Gotta go home…

Everybody here would try their utmost best to come home for the Chinese New Year holidays despite the ridiculously astronomical airfares, never mind whether you are flying budget or on the self-proclaimed five-star airline. No matter what, many would make the way home to be with their loved ones – their family and friends during this auspicious festival in the year.

One of them is my ex-student, Xavier, who flew all the way back from the UK – he is currently in Cambridge and though he arrived a few days ago, we only managed to meet up the day before yesterday for tea here. Actually, I had something I had to see to so I had to drop by that afternoon and since we were there, I thought we might as well go there instead of making our way through the horrendously heavy traffic in town to go some place else.

Much to my surprise, all the bottles of kuih bangkit that I blogged about here had all been sold out…and they did have quite a lot! Truly, I am amazed!

Anyway, back to our tea, we had their garlic bread (RM8.00)…

Payung Cafe garlic bread

…which we enjoyed very much – even Xavier commented that the bread was great and I bet he had his share of some very nice ones over in England. I know the bakery where they get their loaves from but theirs are on special order, according to their requirements – one can’t just walk into the place and buy the same off the shelves. My girl had a slice by the side when she had their chicken chop not too long ago and she loved it too – that was why I went to ask where they got their bread from. The chicken sauce dip that came with the bread was very good as well and went very well with the bread!

Xavier wanted to try their rojak (RM10.00, small)…

Payung Cafe rojak

…so we had that…and he had my girl’s favourite – the pineapple ginger soda (RM8.00).

As for me, I decided to try their durian milkshake (RM8.00)…

Payung Cafe durian milkshake

…which was very rich, thick and creamy though I would have loved the durian fragrance to be a little stronger…but I may be biased as I am not really into milk-based drinks or drinks with milk. Personally, I would very much prefer their durian ice cream.

We were there for a long time, chatting away about anything and everything and that is what I like about this place – you can sit as long as you like – nobody will bother you. In fact, once I saw a Caucasian lady there, sitting by the side all by herself, having coffee and reading a book.  It is never crowded and noisy and there is no free wifi so you do not get a lot of those in groups, all engrossed in their own smartphones.

It sure was nice seeing you again, Xavier, and thank you for the somewhat intriguing box of chocolates…

Chocolates from Xavier

…all the way from, my guess, Heathrow. LOL!!! I’ve yet to open it though, saving it till all the festivities are over when I can sit down, relax and enjoy them slowly…one by one.

Another one who’s back in Sibu for Chinese New Year is Teck, all the way from Perth, Australia. He reads my blog regularly and comments too sometimes and he must have seen me lamenting about how we cannot get fresh beef here in Sibu and we have to buy the expensive imported frozen ones from Australia or New Zealand (or the smelly ones from God knows where…and some have been frozen so long that they have turned black and are beyond recognition) so he brought me some fresh beef…

Fresh beef from Australia

…all the way from Down Under. Goodness gracious me! Imagine him going through all that trouble to do that and he even drove to my house to pass it to me. Isn’t that so very nice?

I have not decided what to cook yet – since it is fresh, curry and the like would be out of the question. It would have to be something without all those overpowering ingredients so we would be able to savour the freshness and the sweetness of the meat. Thank you so very very much, Teck – and thank you for dropping by regularly to browse through what I share every day…and I do appreciate your thoughtfulness and good intentions but please, don’t trouble yourself so much in future. It really is such a hassle bringing fresh/frozen perishables especially when travelling, what more to say when one is flying long haul.

My niece is home too, from Singapore and she brought us these…

From Mary & Wilfred, Singapore

…and also the can of almond cookies from another ex-student, currently in Singapore and sadly, he is not able to come back this year. It most certainly is so sweet and thoughtful of you to send me something for the new year, Wilfred, a really nice gesture indeed – thank you so very very much.

Yes, it’s Chinese New Year’s Eve tomorrow. Everybody ready for the big bash?

I’m taking over…

There used to be a halal Chinese restaurant here probably owned by a Chinese Muslim convert as it had a Chinese name, somebody surnamed Low. I never went to try and neither did I hear of anybody talking about it except once when someone was ranting over the prices he or she was charged there. Eventually, it closed down and now, somebody else is taking over…

Keripan Cafe Sibu

I don’t know what that name means – the closest word in Malay that I know is lipan, centipede.

I guess they inherited everything that the previous owner had for her restaurant so generally, it looked like a nice place…

Keripan Cafe, inside

…though when we were there at around 11.00 a.m., I thought the place needed sweeping and the Italian-tiled pavement outside was in dire need of mopping. They had ashtrays…

Ashtray

…but it would be nice if they could do a little bit more than just the mere disposing of the butts.

Luckily, it was raining that morning so it was nice and cool. I did not see any fans inside, just a few outside above the pavement while inside, they had those air conditioner vents, obviously from the previous restaurant, but I doubt they would switch those on, seeing that the place was quite open.

Well, I have had conflicting reviews of the place – somebody went and had their nasi kerabu and shared the photograph on Facebook and he said, “Biasa aje!” (ordinary/nothing special). Then, I heard a friend raving about it saying that it was nicer than the ones that we would go for here. Like I have always said, one man’s meat is another man’s poison – to each his own so I just had to go there and find out for myself.

I had the nasi kerabu

Nasi kerabu Keripan Cafe

…with ayam percik (RM12.00)…

Ayam percik Keripan Cafe

…and as one can clearly see, they were not very generous with the special gravy or sambal and the sprinkling of the fish/grated coconut combo and I did not see any air budu either. The kerabu/ulam-ulaman or the raw vegetables could have been cut finer and they did not have some of those they had at that other place – like the ulam raja, for instance, that has its special fragrance and taste. The sambal cili was kind of diluted but one saving grace was that they had this stuffed chili…

Stuffed chili Keripan Cafe

…that they do not have at that other place. As for the chicken, it was over-tender, not very nice and too soft for my liking like the ones they had here, probably those cheaper frozen ones and for that very reason, I never went back to the latter again. Likewise, I am in no hurry to come back here and if I do, I certainly would not bother ordering the chicken the next time around.

My missus had the fish (RM7.00)…

Nasi kerabu ikan goreng Keripan Cafe

…and she did not say anything about it so I guess it was all right. This was more expensive that the ones with fish or chicken at that other place, just that it had the little bit extra – the stuffed chili so all in all, if it is nasi kerabu that we are looking for, I would much sooner go back to our regular place. The one here, this much I would say, is nice enough should one happen to be in the vicinity on a weekday – they only serve this on Saturdays at the other place – but unless you are all right with that kind of chicken, perhaps you should give that a skip and go for the fish.

Moving on from the post proper, I really must thank my cousin and his wife for the lovely traditional goodies…

From Ah Lek & Saliah

…that they went through the trouble of getting and giving us for Chinese New Year and also to my blogger-friend, Angeline, in Taiping Perak, for the card…

From Angeline

…that she sent and last but not least, thank you also to my ex-student, home from Penang for Chinese New Year, for the very nice acar

From Pek Hong

…that his mum makes and he never fails to give me some every year.

Count me in…

We were in the vicinity less than a fortnight ago and when we went again the other day, we noticed that there were at least two or three other cafés including this one…

Soft opening

…that had had its soft opening already and I think there was one, or maybe two, other coffee shops as well besides the two “food courts” that I mentioned in that earlier post…plus at least two hair salons.

With our frail economy the way it is right now, I really wonder if this is a good time to set up a business or maybe it is…as usually, there will be lots and lots of people coming home and and many others visiting Sibu too for the magnificent annual fireworks and firecrackers extravaganza at the stroke of midnight come Chinese New Year’s Eve so these places would probably enjoy brisk business at the time but they would have to make sure that they are a cut above the rest to keep the people coming back, those permanent residents, that is.

This time around, we dropped by here…

Wonderful Food Court

…and I had the char siew noodles (RM5.00)…

Char Siew noodles

…from one of the stalls there which I thought was good. I remember we used to get this here but the roast meat stall had been taken over by somebody else and I do not know where they had moved to now.

Just like the other one, they use their thick own-made noodles, something like those in the celebrated KL Hokkien mee but it was their char siew

Char siew

…that stole the show. I don’t know which part they used but the meat was tender and succulent and it really tasted great. I went to the stall to ask if they sold the char siew or not but they said no – one would only be able to have it with the noodles, take it or leave it.

There is a stall right beside this one selling roast meat with rice and they had char siew too…but it did not look the same so I did not bother getting any from there to try.

My missus had the claypot mee (RM6.00)…

Claypot mee

…from this lady who has shifted her stall from here where she was for a while. I heard she was originally at another shop in this same vicinity before so probably she stays around here and this new place would be a more convenient location…or perhaps the old lady and her kampua mee proved too much of a competition for anyone else setting up a stall at that same shop, I wouldn’t know.

Well, she did not use the usual yee mee so it did not have that special fragrance and taste. Instead, she used her own handmade noodles and I would say it was quite good, different but I thought it was not bad but there was too much for my missus to finish and no prize for guessing who had to finish it off. She left the egg behind – much to my delight and I did spot a few prawns and some minced meat balls in it. Well, anything with prawns doesn’t come cheap these days, that sure goes without saying.

Among the many others, there were a few most probably halal stalls there – one selling nasi lemak, another selling roti canai, one that dishes out all the fried stuff like fried noodles and the like and one selling nasi lalapan, ayam penyet…though I did not see anything that I would feel I would want to have.

Valentine…

We were heading to the town centre last Saturday in search of a nice place for lunch when we saw that some roads were blocked and there was a horrendous traffic jam so I took a detour and decided to drop by here but unfortunately, the guy selling the nice wat tan hor kway teow and all the fried stuff was closing for the day. Good grief! It was not even noon yet!!! Janggut was not around – I hear that usually, he would not be opened if he had some catering assignment to do – probably he had been enlisted to prepare all the pre-packed meals for the participants in that grand function at the town square across the stream – some big shot from the peninsula was in town.

In the end, we just decided to just drop by the hotel next door…

Paramount Hotel, Sibu

…and have a bite to eat at their Valentine Cafe…

Valentine Cafe

…there. It is actually quite a big place – I was only taking a photograph of the paintings on the wall and the lanterns they had put up for Chinese New Year. Yes, there were some decorations…

Chinese New Year deco

…for the festive season all over the café and also the hotel lobby.

Normally, I would not go and eat at hotels unless it is the venue for a wedding banquet or some kind of party…but I was here over a year ago and I had their potato tuna salad (RM11.00)…

Valentine Cafe potato tuna salad

…and it was nice so I thought we could have that and see what else they had on their menu.

They had a set lunch promo at the moment for only RM13.00 (excluding GST) and the things on the menu looked quite good so we decided to go for that. My girl and I had their spaghetti, mamak-style…

Valentine Cafe spaghetti mamak

…and hers was served first. It seemed that they cooked them separately, plate by plate and I had to wait for a while for mine to be served as my missus’ pineapple fried rice…

Valentine Cafe, pineapple fried rice

…was served next. It was very nice, a much better choice than the spaghetti, I would say…but the pasta was all right too, not anything to shout about but it was not bad.

My girl said that hers was kind of bland plus it was sour as she squeezed both the calamansi limes by the side…

Valentine Cafe spaghetti mamak

I tried a bit but thought it was fine. Mine had a stronger wok hei fragrance but it was a bit too salty for my liking. It sure looked like they were not all that consistent…but for one thing, I certainly would give them top marks for their presentation…

Vaelntine Cafe pineapple fried rice

They had other choices for their set lunch such as their kung pao fish or their black pepper chicken and there was also fried beef with ginger but we did not quite feel like having any of those.

You get a free drink (cordial) and an ice cream…

Valentine Cafe vanilla ice cream

…as well and if we deduct RM3.00, the price for that little cup at a coffee shop close by, the set lunch actually costs RM10.00 only, inclusive of a drink…and that is rather cheap for a hotel. That is why I don’t usually fancy eating at hotels – the prices can be quite steep while the food may be good but not quite sensational…plus I had had my fill of hotel food on my never-ending working trips before I retired.

However, the one here, I must say, is very reasonably-priced and what we had was ok which made me think that this would be a good place to get together with friends and hang around all afternoon to chat and catch up with one another. Unless they have a function going on, there are not many people around and the waiting staff is very nice and friendly.

So so…

First and foremost, I would like to thank my cousin and hubby and family in Perth, Australia for the very lovely Chinese New Year card…

Chinese New Year card from Perth, Australia

…that I received two days ago, exactly two weeks from the date it was sent, the one in the postmark. The monkey catches a fish, 年年有余, that’s nice, isn’t it?

Moving on to the post proper, this place (2.294135, 111.825980)…

Coffee shop sign

…in the Tuanku Osman area here, in the block of shops next to the one where this restaurant is located, seems to be very popular, judging from the crowd in the morning, Sundays especially. A long time ago, people were saying that the Malay stall there served the best mee jawa in town and at one time, I dropped by for the nasi lemak special whereby they served a bowl of curry or something else in a bowl by the side. I think I did blog about the latter – those days when I was still using my antique handphone and did not have any decently-nice photos but I can’t seem to find the post now.

On another occasion, we went there to try the fried kway teow with beef – if I remember correctly, the coffee shop proprietor himself was doing it but he has retired now and somebody else has taken over. The kopi-o-peng that we had was no good, unfortunately, not even remotely close to anything that I would want to have again.

Once, I heard that the kampua mee there was nice and then, there was talk going round that the kolo mee was good. That was why the other morning, when we happened to be passing by, we decided to stop there and we had their kolo mee special. It certainly did not look anything like any kolo mee that I had had before – they even had a few thin strips of beef tripe…

Tripe and fish balls

…and fried fish balls along with tofu stuffed with a teeny weeny bit of meat inside…

Tofu and meat balls

…and those frozen meatballs with the horrible smell and taste that I picked out of the bowl and left them all by the side…and they had pian sip in it too!

No, there weren’t any char siew nor minced meat (RM4.00)…

Kolo mee special

– none of the usual stuff one would find in a regular bowl of kolo mee…and no, it tasted nothing like it but yes, it was nice and I would say this much – that it was just so-so, at best a decently-all-right plate of kampua mee with all the add-ons.

It seems that the Malay stall at the back is still there and there is a guy at the middle stall selling all the fried stuff and what we saw him serving to the other tables around us did look rather nice. We would give that a try should we happen to be around here again.

Alternative…

I have the feeling that many true blue Sibu born and bred have made their way back home for the forthcoming Chinese New Year as I see a lot of people at the malls, heavy traffic on the road…or maybe, they are all those from the nearby towns making their way here to do their shopping to prepare for the festive season.

After the sunset church service last Saturday evening, my girl wanted to drop by here for dinner but when we glanced inside, it looked like the place was full…or at least, there were a lot of people in the restaurant so we decided to pick to an alternative instead and the obvious choice would be this one right round the corner. Somehow or other, we never go to the one right next door as most of the time, it is very crowded and one may have difficulty trying to get a table…plus I am not all that fond of very busy, packed places.

Anyway, that night, we decided not to order the usual dishes that we would have here like their very nice sweet and sour fish fillet, for instance, but I can’t say we have a wide selection to choose from and in the end, we settled for their lemon chicken…

Y2K Restaurant lemon chicken 1

…which, of course, we had had before but we love how they do it. Firstly, unlike the thick batter at most other places, the very thinly-coated pre-deep fried pieces of chicken are always a cut above the rest. Other than that, fresh lemon is used – that is quite obvious, I guess, seeing the slices on top…

Y2K lemon chicken 2

…unlike at many places where the lemon chicken reeks terribly of the bottled essence which is such a put-off.

We did not want to order the fried cangkuk manis with egg or the sweet potato leaves anymore so we had their midin (wild jungle fern)…

Y2K belacan midin

– something we have not had here for a while as well and my girl requested for it to be fried with belacan (dried prawn paste) and yes, they do it very well, much nicer than a number of places and one probable reason, of course, would be the quality of the belacan used. The not-so-nice ones would give the dish a not-very-pleasant fragrance and taste.

On the way in, we saw some guys at a table outside having this tofu dish…

Y2K tofu

…and it looked good so we also wanted that. Now, this would be one dish here that we had not tried before and at other places, it is served in a claypot but here, they use this stainless thing with a special stand and a small fire down below to keep it hot and nice.

The lady boss seemed quite reluctant to accept any more orders, possibly because in her mind, she was thinking that those would be enough for the three of us but I felt like having one more so I asked for their fried beef with ginger…

Fried beef with ginger 1

…and this too was very nice. Somehow or other, if we order this dish at any place in town, it will taste more or less the same except maybe the sizzling beef on a hot plate here…but we were pleasantly surprised that there was a difference in how they cooked that here and we loved it!

Y2K fried beef with ginger

That certainly was a delightful dinner and true enough, as the lady boss appeared to be expecting, we could not finish everything and had to tapao quite a lot of the tofu home. Actually, I suggested just leaving it behind but my girl loved it so much and insisted that we took it home with us so she could take it with her to her school to heat it up for one of her meals there in the week to come.

The total for the four dishes for three persons came up to RM52.00 and I did hear the lady boss telling the cook, her hubby, to cook for three persons – usually, I would ask that they cook for two and the total would be a little less but that night, I did not bother. Of course, most importantly, everything was to our satisfaction and we made our way home happily, having enjoyed the pleasant meal together.

So I’ve heard…

I heard that they have very nice claypot chicken rice here

Le Cafe Sibu

…but it is only available on weekends, Saturdays and Sundays. My girl enjoys that and after the somewhat disappointing ones that we had here, and the one I had here which I felt was not quite there, we couldn’t wait to give this one a try.

They’ve added a bit of decor here…

Decor 1

…and there…

Decor 2

…but generally, it is very minimal…

Decor 3

Of course, that isn’t important and what matters would be the food served – how good it is.

We placed our orders…and the drinks came very quickly but I would say we had to wait quite a while for the food. Finally, it was served – the claypot chicken rice (RM20.00)…

Le Cafe claypot chicken rice 1

…that came with a bit of salted fish…

Le Cafe salted fish

…and one could choose whether or not to sprinkle that all over…

Le Cafe claypot chicken rice 2

…and toss everything together which we did…

Le Cafe claypot chicken rice 3

…before we dived in.

Yes, it was very nice – very much to our satisfaction and more or less like the pretty good ones that we have had in the towns and cities over in the peninsula. This is their medium-size portion, supposedly for two, but the serving is huge and is more than enough for three…or perhaps, even four if you’re not very big eaters.

We also ordered the bak kut teh, small (RM10.00)…

Le Cafe bak kut teh

…mainly for the soup to go with the rice and yes, it was very much to our liking too and the fried baby kailan (RM7.00)…

Le Cafe baby kai lan

…was great as well.

That certainly was a delightful lunch, reasonably-priced too…and without doubt, we wouldn’t mind coming back here again…for this or to try something else on their menu.