“Are you sure?” asked the waiter, who appeared to refuse to take note of our order. “Four tiger prawns? Four?”
“Yes, that’s right,” I confirmed. “Four.”
“So that’s four tiger prawns, one sea bass, one chicken satay, and fried rice. Correct?” asked the waiter. But before I could say yes, he spoke again. “One serving of chicken satay is a dozen. That’s equal to 12 sticks. Twelve.”
“Yes. Twelve. A dozen is twelve.”
The waiter left us utterly confused. It was as if he did not want us to have what we ordered. That confusion, however, would be killed as soon as all the dishes were served. It was just too much. Way too much. Considering that we were just a party of two, we knew at that moment that we were in for a big, big dining experience.
Orkid Ria Seafood Restaurant
Based on the number of occupied tables and the length of the queue in front of it, Orkid Ria has got to be one of the most popular restaurants in Langkawi. And if our cab driver is to be believed, then it is the most popular. We did not know any good food places in the island before we arrived, but when we asked our driver for recommendations, he confidently directed us to this place.
Orkid Ria Restaurant is a family restaurant. According to this site, its humble beginnings can be traced back to Kuah, the district capital of Langkawi. It started out as a simple eatery where the owner, a mother, served home-cooked dishes using the fresh catch of his fisherman son. They slowly built a following and later moved to Pantai Cenang, the island’s most touristy beach, where it was accessible to more people.
It’s not hard to find this place. A glowing yellow signage spelling its name shines at the gable of the main dining hall, which can accommodate up to 250 customers at once. Their specialty, of course, is fresh seafood. In fact, even before we entered the place, we were immediately drawn to their big aquarium cradling live tiger prawns, lobsters, crabs, and fish. Waiting customers can already take a look at their menu or pick from the poor dinner-to-be creatures on the aquarium or the ice-covered fish bed so they could prepare the dish in advance.
Time isn’t slow at the Orkid Ria. Everywhere you look, you’ll see waiters and waitresses rushing around the place to take and deliver orders to the dozens of tables scattered throughout the open-air hall. If you’ve been trying to avoid seafood, then this is not for you. The sight of freshly cooked big lobsters getting carried across the hall is enough temptation to break your diet in an impulse.
Our Taste of Orkid Ria
Appetizer was served first. And that night, it was a dozen sticks of chicken satay served with their special dip. (Yes, twelve.) Since we were a party of two, the serving was too big for an appetizer. (It can pass as the main course for some people I know.) And the taste? Fantastic! The perfectly tender chunks had the right combination of sweet and salty. I actually sensed a little “nutty” taste, too, but maybe that’s just me. At RM12 per plate (RM1 per stick), it was definitely a great choice.
We were already halfway into finishing the plate of satay when the Steamed Sea Bass (RM 6 per 100g) arrived. Now this, my companion did not like at all. The sauce was “too bland” for him. The ginger and whatever other herbs were almost undetected. While I agree with him, I just could not say no to a fresh sea bass. The fish was cooked just right, retaining the freshness without that “fishy” stink.
There was only little room in our tummies when the tiger prawns were finally served. At RM18 per 100g, we prayed to the lords of Langkawi that this be worth it. Not only was it expensive, it would also be squeezing its way, reaching for space in our stomachs. We were already so full. We decided to stay a little longer at the restaurant before digging into the prawns so we could enjoy the dish better. I walked around the area to check the big lobsters at the aquarium and the other seafood delights they were offering. After a while, it was time to gorge on these scrumptious crustaceans.
The prawns were perfect. They were juicy and tasty and fresh. No complaint about the arthropods. But the sauce did them in. Sure it tasted good but there was nothing different or remarkable about it. It was very typical sweet and sour.
While there were a few letdowns, our time at Orkid Ria was memorable enough. The service was so-so, not bad but not good either. The ambience was just alright. Their biggest asset really was the freshness of their seafood. You could tell that they were really very recently caught (or harvested?) from the generous Andaman Sea. And sometimes, that’s enough for me. My belly was begging me to stop eating, but my tastebuds were still craving more and more.
How to get to Orkid Ria Restaurant: From the jetty of Kuah, the capital of Langkawi, the easiest way is to take a cab for RM25. If your resort or hotel is in Pantai Tengah or Pantai Cenang, it is within walking distance.