Malaysian Food Blog, Travel, Diving & More

Category / East Malaysia

On our Mt. Kinabalu Hiking trip, we took the opportunity to dine at perhaps the most popular Kadazan restaurant in town on the last day of our visit. The reason is simple, D’Place is located at Kepayan Perdana, which is just a few minutes away from KK International Airport, most strategic place for dinner prior to flying back since KK traffic can get quite horrific and requires a bit of management at times.

D'Place Kinabalu, a short drive from KK Air Port
D’Place Kinabalu, a short drive from KK Air Port

The restaurant itself is easy to miss if you’re not familiar with the area as it is actually located on upper floor and does not have very visible signage from the most common angles. Alas, we found it, and fortunately parking isn’t too big of a hassle.

Haze and I had the pleasure of having my colleagues Kelly & Zureen joined us for dinner, which made the occasion that much better.

part of Kadazan Set A
part of Kadazan Set A

D’Place serves no pork, and while you can order each dishes separately, most people ended up with their sets.

We ordered Set A, Set B, and Gulu Gulu Set to be shared among the four of us. Each of the sets are priced at RM 20.90 and comes with a free traditional drink.

These are what the sets have:

Set A:

  • Pinasakan Bangusan
  • Linopot
  • Sayur Kampung
  • Bambangan Om Tuhau
  • Talur Masin
  • Ikan Masin Masak Lada Putih
  • Hinava
  • Lada Belacan
  • Sambal Ikan Masin

Set B is the same thing but with Basungan Guring in replacement of Pinasakan Bangusan

pinasakan basungan, linopot, sayur kampung etc
pinasakan basungan, linopot, sayur kampung etc

The Gulu Gulu Set has the following:

  • Linopot Rice
  • Bambangan, Tuhau
  • Hinava
  • Sayur Kampung
  • Bosou/Nonsom Sada (fermented fish with rice)
  • 1 Sup Pinasakan
  • Sambal Belacan
  • Ikan Masin Asam Limau
  • Jantung Pisang Tumis

this is the gulu gulu set
this is the gulu gulu set

Feel free to google on what these funny words mean and what the ingredients actually are. They mostly tastes slightly salty and sometimes slightly gamey though not in a bad way. The sambal was most excellent, and we did enjoy the various preparation of smallish fishes that went well with the rice served.

It was an certainly an interesting experience but at the same time it’s not difficult to see why the cuisine does not gain wide spread popularity. Personally I prefer Sinalau Bakas anytime.

Zureen, Kelly, KY, Haze
Zureen, Kelly, KY, Haze

One thing that I do regret not trying is the sago worms (butod). You can have it here either alive or deep fried at RM 12.90 for 8 pieces. Since this is a delicacy in Kadazan cuisine, I’ll make sure I do that the next time!

D'Place Kadazan food map

D’Place Kapayan Perdana
Lot E36-2 Block E,
Kepayan Perdana Commercial Centre,
Jalan Cybercity,
88200 Kota Kinabalu, Sabah
GPS: 5.919138, 116.062750
Tel016-833 2381

After getting down from the Mt. Kinabalu climb, we decided that the best course of rehab from all that physical exertion was spending a few nights at Kundasang. The area is close to 2000 meters above sea level with temperature that’s about 10-20 celsius, and a scenery worthy of postcards, so why not?

The only thing left to do then is, where do we go for dinner?

best non-halal meal to have near Kinabalu Park or Kundasang
best non-halal meal to have near Kinabalu Park or Kundasang

So we consulted our mountain guide and they came up with the suggestion for 89 Station, which is conveniently located only about a kilometer from Kinabalu Park entrance, and coincidentally, also pretty close to our hotel – Nik Gold (which was an “ok” place to stay.)

89 Station is one of the few places that offers “tai chao” style dishes that features quite a variety of dishes, including wild boar, deer, ostrich, and more.

black pepper ostrich, clay pot beancurd, fish maw soup
black pepper ostrich, clay pot beancurd, fish maw soup

The menu came in the form of a giant blackboard on the wall, and the server is pretty well-versed in Mandarin, Cantonese, English, and probably several other languages.

We went there twice for dinner, tried 5 dishes in total, including black pepper ostrich, clay pot beancurd, fish maw soup, wild boar with salted egg yolk, and yau mak vegetable. Prices are pretty reasonable at RM 10-15 per dish and portion is rather big as well (which is why we ordered only two dishes 2nd time around)

wild boar with salted egg, yau mak
wild boar with salted egg, yau mak

Most importantly though, the quality of food is well above average. One thing though, if you haven’t had vegetables from Kundasang, you absolutely have to, they are crunchy, sweet, and really come close to those fancy imported Japanese produce you’d find in up class restaurants in KL.

The restaurant opens from about 9 or 10 am till 8pm (it gets dark much earlier in Sabah), so give it a try if you’re around the area.

map to 89 station, Kundasang

89 Station Restaurant
AH 150 Highway
(1 km from Kinabalu Park Entrance)
Kundasang, 89308 Sabah
GPS5.999966, 116.546559
Tel08-888 1300

If you’re at Sabah traveling from Kota Kinabalu to the Kinabalu Park or Kundasang, the only sane ground road to get there involves driving a long stretch of winding hilly road that is a dream to any motorcyclist (especially those who’re stuck driving a beat up rental Perodua Viva).

On this road you’ll come across a few road side stalls that is really, really smokey, and that’s where you’ll find one of the must-try indigenous Dusun food for those who consume non-halal food – Sinalau Bakas.

Sinalau Bakas along AH 150 Highway in Sabah
Sinalau Bakas along AH 150 Highway in Sabah

In the local language, Sinalau Bakas translate to smoked wild boar, and the dish is simple as it sounds – slabs of marinated wild boar meat smoked on an open BBQ pit, with the operator usually flipping those glorious meat while squinting or seated on a small “bangku” fanning the wood fire below.

smoked wild boar sure is done with plenty of smoke
smoked wild boar sure is done with plenty of smoke

The meat is usually only transferred to direct heat for cooking once you make your order, which means you’ll get it freshly prepared, and that usually involves some wait time of 10-15 minutes or longer.

As some say – if you wait for the food, it’s gonna be great, if the food waits for you, well…

this was our ten Ringgit's worth of wild boar meat
this was our ten Ringgit’s worth of wild boar meat

The meat is very spicy in a traditional herbal way while not overly tough like you’d expect from wild boar. Get chunks with a fattier cut if you like it more tender. Sinalau Bakas is also served with traditional chili sauce that gives it a bit more kick. I actually found it overall to be rather tasty and we finished everything despite having a slightly leaner cut.

KY & Haze enjoying some wholesome wild boar meat
KY & Haze enjoying some wholesome wild boar meat

There’s no actual address for this place, but the GPS location below should help. You’re in better luck than me when I was asking Elfie the Sabahan girl where I could find these stalls!

P/S: and yes, I will be writing the long overdue Kinabalu Mountain Climbing post soon.

map to Sinalau Bakas stalls

Sinalau Bakas stalls
Along AH 150 Highway,
about half way from Tuaran to Kinabalu Park

GPS6.107336, 116.367638
Hours: late morning to after lunch, not regular

A dozen of so years ago when I went to KK for the first time for work, the one dish that left the biggest impression on me was fish noodle. Specifically, this one place which offers additions like fish skin, lips, and such, it was awesome.

Well, I don’t remember where that was, and this post isn’t about that place.

Jong Fa Pai kopitiam at Hilltop, Kota Kinabalu
Jong Fa Pai kopitiam at Hilltop, Kota Kinabalu

This instead, is Jong Fa Pai kopitiam, one of the popular outfit from Tawau that’s opened up several branches in and around Kota Kinabalu, offering mostly fish head & fish noodle since 2008.

We ended up here for our first meal in KK right after touching down at KKIA and picked up our rental car. It was suggested by my friend Ben as an alternative to Fatt Kee, arguably the most popular fish noodle place, also located at Hilltop.

slices of garupa meat in milk & tomato broth
slices of garupa meat in milk & tomato broth

The menu is simple, choose between fish head, fish slice, prawn ball, and have them either boiled or deep fried to go with milk based broth and meehon. We had the basic with slices of garupa at RM 10 per bowl, and it was actually pretty good. May not take B & Best out as my current favorite, but they were definitely pretty delicious. The broth is similar to Woo Pin at Taman Desa, but the quality of seafood is definitely better.

no regular coke or pepsi here but there's EST Cola
no regular coke or pepsi here but there’s EST Cola

In addition to fish noodle dishes, they also carry a few types of side dishes for sharing. We tried the beancurd skin prawn (RM 9) and found it complimenting the noodle dish pretty well. Crunchy & packed with fresh prawn meet in, it was pretty good especially after dipping into the sweet chili sauce.

Now is this place between than Fatt Kee? Well I guess I’ll have to find out the next trip!

jong fa pai kopitiam fish noodle kota kinabalu map

Jong Fa Pai kopitiam
Lot 11, Ground Floor,
Kolam Centre, Jalan Lintas,
88300 Kota Kinabalu, Sabah
GPS: 5.950145, 116.092007

Seafood in Sabah is like char kuih teow in Penang or Tomyam in Bangkok, if you find yourself in Kota Kinabalu, it is pretty much compulsory to get yourself to one of the many seafood restaurants and have a meal.

Salut Seafood, located within a prawn farm
Salut Seafood, located within a prawn farm

On our Mt. Kinabalu trip (more on that soon), we met up with one of my old friends Ben for dinner. On our previous trip we went to New Gaya, so this time around Ben suggested that we head to Salut Seafood, the restaurant located within a prawn farm.

It took us quite a while to get there due to the (un)expectedly rush hour traffic, but alas, we got there in time before sunset. The restaurant is located by the sea and accessible via cars, but if you’re on a tour bus, you’ll be out of luck. This place is built for the locals.

live seafood to choose from, including quite a variety of shellfish
live seafood to choose from, including quite a variety of shellfish

Like most seafood restaurants worth its salt in South East Asia, there’s a good selection of live seafood to choose from. Crabs, prawns, fish, and quite a few types of shellfish can be chose from the live tank to be cooked in the method of the customer’s liking. There’s also a big price list plastered on the wall to remove too many surprises.

haven't had this type of shellfish since Vietnam
haven’t had this type of shellfish since Vietnam

For the three of us, we ordered some live prawns, crabs, shell fish, and sabah vegetable to go with rice.

The prawns and shellfish were steamed, the simplest possible cooking method, this was to preserve the natural sweetness of the seafood. The quality were apparent as the prawn were quite a lot more difficult to peel than the usual “already dead for a couple days” variety.

butter crab, fresh prawns, and "sabah vegetable"
butter crab, fresh prawns, and “sabah vegetable”

This was also the first time I had the same snail since New Gaya & Hong Hai in Ho Chi Minh City, tasted a bit like a cross between lala & balitong, if you enjoy those, you will enjoy this.

The crab, while properly seasoned and prepared, was not as firm and “full” as I had hoped for, though it was nonetheless an acceptable dish.

great first meal at KK and to catch up with old friend
great first meal at KK and to catch up with old friend

Then there’s the unique “Sabah vegetable” that you can’t get in Peninsular Malaysia, with its slightly crunchy stem and soft leaves, I always make it a point to order this whenever I’m at KK.

Dinner came to about RM 50+ per person, right around the average for a good seafood meal at KK. We could have kept it a bit cheaper if not for the over ordering, but diet goes to hell when you’re traveling, right?

Thanks Ben!

map to salut seafood, kota kinabalu

Salut Seafood
Jalan Sulaman, Kampung Salut,
89200 Kota Kinabalu, Sabah
GPS: 6.103970, 116.160311
Tel: 019-881 8515
Hours: 11:30 am to 9:30 pm