Uniquely Sabahan ingredients like a Kota Belud corn and sea urchin from Semporna take center stage in Oitom
When most people think of fine dining in Malaysia, they don’t consider anything outside the confines of the Klang Valley. But chef-owner Raphael Jay Peter Lee is hoping to change that with OITOM in Kota Kinabalu. The restaurant celebrates Sabah’s flavours and ingredients.
“It all began when I was working in Melbourne for eight years and coming back to Sabah only once a year,” Raphael tells us. “I found the standard of food and beverage here to be stagnant. I made the choice to come back to the motherland, to create a platform where I could discover hidden passionate producers and growers, use their products and promote them. We do have great people that work on great ingredients here. We just need to look harder out there to find them.”
You’ll find those great ingredients studded throughout Oitom’s inventive tasting menu, whether it’s Kota Belud corn (“So much sweeter and juicier,” says Raphael); white clams (“so tender and buttery in their texture”); or sea urchin from Semporna (“they have that sweet, salty, briny taste to them”).
The aim of Oitom’s game is to highlight the uniqueness of Bornean produce. Like the native wild mango bambangan or the “magic fruit” that grows in Tenom (“[It] alters your taste buds from sour to sweet”). Even the name Oitom means “black” in the Kadazan language – and you’ll realise why when you step inside the restaurant.
Following the easing of the MCO, the restaurant is now open once again for dine-ins with new safety regulations in place. OITOM has also introduced its OITOM Food Kits, a fuss-free way to experience its delicious menu offerings at home.
This story originally appeared in the Spring 2020 issue of Going Places magazine.