gastronomic journey

I am not a food connoisseur and in fact, I can never be one as I am not overly adventurous nor do I have the passion to sample as much food or various types of cuisines as I possibly could in this lifetime.  I do enjoy good food but it’s just that the little old me is a tad conscious about what I eat and how balanced my meals generally are.  However, when I was invited to be one of the food judges for a small scaled “Signature Food Fest” for our local food scene, I felt rather honoured and accepted the invitation without much hesitation.  I reckoned it would be a good opportunity for me to try out a few of the restaurants which I had yet to visit and be exposed to their interesting dishes (grease and all!).  Food connoisseur or not, I sure would like to tag along and enjoy the ride!

Though all together there were only 10 shortlisted restaurants for us to review, the organiser of this event, Alfred Allen Ginsos of Eleventh Avenue with our chief Judge Rory Richardson and myself had to juggle our time to fit in the slots for food testing.  We managed to spare the time to sample them all within two weeks and were very satisfied with our gastronomic explorations.

After our palates had been tantalised and much deliberation from our panel of 3 judges, the winners were announced at the award ceremony that was hosted by our hotel, Dreamtel Kota Kinabalu on 30 October 2016 with the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment, YB Datuk Seri Panglima Masidi Manjun as the guest of honour.

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this happened before every meal…

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and this took place after every visit!


Here are the list of winners:

(1). Best Signature Menu: Shoney’s Dining & Bar
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It was very hard not to be impressed by this monstrous plate of food! It is for 4 – 5 persons and priced at only RM158, no doubt it’s value for money!  Apart from the obvious chicken and veg skewers and prawns, there are breaded fried calamari, BBQ beef ribs, foot-long chicken sausage and Spanish beef sausage, chopped lamb chops, corns and vegetables as well as some fried chicken hidden beneath the pile.

I enjoyed the lamb with sweet and tangy mint and cranberry sauce and the grilled vegetables very much. Although I did find the lamb that night a bit too fatty for me, Rory thought it was just perfect for him.

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the lovely sauce from the lamb on the plate made the grilled veggies (carrots, snow peas, aubergines and potatoes) tasted heavenly. I absolutely loved it! The local corns were cooked very well and very sweet too.

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Sean, the mastermind behind the platter explaining the dish and sauces to us

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a clean-shaven Sean receiving the award from DSP Masidi

Shoney’s also won the Facebook Most Popular Award.

(2). Best Ambiance: Ebizou Japanese Restaurant & Bar, Yu Café

First winner: Ebizou Japanese Restaurant and Bar

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Aesthetic modern design with Japanese touches, good lighting, very comfortable and not forgetting the soft Japanese music!

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really, what can beat this?!

Second winner: Yu Café

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A quaint little cafe where we felt at ease and relaxed throughout our lunch eventhough with a string of customers trickling in not long after we sat down

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Yu Cafe also serves a very reasonably priced signature set lunch of beef stew and rice with a glass of lemonade at only RM16.90

(3). Best Customer Service: Sakagura Japanese Restaurant

One can never fault the customer service of this high end Japanese restaurant!

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Apart from their commendable customer service, they serve delicious high quality food too with ingredients all imported from Japan and prepared by an experienced Japanese chef! (From top left: tuna, salmon, kampachi (amberjack), scallop, mackerel.  From bottom left: prawn, egg, eel, salmon roe and sea urchin)

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my first taste of sea urchin (far right)!

(4). Best Combination Menu: iLotus Seafood Restaurant

We were wowed by their signature dish, the coconut prawns.  The freshly baked bun slightly spread with garlic butter was just perfect to dip in the sauce of the coconut prawns.

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Fresh and big prawns cooked in a sauce that tasted to me like the gulai, an mild Indonesian curry. Not too spicy, suitable for the children too as the restaurant claims and it was yummilicious! The taste of the whole dish was enhanced when the prawns were eaten with the sauce and the young coconut flesh scraped off from the shell! Rory wiped off every bit of the sauce with the remaining piece of the bun! The additional dishes were fish maw soup, marmite chicken and vegetable with shredded butter egg yolk. The meal ended nicely when we were served with some very refreshing young coconut pudding.

(5). Outstanding Chef: Jay Ambrose, GK Grillz Kitchen

We were impressed by the big plate of flavour presented by Jay Ambrose of GK Grillz Kitchen.  His passion, drive and inspiration made him the deserving winner for the Outstanding Chef Award.

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The grilled pork ribs just fell off the bones and the sauce was amazing and perfect for my taste (actually the other judges agreed with me too!)! I love the interesting smoked rice with dried smoked fish and “undisclosed” herbs very much. The side dish with aubergine in tomato coulis complementing both the ribs and the rice. The pork belly skewers would be welcomed by those who like a bit of a chewy pork fat but as for me, well, I could not handle that anymore after the big ribs and the rice. There was a small side dish of very tasty sambal to suit the locals’ taste but I personally thought that with the bold flavours of the whole dish, there is absolutely no need for the overpowering sambal.

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interviewing Chef Jay Ambrose, an inspiring chef and who put in the effort to work out the impressive and delicious signature dish for the Signature Food Fest

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Jay Ambrose receiving the award for Outstanding Chef

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the big guy with his team, DSP Masidi and the judges

(6). Blogger’s Choice Award: Ladleful BBQ Steamboat Buffet, Sailors’ Café

First winner: Ladleful BBQ Steamboat Buffet

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Steamboat and skillet — eat all you can buffet style and everyone can be a chef! They have 4 types of soup base for the steamboat; herbal, chicken, tomyam and super spicy. We went for the herbal one as I had a bit of a sore throat so the guys accommodated. We did sample the tomyam which was good while Rory had a few sips of the super spicy one and apparently it really was SUPER spicy! A variety of soup base to try out.

Second winner: Sailors’ Café

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Fried flounder fish burger — tasty fish, greasy and satisfaction all on a plate! (look at the twilled cucumber strips, the finishing touches made the eating so much more enjoyable!)

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Sailor’s signature fish and chips, fulfilling!

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I asked for this extra portion of salad, to “neutralise” the greasy though very palatable plates of fried fish we had and guess what, I absolutely loved it (no surprise there! And I have to talk about it eventhough it was not one of the signature dishes that we were reviewing)! Simple garden salad but the colourful presentation was enticing and the mustard dressing was super delicious. Rory and I agreed that this dressing went very well with the fish too!

(7). Best Plate Presentation: Ebizou Japanese Restaurant & Bar

Everything on this plate was arranged immaculately!

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just look at that!

Award Night

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welcoming the arrival of the guest of honour, the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment, YB Datuk Seri Panglima Masidi Manjun

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judges presenting memento to the guest of honour

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receiving memento for the hotel for being the hosting venue

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congratulations to all the winners!


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I enjoyed the whole food judging experience thoroughly although the amount of food we had to taste was a little overwhelming for me.  I have a new-found respect for the talented chefs and committed restaurant operators in our city after getting to know some of them better through this event.  I look forward to seeing more young and aspiring chefs rise up to the challenge to make a name for themselves and create their very own signature dishes that will help bring the level of gastronomic experience and enjoyment of the folks and visitors of Kota Kinabalu to a new height!

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