Best Food to Try in Kota Kinabalu (II): Cafes and Night Markets Edition
From chili ice cream in minimalistic cafes to charcoal-roasted durians in bustling markets, there's a definitely something in Kota Kinabalu to satiate the inner foodie in you!
We've already shortlisted our favourite food places in Kota Kinabalu. Now, we share more on the other quintessential component of Kota Kinabalu — the cafes and night markets. We were pleasantly surprised to find that compared to the cafes we are familiar with in Singapore that close by night, their cafes tend to close late (11pm - 12am).
Watch us try out the different food places in Kota Kinabalu here: https://www.facebook.com/seeksophie/videos/2133563873363620/
The thing we love most is the discounted cakes at night, it definitely gave us an excuse to have cake every night!
The cafes that we visited (and most food places we talked about in our previous post) are all walking distance from our accomodation, B&B21 — strongly recommended for its prime location and amazing friendly staff (shoutout to Ray who gave us most of our recommendations on where to go and what to eat!)
1. October Coffee House
"If you're looking for a place with good and strong coffee, October's your place."
Try the Siphon coffee if you're feeling fancy or just stick with a regular latte, both options wouldn't disappoint!
First impressions: October gave us a homely vibe; the soft lighting, the wooden flooring, the smell of freshly brewed coffee. Out of the six days we spent in KK, we must have come here at least three times (testament to how much we loved it).
Cheesecake was slightly dry but for RM6 (after 8pm), we aren't complaining!
We definitely agree that October has the strongest coffee among all the cafes we've tried in KK. Unfortunately, October only opens from 10:30am so it can't be your early morning fix. However, it is a great place to sit down and catch up with your friends after a meal!
Opening hours: 10.30am - 12am daily
2. Camaca Gelato
We love the sweet pastel colours of Camaca!
We were walking to get some Bak Kut Teh from Sin Kee when we chanced upon Camaca and told ourselves we had to come back for it.
We thought we would get giant ice-cream macarons, but these are just the flavour capsules they use for their gelato!
The moment we entered, we were drawn to the 101 ice-cream flavours they had available — while they had amazing sounding gelatos such as "Midsummer Lemon" and "Kinabalu Coconut", we decided to go for the adventurous option "Hot Chili".
Chili ice-cream? Thank you, next.
Our thoughts? Get a flavour you would actually enjoy. The ice-cream isn't cheap (about RM14.90 for a scoop of ice cream + a biscuit wafer) and cold and spicy isn't the best combination. We heard the durian flavour is really good but we will have to come back again to try it one day!
Opening hours: 12pm - 10pm daily
3. Woo! Cafe
Right at the entrance, you'll be greeted with a neon signboard "All you need is lol" — a perfect spot for trendy neon OOTDs.
The bright modern decor of Woo! Cafe stand in stark contrast from October's. On our first night, we were wandering the street looking for a good cafe to finish up our work and were drawn to it's "20% off all desserts after 6pm" signboard.
Our incredibly beautiful earl grey tart and lemon meringue tart.
We ordered 2 tarts — the earl grey and the lemon meringue tart (RM17.60 for both). The earl grey tart was pretty average, but we really enjoyed the refreshing and crisp lemon meringue! There's also free wifi available.
Opening hours: 9.30am - 11.30pm from Tuesday to Sunday | Closed on Mondays.
Cafes we would love to try our next visit:
1. Nook Cafe
2. Karamell Almondo
3. Fruto Juice Bar
Taiwan isn't the only country with amazing night markets — Kota Kinabalu may very well give Taiwan a run for its money in terms of the atmosphere, food, and affordablity that is present in their night markets!
1. Api-Api Night Food Market @ Gaya Street
Api-Api opened on December 2018 as an initiative to provide opportunities for local entrepreneurs.
We stumbled upon Api-Api after dinner and immediately noticed how much it resembled Taiwan's night markets (albeit a much smaller version). Every Friday and Saturday night, Gaya street would be closed and filled with little push carts selling a wide variety of food, drinks, and even local handicraft.
We got ourselves some grilled octopus (really fresh and chewy).
There were so many other interesting food that we would have loved to try —
Charcoal roasted durian that's supposedly creamier when roasted
Freshly made mochi.
Api-Api also had the friendliest vendors we've met throughout this trip! We definitely recommend this place if you're in Kota Kinabalu on a weekend. Skip dinner so you get to try more streetfood!
Opening hours: Every Friday & Saturday 6pm - 2am
2. Sinsuran Night Market
Located right in the centre of town, Sinsuran is the perfect place to get your seafood fix. Wander about the many stalls with fresh seafood laid out and choose where you want to eat.
Pick what you would like to try and get the vendors to grill/ steam it for you on the spot!
Apart from seafood, there's a fruit market right next door, where the vendors are more than happy to let you sample their products!
We bought 1kg of mangosteens from this adorable boy because he could speak 4 languages (Korean too!), all through interacting with other tourists.
Head to Sinsuran before the sun sets. Right next to the Sinsuran, locals and travelers alike crowd the Waterfront Boardwalk with their cameras to catch a glimpse of what Huffington Post termed as the top 8 places in the world for the most beautiful sunsets.The magnificent view — we also enjoyed people-watching by the boardwalk.
It's absolutely free to watch the sun set from the boardwalk, and you can silently take in the sight of the fishermen going out to sea in their little boats as the sun sets in glorious jewelled tones above them.
Opening hours: 6pm - 12am daily
3. Asquare Container Night Market
The stalls in Asquare Container Night Market.
Container night markets have been rising in popularity all over the world; Timbre+ in Singapore; ArtBox in Bangkok; Common Ground in Seoul — now, there's Asquare in Kota Kinabalu.
Take a seat by the live performances throughout the night.
Asquare is considered a local secret, untouched by the hordes of tourists yet. In particular, we strongly recommend the Happy Water from Punya Sadap— this innocently named drink contains fresh fruits and Montoku, a tradtional Sabahan rice wine.
It's super refreshing but be careful not to drink it too fast as it contains around 10% alcohol. Our BSA friends warned us that they made the mistake multiple times and ended up too light-headed.
Us with the super friendly and enthusiastic stall owner who explained KundazanDusun cuisine to us.
Other than the happy water, Punya Sadap offers affordable KundazanDusun cuisine, perfect for those interested in trying home-cooked indigenous meals — the stall owner even patiently explained what each dish was to us.
Try the cheese coffee too — milky sweet coffee topped with a smooth cheese foam!
However, one thing to note was that not all the stalls were open when we were there but we still recommend it if you're looking for a chill place to hang out, share some drinks with your friends, and listen to performances.
Opening hours: 5pm - 11pm daily
The highlight of Kota Kinabalu is truly its food — we've always heard of the yummy and affordable local cuisine, but we were happy to see that more modern options were coming into existence. Kota Kinabalu seems to be a perfect balance between tradition and modernity, local and fusion.
What other cafes and night markets in Kota Kinabalu do you recommend?
To read more about the best food to eat in Kota Kinabalu, check out this article.