Too many restaurants, where I live in Sabah, have shown that the quality of food has not previously been the sole factor in determining whether a restaurant is good or popular. Most conversations around the Tavern Kitchen & Bar begin with its decor. To step into the Tavern is to step into Kuala Lumpur based designer Ben Firdaus’s aesthetic. Black geometric lamps clad the black ceiling and yet, while there is ample time to admire this darkly lit sky, other things will please the eye of every settler in this modern tavern. A mural, the wooden floor and the colourful panelling adjacent a black wall of vintage posters indicate a contemporary design with just a touch of comfort and nostalgia. The menu on the other hand, designed by Chef Nicholas Pillai and Chef Herman, seeks to do just the same.
Let’s start with the Best Nasi Goreng In The World (RM23.90). The dish — in which Tuhau is the starring ingredient — is at the pinnacle of trendiness right now. Culinary establishments in Kota Kinabalu still have a long way to ensure that they run out of ideas but it is entirely pleasing to see any contemporary restaurant make traditional local food their point of reference. The Tuhau fried rice sits pretty in an accessible pocket of red endive leaf.
Cooking the perfect salmon is a question of taste and softness. A perfect samon filet is soft and rare in the middle of tender layers above and lightly flaky meat that sits underneath crispy skin. The Tuhau rice was low key enough to let the Sweet Teriyaki Salmon (RM36.90) shine.
Tavern specialises in very decent and very big servings of burgers. Mile High (RM34.90) is proportionate to the size of a two tiered burger. It is a well conceived dish but one does suspect that it is perfect for killing hangovers with its typically monstrous patty and double servings of my favourite breakfast elements (excluding bacon & eggs).
And the deserts were of hospitable quality. Pick one of the restaurant’s quirkier afters, and you won’t be disappointed. Boom Boom Sizzling Brownie (RM18.90), a brownie served in a cast iron skillet, was correctly cooked and tasted of the essentials. Its humid interior was deeply dark and creamy inside but not sweet or cakey while the sizzling chocolate sauce added to the dish’s theatrics. The pour is generous.
Despite the food concluding in varying results, the menu speaks to so many of this year’s favourite culinary topics in Kota Kinabalu: an interest in traditional food, the never ending appeal of Malaysian comforts and quirky interpretations on classics. With so many tricks up their sleeve they’re placed somewhere at the top, for being the latest expression of culinary style.
Boom Boom Sizzling Brownie (RM18.90), Peach And Banana Crumble (RM18), Best Nasi Goreng In The World (RM23.90), Pasta Aglio Olio A La Tavern (RM25.90), Mile High Beef Burger (RM34.90), Sweet Teriyaki Salmon (RM36.90),
Sumandak on Fire (RM32), Infused Water Of The Day (RM8), Vietnam Hand Dripped Coffee (RM11.90), Lemongrass mojito (RM25), Coconut mojito (RM28)
Suggested Boozy Pairings
- Sumandak On Fire
Pair this big bad wolf with something greasy like Tavern’s Famous Chicken Wings (RM15.90) and let us know what you think.
- Teh Tarik Long Island Tea
Another of Tavern’s myriad amusements is this serious Teh Tarik that Tavern calls its very own. You’ll probably get away with discretely boozing in public if you pair this with The Best Nasi Goreng In The World (RM23.90). Perhaps
Location: Lot G-93, Aramaiti Street Walk, IMAGO Shopping Mall, 88100 Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia
Sunday – Thursday : 10am to 12am
Friday to Saturday : 10am to 2am
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