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.