Death of a Legend

Mention “Pulut Panggang”, and it’ll conjure images of an old coffee corner in downtown Tutong, Restoran Hj Asbullah, or better known as “Kadai Hj As”. And it is known not just among us Tutong folk, but also among many across the country.

Last Sunday morning, the trio of us headed there for our usual “easy-lazy brekkie” only to be greeted by shut gates and what appeared to be workmen doing repairs inside. So we scooted elsewhere, thinking no more of it. But two days ago, we heard that in fact the shut down was permanent (at least in that premise). Shock Horror! That can’t be right, we thought! Hj As is an institution- it’s one of the Trilogy that makes up the iconic Hj As/Mei Fang/KK Koya combo on the Tutong riverfront – ALL legendary institutions.

But it is true, it’s closed now, sadly. Apparently, their 60-year lease of the property (pintu) had run out.


So, no more can we have our pulut panggang and kuih Melayu while looking over the river (and busy traffic) and sipping our “kupi” and teh tarik served well-used cups and saucers with original retro designs. Add (very) loud and noisy chatter in the local language. In a way, it was an old boys’ club almost.





The iconic red back door.


For as long as we remember, that’s always been where it was, in the heart of town. However, as the sign above states, they’ve moved into their own building not too far away, but far enough for regulars. The coffeeshop now operates under the name “Puteh” (what Hj As’ deceased wife was known as for her fair complexion, she was Chinese).


And this is the view that you’ll get now. Nice, but different.




I happened to be one of the first few clients at this new outfit on its first day of operations yesterday, Thursday, 1 April 2009. I actually didn’t know it was their first day. The manageress was quite apologetic for some reason, but they really weren’t in full swing yet. I commented the kuihs were not as varied as they used to be, and she promised they would serve the normal menu from before. I could tell she was not oblivious to the fact that people would make comparisons, and I could tell she was determined to keep her clientele and keep the legend alive. The loud conversations in the Tutong language could still be heard, the pulut panggang was still as tasty – but it just wasn’t the same feeling. Change never is easy, but I wish the restaurant well.


5 responses

  1. aiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii~
    I grew up wanting to buy the riverfront property so i could spend my nights sitting on the roof, wrapped in a blanket, sipping hot coffee, staring at the river and having long conversations (eh don’t laugh. more than 10 years sudah umur angan2 ani). but meeeeh it wouldnt be the same without the eating places di bawah. i was planning not to ever cook!

  2. I miss hj as dol… isk isk where r we going to have our breakfast atin tuh? I miss the talur separuh masak.. I’m going to miss the scene where an old lady ‘menyiut’ small fishes at dapan…

  3. Fiz. Kadai Hj As had always been there from the start apparently (me mum tells me, I’m not that old). Actually it’s the perfect location for a cafe/ restaurant. One thing I never understood was why they never took advantage of their popularity and buka malam for orang memancing dapan sungai, if only to jual ready made kuih/ panggang and hot drinks. Perfect hang out place. But tutup tia plg.

    Uma. It’s ok Mah. This Sunday, kita unjar Hj As in person, and bada iyo “Big Mistake, Hj As… Big Mistake!!” Ju temangis lah berubau ge puoh nih k… and the next time ji gitan Nyonya na madas, ado ji tulak nih mengajut ge liyu na! huh!

  4. Hi Gillian! Sadly, yes, it is that cakeshop we had breakfast in unfortunately. They’re still operating though, but in another form. Not quite the same though. Anyway, how are u doing?? Take care, love.

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