#ICYDK : The Variety of Cuisine We Have in Kota Kinabalu
Whether it is your first-time visiting KK or an eagerly anticipated return visit post-pandemic, you have no doubt been told of the not-to-be-missed seafood which is abundantly available, fresh and affordable.
However, a little-known fact is that KK is also home to an up-and-coming food scene. Featuring a wide culinary spectrum spanning from street food to fine dining, the food scene here is a well-kept secret that is definitely worth exploring. From traditional Sabahan cuisine to cutting-edge gastronomic experiences, KK has something and everything to offer.
Here is a list of the 10 must visit places to eat for those wanting to sample the delights that this city has to offer:
1. Limau & Linen
The menu at Limau & Linen showcases delightfully fresh interpretations of classic dishes, courtesy of renowned local Chef and owner – Linn Yong. Never one to shy away from a challenge, Chef Linn brought her vision to life with a clear mission to champion local produce and talent. Using only fresh and ethically-sourced ingredients, Limau & Linen has set the bar for responsible dining.
The atmosphere at Limau & Linen is just as exceptional. Take in the restaurant’s unique eclectic style as you sip on your cuppa; warm timber tones, specially curated fabrics and crockery set against the backdrop of a bustling open kitchen all combine to create a sophisticated-chic ambience. Be sure to save room in your tummy for their highly coveted cakes and pastries.
2. Happy Place
This family-friendly restaurant isn’t just great for kids – there are plenty of decadent dishes on offer for grown-ups too. With a Cajun-inspired menu, Happy Place serves up hearty meals from pastas to burgers to steaks.
Operating out of a converted warehouse, the restaurant oozes an unmistakably cool industrial vibe, yet somehow manages be incredibly warm and inviting at the same time. Whether you’re planning your next celebration, want an evening out to unwind with friends and fabulous cocktails, or simply craving comfort food at its finest – Happy Place caters to all your needs.
3. Alu-Alu Kitchen
Only locally sourced and organic produce makes it into the kitchens of this much-loved local restaurant. Whether it’s fresh grouper, juicy free-range chicken or Green O’s specially grown
organic veggies – Alu-Alu’s experienced chefs have mastered the subtle art of respecting yet enhancing the flavours of their unmistakably fresh ingredients.
A must try is their readily available Green O’s veggie juice which is packed full of fibre, anti-oxidants and other amazing nutrients. One sip of this and you will feel invincible!
The restaurant’s spacious, clean and bright interiors do little to distract from the amazing food at hand. Situated in the industrial suburb of Kolombong, Alu-Alu Kitchen is a true local gem and definitely worth venturing away from the City Centre to experience.
Walk into Mamasita and you’ll immediately mistake yourself for being in a cantina in the heart of Mexico City. Adorned with Mexican folk art and stunning wall murals, Mamasita sets the mood for a festive night out fuelled by margaritas and tacos. Live music by local musicians entertains the crowds every Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from 8.30pm. Sizzling fajitas, cheesy enchiladas and Baja fish tacos are just some of the Mexican delights you’ll find on their popular menu. Be sure to make a booking particularly on weekends when it gets busy with locals and tourists alike.
5. Tana Borneo
Nordic inspired modern cuisine isn’t typically the first thing that comes to mind in a tropical South East Asian city like Kota Kinabalu. Yet, located in the trendy Toojou Hotel in the centre of KK city sits Tana Borneo – a quirky, fun and effortlessly cool restaurant serving up some of the most cutting-edge modern cuisine KK has to offer. Staying true to its eccentric artsy style
– a giant tube slide prominently placed in the centre of the restaurant beckons your inner child to come and have a go (Note: We recommend from experience to have your slide BEFORE your meal to avoid any post-food expulsions).
Scandi style rosti and Swiss rolls filled with local fruit flavours are a few of the crowd pleasers on their menu. If you’re craving an ice-cool beverage pre or post dinner, do make your way up to Tamu Rooftop bar for some cocktails and stunning views.
Kota Kinabalu’s ultimate fine dining restaurant; OITOM serves up wildly creative, produce- driven and multiculturally-inspired degustation menus. Derived from the Kadazundusun word for “black”, OITOM strives to highlight Sabah’s bounty on a black canvas.
Sourcing ingredients from the North, West, Central and North-Eastern regions of Sabah, OITOM’s tasting menus aim to show diners just how wonderful and diverse our local produce can be. Smoked fresh cheese and beetroot, sweet grilled corn from Kota Belud and decadent desserts using Bonaterra Chocolate (Borneo’s bean-to-bar chocolate) are just some examples from OITOMs ever-evolving seasonal menus.
Dining here is more than just a nice meal, it is an unforgettable experience that makes occasions truly special. With breath-taking food and first-class service a guarantee, OITOM should definitely be at the top of your list if you are planning a night to remember.
7. Aachi Curry House
Established in 2003 right in the heart of Kota Kinabalu, Aachi Curry House is a local favourite and a must-try for lovers of authentic Indian cuisine. They are the place to go to when you are craving for banana leaf – an all-you-can-meal where you can enjoy unlimited refills of different types of rice (their tomato rice is amazing!) and vegetables, while selecting from a huge variety of meats, curries, and vegetable dishes. They also offer a impressive selection of condiments such as chutneys and dried chillies. Paired off with a refreshing mango lassi or brewed coffee with fresh milk, lunch at Aachi’s is definitely one to crave for!
Offering a unique dining experience, Flips serves up a variety of South American favourites and creative cocktails that are infused with local ingredients and culture. In addition to its
iconic plants-spired décor and bar area; just above is an outdoor rooftop space where you can unwind and take in the nightscape ambience. Flips is also known for their great music and featured local DJs and artists – definitely the place to go for great eating, drinking, and partying!
If you would like to wine and dine on authentic Italian dishes against an iconic sunset view at KK’s Waterfront, Gusto Food & Wine is the place to be! It is owned and operated by Chef
Christiano. Crowd favourites from their menu include the seafood marinara, tuna carpaccio, and their quattro formaggi pizza. They also offer seasonal dishes such as grilled seabass that is sustainably sourced from local fishermen, and is a must-have if you find it on their menu!
Dinner at Gusto is best enjoyed over a few hours with friends and a bottle (or a few) from their large selection of wines. It is a great spot for couples or small families alike!
10. Todak Waterfront Hawker Centre
An eclectic cross between a hawker centre and a seafood market, this spot features dozens of vendors and local seafood dishes that score high in both taste and affordability! You can walk through their myriad of stalls to select fresh seafood and have the vendors cook them on the spot as you wish. It’s a great experience and a fun way to enjoy KK’s famous seafood as a family. It is also just a short walk from popular spots such as the KK Central Market, Segama Night Market, and the famous Marlin Statue.