Sulawesi Cuisine in Johor Baru

When I was invited to a restaurant that serves Sulawesi cuisine, I prepared my palate for a taste of exotic Indonesian dishes that was typically chilli-hot and spicy.

Facade of Sulawesi Cuisin restaurant, Taman Mount Austin
Sulawesi, formerly known as the Celebes, is an island in the Republic of Indonesia, so I guessed their cuisine should also feature seafood and I was right.

Simply known as Sulawesi Cuisine, the restaurant not only has a menu of seafood, it is also popular for a selection of chargrilled items that uses coconut shells for fuel, in a dining concept created by Pak Boetje Bawole, the owner of a chain of similar restaurants in Indonesia.

This outlet at Taman Mount Austin is located in a corner shop with a spacious dining area on its ground and first floors. From a distance, I could see spires of smoke from an open grill by the side of the building where a kitchen staff was cooking.

Kudu-Kudu, Box Fish in Sulawesi Mango Sauce
When I arrived, I saw Bryan Ong, helping to serve diners. He looked like a very hands-on manager who didn’t mind lending a hand in the restaurant, especially during busy dinner hours.

Diners who have discovered their interesting menu, have made reservations and I saw tables joined up into a long banquet for them. 

One group was already seated and dining while another long table had a ‘Reserved’ sign on it. It was not long before guests arrived and this table was also occupied.

I was glad there was still a table to accommodate my family of eight and after welcoming us in, Bryan passed us the menus while he continued to help out with the serving. Later he told me that they happened to be shorthanded that day.

Sukang served in two flavours: Rica-Rica sauce on
its head and Kecap Manis on its tail
As we browsed through the pages, I noted that it was helpful that items were highlighted with an icon for Chef’s Recommendation.

The menu introduced diners to Sulawesi cuisine and provided a guide to select the types of fish and pick from the recommended cooking style – whether fried whole or fried sliced fillets – as well as in various flavours. I’m pleasantly surprised that even the names of the fish sounded exotic!

One may choose Goreng Polos which means, Original, Just fry it! Or in choices of Goreng Telor Asin (fried in salted egg), Saos Asam Manis (sweet and sour sauce) and Saos Mangga (Sulawesi mango sauce).

Sate Ayam and Sapi served on a grill with two dip sauces
Finally, Bryan recommended Kudu-Kudu or Box Fish also known as ‘Helicopter Fish’ – a species of fish found in abundance in the sea surrounding Sulawesi, prepared in Sulawesi mango sauce.

When this was served, we discovered that a ‘box’ of meat was hollowed out from the fish. This was cubed and coated in batter before being deep-fried. 

Then mango sauce and slivers of fresh mango were added to the fish meat and served in the hollow ‘box’ within the fish!

He also suggested we tried their signature charcoal grilled fish and helped to pick Sukang, a leather jacket fillet fish, prepared in two sauces – Rica-Rica, a signature hot and spicy mixture, and a milder Kecap Manis, a popular Indonesian sweet soy sauce.

He explained that the two-flavour fish would usually be served seasoned with one flavour each on each side of the fish but for my photography purposes, he would serve the two flavours more visibly with the Rica-Rica sauce on the head and the Kecap Manis on its tail.

Grilled terong or eggplant topped with Rica-Rica sauce
One of my all-time favourites is satay and here these skewers of grilled marinated tender chunks of meat are called, Sate and they are served in three meat choices – ayam (chicken), sapi (beef) and kambing (mutton).

It was interesting that our chicken and beef satay was served on a grill with two types of dip sauce, a spicy peanut sauce and a Kecap Manis (sweet soy sauce).

Another of my favourites is eggplant and here, the slices of terong (eggplant) were grilled and topped with spicy Rica-Rica sauce.

I was glad that not all dishes here were hot and spicy. We savoured Chinese-style stir-fried vegetables like kangkung belacan and prawns in salted egg sauce.

Lychee and Ice-Cream [Left] and Mixed Fruit Cocktail
Jus Alpukat was recommended to help cool off after a tasty meal. This was a delicious blend of fresh alpukat or avocado flavoured with Gula Melaka or palm sugar.

Two popular choices of desserts here are Lychee and Vanilla Ice-cream drizzled in coconut milk and Gula Melaka, and a refreshing mixed fruit cocktail with chin-chau (grass jelly) and shaved ice. 

This somehow reminded me of the reverse of an Air Batu Campur where there was more condiments than shaved ice!

Sulawesi Cuisine is at No. 55, Jalan Austin Heights 8/8, Taman Mount Austin, 81100 Johor Baru. Banquet and private event facilities are available. For reservations, Tel: 607 – 361 0907.

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