Late Night Guide: Kota Kinabalu
Situated on the northwest coast of Borneo, Kota Kinabalu has a beautiful seaside atmosphere, overlooking the vast South China Sea. Due to its accessibility to beautiful pristine islands, lush tropical rainforests and Mount Kinabalu, it has become a popular holiday destination which serves as the perfect gateway for tourists who wish to explore Sabah and Borneo.
With a vibrant culinary scene (ranging from their exotic local cuisine to an extremely fresh selection of seafood), picturesque landscapes and graciously welcoming locals, travellers are guaranteed an enjoyable stay and will have no trouble keeping themselves occupied all through the night. Start exploring the city with this Late Night Guide!
2nd floor, Plaza Shell, 88000 Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia
Opening hours: Mon to Sun, 11.00am to 10.30pm
It really doesn’t get more authentic than D’Place Kinabalu. With high hopes of making native Sabahan food more accessible to all, this restaurant is known for serving traditional Kadazan-dusun cuisine. Kadazan and Dusun are two ethnic groups who are indigenous to the state of Sabah, so if you’re looking for a one of a kind dining experience, this would be it.
Ordering the Ambuyat Set would be a good start. Ambuyat is a starchy dish made from the interior trunk of the sago palm. It is a local delicacy and is usually eaten by rolling it with a special chopstick-like utensil known as cantas and dipping it in various sauces. This mouth-watering meal comes with a selection of tasty condiments and dishes which complement the ambuyat. These include pickled vegetables, sambal, chopped wild ginger, curried fish, raw fish “cooked” in lime juice and deep fried fish. If you like bold flavors, then the Ambuyat Set is perfect for you as the dishes are predominantly spicy and sour.
If you’re feeling a little more adventurous, however, you might want to try butod, also known as the sago worm. This Bornean delicacy is definitely not for the faint hearted. Best eaten alive, it is said to be very nutritious and rich in protein. The indigenous people of Borneo have been eating them for generations and locals even believe that they prevent asthma and helps lower cholesterol. When it comes to taste, these sago worms have been described as creamy and slightly sweet, just like coconut milk.
To make this local delicacy more palatable to tourists, it can also be served fried on a pizza, or even dipped in soya sauce with lime and chili. Whichever way you eat it, this is definitely an experience you’ll never forget.
Twinsky Seafood Restaurant
No. 16, Block D, Sedco Complex, Kampung Air, 88000 Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia
Opening hours: Mon to Sun, 11.00am to 12.00am
It’s never too late for some fresh seafood! Also known as Suang Tain Seafood Restaurant, this humble eatery is nestled in the corner of a food court among many other restaurants, so it may be a little hard to find at first, but it eventually stands out with the large variety of fresh seafood available. Displayed in tanks right beside the restaurant, diners can easily choose which fish, prawn, crab or any other shellfish they want. The best part? All dishes come in sizable portions at reasonable prices. Thumbs up!
If you want to try something other than the usual crab or fish head curry, the Salt and Pepper Mantis Shrimp is highly recommended. Simply seasoned, the natural sweet and juicy flavors of the shrimp really come through. A little fun fact about the Mantis Shrimp – it may be small, but it’s actually one of the most powerful predators in the ocean with the deadliest claw attacks!
Jalan Kepayan, Kampung Ganang, 88200 Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia
Opening hours: Mon to Sun, 8.30am to 2.00pm
This is a breakfast like no other! At TaukehFish Recipe, their signature Big Bowl Hao Liao consists of the catch of the day, rice vermicelli, and a flavorful fish and tomato broth served in a huge 16-inch bowl, with a large pair of chopsticks and ladle to match. The seafood is as fresh as can be (fish is caught, scaled, filleted, cooked and served all on the same day) and the flavors of the broth are super clean and comforting (no MSG or salt is added!). Although the serving is large, we won’t judge if you decide to slurp up the whole bowl all by yourself.
If you’re up for this wholesome and nourishing meal, do call ahead to check for availability as the seafood is seasonal and space is limited. It’s worth the effort for sure!
Sabah Indoor Climbing Centre
24 Jalan Burung Puin, Taman Yakim Jaya, 88450 Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia
Opening hours: Tue to Fri, 4.00pm to 9.00pm & Sat to Sun 12.00pm to 9.00pm
We know it’s hard to tear yourself away from all the delicious food Kota Kinabalu has to offer, but it might be good to squeeze some exercise in between! Located near the city centre, the Sabah Indoor Climbing Centre is the perfect place to get that much needed workout. The walls in the center cater to all types of climbers (no matter beginner, intermediate or advanced) and it’s a haven for all rock climbing enthusiasts! It’s definitely a great place to hang out (pun intended) and get that heart pumping!
Suria Indoor Soccer Centre
Jesselton Point Ferry Terminal, Jalan Haji Saman, Pusat Bandar Kota Kinabalu, 88000 Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia
Opening hours: Open to 12am
If you prefer team sports, head down to Suria Indoor Soccer Center for a short kickabout. The center houses several AstroTurf futsal courts which are perfect for 5-a-side matches. Surprisingly, the place is still crowded and popular even at late hours, so do plan your games and book the court ahead of time. Work up a sweat after a couple of rounds of futsal, and you’re guaranteed to continue on your food journey guilt-free!
With a unique assortment of local delights and fresh seafood to satisfy your appetite, and a variety of scenic nature trails and sports centers to keep you in shape, Kota Kinabalu strikes the perfect balance between fun, food and adventure. This city has everything you’d want in a holiday and more!