For once I’d love to thank Facebook for the successful public awareness drive it made in preventing the massive 16-storey commercial project (which was initially approved without going through the normal approval process) from ruining our historical heritage, the Atkinson clock tower. For all the damage social media has done to our societal development in this case it has created awareness in saving the historical monument. Just walking distance from our beloved Atkinson Tower I have discovered a refuge and a sanctuary for comfort food.
“Uplifting ambience” is one of the fortes of Biru-Biru Cafe that I will highlight and recommend to all cafe-goers. Being previously owned by the Borneo Backpackers, the place has undergone a major face lift and spruce up. The interior is now decorated with artistic local and international historical pieces that literally swooned me off my feet. Intricate details such as a framed matches collection, creative DIY-furniture and grandma’s metal cutlery (ones that I thought were obsolete) are among some of the sights to behold. Seeing the old school classics and hip decor, I could not help stereotype the owners of Biru-Biru Cafe as middle-aged museum curators. Surprisingly, the owners, Jules, Charles and Jessica are three young people of my generation. It is indeed very motivating and “uplifting” for me to find people, especially Generation Y, to preserve our local heritage and culture with such great enthusiasm.
I actually had heard about Biri-Biru Cafe’s menu from my friends and when SabahEats invited me over for a food tasting I was over the moon. Biru-Biru Cafe is still a work in process but the owners and staff are working extensively to expand and innovate their menu.
Sinagol is a Bajau dish which normally consists of shark’s meat and liver or other pelagic fish (sometimes puffer fish is used). The liver lobe and meat is normally braised with turmeric to tenderise and intensify its flavour until it becomes dried, resembling chicken floss. It is normally eaten by the locals with shredded and steamed bi kayu (English translation?). Biru-Biru Cafe serve another version of ‘Sinagol’, which is called ‘Sagol Pari’ (RM 15.90). Unlike my childhood version of ‘Sinagol’, the ‘Sagol Pari’, is made with stingray and has gravy. Because of its intense flavour, *I would recommend it to be eaten with white rice, or the Corned Beef Fried Rice with Ikan Masin (RM 9.90), which is a hit among the customers (and yours truly) because of the consolation and the feeling of well being it brings as a ‘comfort food’.
‘Pusas’ is a Dusun word which translates as, local snacks, that are normally served as accompaniment to alcohol (similar to peanuts and chips with beer). There are several interesting ‘Pusas’ served in Biru-Biru Cafe such as Hinava (RM 14.90 – available fresh on the weekend), Roti Canai Quesadilla (RM 8.90), Tuhau Chips with Tuhau Salsa (RM12.90) and Deep Fried Okra Sprinkled with Cumin (RM 6.90).
Western dishes are also served with flair in Biru-Biru Cafe, tweaked with a local twist. ‘Tuhau’ is a flexible wild ginger that can accommodate dishes with that dash of bursting flavour. For that reason, I am not surprised and actually delighted to see Biru-Biru Cafe to include them in some of their menu items, such as Tomato, Tuhau Pasta with Chicken (RM16.90). This dish is able to incorporate a substantial amount of ‘Tuhau’, without overpowering it. On the other hand, those who feel like carbonara, why not try the other localised alternative, the Coconut Cream, Turmeric Pasta with Prawns (RM16.90). Denser and heavier, it sure is able to replicate its Italian cousin.
For the dessert, we were served with Waffle with Coconut Ice cream & Gula Melaka. ‘Gula Melaka’, or Palm Sugar is a natural sugar/sweetener used mainly throughout Asia. Not to be confused with Coconut Sugar, palm sugar is touted as being more nutritious and lower in glycaemic index. Do not be fooled by its humble name, this dessert is a creme-de-la-creme comfort food, crispy with a consistency expected for a pleasing waffle. When eating a dessert, I always look for desserts that won’t burn a hole in my wallet and are not too sweet or headache-inducing. In my opinion, the waffle not only fits the bill, but the main important ingredient, the Gula Melaka, adds important panache to the dish, making it a perfect comfort food to end such hearty meal.
Serving some Western food with local twist, I would not mind bringing my personal Kadazan chef, my Dad, here.
The next time you are in that area, put undiscovered gem,Biru-Biru Cafe on your must-do list.
Location: 24, Lorong Dewan, Pusat Bandar, 88000 Kota Kinabalu, Sabah
The Cafe is nestled amid the backpackers area, next to Asian Tourism Institute, facing the main road.
Cuisines: Local dishes and Western Dishes( local twist).
Operating Hours: 8am-11pm ( 8am-Late Hours on weekends)
*Jeannette’s recommendation-(Try this at your own risk. Chemical reactions in mouth may vary).
Sorry for the terrible photos. Review with better photos can be found in http://www.sabaheats.com/biru-biru-cafe-bar-local-food-western-twist/