A Day Trip to Johor Bahru
Along with a group of friends, the author took a day trip across the Causeway with one aim in mind: to enjoy some good food.
After some initial confusion (attributed to the early morning rendezvous time), the group safely made our way to the Woodlands Train Checkpoint. Note to readers: The Woodlands Checkpoint (for buses and cars) is a separate landmark from the Woodlands Train Checkpoint located approximately five minutes away; if you booked tickets for the KTM Shuttle, do ensure that you arrive at the Train Checkpoint or else there might be some explaining to do to the immigration officers.
Restoran Kin Hua
8, Jalan Trus, Bandar Johor Bahru, 80000 Johor Bahru, Johor, Malaysia
Our first stop was Restoran Kin Hua where we had a light breakfast, consisting of traditional kaya and butter toast, eggs and coffee. Located along Jalan Tan Hiok Nee, this old-school coffeeshop finds itself nestled along with many other breakfast haunts.
Other breakfast places in the area were Restoran Hua Mui and Roast & Coffee. When we got to the area, Restoran Hua Mui had a queue of approximately 25-30 people so we decided to give it a miss and headed to Restoran Kin Hua instead. What we liked about Kin Hua was that there was popiah, chwee kueh, beehoon and other freshly baked pastries.
There was no written menu at Kin Hua but this was not an issue at all, as the attentive waitstaff came to get our orders. The food came within a few minutes of ordering.
What we liked about the popiah were the julienned cucumbers in the turnip filling which made it very refreshing.
At Kin Hua, the tables were packed but most patrons were considerate enough to leave once they were done so the waiting time was not too long.
IT Roo Café
17, Jalan Dhoby, Bandar Johor Bahru, 80000 Johor Bahru, Johor, Malaysia
One in our party of seven had a craving for chicken chop, so we decided to head to IT Roo Café. The journey from Restoran Kin Hua to IT Roo took approximately 3 minutes by foot.
We had the Fried Chicken Chop with mushroom sauce, which was served with sides of coleslaw and potatoes. We were lucky enough to secure seats as a queue began to form outside.
The breaded crispy chicken chop (cutlet?) was decent, and the mushroom sauce was savoury. IT Roo served kaya and butter toast, as well as coffee and tea, but we had to remind ourselves that we just had breakfast slightly less than 10 minutes ago, and we had to save some space for lunch.
Jalan Tan Hiok Nee is within walking distance from the Johor CIQ complex, and there are plenty of restaurants, cafes and eateries in the area.
The FOUNDERS Café
Tiong Nam Tebrau, 45, Jln Tiong Emas, Kawasan Perindustrian Tebrau, 81100 Johor Bahru, Johor, Malaysia
For lunch (or was this tea break given that the chicken chop at IT Roo was lunch?), we made our way to the FOUNDERS Café which was situated in an industrial area in Tebrau. Some of us had activated our data roaming plans for that day so we had mobile data. There were sufficient ride-hailing options in Johor Bahru so we did not face any issues getting around.
We first got the Quesadilla as it was a recommended item on the menu. It did not disappoint. The tom yum scrambled eggs in the quesadilla were perfectly done and we enjoyed the aromatic, sweet-sour tom yum flavour. The pomegranate and grated parmesan toppings were the perfect touches to this delicious quesadilla and made this fusion dish a success.
Next up we had the smoked salmon bagel with green onion cream cheese and capers. The bagel’s exterior was crispy, and the interior was sufficiently succulent and chewy. FOUNDERS has a wide selection of bagels – which are baked fresh daily – definitely a must-try for bagel lovers.
The author’s favourite was the Walnut scone with red bean filling. Don’t let its unassuming exterior deceive you. The scone was baked to perfection and the red bean filling was fresh and had just the right notes of sweetness. It was way better than the factory-made red bean filling in pastries that we are more familiar with.
The black sesame Basque cheesecake with oat crumble was decadent and sinful – but worth every calorie (after all, remember that our goal was to have good food that day). Imagine a bowl of black sesame paste condensed into a cheesecake – that was what it tasted like. I’m not a fan of cheesecakes but the black sesame won me over. This is a flavour that we don’t come across often, and we were extremely satisfied with it.
The café’s high ceilings, large windows, and quirky art pieces made it a very instagrammable spot. It was a pleasant café to spend an entire afternoon in while sipping a latte. We arrived at this café around three in the afternoon, and were able to be seated immediately. Be warned though, this café could get quite crowded from brunch onwards, especially on weekends, so you might want to plan your schedule ahead and arrive at off-peak timings to avoid the crowds.
Bonus picture: the Café’s guardian taking an afternoon nap in its home at the entrance of the cafe. Super friendly feline so do give it some love when you are there!
Mount Austin Bubble Tea Cafes
A special mention is the Mount Austin bubble tea hub within Johor Bahru. Located along Jalan Jaya Putra 7, the last time we counted, this small enclave is home to at least 12 different bubble tea establishments. For bubble tea connoisseurs, this is worthwhile stop to get your bubble tea fix. This place opens till late as well, so it is a good spot to hang out and chill after dinner.
38, Jalan Baldu 5, Taman Sentosa, 80150 Johor Bahru, Johor, Malaysia
Note: there are a couple of outlets in JB itself, but we went to the outlet in Taman Sentosa.
Restoran Pekin is a Chinese restaurant chain which is well-known in Johor Bahru. It was bustling on a Sunday night, but the Taman Sentosa outlet (which also happens to be the original, first outlet) had seats for us as we had called earlier to let them know that we had a large group.
The first dish to arrive was the Parsley beancurd. It was hearty and healthy, a good first dish. You order it by the number of pieces. The taste of the parsley was not overwhelming, and in fact went well with the steamed beancurd.
Next we had some Organic green dragon vegetables, stir-fried Chinese style. While it resembles spring onions, it’s sweet and crunchy, and rather tasty. This is not a common vegetable back home.
For carbs, we had the Specially noodles. A tad too oily for my liking, but the wok hei, and generous portions of shrimp and eggs adequately compensated for it. This was a popular dish as we noticed that most tables around us ordered it as well.
The Deep-fried yam ring was next, with fresh mushrooms, carrots, capsicum and roasted cashew nuts complementing the ring of taro. The author wanted to order another yam ring but was reminded that we still had several dishes coming up.
We then had the Herbal chicken, which was the author’s favourite. The chicken was perfectly cooked in a fragrant Chinese herbal blend, and the portion was sufficiently huge that all seven of us had our share. If you like Restoran Ya Wang’s (located at Jalan Wong Ah Fook), herbal roast duck, you are likely to like this herbal chicken dish as well.
The Cantonese-style steamed Grouper/Garoupa was fresh, and the flesh was tender.
We ended our meal (and our food adventure for the day) with some Fuzhou-style yam paste (orh nee). We were aware that this was our second yam dish of the meal, but it was something that we had to try! And how could we not have dessert!
As opposed to the Teochew-style yam paste (usually topped with gingko nuts and coconut milk) which we normally have back home, especially at wedding dinners, the Fuzhou-style yam paste is served with glutinous rice, which is steamed together with the yam paste. The steamed glutinous rice went really well with the yam paste. Decadent but amazing. The kitchen would need some time to prepare it so it would be best if you ordered it at the start of your meal.
Overall, we had an enjoyable dinner at Restoran Pekin. It was a good place to end our food adventure for the day. We then made our way back to the CIQ complex to get home.
Disclaimer: All food featured in this article was paid for.