Friday, March 30, 2012

Brunei Darussalam's Landscapes & Greens (Ep. #2)

Continuing my previous post, I owe it to you guys to share the depths of Brunei.

The first thing I noticed about this country is the little (or almost zero) availability of public transport. You'll be surprised seeing less than a handful taxis wandering around the airport, and I haven't seen even one single bus during my four days stay there. After uncovering more facts from our lovely driver, the answer is that because almost everyone in Brunei owns a car. The exact number is one private car per 2.09 person. That makes Brunei withhold one of the highest car ownership rate in the world. The reason is attributed to the low import taxes and definitely one of the lowest fuel prices in the world, with only 0.35 $ / liter for diesel gas, and 0.53$ / liter for unleaded gas. How convenient does that sound in comparison with the current protest against subsidy cuts in fuel price in Indonesia? I suppose that can only happen in Brunei where there's only 415.000 citizens and the government really manage its resources well.

This phenomenon resulted in more and more curiosity in me. Further discovery leads me to another joy of being a Brunei citizens: rice and housing are all subsidized by the government. Added to that, healthcare is provided by government as well. Healthcare for citizens is charged at 1$B per consultation.

Ain't that lovely?

Indeed. Now what's lovelier are the pictures I'm going to show you. It's funny that when I typed in "places to go in brunei" on Google, there's only 5 places shown even on Lonely Planet website. But we were lucky to have friends who've been to places in Brunei. Some of the highlights are:

Labi with its beautiful landscape, greens, and trees. During our visit there, the water level was on the lowest, which was quite an attraction cause we get to see the living grasses that usually hidden under water. 

Kampung Ayer where you could see the indigenous people who lived practically in houses on water. They make bridges to connect from one island of houses to the other and travel to the land using boats. They even managed to set electricity with poles on the water.
Beach & Woods at Empire Hotel where we were staying. It was probably the most luxurious and complete hotel / villa complex in Brunei. I'm sorry that I couldn't reveal anymore than this as it would spoil the surprise we prepared for the couple I was photographing. In the mean time, this will do to represent.

Jerudong Park where the Sultan keep his breed of horses. I didn't take photos of them though. They fleed as I fired the flash. =p
Here is Gadong night market where street hawkers and food vendors are mashed up with the hungry night eaters (read: me!). They practically sell anything here, from clothes, bags, daily groceries, until soft lenses! Credits to Erika for the Gadong photos. It was one of the most fun dinner, we bought a bunch of foods from the traditional 1$ Nasi Katok, Roti Melaya (which is what they call martabak manis), to the finger foods such as Cheese Chili Dog, and a lot more. We brought it back to Empire, our hotel, and bash it together.

I never expect Brunei to be this flavorful. But I guess that's the beauty of travelling. With fresh eyes you see, discover, and experience new things, and hopefully it will trigger fresh thoughts, enlight your soul, and free your mind from clutter. I did. And I hope this post will spark you too.

I've got one more in store. Another food adventure in Brunei. Until then, tune in, smile on.

Will travel for food,

Fellexandro Ruby
Food Conversationalist & Photographer

Munch on my tweets @Wanderbites

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Experiencing Brunei Darussalam For The First Time (Ep. #1)

Visiting this country is probably the last thing that ever occurs in my mind, and yet here I am, as God allows, I have just spent an exciting four days trip on a photo assignment. I couldn't reveal that part yet, but I'm happy to share my very first visit to The Green Heart of Borneo.

Be mindful that booking a CGK - BWN flight is not exactly free of hassle as with coming to other countries. Not only that there are only Malaysia Air and Royal Brunei serving that distance, there's only one flight per day at a very unreasonable hour, and unreasonable price. With so little option, off we go with a 5 am Royal Brunei flight.

On the plane, the attendants wanted to be helpful but inconsiderate in my personal opinion. It did not occur to them that a 5 am flight, means us passengers have to wake up at least one and a half hour earlier to get ready and drive to airport. This led to their unthoughtful action of waking me up in my much needed power nap. For what? To ask me if I cared for a fish or chicken. I put on a straight face and see if he gets my message. Guess what? He did not! And kept poking my shoulder as I tried to regain my sleepymood.

End of drama: I spent the two hours flight with eyes open and we arrived with a slowly building up excitement. =D

We went straight to the hotel and was surprised when our kind driver, Akbar said that "Oh, Times Hotel, sebelah aja itu." Indeed, he really meant 'sebelah' as in next door. I suppose everywhere in Brunei is considered close, especially with the little traffic. In less than 5 mins we were there already. Nice, clean, less-than-a-year-old hotel, yet somehow still feels old fashioned through my eyes. I guess overall this country is a little behind in most things related to design. I noticed more and more confirmation to my hypothesis as I walked in to their relatively new mall which probably one-tenth the size of Senayan City with interior resembling that of Blok M Plaza.

But then again, as a poet once said: "One's destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things"  I embarked on my new findings with fresh eyes. Memorizing each moments with my unconscious passion for travel. Taking each step of small adventure with enthusiasm, until ... my belly calls out for food! =p

It was about the right time for lunch and off we go to our very first food place called De Olde Cottage Cafe & Restaurant at Batu Bersurat, Gadong.

It is a cute little cafe with about twenty tables or so and an atmosphere resembling a country side cottage as the name suggested. Brick walls, wood panels, and handcrafted items are common sightings inside the cafe. Great mood for a breakfast, lunch, or even dinner.

Having the strong will of trying local food, I went straight for something sounding foreign. And the choice goes to these three. Kolomee, Laksa, and Teh Tarik. The first one was very similar to hokkian egg based noodle minus the savory taste. The second was quite bland for Indonesian tongue, the broth was quite thick, but lack of taste. The drink however was quite satisfactory. A further research reveals that the ones I tried was actually of Kuching origin, but then again, as it shares the similar Malay roots, I guess it's still counts right? =p What's important is that I've tried something new and added a new story to share with you biters.

Kolo Mee Pork ($2.5)
Laksa - Kuching Style ($5)
Teh Tarik ($ 1.5)
I did not notice this post has become so lengthy. I guess I'll have to catch up with another post soon. One that will have more travel shots, I promise to show you the beauties hidden in this small country. In the mean time, I hope you enjoy this post and have a great week everyone.

-- To be continued

Will travel for food!

Fellexandro Ruby
Food Conversationalist & Photographer

Snack on my tweets @Wanderbites

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Umaku - A Dash of Authentic Japanese Cuisine

An unpretentious foodplace serving Japanese menu with toned down 'contamination' from what's trending in the market. Chef having two way convo with patrons as he shows his skillful craft slicing the sashimi. Decor made to resemble, but not trying to hard to impress.

Umake are getting there. It's slowly turning into one of my go-to place, if it's not because of the miles I have to travel to reach it.

Whilst many are splashing in spicy mayonnaise, cheese and the likes into their fusion sushi, I liked the fact that here the fusions are second on their menu list compared to the traditional nigirizushi. Which is part of the reason why on my many visits to my clients located in Cibubur, I always made an attempt to squeeze an hour or less to visit them. Here's a quick walkthrough of what I had on my last visit.

Wakame Salad, is one of my favorite menu in any Japanese resto. It is a must have, and I liked Umaku portion and taste. Its sad knowing that they were not in stock on that day. Which was still a big question mark for me. I came at around 12, which meant they just opened, and they ran out of it already? Not to mention, the long wait I have to endure waiting outside just to have someone greet me and take my orders. Wasn't my lucky day I suppose. Good thing I have my cameras in hand to kill the boredom. That was 20 minutes worth of photo taking that I can share with you Biters ;)

Here's what I started my lunch with. Salmon Sashimi. One of the freshest I've ever tasted. Plus the slices were seriously thick! Maybe Chef Uki sensed the air of disappointment I was having. Wise move, Chef! =p

Sake Sashimi (Salmon Sashimi) 39k

Then came on a streak, Inari Sushi, Tako Sushi, and Salmon Sushi. You can see that my aim of eating out in a Japanese resto is to taste the rawness of the fresh ingredients, the hand rolled shari, and the nose-attacking wasabi.  Not against Fusion, but there are different days for that, this is not one of them.

Inari Sushi

Tako Sushi

Salmon Sushi

I was once again amazed with the Inari's jumbo size. It made all the other Inari I've ever had before into tiny midget. I enjoyed the sweet salty mix of flavor between the rice, the fried tofu, and the veggies. Splendid. The Salmon Sushi on the other hand wasn't particularly special, I could barely taste the salmon. The Tako Sushi was as I expected, fresh, and added the crunchy texture I'm looking for to compliment the whole meal.

As the name suggested, Umaku (translated as skillfully) knows what they're doing and where they're going. It is for me one of the top alternatives of eating in malls which I get sick of more and more. Plus, price wise, Umaku is more affordable. And who knows the extra trip to Cibubur, might just win you a memorable quality time with family. If that's too far, Tebet and Duren Tiga is their new branches to check out.

Arigatou Gozaimasu 

Fellexandro Ruby
Food Conversationalist & Photographer


Umaku Cibubur
Citi Walk Blok CW 1 No.26
Citra Grand Cibubur
Phone: +62 21 84303732, +62 21 84303733

Umaku Tebet
Jl. Tebet Raya no.141, Jakarta Selatan
Telp 021 83709132

Umaku Duren Tiga
Jl. Duren Tiga Raya no.32, Jakarta Selatan
Telp 021 79170337

Umaku Alam Sutera
Ruko ASTC (Alam Sutera Town Center) Blok 10E No 9
Alam Sutera BSD, Tangerang

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Now Cooking - Hartwood Bandung

Humongous neon light, crowds of stylish looking yuppies in their prime, breeze of air contained with smoke of cigars, low lights, tight seating, continuous conversations and sudden burst of laughs in the background.

This is Hartwood.

As a brand new establishment in Bandung, Hartwood looks to appeal against the typical Bandung foodplace, probably segmented to the middle upper manhattan people especially looking at its pricing. Does it serve a previously uncharted market? I'd like to believe so.

Take a look at this Braised Short Ribs, claimed as one of the chef's specialty. Too bad, on my visit, it was not up to par with its price tag (110k). I admit the meat was well cooked. Soft, tender, well seasoned and the likes. Somehow reminds me of the dinner I had at Otel Lobby. However, on my third bite, as I began to incorporate my other senses, in this case, my nose, I found a rather distasteful smell which kinda ruin the whole thing. Not to mention the cold pieces of broccoli that serve more as a decor rather than a compliment to the whole meal.

Braised Short Ribs (110k)
Tenderloin Steak (58k)
Determined to find the best menu to represent Hartwood, we decided to have Tenderloin Steak as second main course, but I guess luck is not on our side that night. Although the steak was prepared in good manner, it was not particularly special to my liking.

Being only on their second month of opening, I suppose these things are expected. Tolerance are extended. A little inconsistency within limit is arguable. If fate allows I might like to venture this place once more and hopefully find the one thing that make Hartwood stood out among the rest, other than its fancy-cozy interior.

In comparison with the many clueless new foodplace in PIK with little sense of direction in taste, I hope they could prove themselves soon. At the mean time for me its not more than a place to see and be seen. I'd go anywhere next door to please my appetite.


Fellexandro Ruby
Food Conversationalist & Photographer

Munch on my tweets @Wanderbites, snack on my instagram @Captainruby. ;)

Hartwood - Gourment  & Grind
Jl. Cimanuk 12, Bandung
Ph: +62224240655
Twitter: @Hartwood_

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Kue Balok - Not Just A Sideshow At Nasi Bancakan Bandung

We correlate sideshow to something subordinate, or at a lesser appeal compared to the main attraction. Come to a circus and you'll find the little tiny games booth as an addition, an option that's indifferent to your overall experience. It's the exact opposite here at Nasi Bancakan. Separated from the main courses where people took the patience to queue, Kue Balok is placed at a corner (well not exactly a corner, but you get what I mean). However, I find it is not in many ways, inferior to the mains. In fact, on my short trip to Bandung, I came here specifically just for Kue Balok.

It is actually a pretty simple mix of flour, sugar, eggs, and butter cooked in an unique way. The dough is  'ovened' using a classic anglo fired with charcoal, both from the top and the bottom. The result is an evenly baked Kue Balok with a soft texture and a little crackery surface. The pictures below will do a better depiction of the lovely piece of bread. I love tearing it in two and breathe in the buttery smell. Tastewise, I like the comfort it gives being not to sweet and all. Munch it in slowly, close it with a glassful of hot tea and its just perfect for an afternoon break especially on a gloomy rainy Saturday like now.

I read from Nguliner that it is used to be called Jibeuh a.k.a hiji oge seubeuh (one's enough to make you full). I doubt that, I myself ate half a box to satisfy my appetite. Haha. Found mostly in the city of "Kang", 'Tehh" and names repetition, I'd refer Kue Balok as Bandung / Sunda specialties, even though the actual origin is still unknown. I wonder what would happen if somebody dares to brand it, and call it 'Official Bandung's Gift'. Hmm.. I mean don't you had enough of Kue Bolen already?

It is a possibility, considering their very own city mayor, Dada Rosada is a big fan of it. We'll just have to wait and see I guess.

Until then, enjoy these photos. Oh, and if anybody has tasted the more popular Kue Balok at Abdurahman Saleh, Bandung, do let me know how it compares to this. =)

Hatur Nuhun,

Fellexandro Ruby 
Food Conversationalist & Photographer

Snack on my tweets @Wanderbites

Nasi Bancakan
Jl. Trunojoyo No. 62, Bandung
Ph: 022 - 4203650

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Mie Naripan Bandung - Word of Mouth or Worth of Mouth?

Who would have thought that a quick trip to Bandung will eventually end up as one joyful day of food discovery (and shopping of course =p). It was a very well spent Saturday. Having nothing on our plan, Mie Naripan was the first pit stop that we decided to venture out. I guess it's a no-brainer with so much praise about this place heard from a friend of a friend of a friend of a ... well you get the idea. I even emptied my stomach since morning only to prepare my appetite for it. Did it live up to my expectation? Has it worth the long drive and the sacrifice? We'll see.

What you see in the opening photo is their signature savory pork noodle. And underneath was the accompanying bowlful of tripes, meatballs and dumplings soup.

Tripes, Meatball, Dumpling Soup w/ Noodles (37k)
Noodle Factory Line

It hurts for me to say that despite of all the word-of-mouth, I did not find it special. Well, the tripes soup is something unordinary, but I've tasted tastier one in Pademangan. As for the noodles, they should thank the chili sauce for bringing out the flavor that it lacked off, and for helping the chopped meat to stand out. It was for me, not a bar higher than ordinary. It was good, but not to the point that would make me wanna drive another two and a half hour for it.

I'm still curious with their sweet yamie though. Anyone has a comment on that? Please don't tell me I just made a serious disadvantage ordering the savory noodle instead of the sweet one. But still, fire away the truth if you have tasted both.

Now, here's a little sideway attraction that I found quite satisfactory. The fried meatballs. Dip it in the sauce and its a feast on the tongue, especially for those who fond of spicy food.

Fried Meat Ball

Another attraction for me is the history. I can feel the cultural ruins of this place and how it made its mark among Bandung citizens. Being named after the street it's on is one. The Mister / 'Ngko' who's still cooking behind the noodle factory line is two. And the endless crowd of people coming in is three. My take is that, Mie Naripan has been a part of the community as the people grew along, hence eating there is now more of a nostalgic experience, instead of a culinary feast. On the extreme, it might be a similar case to Zangrandi ice cream in Surabaya. It's not a top notch ice cream we know, still we love coming there for the love of the experience, not particularly the taste I reckon. Well, one visit might not do the justice, I'm still up to dig some more from this place. But as for now, this is it.

Typical Interior of A Chinese Noodle Place - Calendar, Calendar, Calendar

One more Bandung adventure is coming. O wait! Two more! And it involve a recently opened joint. So tune in, eat up, and live large!


Fellexandro Ruby
Food Conversationalist & Photographer

Snack on my tweets @Wanderbites
Munch on my instagram @Captainruby

Mie Naripan
Jl. Naripan No. 108, Braga, Bandung
Ph: 022 - 4205516
Also available in:
Jl. Bulevar Barat, Komp. Ruko Kelapa Gading Square, Italian Walk Blok B No. 48B

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Toby's Estate Singapore - For Those Who Take Coffee Seriously

Let me introduce you to a wanderful friend of mine, Daniel Kaurranny, who aside from his witty jokes and vast knowledge of the culinary world, is also quite a natural writer. And so, after a few hesitations he finally said yes to my invitation to share. Without further a due, I present to you someone's so passionate in coffee and food that it shows in every line and paragraph. Drop him some comments so he'll write more for us! Or you could intentionally poke him on Twitter @danieldeka =D


I am honored to have the opportunity to do a guest writing for one of Jakarta’s rising food blogger and photographer. I remember following this blog way before he changed to its current design (which, I barely remember the past design ha-ha) but one thing that haven’t change (if not improved) is most food pictures he took made me horny. Literally. Hushhhh, Anyway! the mastermind behind this beautiful blog himself asked me to write for his. I really have no idea which establishment should be written since he’s so updated he’s been anywhere you could imagine, really.

So. As these past year I’ve been (too much) in love with coffee-related things, I decided to write about coffee. I seldom write, FYI, unless-as everyone else felt for Otel Lobby- the experience was hilarious, the food was crazily delicious, or the service is strikingly satisfying.

Ruby reminded me about the writing several days before my trip to Singapore for a short weekend getaway. I haven’t had my holiday quiet a while, and the last time I went to Singapore was early 2008. Poor me.

The “serious” coffee culture in Singapore has been quite a boom these past years, I didn’t know exactly when it started but coffee shops like Highlander, Oriole, and Papa Palheta were gaining fame among us coffee people in Indonesia.

Unfortunately, in my 3 days visit to Singapore I didn’t manage to pay a visit to Highlander or Papa Palheta. Yes, I passed Oriole 3 times, yet my friends seem to be more interested to some pork-serving German restaurant nearby. Oh well.

But! There’s one coffee shop I crazily curious about, which I accidentally found while I was browsing for its Australian headquarter. The name is Toby’s Estate.

Toby’s is one of Australia’s prominent one-stop coffee solutions, from roasting facility, training provider to premium coffee shops, which has been in the business since 1998.
To us Indonesians, studying coffee to Europe or America might seem too far, thus studying at Toby’s Estate is one of (if not everyone’s then it’s just my) most realistic dream.

I read somewhere on the net about the recently-opened Toby’s Estate in Singapore. By that time I knew this should be my top priority to visit whenever I’m there.
Thus, the first day we were in Singapore, after a long quarell about where to go and which bus (or MRT) to take, I managed to convince my friends to accompany me instead. Yay!

Toby’s Estate is located at Rodyk Street. When I asked our cab driver about this he yelled “I have no idea where the hell is that weird street name, Singaporeans are all very random at naming streets, it’s hard to remember!” :D Since the closest area nearby is Robertson Quay, we then asked for Robertson. It was a little confusing to find where the exact location is. We even have to ask someone from Kith Coffee (which later from reviews I read also serve good coffee) to show us way to Toby’s, which is not too far from them :p

Toby’s Estate is tucked among rows of humble restaurants along the Rodyk St, but one distinct view was that, most of their patrons at the time of my visit were Caucasian people (I assume Brits or OZs).

Its interior is basically very simple, a one long communal table filling most space with a coffee tree pot placed at the center of it. They also have some bar faced outside with the view of the river. The outdoor seatings were most likely arranged the same like what we found at Starbucks Puri Indah :p

At the corner of the café we could found the big, masculine roasting machine, which were used to roast their own coffee. Yes, the coffee they brewed for you were roasted at the same premise. That’s how the word fresh should stands for.
I won’t write anything technical since I might sound like a nerd. In short, they were using one espresso machine that beautifully sexy, yet powerful and equipped with the most modern brewing technology, the Kees van der Westen Mirage Triplette. This Kees machine, FYI, is not available (yet) in Indonesia. The only Kees you can find is at Sinou in Panglima Polim, the one from Idrocompresso type. Ah, equipment wise, picture them as Ethan Hunt with futuristic, advanced yet fun-to-play-with secret agent tools.

Great equipments should come with great operators too, in this case, the baristas. One of their barista, Terence, recently placed 2nd runner up at the 2012 Singapore National Barista Championship. The café manager, Suhaimie is also 2nd runner up of 2011 SNBC. That’s convincing enough, for sure.

The latte and flat white we ordered (S$5 each) is one of the nicest coffee I tried. Smooth, sexy milk, blended beautifully with espresso extracted from “Rodyk blend” (their house blend). I tasted some floral-chocolatey notes with sweet blueberry-like finish in my latte. That was orgasmic. Period.

Other than espresso-based drink they also serve all day breakfast meals like Egg Benedict and choices of fresh pastries and breads. They also got what they called a “slow bar” where customer can order coffee with non-espresso methods like chemex, syphon, drip brewing or even Hario cold drip (explanations could be found on Wikipedia :p). I unfortunately didn’t have much time to try all those. That means, I have another excuse to visit Toby’s Estate on my next Singapore trip.

If you take your coffee seriously, this place should be one of your must-visit list. Singapore’s “third-wave” coffee culture has really developed way beyond Jakarta, although Indonesia is the 4th largest coffee producer in the world, ironically. We really should (immediately) start to learn and appreciate our world-famous specialty coffee, to enjoy it in more modern way, to sincerely pay higher price than our usual Kapal Api so that we can stand high and compete among others, or somebody else will (again) take what we had and make use of it before we even realize. Indonesian coffee FTW!


Toby’s Estate Coffee 
8 Rodyk Street #01-03/04
Singapore 238216
Drinks starts S$5, whole bean starts at S$12.5 (per 250gr)

Big thanks to Fellexandro Ruby from for the opportunity to write and share here *highfive*

All photos are courtesy of Daniel Kaurranny himself. He's quite a photographer ain't he?
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