Travel Features > The Gastronome's Guide To Kuching

Coca Restaurant,
Crowne Plaza Riverside Hotel

 

I love going for a steamboat in Kuching but one thing I don't particularly like about this culinary experience is that, more often than not, you end up stinking of fish, especially if it happens to be a windy day. OK, this is all part of the fun of eating out hawker-style. However, there are times when I am in the mood for a steamboat but I'm not too keen on a facial of chicken or fish broth steam.

Thankfully, I've now found a solution to this `taste buds vs. smelly clothes' dilemma. The Coca Restaurant, located on the 3rd Floor of the Crowne Plaza Riverside Hotel in Kuching, is a well-ventilated, air-conditioned restaurant that specialises in the steamboat dining experience. Such a set up allows diners to enjoy the culinary pleasures of a steamboat in comfortable surroundings.

When I first heard about the Coca Restaurant, I decided to give it a miss. I figured that being located in a luxury hotel, the price of a steamboat would be too expensive. I was wrong. Although prices at Coca are higher than the standard open-air steamboat restaurants, they do represent value-for-money when you take into account the quality of the ingredients, the service and dining environment.

Coca Restaurant Kuching is part of the COCA chain of restaurants. From the humble beginnings of a 20 seat Cantonese restaurant in Bangkok in 1957, the Cocoa Group has grown into an Asia-wide chain with over 25 restaurants in Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Japan Taiwan and Australia. As you would expect Coca's restaurants are influenced by Thai cuisine. The Kuching Restaurant serves a range of a la carte Thai dishes as well as its steamboat specials. In addition to Coca's chicken-based soup stock, diners can also opt for a spicy Tom Yam steamboat. All steamboats are served with Coca's spicy dip sauce.

Coca offers lunch and dinner set-menus of all-you-can-eat steamboat buffets. Three set lunches are available. The "Special" is priced at RM 13.80 ++ per person and suitable for those who just want a light lunch. It consists of 12 dishes plus steamed rice and Chinese tea. The "Express" is a more extravagant affair and costs RM 18.80++ per person. For that you get 21 dishes and steamed rice. Finally there is the "Premium" (22 dishes plus steamed rice) priced at RM 23.80++ per person. The "Premium" is also available as a set dinner along with the "Supreme" - a monster steamboat meal of 23 dishes plus steamed rice priced at RM 29.80++ per person. You can eat as much as you like and go on ordering endless prawns, squid or whatever. This should not be a problem for most gluttons but anyone with eyes bigger than their mouth should remember that a fee of RM 4 per 100 gm is levied on any extra food that is ordered but not eaten.

So, what exactly do you get for your money? A friend and I went for the "Premium" set dinner and embarked upon an evening of thoroughly enjoyable gluttony. The meal included crab, prawn, fish head, fish balls (superb), house fish glue (the best glue I've ever eaten!), squid, soaked cuttlefish, beef fillet, chicken fillet, Foo Chock, shrimp wantan, dumplings, green noodles, glass noodles, tofu, spring onions, cabbage, morning glory, spinach, long beans, mushrooms and stuffed baby corn. Somehow we managed to get through the whole lot. As with all steamboats the soup got better the longer it bubbled away and all the ingredients - seafood, vegetables and meat - were as fresh as claimed.

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