so that was why we never ordered it whenever we ate out – she did not mind those served at banquets that she got to attend but no, she would never ask for it. She must have enjoyed it so much that night that it prompted her to remark that now, she could understand why there were people who would go out of their way in search of places that served very nice steamed fish.

For the vegetable dish, I asked for the midin (wild jungle fern), ching chao (RM8.00)…

Nice House midin, ching chao

…which was nice but I spotted some very very thin strips of ginger in it. Normally, I would use ginger when I fry the ferns with our traditional Foochow red wine but for ching chao, it would just be finely-chopped garlic. I guess there is no steadfast rule as to what goes where and when – to each his own.

Knowing how my girl loves sotong (squids), I ordered this big plate of salad sotong (RM10.00)…

Nice House salad sotong

…for her to enjoy and indeed, she did! In fact, she said that she liked that more than the very nice honey pepper prawns (RM12.00)…

Nice House honey pepper prawn balls

…that we also had.

That was supposed to be the “small meal” for the day and when I was ordering, I kept emphasising to the lady that I wanted everything very small, just enough for two…and she kept saying yes. I would say the servings would be enough for 4 or 5, at least. I wonder if one can order servings enough for one or not – otherwise, the next time around, I would have to drag along one or two other persons…and order enough for two. Anybody keen on tagging along? LOL!!!

Back to work…

The one-week mid-term holidays were coming to the end and it was almost time for my girl to head back to work. That was why I wanted to take her some place for a specially nice lunch, one where she could get to enjoy what she truly loved…and in the end, she chose to come here for her favourite spinach and egg pizza (RM28.00)…

Bistecca & Bistro spinach egg pizza

…aka the Bracio di Ferro.

I know jolly well that she loves lasagna a lot but that day, she was hesitant and did not want to order that…and knowing her only too well, I could guess the reason why – these things do not come cheap and she insisted the pizza would be enough for our lunch. That was why I just went ahead and asked for it (RM18.00)…

Bistecca & Bistro lasagna 1

…anyway and of course, she enjoyed it so very much…

Bistecca & Bistro lasagna 2

…and of course, that pleased me…a lot!

The mum wanted the teriyaki chicken chop (RM16.00) that she had before and enjoyed very much so we had that too. Yes, it was nicely done, very fragrant from the grilling…

Bistecca & Bistro teriyaki chicken chop 1

…and we loved the coleslaw a lot too. It sure was different from when she had it before

Bistecca & Bistro teriyaki chicken chop 2

…and we would say it was very much nicer this time around.

The following day, Sunday, we sent here back to her school but it ain’t so bad actually as time really flies and it is already Maundy or Holy Thursday today so she will be coming back again this afternoon. Tomorrow, Good Friday, is a public holiday here in Sarawak and the school is taking Easter Monday off, so it will be an extended long weekend here for us. Nice!!!

Pick one…

My girl wanted to go back to this place again that day to see what other pasta dishes they have on their menu. She had the Alfredo the last time and I ordered the house pasta with extra roast pork minus the prawns for her and the mum to try and yes, they liked it.

Water is on the house and this time around, they came in these nice mugs…

Eternal Dining mugs

We promptly placed our orders and sat there waiting.

In the meantime, the nice waiter assumed that we would be sharing so on his own accord, he gave each of us one of those smaller individual plates. I do appreciate his initiative – that, I must say, is very good – but unfortunately, I noticed that one of the plates was chipped…

Eternal Dining chipped plates

They should ask the people concerned to be more careful in handling the crockery and considering the fine dining prices that they charge, if they want to maintain their image as a classy place, they should get rid of all those chipped plates and not use them anymore. Actually, I spotted one the first time I was here but I did not mention it…but just in case it is starting to become a habit, that has left me with no choice this time around.

I ordered the aglio olio pasta with chili flakes (RM18.00)…

Eternal Dining aglio olio pasta with sausage

…and asked for their very nice homemade sausage (RM23.00) that I had the first time I was here for the ladies to try. They liked it, tasted something like those chorizo sausages, they said. The pasta was more or less like what they call their house pasta but it was nice and we enjoyed it very much.

My girl picked the seafood cioppino (RM39.00)…

Eternal Dining seafood cioppino 1

…and that came with one HUGE freshwater prawn – if you go for those overrated very popular prawn noodles in town or elsewhere, one this size (cut into halves to make it look like you’re getting two) would set you back by at least RM30.00 or perhaps even RM50.00. There were also some of those not-very-cheap mussels…

Eternal Dining seafood cioppino 2

…and sotong (squids) in the pasta…and yes, it was nice but personally, when it comes to tomato-based sauces, I would prefer bolognese even though I am not entirely fond of that either.

My missus ordered their baked cheese rice (RM17.00)…

Eternal Dining porky baked cheese rice

…with pork from their set lunch menu so it came with a free drink, one ice-cold Ribena – it is a little cheaper if you opt for chicken and another option that I can’t quite remember now, fish, I think. They certainly were very generous with the meat and of all the three, I thought this one was the nicest of the lot.

I spotted some guys at the bar section enjoying the German pork knuckle but it was so huge that the 5 or 6 of them could not finish. It looked really very nice but I think I would have to find a few people to come here together with me if ever I were to get to try that.

All in all, it was a good lunch albeit a little heavy, service was great – everyone was very pleasant and friendly and other than the chipped plate that would call for a bit of attention on their part, we did have to wait quite a bit for everything to be served (but my more-patient girl retorted that great food would take a bit more time) plus I do wish they would turn down the music a bit. Maybe they can turn up the volume after 9.00 p.m. perhaps for those there for the drinks…

Better place…

This café has been around for a long time now, going way back to 2009, and the food is pretty good but I do not drop by all that often as parking in that area is almost impossible in the daytime and on a few of my previous visits, I was quite put off by the service like on this occasion and this one, for example. It actually surprised me greatly that it, in fact, won the Sarawak Hornbill Tourism Award in 2011.

However, that morning after we had sent my cousin and her hubby to the airport for their flight to Kuching, we decided to check out the shops in the area around Tunku Abdul Rahman Road, Lane 8B, right before you reach the mega-mall along that same road (on the left if you are coming down from the airport) as I did gather somehow somewhere that they had opened a branch there  and I was right (2.305251, 111.866347)…

Islamic Nyonya Kafe, branch

I asked the lady and she said that this outlet…

Islamic Nyonya Kafe, inside

…was not air-conditioned initially but they closed it down for renovations and had just reopened in January, before Chinese New Year.

They even have a water feature outside…

Islamic Nyonya Kafe, water feature

…and I was wondering about its position and direction – probably at the angle, the feng shui is better, I wouldn’t know.

I can’t say that I was all that fascinated by the decor though I did think the birds…

Islamic Nyonya Kafe, birds

…were very nice and I would use those very nice watering-can vases…

Islamic Nyonya Kafe, watering-can vases

…to plant something that is easy to grow to replace those fake ones.

Thankfully, the service was very good and we got our orders very fast – that sure was a far cry from the not-so-pleasant experiences that I went through at the original place.

I remember they had what they claimed to be the biggest roti canai in the country and yes, they did have that too here in their menu so I ordered one to share. The nice guy said I could take photographs of the process and I did…

Making roti canai 1
Making roti canai 2
Making roti canai 3
Making roti canai 2

Yes, we all were in agreement as to the fact that it was very nice (RM8.90)…

Islamic Nyonya Kafe, roti canai - large

…served with the usual dhal dip, curry gravy and sambal ikan bilis.

They had so many lunch sets to choose from but the lady boss, for whatever reason, did not want me to photograph the display of all of them right in from of the shop.

My girl had Set No. 32, the nasi bryani kambing  or the bryani rice, mutton (RM12.00)…

Islamic Nyonya Kafe bryani kambing

…and while the rice was very nice and so was the curry, unfortunately, the meat…

Islamic Nyonya Kafe, mutton curry

…was rather tough.

I had Set No. 30, the nasi lemak (RM12.90)…

Islamic Nyonya Kafe, nasi lemak

…and again, while the rice was very nice, very fragrant and rich with the santan (coconut milk), the chicken was over-fried…

Islamic Nyonya Kafe fried chicken

…till it was dry and hard plus the peanuts had gone all soft, not nice and crusty…and yes, pray tell me – where was the egg? Those very thin strips of yellow in the rice, was that omelette? Frankly, I do think we can get nicer nasi lemak at many other places in town and personally, my favourite would be the one here at slightly less than half the price…with half a hard-boiled egg!

My missus chose Set No. 37, the honey chicken rice set (RM8.90)…

Islamic Nyonya Kafe honey chicken with rice

…and this turned out to be the best of the lot. The chicken was really delicious but there wasn’t any sauce to go with the rice. Thankfully, there was the curry gravy that came with the roti canai.

Iced barley water was RM2.80 a glass and iced water, 50 sen…and the music that day, which I thought was rather loud, was the complete soundtrack from this Bollywood movie – I shall deliberate no further on this.

Well, there are ample parking spaces here and it is free but considering the location, we probably would not be dropping by again all that soon unless we happen to be in the vicinity or are passing by like that morning when we went there.

You got it all…

Well, not really! According to my cousin, they do not have an Indonesian place in Brisbane, Australia and just one Malaysian food outlet called Little Nyonya Kitchen or something or is it Singaporean…and then, there is that kampua noodle place that started off in Perth but she doesn’t think it is all that great – the son and daughter-in-law drop by quite often though, she said. It is AUD9.50 a plate there, AUD8.50 in Melbourne and AUD7.50 in Perth (and the chao chai hung ngang is AUD13.50 a bowl) so even without conversion, it is VERY expensive compared to RM3.00 or less here especially when they make their own noodles, not imported from here or anywhere else.

That was why I thought I made the perfect choice in taking them here for dinner on their second night in Sibu. I had not been here for quite a while myself for no particular reason other than the fact that somehow or other, we just did not drop by.

I ordered the sets to share…

cabeijo lalapan set

– one with the fried chicken (RM9.50)…

cabeijo ayam gurih

…and the other with the deep-fried bawal/duai hitam or black pomfret (RM16.50)…

cabeijo lalapan duai

…and the third one, the ayam bakar (barbecued/grilled chicken), RM12.50, and I stressed in no uncertain terms to the young and handsome waiter that I would not want it overcooked, dry and hard and yes, it was absolutely perfect this time – very nice, just like when we had it the first few times we were here. The skin was burnt though and I had that – it was extra-fragrant with the caramelised marinades on it and I was glad it was just the skin and the rest of the chicken thigh was fine. I’m afraid the photograph turned out blur and I did not take one of the sup tulang or beef bone soup (RM13.50)…

cabeijo sup tulang
*Archive photo*

…that we had either but it was pretty good.

I also ordered the Sarawak Melanau delight, the umai (RM15.00)…

cabeijo umai

…and the kerabu paku or wild jungle fern (RM10.00)…

cabeijo kerabu paku

…instead of the midin as we had that for dinner the night before and I thought they would welcome the change. Hooray!!! They are no longer using those cheap small and thin ikan bilis with the beady eyes that they had before, the ones that they are using for their nasi lemak here – unless they too have switched as well. I would give them a pat on the back for that!

They do charge that 6% GST now – I am not so sure but I think they did not do that on my previous visits but it was all right. Everyone enjoyed everything and our visitors from Down Under were full of praises of the unique and delightful cuisine and they absolutely enjoyed the three sambals, the prominent feature in this place – they would not be able to find anything like this back home.

It sure was lovely having the two of them around – so many things to eat, so many places to go to and so little time. I hope they will come again soon and will stay a little longer next time.

You took me by surprise…

My cousin and her hubby from Brisbane, Australia went on a 12-day cruise from Singapore to Brunei, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and back after which they flew to Kota Kinabalu, Sabah and then to Miri to visit her brothers and their families…and from there, they took a bus to Sibu.

When they were about to arrive, I went to the bus terminal to wait for them. While I was standing there, a handsome young man walked up to me and said he was a regular reader of my blog and he said he would always refer to it to see where he could get to eat some nice things when in Sibu. I asked him his name and he said Kennedy, from Kuching. Now, that was indeed a surprise but yes, it was nice of him to come up and introduce himself. I bet there are others/many who would just pretend they do not know me.

As soon as the bus arrived and after seeing to some things they had to do around here, I sent my cousin and her hubby to the hotel and she asked me and my family to join them for dinner at 7.00 p.m. and for old times’ sake, she wanted to drop by this restaurant opposite the hotel where they were staying.

We were in luck! Normally, they would only serve their very popular Hainanese chicken rice – my cousin loves this a lot – for lunch but they did have some available so that was what we had – the very nice steamed corn-fed chicken…

Steamed corn-fed chicken

…with the rice.

While waiting for the food, after placing our orders, we were served these…

Starters

I don’t recall ever having the pickled cucumber before and I can’t say it swept me off my feet – I do prefer the braised peanuts a lot more.

My cousin wanted the chess/checker board duck…

Chess or checker-board duck

…and of course, when you’re in Sibu and you’re in this restaurant in particular, you simply must have their Sibu Foochow-style sio bee (meat dumplings)…

Sibu Foochow-style sio bee

For our vegetable dish, we had the fried midin

Fried midin

– their third time having these wild ferns since they arrived in Sarawak and they were determined to enjoy it as many times as they could before leaving the state and country to head for home.

 As for the soup, it had  to be the Sibu Foochow-style tofu soup with those canned oysters…

Tofu soup with canned oysters

…and they sure were very generous with those.

We certainly enjoyed the dinner though it was rather heavy for the five of us. We actually requested for small servings and asked them to cook for three and looking at the amount we got, we’d probably have to reduce that to two next time. But we had a great time talking about this and that and catching up with everybody’s lives and when it was time to leave, my cousin’s hubby went to the counter to settle the bill.

What a pleasant surprise we got when the cashier informed us that everything had been paid. Goodness gracious me!!! It so happened that an ex-student of mine, now a lawyer by profession, was having dinner there as well and he so very kindly and generously picked up the tab for us. Gee!!! Thank you so much, Iggy – I do appreciate the gesture very much but please don’t do it next time – my heart may not be able to take any more surprises like this. LOL!!!

And I really must thank my cousin too for these…

Aussie Tim Tams

…that they brought all the way from Australia and these sweet treats from the cruise…

Cruise chocs and sweets

…plus some stuff from Miri as well. It certainly was great to see the two of them again.

Life is sweet…

I got a notification from wordpress yesterday, wishing me a Happy Anniversary! Oh? The day went past without my noticing it, 7th March (it was the 7th in the US yesterday) which means that I’ve been doing this for 8 years now, beginning in 2008 and still going strong, I guess – coming up to 3,000 posts and almost 2 million views, with over 360,000 visitors and a current total of over 80,000 comments. Not bad, eh, this old guy? Wink! Wink!

Well, coincidentally, we dropped by this place…

Nica gelateria, Sibu 1

…in town so perhaps I can consider that to be a mini-celebration of sorts. This is not exactly new and by now, many would have dropped by here already – it had its soft opening quite sometime ago before Chinese New Year.

All this while, I had never had the chance to go and check it though but on Monday, I had to drive all the way to get my girl from her school as she is having something on here in Sibu – yesterday and today. She was supposed to follow a colleague back, one who commutes daily as his family is in Sibu but he took the day off because the kid was down with fever. When we came back to town, I asked my girl if she would like some gelato and she did!

So there we were…

Nica gelateria, Sibu 2

…my first time here. This is actually an extension of or a spin-off from this place that I do like and frequent quite a lot. Obviously, they have been doing so well that they have decided to set up a new place specialising in macarons…

Macarons

…mille crepes…

Mille crepes

…cakes and coffee…

Coffee

…and of course, gelato…

Gelato

My girl did stop by a couple of weeks ago and she bought three scoops home – the salted caramel, cream cheese and pistachio and yes, we did enjoy all of them very much, a lot more than the ones we had here sometime ago.

This time around, I chose the Volcano Gelato (RM19.80)…

Volcano Gelato

…3 scoops and I picked the cream cheese, banana and salted caramel.

My girl went and poured the chocolate in long thin lines on the gelato…

Chocolate

…and it hardened instantly…

Hard

…upon contact with the cold. Hmmmmm…interesting!

For one thing, the way it was served, one would need to eat the two scoops on top first before one will be able to get to the scoop at the bottom and for another, I do think they would need to look into their quality control – we loved the salted caramel before but this time around, we found it a tad too salty and there was only a slight hint of the caramel taste. The cream cheese was nice and I loved the banana!

My girl has the double scoop Brussel waffle (RM17.80)…

Double scoop Brussel waffle

…and she opted for her favourites – the cream cheese and the salted caramel but of course, the latter was a disappointment that day…and we did not like the waffle either. I did hear word going round that the waffles here were not nice and a friend mentioned on Facebook that theirs are not the regular ones that we know and love. He said that theirs are “yeasted waffles”, whatever those are and when he had it, the smell of yeast was so very strong that he did not enjoy it at all. Well, it was not strong on the yeast when we had it but it was salty and not anything we would want to have again.

My missus had the clown gelato (RM15.80)…

Clown gelato

…and she loved the mango flavour that she picked.

Actually, you can sample all the flavours available…

Tonda

…before deciding on what you want. They are kept in this display freezer called the tonda (I understand there are only 2 in the country, one in KL and the other one here so that means it is the only one in East Malaysia) at a specific temperature…

Digital thermometer

…and they will let you try each of them on those little plastic spoons like at those ice cream places. I actually liked the teh tarek (the brown one) but they were running out of that at the time so I did not order it…while the peanut butter made me think of me poking my finger into the bottle and taking out some to eat just like that. They do not have this for the proper freezing process required at the old place so that was why the gelato I had there was served hard and I had to wait a bit before I could eat and enjoy it.

I noticed an interesting phenomenon while I was taking a photograph of the digital thermometer. The digits kept running and changing and when I looked at the real thing, the figures were, in fact, constant. I asked the guy and he did not know about this – he even tried with his smartphone camera and yes, that same thing happened too! Actually, it was negative something, – 14 or somewhere around there. If I am not wrong, they did say that ideally, it should be kept constantly at -12.

I did order their coffee, the long black, cold (RM7.90) and I thought it was good but no, we did not order any of the lattes or whatever. Iced water was on the house and yes, they do charge the 6% GST here…unfortunately.

Well, if you are wondering what the differences between gelato and ice cream are – no, they are not the same, you can take a look at this chart here…

Gelato facts

…that I got from their Facebook page. Well, others may want to differ but I would prefer it with macaron, the way I had it once at the old place…