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Monday, April 26, 2010

Rock Road Seafood, Kuching

We dine out at the “best seafood restaurant in Kuching”.

Rock Road Seafood Kuching

We don’t eat out a lot at the House of Annie. Even though Annie and I are both working now, we still manage to eat in most nights of the week. Stark contrast to a lot of double-income Malaysian households who tend to get their meals at local restaurants and hawker centers.

But every so often, a special occasion warrants a special dinner. Just recently, Annie’s good friend Elizabeth (responsible for our Easy Green Tea-ramisu, Hong Siew Braised Tofu, and Khau Yoke recipes) came to Kuching to visit. Kuching being a port city known for its seafood, we decided to take her to Rock Road Seafood Restaurant, widely touted as the best seafood restaurant in Kuching. And since we wanted to sample more dishes than our little troupe could hope to eat alone, we invited our good friend Mike and his family to come join us.

Fresh is Best

When you walk into the restaurant, you are greeted by large fishtanks on one wall, filled with live prawns and fish. In the middle is an island showcasing bins of fresh fruits and vegetables to be used by the kitchen. There’s also a bin holding dozens of live crabs:

live crabs at Rock Road Seafood

Along the other wall are more fishes and shellfish on ice. You select your seafood, choose what style of dish you want the kitchen to cook it, and place your order with the waiters there before heading upstairs to the elegant dining room.

Fish choices at Rock Road Seafood

Since we had arranged for an early reservation, there weren’t that many people in the restaurant when we were seated. The food started coming out of the kitchen in quick order. First up was a big platter of fried noodles with lots of veggies, chicken and sauce. Pretty standard fare.

noodle dish rock road seafood

Since this was Elizabeth’s first time in Sarawak, we decided to order a uniquely Sarawakian vegetable dish: midin (fiddlehead fern) cooked with belacan (shrimp paste). The sweet, crunchy vegetable was accented by the salty belacan and spicy chile slices.

belacan midin rock road seafood

We also ordered a second midin dish, this time a cool salad which was served with shredded red cabbage, carrots, and onions. The dressing was a sticky, sweet sauce that was a little too sweet for me. Of the two midin dishes, we liked the belacan one better.

midin salad rock road seafood

Next up was this yam (taro) nest with chicken, cashews, veggies and dried red chiles. The nest is shaped from mashed cooked taro, then deep fried. In most other restaurants, the nest would be light and crispy. Here, though, the nest was dense and chewy. Not very well executed.

yam nest rock road seafood

One of my favorite dishes is butter prawns. Deep fried prawns are combined with egg yolk “floss” and curry leaves which have been fried in butter. Talk about over the top! That’s why I love it so much (especially the fried curry leaves). If the prawns are fried correctly, you can eat the whole thing, shells and all.  These prawns were underdone.

butter prawns rock road seafood

By now the restaurant had filled up, and dishes were coming out much slower. The next dish was this steamed grouper with soy sauce. Annie had wanted to order a live fish to be steamed, but Eliz was afraid it was going to be too expensive. So she opted to go with this previously frozen fish instead. The difference between using a fresh fish and a not-fresh one was like night and day. There was no sweetness, no lightness in the flesh. Kinda disappointing.

steamed grouper rock road seafood

The highlight dish of the evening was this satay crab dish, a signature dish for the restaurant. Normally this dish is served with prawns but Mike said to try something different. These crabs were swimming in a delicious brown sauce that was so complex in flavor. The crabs almost played second fiddle to the sauce.

The best part about this dish was that they served it with fried man tou (steamed buns). You tear off a piece of the man tou, swirl it around in the sauce, and pop it in your mouth. Heaven. I would have been happy eating this dish first. Too bad it was the last to come to the table, after we had all eaten our fill.

satay crabs rock road seafood

The Damage

Actually, the total bill for 6 adults and 2 kids was not bad, considering the high prices that this restaurant is known for. All 7 dishes plus drinks came up to less than $100 US! Amazing.

Still, I don’t think we’ll be coming back. Besides the last dish of crabs in satay sauce, we weren’t wowed by anything else. You can find these dishes elsewhere, for better price, and perhaps even prepared with more skill. Best seafood restaurant in Kuching? Not in my opinion.

Aloha, Nate

Edit: Here's Mike's take on the dinner:


Sharlene T. said...

The important thing is that you got out! I don't have enough fiddle head ferns to make a meal but they are in the shade! Grouper has to be FRESH, as far as I'm concerned. It's just so delicate that freezing just destroys all the good...Nice to hear from you guys, again.

Borneoboy said...

Hi Nate. I wouldn't say Rock Road is the best in Kuching. I think ABC at Top Spot is still tops ! The thing about Rock Road is that they are the only restaurant in Kuching with live seafood, and their "Satay" crab or prawns is unbeatable. Other dishes are a bit erratic and depends on when you visit.

Single Guy Ben said...

Funny, I saw fiddlehead ferns for the first time at Far West Fungi in San Francisco and when I read about it, it said it was popular in Southeast Asian cuisine and you proved it with those posts! Now I'm kind of tempted to try cooking it since it sounds like such a delicacy. Too bad the rest of your dinner wasn't as stunning. The place looks kind of touristy. Is taht how most restaurants look like there?

Nate @ House of Annie said...

@Sharlene - I agree, it's got to be fresh.

@BorneoBoy - sounds like we have to go to Top Spot soon, to compare! You wanna join us?

@Single Guy Ben - Actually, if you wanna see lots of tourists, go to the aforementioned Top Spot! Most restaurants don't look like this. Seafood restaurants, though, tend to have the live tanks.

Borneoboy said...

Hi Nate. You haven't been to Top Spot ? You must go ! ABC is the best stall. Let me know when you go and I will definitely join you if I'm in town. Been doing quite a lot of traveling lately so out of town quite a bit. Next stop is Shanghai in late May.