Meatballs and more at El Buey
Photography by Julian Sim
El Buey, a hip new restaurant in Kuching has managed to garner quite a big following since its opening in June 2014. It helps too that they are very social media friendly. Just ask their swarm of followers on Instagram and Facebook.
Considering its affordability in the Western food market and rustic interior design, it is easy to see why. El Buey looks very inviting with its wooden layout and down-to-earth design, giving a sense of warmth as you enter. It’s clear to see that a lot of personal touches were incorporated in the layout by owner, Abdul Rayjal as El Buey looks to have a personality of its own, setting it apart from other restaurants in Kuching.
According to Rayjal, El Buey is a name he put together from the local Sarawak slang to depict the feeling when one is stuffed after a meal. I believe he is implying that his food will leave you stuffed – and if the Western meets street food concept is your thing, then it will be a good experience to add onto that.
The interior design isn’t the only thing that is inviting, as the waiters are both adept in explaining their menu and friendly enough to spark up a conversation to help you with what you’d like to be ‘buey-ed’ with (if I’m using that term right).
If you get instructed the way they instructed me, you will have to try their house specialty of meatballs. These items are apparently so popular with customers that they sell out quite quickly, so you’ll need to drop them a call if meatballs are what you are looking for to avoid being disappointed.
For the full meatball experience, you’ll want to order the ‘Legendary Buey Combo’ (RM15) which is a 12-piece meatball platter with a helping of mashed potatoes and crinkle cut French fries. The sauce that comes with the meatballs is their special meatball sauce topped with Jam.
There is not much to say about their fries other than they come cooked well enough, being crisp on the outside and soft in the inside. What came as a surprise though, was how well the mashed potatoes were prepared; slightly chunky, while still soft and smooth. It comes as a welcome delight as it avoids the common mistake most restaurants make by over-mashing their potatoes to a baby-food like texture.
The meatballs however, will most likely have patrons sitting on the fence. If you came looking for crumbly juicy, fatty meatballs with a caramelized crust, these will not be the meatballs you are looking for. On the other hand, if you enjoy solid, yet springy meatballs with a crispy crust then these are the meatballs for you.
The ‘Special’ sauce that comes with the meatballs is a brown sauce which is rather on the sweet side, while the jam on top adds a different profile of sweetness and good sourness. If sweetness is not your cup of tea, then you may go against the recommendation and opt for something more savoury.
A side dish that is recommended as well is their Chilli Fries (RM8) which goes well if you request an additional grating of cheddar cheese (RM1.50) on top. The fries are similar to the ones that come with the ‘Legendary Buey Combo’ but the meat sauce that tops the fries are a welcome flavour of slight sweetness, heat from what tastes like chilli powder and sourness from tomatoes. The meat sauce is rather sweet overall, but has good accompanying flavours that add to it rather than being just one-dimensional.
Overall if you have a sweet tooth and are looking to sweeten your El Buey experience, the Lamborghini Milo may just be the answer for you. A tall serving of the classic Milo drink, served in a cup lined with chocolate syrup topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and of course drizzled once again with chocolate syrup is the perfect choice to go with your adventurous night. It isn’t on their usual menu, but the waiters will know what you’re looking for.
At the end of it all, one will realise that El Buey is an honest-to-goodness restaurant with a lot of heart and when lined with good company, will make any night enjoyable. Although the food may leave you a little wanting, the overall experience may just be worth your while.
El Buey is open for business from Monday to Saturday at 12:00pm to 11:00pm except on Fridays when they open from 2:00pm to 11:00pm.
You may find them at the address “Jalan Haji Taha, 93400 Kuching, Malaysia” and for more information, you can look them up at their Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/El.Buey.Kuching/
Hilary Ho is a teacher, aspiring writer and food traveller who writes about food and lifestyle for his blog urban-palate.blogspot.com. When he is not teaching or writing for others, he enjoys wandering the streets in search of food and the stories of the people behind them. He currently resides in Kuching.