It’s not all Legoland and Hello Kitty Town. Hot spots like Kluang, Batu Pahat, Muar and Pegerang hold their own charm. Traipse from one town to another to experience their unique brand of small town charm and local flavours. Currently Johor Bahru is exper
Fatboy’s the Burger Bar
59 Jalan Sutera Tanjung 8/3, Taman Sutera Utama, Skudai, JB (07 550 5417/www.fatboys.my).
Building your own burger has an addictive ring to it. Start with the bun – fluffy white sesame seed for traditionalists, wholemeal for healthy eaters or honey oat for the artisans. Beef, pork (pork collar meat only), chicken or lamb patty can be topped with, well, nearly anything. Our favourites are the super spicy chilli queso and a classic fried egg. Adventurous ones can throw on a few slices of grilled banana or pineapple. If you’re not a fan of the barbecue sauce, try their roasted garlic aioli, blue cheese dressing, peanut butter or even Nutella.
Child friendly. Credit cards accepted. Free parking. Mon–Thur, 5pm–12midnight, Fri–Sun, 12pm– 12midnight. $$
NEW Anke Uke 26 Jalan Tasik 1, Pusat Perniagaan Tasik, Kluang, JB (07 708 2270/www. facebook.com/AnkeUke).
Upon entrance, the wall of ukuleles gave us the answer to the name of this cheerful little café. Anke Uke’s Chinese name is roughly translated as ‘little canteen’, where the husband and wife team serve up great coffee, simple home cooked dishes on the ever rotating menu as well as music lessons. You’ll have to check out their Facebook page to know what’s on the menu for the day, be it sweet and sour fried fish, ayam pongteh or braised chicken and mushrooms. The dishes seem completely random but this is the nearest thing you can get to a home cooked meal without crashing someone’s house. Phrases like ‘passion’ and ‘labour of love’ might sound like overly cliché descriptions, but with Anke Uke, this is indeed the case. Ukelele and cajon lessons are available, but if you’re already adept at the instrument, you can just enjoy browsing the range of ukeleles and buy one. In addition to open mic nights, the delightful café also hosts a handmade market every Sunday from 12noon till 5pm.
Tue–Thu, 10am–6.30pm, Sat–Sun, 10am–6.30pm. Free parking. $
NEW Basikal Café, Yong Peng 1 Jalan Kota 7/1, Taman Kota Yong Peng, Johor (07 467 3343).
The bicycle-themed café serves up pretty good cappuccino, we’d give them that. It's popular amongst the youngsters and out of towners, and we’re really taken by the quirky décor. From bicycle chain doors to repurposed benches and even a bike tyre pump reframed as art, Basikal Café is a nice surprise in the small town of Yong Peng.
Free parking. Child friendly. Mon–Sun, 11.30am–11.30pm. $$
NEW Brew Orchestra 19 Jalan Molek 1/5C, Taman Molek, JB (012 716 6717/www.facebook.com/ thebreworchestra).
Located in the new Taman Molek area, Brew Orchestra is decked out in black accents and décor that vaguely reminded us of a concert hall. Designed by EHKA Studio, this gorgeous café is not only known for their design, but also for impressive coffee and sandwiches. Sporting a team of professional baristas from Malaysia and Korea, Brew Orchestra takes their inspiration from the highly developed coffee scenes of Melbourne and Seoul. With Kyoto Genmaicha, Valrhona chocolate and single origin beans from Honduras gracing Brew Orchestra’s menu; this is not too bad for humble JB, eh?
Mon–Fri, 11am–11.30pm, Sat–Sun, 10am–11.30pm. $$ Chaiwalla & Co. Lot 2810 Jalan Tan Hiok Nee, JB (012 735 3572/016 768 7440).
Chaiwalla offers up ‘honest tea’ from a pair of old cargo containers, which have been stylishly revamped in black and pine. Mostly for takeaways only, coffee is available but this café’s speciality is in tea. You can choose your base, flavourings, toppings, and the level of sugar to concoct, for example, Saffron Rose Tea and biji selasih (basil seeds). During the fasting month, they’re open from 5pm to 2am.
Free parking. Daily, 12pm–1am. $
NEW Coffee Loft 29 Jalan Molek 1/12, Taman Molek, JB (www.facebook.com/coffeeloft88).
Bringing coffee and art together, Coffee Loft is a sprawling corner café in Taman Molek with smooth industrial vibes and artworks by local Malaysian artist Hoe Say Yong adorning the walls. You can’t miss the giant Broadway–like lettering on the side of the olive green building.
Free parking. Mon–Thu, 12pm–11pm, Fri–Sun 12pm–12midnight. $$
NEW Coffee Valley L2–550A, Sutera Mall (07 562 2744); 12A Jalan Trus, JB (07 295 6109/ www.facebook.com/coffeevalleyehs).
The quietly self-assured café has two outlets, one in Sutera Mall and the other on Jalan Trus in the town centre, possibly emerging as JB’s answer to Singapore’s hipster Tiong Bahru. A scan through its menu showed up sandwiches, coffee, and some unique desserts like fresh pumpkin cheesecake, chilled yogurt cheesecake and chunky homemade thick toast. We opted for the peanut butter and banana wrap with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Handicrafts and knick-knacks were sold at the Jalan Trus outlet, and it’s a chill place to hang out with a few friends.
Jalan Trus outlet: Thu–Mon, 12.30pm–10pm. Closed on Wednesdays. Sutera Mall outlet: Daily, 10am–10pm. $$
NEW Faculty of Caffeine
106 Jalan Trus, JB (010 226 0311/ www.facebook.com/facultyofcaffeine).
Founded by a medical student and an interior designer, Faculty of Caffeine serves breakfast and brunch in a tiny space in the heart of JB. Great coffee aside, the owners at FOC also pay close attention to dishes, from the ciabatta beef sandwich to the garlic bread generously topped with mozzarella and made with fresh chopped garlic. On weekdays, it’s a peaceful café but come weekends, the limited amount of seats makes it hard going for the eager brunch crowd. Try their rose latte, but if you’re a non-coffee drinker, FOC also has a great selection of teas and chocolate drinks.
Free parking. Tue–Sun, 11am–10pm. $$
NEW Grazia Cafe
80 Jalan Sutera Tanjung 8/3, Taman Sutera Utama, Skudai, JB (07 559 6428/ www.facebook.com/graziacafe).
Divided into indoor and outdoor seating areas, Grazia Café fuels your Instagram feed with a carefully designed combination of good coffee, café food, painstakingly detailed interiors and a wall of travel related quotes. The overall atmosphere is comfortable and homely, and we like the fact that they bake their own desserts in house. Nutella banana waffles, tiramisu and Swiss rolls are just some of the menu items to accompany your cuppa. Service-wise, the friendliness of staff at Grazia gives them an edge over other cafés in town– they even mail postcards on behalf of their customers on weekends.
Credit cards accepted. Child friendly. Free parking. Tue–Sat, 12pm–11pm. Closed on Mondays. $$
NEW Maco Café Bakery 18 Jalan Ibrahim, JB (07 221 1475/ www.maco.com.my).
Also known as Maco Vintage, this café is famous for their detailed latte art and mille crepe cakes. With more than 20 flavours of mille crepe cakes available, Maco café aims to give Malacca’s famous Nadeje mille crepes a run for their money. Avid café goers are already touting Maco’s cakes as better than Nadeje’s. Apart from desserts, the little café also serves thin crust pizzas and quiches.
Credit cards accepted. Child friendly. Mon–Fri, 12.30pm–11pm, Sat 12.30pm–12midnight, Sun, 12.30pm– 11pm. $$
NEW Monsta Café
157 Jalan Bestari 1/5, Taman Nusa Bestari, Skudai, JB (07 556 7128/ www.divisionby–m.com).
Co-founder of Monsta Café Yuan Feng is also a master barista instructor. Decked out over two storeys, Monsta Café is a colourful space for good coffee and hang-out sessions – a city-wide pastime for JB citizens. Featuring their own coffee roaster, the guys here take their coffee seriously. Coming into its role as a coffee institution in JB, Monsta Café also has a wide selection of pastas and appetisers like nachos and cheese baked mushrooms. The second floor holds a play area for kids and an outdoor area with carpet grass.
Credit cards accepted. Free parking. Mon–Thu, 10am–12midnight, Fri– Sun, 11am–1am. $$
Roost Café 9 Jalan Dhoby, JB (017 726 7489/ roostjuicebar.blogspot.com).
Sister establishment to Roost Juice Bar down on the corner, Roost Café specialises in Western and Asian favourites like fish and chips or chicken chop as well as juices and smoothies, which are served in colourful little buckets. Great place to sit and chill after wandering around the streets of JB.
Mon–Sat, 12noon–4pm, 6pm– 12midnight; Sun, 6pm–12midnight. $$
Roost Repurposed & Recycled Juice and Salad Bar 6 Jalan Dhoby/14A Jalan Trus, JB (017 726 7489/roostjuicebar.blogspot.com).
Situated on the corner and close to the ‘rusty market’ or Bazar Karat, Roost Juice Bar uses repurposed and recycled items to create a beautifully haphazard atmosphere in which to enjoy the range of coffees, yoghurts, and juices.
Mon–Sat, 12noon–4pm, 6pm– 12midnight; Sun, 6pm–12midnight. $$
NEW Scribble Garden Café 56 Jalan Serampang, Taman Pelangi (07 332 1282/www.facebook.com/ Scribble-Garden).
No scribbling stations for kids, but the mix of Enid Blyton and Tolkien should be enough for young and old. The concept is simple: clothes, books, coffee. With stacks of fashion magazines like Vogue Girl and Nylon, this part-time boutique offers a small sampling of coffees, croissants and salads. Scribble Garden is also one of the rare spacious cafes in town, as opposed to the cluttered practice of stuffing as many chairs and tables as possible. Try the doughnut with ice cream ensemble. Scribble Garden Café also carries items from artisan Japanese bakery Matsumiya.
Credit cards accepted. Wed–Mon, 11am–8pm, closed on Tuesdays. $$
NEW The Sugar Pantry G–03, Block B, Permas Mall, Jalan Permas Utara, Permas Jaya, JB (07 380 6910/ https://www. facebook.com/pages/The–Sugar– Pantry/427620387309490).
Trained in Paris, patisserie chef Yen used to be a partner of Pave in Singapore before coming back to Johor and opening up The Sugar Pantry with her husband. The delicate confections on display seem to belong in high end establishments instead of a random shop lot in Johor. Complex layers of flavours and textures in the pastries are achieved from Yen’s use of fresh ingredients whenever possible. For example, vanilla is extracted from Madagascan vanilla pods. We really like their scones and lychee rose with raspberry buttercream cake. The clean and minimalist café can be tentatively crowned the best for pastries in JB. Fresh juices, teas and coffee are also available to complement the desserts.
Free parking. Tue–Sun, 12pm–10pm. $$
Gerai Makan Botak
Jalan Paya 2, Kampung Paya; Jalan Panggung, Kampung Masjid Lama; Mengkibol River Hawker Centre.
This family business has been running for more than 60 years, and has three stalls across Johor. Come here for the
curry noodles. The curry, made using a secret family recipe, is tasty and mildly spicy with a hint of graininess from the ground spices. Packed with fresh tofu, fried fish sticks and cockles, a bowl of curry noodles is reasonably priced at RM6. If you want extra ‘oomph’, try their sambal cili.
Mee Rebus Stulang Laut 1 Tingkat Bawah, Bangunan Wisma Naha, Stulang Laut.
Any local worth their salt will able to tell you where this mee rebus stall is. Overlooking the Straits of Johor by the Causeway, this local delight definitely deserves its fame. Slurp yellow noodles immersed in thick, spicy and slightly sweet gravy garnished with sliced green chillies, boiled eggs and fresh beancurd, this nuanced mee rebus is certainly one of the best in Johor.
Taman Sri Tebrau Hawker Centre Jalan Keris, Taman Sri Tebrau.
A few dozen stalls offer various temptations night after night to Singapore’s day trippers and local residents, serving the best of local Johorian dishes from laksa Johor to otak-otak. Make sure you order the ais kacang done Johor style with chocolate sauce and condensed milk. Average price is RM3.
NEW Tangkak Beef Noodles 20 Jalan Solok, Tangkak, Johor (06 978 3768).
We took a 10-minute detour off the North South highway at Tangkak for their famous beef noodles, and in our opinion, the 10 minutes were well spent. Although they have outlets in KL and Puchong, there’s nothing like having it at the original stall. The menu comes with a variety of noodles, but we recommend that you order an extra bowl of soup to fully enjoy it. Hugely flavourful and with generous chunks of beef, this is comfort food at its best. Tangkak Beef Noodles is open daily but they won’t open shop if there is no fresh beef for sale at the local market on that day. It’s best to call ahead to check it they’re open.
Free parking, Child friendly. Daily, 9am–5pm. $$
Ah Chuan Wan Tan Mee 130 Batu 36, Jalan Johor.
Tucked away in a corner of the coffee shop, Ah Chuan is championed by locals and Singaporeans alike. From the first generation, the owner still uses noodles that are hand-kneaded by the traditional bamboo stick, a laborious and rare practice today. Johor’s unique version of wantan mee is served with tomato and chilli sauce with very thin slices of char siew and aromatic little morsels of wantan.
Daily, 9am–6pm. $
Heng Heng Wan Tan Mee 766 Taman Anggerik, Jalan Parit Mesjid (012 772 8583).
Established in 1948, Heng Heng Wan Tan Mee is one of the pioneer stalls in Pontian, reputed to be descended from the same founder of Ah Chuan. Wantan noodles in Pontian are one of a kind. Instead of conventional soy sauce, you will find the noodles soaked in tomato sauce, chilli sauce, oyster sauce, and soy sauce, almost like a local version of pasta. With a homemade recipe for the wan tan and char siew, you’ll be surprised to find fish balls in this very authentic Johorian dish.
Sat–Thu, 9am–4.30pm. $
Kedai Kopi Lu San 33 Jalan Haji Abu, Muar (016 612 3963).
Muar’s older dwellers will remember the glory days of Lu San restaurant in the ’60s. The restaurant might not be as popular as before, but its Hainanese curry rice has survived the test of time and remains one of the favourite dishes amongst locals. Look for the brick red walls and whitewashed windows. Kept constantly bubbling in the pot, the rich and thick curry is reminiscent of Japanese curries. For side dishes, you can choose from salted fish, assam prawn or braised pork and eggs.
Free parking. Daily, 9am–8pm. $
NEW Kin Wah Kopitiam 8 Jalan Trus, JB.
It’s not a true Malaysian kopitiam breakfast if perfectly runny half boiled eggs are not present. Kin Wah Kopitiam’s owner personally boils, cracks, and serves these kampong eggs, with deep orange yolks and wobbly egg whites. With a dash of soy sauce and white pepper, you can be sure you’ve started the day right. Other staples at Kin Wah include Hainanese coffee, kaya toast and mee siam. If you’ve missed the morning rush, all is not lost. From 10am to 2pm, the nasi padang stall takes centre stage with crowds of lunchtime regulars.
Breakfast, 7am–12noon. $
Kluang Rail Coffee Next to Kluang KTM Station (012 728 8802/www.kluangrailcoffee.com.my).
Kluang Rail Coffee has expanded to various outlets throughout the country, with three outlets in Kluang alone, but the original Kluang outlet located next to the railway station is still the toast of the town. Retaining all its small town authentic goodness, Kluang Rail Coffee serves up deliciously strong coffee, perfectly balanced white toast as well as the humble roti kahwin, a type of bun that seem to be designed to carry the flavours of kaya and butter to greater heights. In true kopitiam fashion, half-boiled eggs are a must on the menu, and for something savoury, their ridiculously cheap nasi lemak comes in tiny packets of fluffy rice and punchy sambal. We would take a train trip by down to Kluang just for this.
Fri–Wed, 7am–12noon, 2.30pm–6pm. Closed on Thursdays. $
Restoran Pandan Jalan Bakawali 37–39, Taman Johor Jaya (012 768 0990).
There’s only one thing you need to order when you come here – their beefy meatballs. We are not joking when we say that this popular beef noodle shop has a large loyal following. Tourists from Singapore often swarm the restaurant over the weekend. Opt for the dry noodle with fried garlic oil and homemade chilli sauce that comes with a bowl of fragrant and peppery soup. The balls are firm to the bite without being chewy. There are also beef innards available for those with a taste for offal. Word of advice: come early to avoid disappointment. It’s always a ‘sold-out’ show just after noon.
Free parking. Tue–Sun, 7.30am– 4.30pm. $
Restoran Yi Bao
5 Jalan Maju, Taman Pelangi, JB/15 Jalan Tanjung 1, Taman Desa Cemerlang, Ulu Tiram (019 763 1313).
At first glance, you might wonder what all the buzz is about. This grungylooking stall is famous for its traditional Hokkien mee hoon kueh. A bowl of mee hoon kueh with minced meat balls, slices of lean pork, fried anchovies and sayur manis will only cost you the sweet price of RM5.50. Do it like the locals and add a runny egg for a smoother soup. From the limited menu on the wall, we like the mee hoon kueh because they are thinly sliced and have a springy mouth-feel. Office workers and locals usually pack the place during lunch hours, so come earlier to avoid the queues.
Fri–Wed, 9.30am–7.30pm. $
Shoon Huat Bak Kut Teh 236 Jalan Sutera 1, Taman Sentosa, JB.
Like most good eateries in Johor, Shoon Huat Bak Kut Teh’s shop with its slightly faded red signboard looks very humble. But there is a reason why this bak kut teh stands out among the rest in this locale. Unlike the usual herb-andpepper-heavy conventional bak kut teh, the soup here is clear, sweet and tinged with a hint of saltiness. The claypot bak kut teh is served with pieces of ribs and meat and button mushrooms. Also, they offer free flow of soup.
Mamak Beriani Gam Dahlia 38 Jalan Dahlia 20, Taman Dahlia, Tampoi, JB (019 783 4343).
It’s only in Johor that you can find nasi beriani gam, an addictive version of biryani that is coated with spices. Patronised by many local politicians, Beriani Gam Dahlia serves up a great example of the dish that the owner proudly claims is ‘finger-licking good’.
Child friendly. Disabled friendly. Sun– Fri, 10.30am–7pm. $$
Restoran Beriani Power 18 Jalan Tukas 2, Taman Soga (07 438 8987/ 012 712 0987).
Nasi biryani gam is a Johor speciality that can be found all across the state. Restoran Beriani Power is one of the places that do this dish really well. Once a royal dish, relish this local delicacy at the very wallet-friendly price of RM6.
Child friendly. Free parking. Daily, 12pm–8pm. $$
NEW Hua Mui Kopitiam 131 Jalan Trus, JB (07 224 7364).
Hua Mui Kopitiam has been an institution on JB’s culinary landscape since the early days. The menu is a mix of Hainanese and Western, where fat pieces of chicken chop comfortably sit alongside nasi lemak on the menu, while French toast and charcoal- grilled kaya toast are ordered by the regulars. Strong locally roasted coffee ties it all up nicely. Pretty good stuff. What sets them apart is the relaxed atmosphere, as only a place as old and as established as Hua Mui can have. Get a seat upstairs to see the ancient dumbwaiter in action.
Free parking. Daily, 8am–6pm. Closed on public holidays. $
NEW IT Roo Cafe 17 Jalan Dhoby JB (07 222 7780).
For some comfortingly good chicken chop, head to IT Roo Café. Open since the ’70s, their signature style of Hainanese chicken chops are perfectly thick, with a crispy batter on the outside and succulent on the inside. Even when the crowds get overwhelming, IT Roo still dishes out consistent chops that live up to their claims of ‘best chicken chop in town’. There is much debate over that, but we'll settle on IT Roo for now. For some variety, order the fried rice and sip on their house style root beer.
Child friendly. Daily, 12noon–9.30pm. $
Loke Tien Yuen 55 Jalan Abu Bakar, Mersing (07 799 1639).
Loke Tien Yuen is one of the oldest restaurants in Mersing, the small jetty town that many pass by to head to the beautiful Johor east coast islands like Pulau Tioman and Pulau Aur. Serving Chinese food with crafty tweaks catering to local taste buds, they are known for their steamed fish, prawn dumplings and sweet and sour pork. But in our opinion, definitely ask for recommendations from the staff as some of the more delicious items are not on the menu. Also, as is the custom of these small town restaurants, always call ahead to ensure that they’re open for the day.
Free parking. Sat–Wed, 12.30pm– 3.30pm, 6.30pm–8.30pm. $$$ Meisan Szechuan Restaurant Second floor, Mutiara Hotel JB, Jalan Dato Sulaiman, Taman Century (07 332 3800/www.mutiarahotels.com).
Even after many years, Meisan retains their old world style of great service and great food. Luxuriously designed with dark wooden panelling on the wall and a hint of gold, this hotel restaurant conjures up a charming feel of Shanghai in the olden days. Food is top notch, with a milder version of Szechuan cuisine and seafood as the specialities. Be sure to try the peanut soup and moon cakes.
Child friendly. Credit cards accepted. Daily, 11.30am–2.30pm, 6.30pm– 10.30pm. $$$$
New Hong Kong Restaurant 69A Jalan Ibrahim Sultan (07 222 2608/www.nhkrestaurant.com).
Bright and stylish with a good range of Hong Kong dim sum delicacies, this restaurant may not offer traditional Johorian fare, but nevertheless, you can come here for a nice change of pace to sample what is reportedly the best bak kut teh in town.
Child friendly. Credit cards accepted. Free parking. Mon–Sat, 11.30am– 2.45pm, 6pm–9.45pm. Sun, 9am– 3pm, 6pm–10pm. $$$
NEW Mui Tou Restaurant 1–2 Jalan Jaafar, Kota Tinggi (07 883 1148/012 723 1057).
This is the perfect place for tourists on the usual firefly trip. Conveniently located near the banks of Kota Tinggi River, Mui Tou restaurant has plenty of history. With a wide range of selections on the menu, toasted pig’s feet with homemade sauce, steamed shrimps and taro pumpkin dessert are some of the dishes you shouldn’t be missing out on. Off days depend on the booking of tours.
Child friendly. Credit cards accepted. Free parking. Daily, 10.30am–10pm. $$$
Restaurant Or Hwu 214 Jalan Besar, Yong Peng (07 467 1204/467 6895).
If you ever happen to visit Yong Peng, this little town has a Chinese restaurant that specialises in Fu Zhou cuisine. It’s not the fanciest place to eat, but their authentic Fu Zhou dishes are too good to miss. The terrific deep-fried Fu Zhou meat rolls, filled with pork and mixed seafood, are crispy outside and tender inside. Another favourite is Fu Zhou noodles that rely heavily on fish sauce and soy sauce.
Daily, 12noon–3pm, 5pm–10.30pm. Closed on alternate Wednesdays. $$
NEW Taika Huat Duck Stall 1B, Jalan Skudai Batu 8 1/2, (Lee Pineapple), Skudai, JB.
Authentic places like this in Johor are dwindling. Located behind Kuo Kuang primary school, Taika Huat Duck Stall is one of the rare establishments in Johor that serves great duck meat, where puny ducks below 3kg are disqualified. Well known amongst locals, it can be rather difficult to find but we would suggest that you look for a big tree. The towering tree throws its shade over Taika Huat (rumour has it that the stall founder planted it there), while locals come for the braised duck sliced just right, with equal amounts of meat and fragrant crispy duck skin. Order a little of everything.
Daily, 8.30am–4pm. $
European & British
George & Dragon Café
1-3 Jalan Glasiar, Taman Tasek (07 232 3761); 204 Johor Premium Outlets, Indahpura, Kulaijaya (www. georgeanddragoncafe.com).
Inspired by an old English tavern in looks and menu, this pub is the place to be if you have cravings for a pint and a meaty steak. A reminder; the café can get quite packed during festive seasons with their special offers so it’s best if you make reservations beforehand.
Taman Tasek outlet: Daily, 12noon–11.30pm. JPO outlet: Daily, 10am–10pm. $$$
Spanish NEW Eight Lido 8 Jalan Skudai, Straits View, JB (07 2227 808/www.eightlido.com).
Located in a repurposed bungalow along Danga Bay, at Eight Lido you get a view of the scenic Johor Straits while dining on its Mediterranean menu and tapas selections. Frequented by expats, general consensus is that it’s surprising to have a dining option of this calibre in JB (that’s a compliment). Come here for the excellent atmosphere – perfect for date nights.
Credit cards accepted. Free parking. Mon–Fri, 5pm–2am; Sat, 10am–2am; Sun, 10am–4pm. $$$$
French Chez Papa French 38-40 Jalan Jaya, Taman Maju Jaya, JB (07 333 4988/www.chezpapa.com. my).
Don’t judge a book by its cover; the plain white signboard hides the best French cuisine in Johor. Manned by a French chef, here’s the place to educate your taste buds with fine French dishes and a great selection of wines. The tapas menu starts from 5.30pm while dinner service begins at 6pm. To be honest, we were surprised that there’s true French home cooking in Johor. Bon appétit!
Credit cards accepted. Child friendly. Free parking. Mon–Sat, 6pm–11pm. $$$
NEW ‘W’ Espresso Sporting Club CS01–12, Country Garden, Danga Bay, Jalan Skudai, Skudai, JB (016 716 1098/www.facebook.com/pages/WEspresso-Sporting-Club).
Ringing in stellar atmosphere and consistent brews, ‘W’ Espresso Sporting Club is brought to you by the team behind Monsta Café. The Sporting Club comes from London in the ’60s, turntables, olive green sofas, tasteful music and all. Owner Yuan Feng spent time studying in London, hence his dedication to the theme and details. If Monsta Café is the colourful and quirky younger brother, ‘W’ Espresso is the grown up sibling of the family. Its Japanese-French fusion kitchen is helmed by a chef from Fullerton Singapore, churning out professionally plated dishes. They also provide private dining services. Just give them a call in advance.
Credit cards accepted. Free parking. Daily, 10am–10pm. $$$$
Italian Il Giardino 65A Jalan Perang, Taman Pelangi, JB (07 334 4239/www.jbexplorer.com/ Ilgiardino/).
It is not easy to find a good Italian restaurant in Johor, but the food at Il Giardino is simple yet sumptuous. The restaurant serves up a vast selection of Italian cuisine like pasta, risotto, and pizza that promise an enjoyable gastronomic experience. If you ever
crave good Italian comfort food during your travels, Il Giardino is your best bet.
Credit cards accepted. Child friendly. Free parking. Mon–Sat, 6pm–11pm. Credit cards accepted. Free Parking. Daily, 12pm–11pm. $$$
NEW Agneey’s Cuisine Restaurant 33 Jalan Titiwangsa 3/3, Taman Tampoi Indah, JB (07 235 5063/ www.eightlido.com).
For a relatively comfortable Indian meal with air-conditioning, Agneey’s fits the bill. From banana leaf rice, roti kosong, naans to the best thosai in town, the offerings here are worth checking out if you’re in JB. Be warned that their service staff can get curt when it gets crowded, but go with an open mind. After all, you’re just there for an affordable and tasty meal.
Credit cards accepted. Daily, 8am– 11pm. $
Annalakshmi 39 Jalan Ibrahim, JB (07 227 7400/ www.annalakshmi.com.sg).
Just like its sister restaurants in KL, Singapore and Perth; Annalakshmi is run by volunteers from the Temple of Fine Arts. Since the cooks are mostly housewives, you get deliciously simple home cooked vegetarian fare at very reasonable prices. Have we mentioned that it’s for a good cause?
Halal, Mon–Sat, 11am–3pm.
Chakra Restaurant 1 Jalan Yusof Taha, JB (07 223 9991).
Formerly a pre-war family home, this restaurant bills itself as one of the best Indian restaurants in town. To find it, look for the Petronas petrol station nearby. With dishes like palak paneer, chettinad fish curry, tandoori and naans, Chakra serves up some authentic North and South Indian cuisine.
Halal. Credit cards accepted. Free parking. Daily, 11am–3pm, 6pm– 10pm. $$
International Gleneagles Terrace Pulau Springs Resort, 20km Jalan Pontian Lama, Pulai (07 521 2121/ www.pulaisprings.com).
Part of Pulai Springs Resort, the Scottish–themed Gleneagles Terrace has an interior that’s warm and relaxing, serving a range of Western and local cuisine. The scenery really contributes positively to the experience of dining here – a lush green golf course, plus the Pulai Springs Resort itself affords a great view of streams and Mt. Pulai.
Halal. Credit cards accepted. Free parking. Daily, 11am–11pm. $$$
Green House 39 Jalan Ros Merah 2/11, Taman Johor Jaya (07 351 9929/www.greenhouse2u. com).
For some detoxing or healthy vegan meals, head to Green House. Everything here is organic and natural. They offer organic brown rice, whole grains, nuts and seeds, wholemeal breads and buns, and even organic vegetable delivery. For the kids, the chef is willing to tweak recipes to suit their tastes.
Child friendly. Credit cards accepted. Mon–Sat, 9.30am–6.30pm. $$
Restoran Singgah Selalu 36-D Jalan Skudai Batu 3 3/4, JB (07 235 2233).
Since it is open 24/7, it’s no wonder that the Malay-Thai-Chinese influenced restaurant which means ‘always dropby’ is a famous night spot for the locals. The menu is pretty huge, enough to satiate most diners. Ayam goreng sos Thai, fried rice, curry prawns and stim teo chew are some of the dishes recommended by local patrons.
Credit cards accepted. Free parking. Open 24 hours. $
Japanese & Korean
Kage Sushi 133 Jalan Sutera Tanjung 8/2, Skudai, JB (07 556 2043); 127 Jalan Austin Heights 3, Taman Mount Austin, JB (07 331 5427).
The former Hikage Sushi has revamped itself with a new à la carte menu and name. Considering the limited options of Japanese food in Johor, Kage Sushi is a pretty good choice. Fat slices of fish on sushi, inventive maki rolls and some seasonal items are also available. For those with big appetites, Kage’s buffets come highly recommended by locals. The à la carte buffet offers sashimi, temaki, yakimono, and grilled lamb shoulder.
Child friendly. Credit cards accepted. Free parking. Daily, 12pm–3pm, 6pm–10.30pm. $$
Lot 506, Johor Premium Outlets, Indahpura, Kulaijaya, Johor (07 590 9277/www.kampachi.com.my).
Kampachi is one of KL’s most acclaimed Japanese brands serving high-quality food in modern grand settings. Now open in Johor, Kampachi brings a touch of Japanese glamour to the swanky Johor Premium Outlets.
Pork-free. Child friendly. Credit cards accepted. Daily, 11am–10pm. $$$$
Kinsahi 40&40A, Jalan Sasa 4, Taman Gaya, Ulu Tiram (07 861 7700); second floor, Plaza Pelangi, Jalan Kuning, Taman Pelangi, JB (07 335 9080); second floor, Aeon Tebrau City Shopping Centre, JB (07 358 1388); Sutera Mall, Skudai (07 556 6308); JB City Square, JB (07 222 6188); F09, AEON Bukit Indah Shopping Centre, 8, Jalan Indah 15/2, Bukit Indah (07 235 8087).
With a slightly cutesy green logo, Kinsahi is basically the biggest Japanese restaurant chain in Johor, after Sushi King. Prices lean towards the higher end. Some of their outlets even have vegetarian menus, which gives them an edge. Food can be a hit or miss, but as far as Japanese restaurants go, Kinsahi is a safe bet.
Halal. Child friendly. Credit cards accepted. Daily, 10am–10pm. $$$
Nijyumaru 24 Jalan Permas 10/5, Bandar Baru Permas Jaya, Masai; 94 Jalan Sutera Tanjung 8/4, Taman Sutera Utama, Skudai (07 558 9818).
Nijyumari’s a slightly more upmarket place, with a pretty good selection of
dishes. We love their fresh sashimi, which can be really hard to find in Johor. Their service can be hit and miss at times, so be sure to make a reservation, especially during weekends. With private rooms for functions, this is a good place for special occasions.
Child friendly. Credit cards accepted. Daily, 12noon–3pm, 6pm–11pm. $$$
NEW Warakuya 43 Jalan Kuning 2, JB (07 332 0789).
Opening in 2011, Warakuya is the place for your fix of sashimi and teriyaki fried rice, tweaked to appeal to the local palate. Decor consists of wood and the restaurant gets a tad cramped during dinnertime. Warakuya has a private tatami room for those looking to have some privacy. Alternatively, it’s great for parents who want to keep an eye on their young kids.
Child friendly. Credit cards accepted. Free parking. Daily, 11am–11pm. $$
NEW Dapur Jendela
49 Jalan Tan Hiok Nee 1/12, JB (012 781 3227/www.facebook.com/ DapurJendela).
Translated from Malay, Dapur Jendela means ‘kitchen window’. The quaint café-like restaurant serves up homestyle local breakfast such as lempeng (Malay pancake) and ubi rebus (steamed sweet potato) with sambal. Apart from these local dishes, Dapur Jendela has carbonara and chicken chops for those who are hankering for some ‘western flavours’. Taking up two storeys, this restaurant with its cozy mismatched furnishings is often used for local television filming.
Free parking. Tue–Sat, 6pm–2am.
Din’s Corner A1, Pusat Bandar, Bandar Penawar, Kota Tinggi (07 822 1228).
Din’s corner is one of the first and longest running restaurants in Bandar Penawar, a small town near Desaru. Well-loved by locals, this typicallooking Malay eatery serves over 30 different varieties of Malay dishes all day long, but the ones you shouldn’t miss are mee soto and lontong kering.
Lat’s Place Puteri Harbour Family Theme Park, Persiaran Puteri Selatan, Puteri Harbour, Nusajaya (1300 88 5287/ www.playtime.com.my).
For kids and adults alike, Lat’s Place is pretty cool. Think of this state-of-theart themed restaurant as something like dinner and cabaret. Live animations of the classic Malaysian comic character interact with staff and the audience and the waiters sing songs in between serving a set menu of delicious Malaysian dishes. Everyone is catered for: there are menus for adults, children, and vegetarians (upon request at booking). Price includes free flow of non-alcoholic beverages and one complimentary photo for two.
Halal. Child friendly. Credit cards accepted. Mon–Fri, 11am–8pm. Sat– Sun, 9am–8pm. $$$
Mee Rebus Haji Wahid Plaza Angsana, Pusat Bandar Tampoi (07 235 0443).
As the name suggests, mee rebus is undoubtedly the best dish in the restaurant. This popular spot serves mee rebus with gravy that deserves a place in the Mee Rebus hall of fame. Using groundnuts and dried shrimp, their gravy makes all the difference to this famous comfort dish. Word of advice, try to avoid the lunch crowd.
Warisan Anjung Seri JKR296, Jalan Petri, Kampung Tarom (07 228 1099).
Malaysians don’t live in trees, but here in Warisan Anjung Seri, we do treetop dining. With good quality Malay food at reasonable prices, this eatery is located near the causeway in a quiet part of town that makes it popular with locals for a date or a night out. There are angklung performances to accompany your meal at night.
Child friendly. Free parking. Daily, 12pm–8pm.
Nyonya Anna’s Kitchen 18K, Basement, Jalan Abdul Samad, JB (013 7422 168/www.facebook.com/ pages/Annas–Kitchen/69851640053).
Offering Penang Chinese food from up north, this quaint little restaurant promises authentic food from char kuay teow to Hokkien mee.
Free parking. Pork free. Mon–Sat, 11.30am–12midnight. $$
Seafood Cha Siang Seafood Restaurant 128 Jalan Sultanah, Batu Pahat (07 431 2024).
Cha Siang is a haven for all seafood lovers. Indulge in delicious dishes like bamboo crab, aloe vera with celery, homemade prawn fritters and hot plate oysters.
Damai Seafood Restaurant 50 Jalan Kassim Noor, Kg. Danga Persisiran Perling, Persisiran Perling (07 241 2076/016 775 4646).
Damai Seafood is the best kept secret in JB city. Take a short drive of 20 minutes from the city, have splendid seafood in a rustic village at Damai Seafood. You can even opt to have your meal inside a boat. For fishing enthusiasts, come during the day and catch your own fish for dinner.
Mon–Thu, 12noon–2.30pm, 5.30pm– 12midnight; Fri, 2.30pm–12midnight; Sat–Sun, 12noon–12midnight.
Good Luck Seafood Restaurant 86 Jalan Telok Ramunia, Sungai Rengit, Pengerang (07 826 3555).
Drive about an hour and a half from JB with an empty belly ready to be filled up with fresh seafood dishes, cooked Chinese style. More notably, Pengerang is a fishing village well known for their lobsters, so do give the baby lobster a try.
Hock Kee Yen Seafood Restaurant Gerai 10, Parit Jawa, Medan Ikan Bakar, Muar (06 987 5986).
The reason Hock Kee Yen, located by the beach at Muar, is a popular haunt for seafood lovers is simply because it is good. Dishes are simple and vaguely reminiscent of home style cooking, but really flavourful. Curry fish head and assam fish are some of the specialities here. They take a day off on alternate weeks, so it’s best to call ahead to avoid disappointment.
Free parking. Daily, 10am– 12midnight. $$
Ikan Bakar Wak Jos 8 Medan Ikan Bakar Sabak Awor, Jalan Ismail, Muar (013 618 5783).
If the thought of spicy grilled fish constantly conjures up images of a
Malaysian gastronomic experience, then Ikan Bakar Wak Jos is the place you have to be. This stall serves up different varieties of ikan bakar. It is the best place to get affordable and delicious grilled fish in Muar.
Jade Garden Seafood Corner Jalan Pasar, Kampung Sungai Rengit, Pegerang (07 826 5460).
Fish tanks brimming with lobster greet you when you arrive at this restaurant – try not to get too attached as one of these guys might end up on your plate. Chinese seafood is the speciality here, so pick up your chopsticks and get ready for some oriental flavours. Polite and friendly service, reasonable prices and delicious lobster is the reason for the always full nights.
Medan Ikan Bakar Lot 6405, Jalan Alsagoff, Pontian Besar (07 687 9546/016 793 6310).
Overlooking the Malacca Straits, Medan Ikan Bakar is located at the Pontian Besar fishing village. Enjoy the pastoral fishing village sights while dining on fresh local seafood at the open-air restaurant. The famous spicy ikan bakar and lala are must tries.
Mersing Seafood Restaurant 56 Jalan Ismail (07 799 2550).
So many Chinese restaurants make it impossible for conversation because of noisy surroundings. This establishment offers a place for those looking for some quiet. There is heaps of fresh seafood year round here, with fresh catches making their way to the dining room daily.
Child friendly. Free parking. Daily, 11.30pm–2.30pm, 5.30pm–10.30pm. $$$
New Kukup Restaurant 1 Kukup Laut, Kukup (07 696 0216).
This restaurant stands on stilts and is surrounded by kelongs, the traditional platforms on stilts from which fishermen can ply their trade. It is a famed spot for locals and tourists alike. Besides the obvious good seafood like black pepper crabs, cereal prawns and lemon squid, the restaurant gives you a view of the Kukup Jetty. If you come during the day, you can even go on a boat trip to the kelongs. Experience a genuine pastoral fishing village in Kukup Laut.
Child friendly. Daily, 10am–9pm. Closed on Lunar New Year Eve. $$$
Oasis Bay Restaurant Lot 3522, Jalan Kampung Tanjung Selabu Mukim Sungai Raya, Bukit Pasir (06 985 8500).
A 20-minute drive from Muar will open up a whole new experience at a secluded restaurant situated along the turquoise Muar River. The food served is not only scrumptious but affordable. Claypot seafood, fish soup with crab meat, and abalone with hot and cold
sour sauce are some of the specialities.
Pork-free. Child friendly. Free parking. Daily, 9am–6pm. $$
Restoran Perahu 15–15A Lorong 1, Jalan Zabedah, Batu Pahat (07 431 8796).
Billed as a popular night spot for locals, this halal restaurant is a favourite haunt for seafood lovers. This hidden gem, operated by Chinese owners, serves authentic Malay dishes. Patrons’ favourites include ikan pari bakar, belacan bihun, hailam kwey teow, sambal sotong and even tom yam. Gulp down some lychee juice or air jambu with asam to combat these spicy delights.
Halal. Child friendly. Disabled friendly. Free parking. Wed–Mon, 5pm– 12midnight. $$
Sengat Seafood Restaurant 58 Jalan Belanak, Teluk Sengat, Kota Tinggi (07 895 5116).
Sick of commercialised seafood restaurants in the city? Teluk Sengat is only a 90-minute drive from JB city. Here you will find seafood dishes at affordable prices. Order your choice of seafood and enjoy a good meal at this open-air restaurant.
You Kee Seafood Restaurant 55 Jalan Pantai, Sungai Rengit, Pengerang (013 766 8929).
Sungai Rengit is the paradise for seafood enthusiasts from Johor and Singapore. At You Kee, seafood comes in at the lower end of the price range. Their signature dishes are the fried lobster topped with melted margarine and lobster stewed with Chinese herbs. Give it a try and you will be asking for more.
Southeast Asian Thai Restaurant Tera–Thai 31 Jalan Abdul Samad (07 222 6300).
Right in the heart of JB city, this Thai fine dining restaurant is patronised by many local celebrities. An authentic Thai menu is the trump card of the restaurant, but more tempting are the in house specials like som tham krob. Get ready for a hot and spicy experience amidst the calming garden of the restaurant.
Child friendly. Credit cards accepted. Free parking. Halal. Daily, 11.30pm– 3pm, 5.30pm–10.30pm. $$$
NEW P’Yai Thai Restaurant 15 Jalan Impian Emas 5/1, Taman Impian Emas, Skudai, Johor (011 2833 7041).
Opening in 2012, P’Yai Thai is one of the more authentic Thai restaurants around. Decor in P’Yai Thai is simple, consisting of elephant murals on the white walls and bright lighting. Recommended dishes from the lady who took our orders include seafood in spicy lime sauce, green curry and Thai otak-otak. Of course, one should try their pandan chicken, one of the best renderings we’ve had. Unwrap the charred pandan leaves to reveal succulent chunks of chicken grilled to perfection, leaving a crispy fragrant mouthful of meat. Now we know where to go for great Thai fare.
Child friendly. Credit cards accepted. Free parking. Mon–Sat, 12noon–3pm, 6pm–11pm; Sunday, 6pm–11pm. $$
NEW Tam Zabb Lao and Thai Restaurant 48G Jalan Impian Bestari 3/2, Taman Nusa Bestari, JB (07 232 5859).
Serving up simple Thai and Lao dishes, owner Aphinya has had many years of experience in the restaurant business. From the owner to the crew, most hail from Thailand and it shows in the consistent food quality. Recommended dishes to try include som tam, pork collar salad, pandan chicken and the masterfully grilled catfish.
Child friendly. Free Parking. Wed– Mon, 10am–11pm. $$
Fatboy's the Burger Bar
The Sugar Pantry
Tangkak Beef Noodles
Nasi Beriani Gam
George & Dragon Café
Thai green curry