The hustle and bustle of busy Chinatown on a busy Friday night with spruikers down Little Bourke and neon signs everywhere are distracting enough for one to seek refuge in what appeared to be a little joint with the quirky name of Sugarbun.
My first thought was Chinese bakery with sweet offerings and a hot drink on a cold night. But no...
We were led to a private lift and ushered to the 2nd level. It's rustic, industrial with jazz music fluted from hidden speakers. Where are we?
A cozy spot for an intimate tete-a-tete it seems...
The decor is unmistakably trendy and without a menu, it would be easy to imagine this being a cafe serving modern/bistro French/Italian/Australian.
But no, the items on the menu were unabashedly Malaysian. I chortled at delight with the inclusion of old faves like Bak Kut Teh (pork stomach no less!) and Fish Bee Hoon Soup.
We've never tasted Dry Bak Kut Teh. This was flavoursome, mooreish and perfect with rice. The dish might be described as "dry" but really, the pork has absorbed the wonderful herbal and dark bold flavours of the concentrated stock/broth it was so delightfully cooked in. I love the rice and the little serve of preserved veggies.
Generally not a fan of deep-fried chicken from that oh-so-famous-secret-spices fast food chain, I must declare Sugarbun's Broasted Chicken to be one of their best signature dishes. A-M-A-Z-I-N-G.
Who knew? Soft moist juicy tender meat encased with light crispy crunchy skin. Seasoned to perfection. Order it with Nasi Lemak, have it on its own or just take it home. It heats incredibly well in the oven, which is normally not the case with other fried food.
Now we ain't coming here without trying their "signboard" dish - BAK KUT TEH. The you teow dipped in strong herbal piping hot soup will forever remain one of my close-eyes-and-savour dishes. There is no disguising the origins of this broth. It speaks loud and it speaks clear. Punchy, herbally and with great body.
Some might not appreciate the intense relationship I have with Fried Fish Bee Hoon Soup. It's a love-hate relationship. Love the good ones. Hate vendors of bad ones.
THIS. IS. THE. SOUP. TO. BEAT.
Intensely smoky, the soup is rich with the enticing aroma and taste of fish bones simmered to such a state of extraction, the flavours of that is at one with the broth. Molten fish bones. The fish was crunchy and the cut red chilli padi in soy packs a spicy dipping punch.
My pet peeve was the fact this was served wtih thin bee hoon. It should be served with thick laksa noodles (chor bee hoon). There's a reason why this dish is cooked with thick bee hoon in Singapore. It WORKS.
This is the broasted chicken with chiciken rice. Enough said about the broasted chicken. Yes we know it's high-pressure cooked to maintain the sweetness and juiciness of the meat. Yes we know it takes 15 minutes to cook in controlled oil temperature. Yes the cucumber salad is charming. Now we just want to sink our teeth and surrender our taste buds already.
Oh yummy yum yum. This drink is so perfect as the finish to a wonderful meal. Not too sweet, this red date and longan combination with the fragrance of rock sugar and textural addition of white fungus (to our Aussie readers, no it does not come from putrid feet), order not one but two of these beauties!