Stroll along Australian Place in Kota Kinabalu and you will find a unique restaurant in blue – hence the name ‘Biru Biru.’ Back in 1945, this area was the camp site of the Alliance during World War II. On the exact spot where Biru-Biru stands, the first concrete building was erected post-war. This building initially served as a printing press before adapted to other functions – today it houses a backpacker lodge and Biru Biru café. Apart from the obvious colour theme of the café (biru means blue),the name was also inspired by a famous local song, Sayang Kinabalu which uses the line ‘biru biru.’ The café stands out with its vintage and upcycled furniture, with handmade tables and bar-tops.
Flipping through the menu, it’s apparent that they go to great lengths to infuse local flavours and recipes. An ingredient that stands out is tuhau – fascinatingly featured in some of their dishes. Tuhau is a type of wild ginger, diced and mixed with other ingredients and left to ferment. It has a rather distinctive smell and flavor and truth be told, it takes some getting used to! Biru Biru stays true to this local specialty and is featured in their battered fish or spicy beef taco, topped with tomato, cheddar and tuhau salsa. Pasta anyone? Italy meets Sabah in their Tomato Tuhau Pasta with chicken – easily one of their bestsellers. An all-time favourite is their Nasi Lemak with Fried Chicken as well as the Corned Beef Ikan Masin (salted fish – another must-have in local kitchens) Fried Rice. Also noteworthy is the Grilled Chicken and Pumpkin Sandwich, served with a side of fries and the Coconut Pasta with Grilled Prawns.
Have a beer or two and enjoy some snacks or as the locals call it, pusas. Go for the juicy Teriyaki Chicken Wings or snack on crunchy ikan basung (deep fried fish), dipped with chilli and lime sauce – bones and all! Since it’s time for a drink, order the signature cocktail, Fee-Lihing-Good.
The café stands out because of its dedication to the arts and culture scene in KK and various initiatives take place here in support. Their local bazaar Tamu Tamu is held every couple of months, as well as poetry reading sessions, art exhibitions and even film and documentary screenings. Come December, Biru Biru is dedicating the first Sunday of each month to an Open Mic Night. Stay tuned for these events at more at Biru Biru!