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Come to Utan, a garden oasis-themed restaurant in Putatan
Published on: Saturday, July 06, 2024
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Come to Utan, a garden oasis-themed restaurant in Putatan
The nature-themed restaurant features winding pathways lined with more than 30 species of tropical foliage and cozy alcoves nestled amidst fragrant herbs and vines hanging from the ceiling. (Photos: Daily Express/Jonathan Nicholas)
PUTATAN: Escape from the bustling city and immerse yourself in a garden oasis-themed restaurant, Utan, which marked its grand opening in Kampung Petagas, here, on Saturday. 

The nature-themed restaurant features winding pathways lined with more than 30 species of tropical foliage and cosy alcoves nestled amidst fragrant herbs and vines hanging from the ceiling. 

Its owner, Jason Poi, said he wanted to create something meaningful and with purpose for his first restaurant.

The 48-year-old envisioned raising the local community while promoting nature conservation, hence, the stylised name Utan which translates to forest. 

“One of our core pillars is to engage with local artists and farmers and create a platform to help them sell their products,” he said. 

“Kicking off the grand opening is a two-day artisan market in their support which we will be seeing more of in the future.” 

Jason said the nature-conservation theme struck him after learning of the existence of the Irrawaddy dolphins in Sabah’s east coast. 

“These rare animals exist in our own backyard but many Sabahans do not know about them,” he explained. 

The two-day celebration until Sunday offers an exclusive RM300 grand-opening deal called the Utan Warrior. 

“It will get you a RM200 voucher, a year-long 10 percent discount and 20 percent off on your birthday. On top of that, we will be planting a tree in your name,” he said. 

Jason explained that the tree planting, in collaboration with 1StopBorneo Wildlife, will be along the Borneo elephant migration routes near estates in Tawau. 

“There will be fig trees as a food source for the elephants to avoid human conflict,” he said. 

The grand opening featured a dinosaur appearance from Jurassic Land Kiulu, a kid’s jumping castle, a reptile exhibit from Lok Kawi Zoo, a live band and cultural performances. 

“Our soft opening was in March and since then, we have been building up slowly. We have held monthly environmental talks. So far, the topics covered were fish bombing, turtles, bird watching and endangered plants,” he said. 

“We are pleased to announce that we are open and we hope to continue to grow.”

Standing tall right in the middle of the restaurant are two bamboo water cooling towers.

Jason said it is a pilot project involving a local designer and industry player. 

“In India they use clay pipes. In Southeast Asia, bamboo. But it’s the same principle of using water and a fan to create a cooling effect,”  the interior designer explained. 

“Bamboo products are something new to Sabah despite an abundance of the material. Countries like Indonesia and Vietnam are well established in the industry. 

“I am personally excited to create interesting sustainable structures and products.” 

The restaurant has the capacity to serve 200 hungry customers at a time including the VIP room on the first floor which houses up to 50. 

Foodwise, Utan’s cuisine indulges in Malaysian delights. The oxtail asam pedas and satay are bestselling. Their signature dish meanwhile is the lontong lumiati. 

“It's like masak lemak cili api (spicy coconut milk) with vegetables, fried tofu and crackers served with nasi impit (rice cubes),” he said, welcoming all to try their Utan Jungle Mocktails.

“It’s a recipe we brought in that’s popular in the peninsula and Indonesia but is uncommon in Sabah. We also serve western-style food including pizzas. 

“More than just a dining experience, we offer a journey of discovery, connection and celebration. 

“By embracing the beauty of Sabah's natural landscapes, honouring its cultural heritage, and championing its local  products, we hope to create a space where guests can savour the flavours of Malaysia while making a meaningful difference in the lives of local communities.”

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