Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Freshly barbequed satay sticks at Bibik Chan's Satay Garden

It may well be the best coconut rice I have ever had...
Bibik Chan's Satay Garden on Urbanspoon
I had every intention in the world to get along to the Claremont Showgrounds a few weekends ago, which was hosting the Festival of Lights in Perth. The Diwali Mela is a significant festival celebrating the triumph of good over evil, and while this alone is more than enough reasons to rejoice, the large quantities of food typically present at all Diwali festivities adds so much to this important cultural festival. After all, the harmonious effect that food has in bringing all people together is one that is very strong, and one that is truly worth celebrating.

I was ogling at all the food options available at the festival, however thought it best to forgo these desires seeing that we were almost stationary in traffic for 20 minutes right outside the destination. While I can tolerate crowds and queues, hunger is not as patient. I hate the congestion and navigating through masses of people, but I love how the people of Perth are really starting to embrace the city and all its cultural happenings!
Bibik Chan's Satay Garden Restaurant
Being stuck at the same set of traffic lights five times and even being front row witnesses of a car crash at the intersection later, we did a U-turn and looked for a new dinner option. I remembered our visit to Bibik Chan's a while back, though what I remembered most of all is how much the meal disappointed. I crossed my fingers and toes and hoped this was our second time lucky.
Restaurant seating
Upon stepping indoors, the sight was no different from the last time we were here - every table and chair is occupied and the place is packed with diners who are all closely wedged together. The room is small so voices and conversations rebound off each other, and by the end of the night I could probably write a small biography of the people sitting next to us based on everything I unintentionally heard. The restaurant's size makes it cosy, but is on the verge of being cramped as we feel a little restricted in our seats.
Chilli Seafood - $13.50
Remembering the lukewarm (and some parts, even cold) chicken curry we ordered the previous time and hence even asking for it to be microwaved, I didn't really want to take the gamble with round two of cold curry. Instead the option of seafood appealed so I chose the Chilli Seafood, which was an assortment of squid, fish and prawns tossed in a thin chilli sauce which became a spicy broth intermingled with a tamarind sourness. Among the seafood were also pieces of what tasted like a crunchy pickled vegetable of some sort, but we left these behind as they left an unpleasant and slightly bitter aftertaste.
Chilli Seafood, another angle
Andy's tolerance of chilli is as low as you can go, but for the last five times we have eaten out I've unintentionally ordered dishes which are unexpectedly hot (how on earth could an innocent sashimi rice turn out spicy, seriously!) I've done this so much that I've coined this occurrence as "Chilli Fridays", which is the day we typically eat out (and I typically happen to order chilli meals).

As fate would have it, the spiciness of this dish is hotter than I had guessed and I end up finishing most of it as Andy prods around his rice and cucumber pieces, which were pretty much the only items that were not hot. Ooooops, I did it again.
Nasi Lemak - $10.50
Similarly, the beef rendang was also very spicy but had such a strong, fragrant aroma and taste that I hissed my way through the four large chunks of stringy beef. The ikan bilis were moreish; they had a delightfully crunchy texture and I kept on picking it up with my fingers and eating them as I would with chips out of a packet. With our mouths burning up at this stage, the cucumber was a godsend at providing a much-needed cooling effect against the seafood, rendang and chilli sambal. The true humble star of the nasi lemak however, is the rice - infused with a rich coconut flavour and aroma that I almost ordered another serving to have on its own. I think it may well be the best coconut rice I have ever had in a restaurant!
Assorted Satays with pineapple and onion (6 skewers) - $9
Satays are a big thing at Bibik Chan's, considering their whole restaurant name is dedicated to their satays. The only saving grace of last time's mediocre dinner were the satay sticks, which have a note on the menu guaranteeing the meat to be tender with a juicy, succulent finish. The beef and chicken satays are marinated and barbequed over an open fire for a charred and aromatic flavour, however this is compromised with the dryness of the beef satay. I fix the problem by first dunking the meat into the cup of peanut sauce then lathering on more of that same nutty sauce on top to completely saturate it with moisture. That sauce my friends, is good stuff.
Interior, taken after the busy dinner rush
One lone chair for the pre-dinner queues, or post-dinner dawdlers
The secret garden of Bibik Chan's Satay Garden
A quick bathroom visit led to the discovery of the garden behind the restaurant's name, which is a large outdoor seating area hidden behind the small restaurant. It is like an enchanted little forest plastered with greenery - so full of trees, plants and charm. I'd imagine it would be quite the experience to sit outside in the warm summer air under the blanket of night sky, if it wasn't so eerily silent and abandoned for squishy indoor seating.
Mini lanterns strung across the front window

The reason why I come back to Bibik Chan's despite their mediocre food is the real, unpretentious aspect of the restaurant. The place can pass as a place for a quick meal if you are in the vicinity, though I would not make an effort to come specifically to satisfy any food desires. With that, I would consider coming if I had any pressing satay cravings, as I have yet to find a restaurant that grills a mean satay stick worth my cravings.
The tight, rickety entrance
The style of cooking at Bibik Chan's is a very home style way of cooking, with influences from Chinese, Malaysian, Indian and Thai cuisine. Sure enough, feelings of deja vu surfaced when I was eating a chilli seafood stir-fry at home the following night, which tasted like an exact replica of what I ordered at Bibik Chan's. Home style alright!
Bibik Chan's Satay Garden, Nedlands
Bibik Chan's Facebook Page
Dinner: Open 7 nights from 5:30pm

Tel: (08)9386 8492
134B Stirling Highway Nedlands WA 6009

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