Brunei: Rizqun Hotel, Spaghettini at Empire Hotel & Ambuyat at Aminah Arif Brunei

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I love flying royal brunei because, the leg room is soooooo much better than flying MAS.
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See what i mean.. Everyone just falls asleep the minute they sit down because it is just so comfortable:)

Ah.. there’s the lovely air-stewardess showing us the safety exits.. I find the air personal of royal brunei really smiley and friendly.. unlike how some MAS personal can sometimes be, sorry to say.. ahem..

Before we take off, they even say a prayer for journey mercies and a safe flight! How nice. I say a little prayer too, in my own way.

We touch down in Bandar Seri Begawan, capital city of Brunei which earned its name from the Persian word, ‘port’. Apparently, we are staying at the new 5 star hotel known as Rizqun International Hotel in Bandar Seri Begawan. We heard good things about this place.. it is the ideal place from where you can explore the town. It is not the best one compared to the Empire hotel for example, but the Empire is a little far from the airport and down town…
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Hmm.. not bad.. i can see that Bruneians are really into chandeliers and circular architecture…
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Check in at the 7th floor to avoid the queue…

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From here, you can have a birds eye view of the city… relatively flat land, with a mosque or two in the distance.
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Oh yar.. one small thing about traveling to brunei… “Dry as a camel in the sahara”! No booze! If you are the sorta guy/gal who likes your wine with the evening meal, then be sure to pick up a bottle at the airport (KLIA, not burnei airport – brunei airport has no booze, for sure).

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But you have to be discreet! The great thing is that be it 5 star dining or hotel lounge, there is no corkage incurred on your bottle, but you do have to drink in a separate room.. away form non-drinking eyes! lol… the stealth drinker.. that’s us :D

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3pm… and already complimentary high tea starts!

Just look at the spread.

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Cakes, chocolates, scones and all sorts of delectables in all shapes and size and colours.
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I think I should leave some space for dinner…
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But how can one resist, sandwiches, sushi…
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or pretty dishes all in a row…

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mmmmmm…. siasta…. ZZzzzzzzzzzzz

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Wow wee.. look at this place… filled with tourists. If I thought that Rizqun was 5 star.. this easily tops that ! It seems like as though the regal splendour of early majestic royal courts, reminiscent of Brunei’s Golden Age had re-emerged as we stepped into the marble floored lobby of the Empire hotel. This bygone era has returned to tantalize and pamper its guests and provide one helluva killer living experience. (erm, only for the rich perhaps, I have to add.. harhar)
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The Empire is a grand, spacious, state-of-the-art, luxury 5 star hotel. Located on a magnificent stretch of Brunei’s pristine coastline, caressed by the South China Sea, the hotel evokes an opulent yet tranquil ambience. The hotel meanders through 162 hectares of lush tropical gardens providing an idyllic sanctuary and is Brunei’s only hotel on the beach.
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The spectacular palatial lobby located on the fifth level of The Atrium wing is the heart of this vast “empire” and mirrors the opulence and elegance of a Royal Court. You will feel a little overwhelmed because this place is bath in light reflected off shimmering gold leaf and crazy ass, opulent furniture! A little too gaudy for me, really.

Anyway, we were not here just to ogle the fantastic architecture.. we were here… to EAT!
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Spaghettini !!

An Italian Tratorria. Food with flavours that recreate the cuisine enjoyed along the streets of Rome , the winding alleys of Naples and the waterways of Venice. (yadda-yadda-yadda..) Wow! That’s a tall order.. we hoped the food would not disappoint :P

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Here sits the Pepata di Cozze.
New Zealand mussels cooked in garlic-herb and butter broth – so rich and buttery and fresh that it was practically pulsating.

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The carpaccio (earlier photo) and the aubergine al funghi starters were good too. Nothing spectacular, but tastefully executed.

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Enter the rack of lamb! The wonderful smell of olive pesto and red meat assaults the senses…
We were salivating…
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As we carve up and dig in… i think to myself.. when life gives you gorgeous plump lamb… order rack of lamb! Hunks of meat, fat and juice still dripping off the bone is what I am talking about. What is it about the Rack that is so caveman like… so primitive, so carnivorous… It’s my favourite style of Lamb.

Great olive pesto, nice presentation… but too bad the lamb was well done, eventhough we asked for medium :(

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Yet again… BYOB! No corkage though… and the lady was more than happy to pour glass after glass of wine for us.. sweetie :)

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We see a friend across the room! They guy is celebrating his birthday.

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They send some chocolate cake over but by now, we have over-ordered and are feeling the ill effects of the binge. ( Arrrrgh.. pass the Rennie.. lol )

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Sleepy but unwilling to go to bed just yet on such a full stomach, we take a stroll by the garden.. and around the lobby of the hotel..
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Somebody paid B$500K for this crystal camel.

Sucker.

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Next morning!

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Cloudy, overcast day, and we nearly didn’t want to get out of bed…

Ah, but then I realised that today.. we were going to try local cuisine.. yay!

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What is that?? Hair Gel? Glue?

hmmm.. someone said that it looked like something from that infamous scene in There’s Something about Mary ..

Good thing I have guts of steel.. or I would have promptly loss my appetite.. Ooo but no.. i was in my element.. oh yes i was… The weirder the better :P

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Introducing AMBUYAT. It is eaten with the Chandas – elongated chopsticks, which are joined at the tip…

No…. don’t snap it ! (like the Japanese chopsticks) – if you do, you will get fined B$5! haha.. phew.. they told me just in time.. i was just about to!

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Ambuyat is unique to Brunei as well as to Bruneians. It is a type of starch taken especially during lunchtime and mostly on Friday afternoons or anytime you fancy really… this was my first encounter with the gel like substance. I was psyched to try it.. and I swore I wouldn’t be the first to balk at the taste.. haha ! Guts of steel.. no pain.. find a happy place!

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Oooo.. er… what can I say… It’s glue-like appearance and bland taste might not be appetizing but the trick is actually to dip it in the accompanying sauce known as cacah and swallowing it whole.
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Cacah or the dip can either be made from local fruits known as binjai or pidada or from fermented shrimps known locally as cencalu. Normally the cacah is sour but may be added in with chillies for those who like it hot or more chillies to make it hotter.

As if the cacah was not stinky enough, we mixed it into the Tempoyak (fermented durian) to give it that extra kick. Holy smokes! It brought tears to my eyes.

Ambuyat taste best while hot so be very careful when swallowing it. However, if you accidentally swallowing a very hot ambuyat, don’t panic. An old wives’ tale states that to make the pain go away, you should hug a banana tree instead of gulping cold water.

Quick.. Find me a banana tree to hug!

But why a banana tree? Is it because a banana tree is cool… as in… cool bananas? :P hurhur.

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The side dishes were amazing too. Daging lalap (jerky), Pucuk Paku(vege) and loads of Asam Fish(gone before I could shoot it). This thing called Daging Urat Tumis (top left) had to be my favourite of the lot. This rich, soft, squidgy urat (cow fats/tendons/cartilage) to me, transcended to the upper echelons of cartilage-dom.
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And the tummies declared “Yea, it art great” and were peaceful and satisfied…until the lean meat was brought forth upon mankind… (the motto of my life : if it doesn’t shake or wobble, don’t eat it.)

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A fantastic meal… Somehow I had a feeling I would be back, in the next couple of days, for my GLUE FIX (hahaha.. geddit? as in sniff glue… eek.. don’t stone me:P)

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Anyway one last thing on the Ambuyat, there are other races in this world who make full use of the sago tree. The Penans of Sarawak processes sago flour from sago tree. The Kombai tribe, one of the tribes found in Irian Jaya, Indonesia, also eat the pit from the sago tree though not with cacah nor chandas. Incidentally the Rumbia (sago tree) takes ten years to mature. We should plant one for every tree that completes its lifespan – so that our future generations can still enjoy sago products and that strange but addictive thing called.. Ambuyat.

The End.

High tea at Rizqun Hotel :5.5/10
Spaghettini at Empire Hotel:6/10
Ambuyat at Aminah Arif: 8/10



Comments

  1. ambuyat! haha … read/heard/watched about it sometime ago. tasteless rite? i think Sarawak or Sabah also has this delicacy (if one can categorize them as that)

    but what a trip. really. Brunei’s never on anyone’s list as tourist spot huh?
    guess we’re missing a lot

  2. backstreetgluttons says:

    u r teasing us (again)with a dash of yr rich n famous tastes.

    what a blessed high fly !

  3. bryan lee says:

    the ambuyat looks disguting, even more after you decribed what it is…….yukk.
    i stick to candy floss

  4. JENCOOKS says:

    This is high living lapped in luxury; the hotel lobby high ceiling is magnificent and well taken.

  5. CUMI & CIKI says:

    j2kfm:
    yes! i heard that sarawak has it too..! but when i asked a sarawakian.. he just looked blur.. how come these sarawakians are not proud of something so cool… go figure :( lol

    bsg:
    We aim to please… :P

    bryan lee:
    Au contraire, mon cheri! it was weird, but weird good… not weird nasty… u catch my drift :D

  6. CUMI & CIKI says:

    jencooks:
    actually rizqun was not bad on promotion – B$230 per night (normal price B$450).

  7. "Joe" who is constantly craving says:

    no wonder u say the carpaccio i had was thick..urs is so THIN!

  8. boo_licious says:

    ambuyat – I recently read abt it in a book. Looks good in the blog, but I don’t think I want to hug a banana tree yet!

  9. CUMI & CIKI says:

    joe:
    tracing paper thin!

    boolicious:
    cool bananas ;D

  10. babe_kl says:

    i came to know about ambuyat in a travel show. i thot they have a different dip but i cant really remember :p

  11. jasmine says:

    i only heard about this when I was in Brunei last year but didn’t manage to try any… pity.

  12. mimid3vils says:

    ambuyat, interesting food… Can find it at KL?

  13. Nic (KHKL) says:

    the Ambuyat brings tears to my eyes as well…when i read you added tempoyak….it’s like kryptonite times ten to the power of ten…*running far far*

    a post that will make a good episode of that bourdain show…

  14. CUMI & CIKI says:

    babe kl:
    there were several dips – maybe one of them?

    jasmine:
    try it the next trip! it’s a pretty cool experience

    mimi:
    nope. think only sarawak/brunei

    nic:
    haha.. its weird tho.. i hate durian.. but i love the tempoyak. strange huh?

  15. Life for Beginners | Kenny Mah says:

    Oh that lamb… I need to put on my carnivore cap and go out hunt me some meat right now. Oh wait. I live in the city. Ah well. Trip to the restaurant it is, then. ;)

  16. CUMI & CIKI says:

    kenny:
    caveman style.. bring home meat by the hair.. feed woman.. take woman by the hair.. hahaha :P

    or.. in ur case.. take woman to restaurant, feed woman, take woman home, by the hair.. lol

  17. Criz Lai says:

    One look at the hotel and it felt like being in a palace. Yo! go get me a drink!! Haha. Ambuyat looked rather alien to me and with the sound of all the fermented stuff, I don’t think I would like to go for it. Does it smell worst than the HK Stinky Tofu? :P

    http://crizfood.blogspot.com/

  18. Big Boys Oven says:

    the glue dish looks so so so awesome!

  19. Julian Si says:

    Wow, good job … nice shots of Brunei, never seen any Brunei Blogging before, that’s a first :-)

    Haha, I like the photo of the safety demo on the Brunei Air flight, I am impressed you managed to sneak a photograph :-) Cool!

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