Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Kuantan - A diamond in the rough

Kuantan was just a stop over en-route to somewhere else. It is a small provisional town with not a lot going for it apart from a very helpful Tourist Information Office, who when asked what there is to do in town, replied with a blank look. They were very generous with brochures of the Tioman Islands though.
There really is nothing to do in town either. It has a nice large Mosque, a walkway along the river front and a cinema which we went to. A word of warning, like Malaysian buses, Malaysian Cinemas also have the air conditioning on full blast. We were happy to leave, just to warm our bare feet up. 
That night we didn't really want to go far to eat, so we asked in the hotel, and they pointed literally across the street to the Tjantek Art Bistro. This little place turned out to be a little oasis in an otherwise very dull town. It is we found out after the meal a very long building, as with most Nyonya houses of similar design. They were charged taxes on the width of the building not the length of it. Clever those Chinese were. 
As we entered the open shop front, immediately we felt a very relaxed vibe with some Jazz playing and a lot of art on the walls and books in cases in cabinets on either side. The lighting had been set to make for a pleasant evening of food and chat.
The menu had a major slant towards Europe, with a few Asian dishes for good measure. This we found out later off the owner was to give the local population something familiar to eat when they visited if they were not adventurous enough. 
Some nice salads were on offer, along with some solid steaks dishes and some equally appetising fish on the menu also. Lina opted for a fillet of fish whilst I had a salmon steak. Both came with a nice lemon butter sauce, sauté potato's and a medley of vegetables and coleslaw(?) . No idea why that was on the plate. The fishes were grilled to perfection, cooked but still moist on the inside. 
It was a fantastic meal, simple food, cooked very well. All that was missing was a glass or two of wine, but as the owners were Malay and Muslim it is illegal for them to sell alcohol. If they would have been Chinese or Indian (Hindu) then they could have an alcohol licence. Licensing laws are always weird. 
The owner gave us a tour at the end of her restaurant and told us about the art on the walls, which most is from local artists. She asked us where we were going tomorrow, knowing everyone only spends one night in Kuantan. If you happen to get stuck there, then head for Tjantek for a great evening. In a dull town, Tjantek shines like a diamond. 

Tjantek Art Bistro
46 Jalan Besar

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