Kuching has the best selection of food in Borneo, boasting over a thousand choices, ranging from hawker-stall fare through good seafood to first-class Italian. Cafes serving standard rice and noodle dishes, beef, roti (unleavened flaky bread) and murtabak (roti filled with mutton, chicken or vegetables) are everywhere. For good Western fare try the upmarket hotels.
Restaurants & Cafes
Pick up the Official Guide to Kuching, available at the tourist information centre, for a veritable laundry list of top eats. Check out http://eatingoutkuching.com for the latest goss on the hot places to eat.
Chin Sa Barbeque Specialist (Jin Padungan; chicken rice from RM3; S breakfast, lunch & dinner) Eat in or take away at this popular Jin Padungan barbecue joint, where savoury chicken or pork slices over rice are the speciality of the house.
Rom Orchid Garden : If you're out in the burbs, Rom is a great place for spicy Malay dishes. Stick around to try your hand in the kitchen - you can even spend the night .
Black Bean Coffee & Tea Company : Serving fresh, fair-trade coffee, this quaint cafe, housed in a converted Chinese shop-house, strikes the guiltless balance between Starbucks and Sarawak.
a-ha Cafe : a-ha wouldn't look at all out of place in any cosmopolitan European capital, and the emphasis is firmly on healthy eating, with organic produce, all-natural ingredients and no MSG or artificial additives, plus a special 'healthy heart' menu. Whether you treat yourself to Norwegian salmon, ostrich steak or deer kebabs, or just pop in for a fruit 'n' vegetable smoothie, a-ha is a rare treat with virtually zero guilt factor. Wi-fi available.
Little Lebanon : Borneo's only Arabic restaurant sits in an elegant breezeway overlooking colourful Jin India. Belly dancing music wafts through the air as contented customers slurp some muddy Turkish coffee arid dip their pita pillows into freshly mashed hummus. Swing by in the evenings for flavourful puffs on a sheesha pipe - there's celery and cherry, but mint is the best.
Bla Bla Bla : Spiffier than a pimp's outfit, Bla Bla Bla brinSs a splash of Bollywood to Kuching. The tasty fusion food is anything but 'blah', and patrons will adore the koi pond and golden Buddhas.
Junk :The coolest car-boot sale you'll ever see, Junk is filled to the brim with...well...junk. But it's all so very chic - when you walk in you'll think, 'Did Arnehe explode in here?' A favourite among Malaysian celebs, Bla Bla Bla's sister restaurant offers superb sophisticated Western food with an Italian bias. A word to the wise: don't set your watch by any of the wall clocks...
Living Room :Living Room completes Kuching's trendy triumvirate of fusion eats. The menu mixes the top noshes at Junk and Bla Bla Bla and guests dine in breezy open-air solas. You will no doubt find yourself wondering where you are: is this Borneo, Bali or Barcelona?
See Good Food Centre : Jin Ban Hock; meals from RM30; S noon-11pm, closed 4th & 18th of the month) Follow the crowds of locals here to try Sarawak specialities such as lobster in pepper sauce, midin (crispy jungle fern) and ambol (bamboo or finger clam).
Hawker Centres & Food Stalls
Chinese Food Stalls (43 Jin Carpenter; meals from RM3; 59 breakfast, lunch & dinner) Start your day with a brilliant, old-school Kuching breakfast. Note that Chinese locals refer to this hawker centre as Lau Ya Keng in Hokkien.
Hawker Centre (Jin Khoo Hun Yeang; meals from RM3; S breakfast, lunch & dinner) The best hawker centre in town, with both Malay and Chinese sections, is in the west end of town near Kuching Mosque (locals sometimes refer to this as the 'open-air market').
Green Hill Corner (Jin Temple; meals RM3-4; S breakfast, lunch & dinner) Several stalls here crank out a variety of noodle and rice dishes, including a brilliant plate of kway teowgoreng (fried rice noodles). The problem is that the chef who makes this dish only shows up when he damn well feels like it.
Top Spot Food Court : The double entendre definitely holds true. This excellent rooftop plaza has acres of tables and a good variety of stalls. Order anything from abalone to banana prawns or numerous varieties of fish, and chase it down with a cold bottle of Tiger. To get here, climb the stairs leading from Jin Padungan to Tapanga restaurant, and keep heading upstairs from there.
DRINKING & ENTERTAINMENT
Like most places in Borneo, a lively night scene usually focuses on an evening meal, but cosmopolitan Kuching has a clutch of spirited drinking spots as well (pun intended). Bars and other .entertainment venues stay open until around lam, although live music can blare on until later (especially on weekends). Beers cost around RMS to RM10 (cocktails are a bit more) and keep an eye out for popular two-for-one happy hours. Oh, and just for the record, Fort Margherita does not dispense alcohol (actually, the whole campus is closed).
The Official Kuching Guide has a lengthier list for those who plan on sticking around for a while. Check out Kuching's trifecta of trendy restaurants; Bla Bla Bla, Living Room and Junk, for some pre- or post- (or between) dinner carousing (opposite).
The following options are a great place to start.
Jambu :Jambu? Crookshank? The names in Kuching are pretty weird, but this local fave in a blazing pink bungalow, south of the city centre, is a hip spot to sling back a few designer cocktails with friends. Closed on Mondays.
Soho :This is arguably the hippest bar in the centre - even the name oozes London cool. Local Gossip Girl-esque youngsters hobnob to grind-worthy play lists of jazz, dance and latin beats. The atmosphere starts out relaxed but can definitely build up some heat under the red lights as the night draws on!
Mojo (Jin Chan Chin Ann) Wander through to the back of the Denise wine shop and you may think you've entered another world - this is a cocktail lounge every bit as fashionable as you might find in KL or Singapore, with a giggly young crowd trying to live up to the style.
Cottage (Crowne Plaza Riverside, 16 Jin Bukit Mata) Fitted out along the lines of an English pub (albeit one with no walls), proceedings start gently here with lunchtime and evening meals, leading into live music six nights a week.
Also worth a look: Football on the big screen; thumping tracks on the weekend.
Ipanema (66 Jin Padungan) 'Minimal-chic' theme, with trendy tapas snacks.
Ruai (3 Jin Green Hill) Iban-themed pub below Nomad hostel.
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