A fresh fu­sion

Epicure - - TRAVEL FEATURE -

This jour­ney through Johor Bahru would not be com­plete with­out a foray into a move­ment that's all too fa­mil­iar to Sin­ga­pore­ans. Like the mod-sin wave that's washed over Sin­ga­pore since 2005 when lawyer-turned-chef Willin Low coined the term, mod-malaysian cui­sine has been gain­ing se­ri­ous ground in the last five years. Fine din­ing restau­rants in Kuala Lumpur, such as De­wakan and Beta are lead­ing the way, but that doesn't mean that cities like Johor Bahru aren't forg­ing their own paths.

Mrs Whó (ohmy­who.com), opened in Au­gust 2017 by sis­ters Ren and Mel, takes its mis­sion se­ri­ously to amp up West­ern favourites with a touch of Malaysian in­spi­ra­tion, whether through swap­ping out in­gre­di­ents or adding a spicy twist. Sure, there are mod­ernised ver­sions of nasi lemak Ny­onya and ren­dang burger, but where it gets in­ter­est­ing is in orig­i­nals like the lak­sta - pasta, clams and stir-fried prawns in spicy laksa gravy. Or the cur­ried ra­men bowl, where their own house curry broth is paired with sesame honey tofu, sweet corn and ajit­suke tam­ago. A de­serv­ing fi­nale of popiah pisang brings to­gether ba­nana, nutella, shaved ched­dar, crush peanuts and a choco­late dip - truly Malaysian.

Mean­while, Sprout (sproutjb.com) - Johor's ear­li­est mod­ern Euro­pean restau­rant opened in 2015 - is on hia­tus. It will re­open as a popup kitchen which will share the kitchen with new con­cept Cham­por, a ca­sual diner with lo­cal flavours, in De­cem­ber. Sprout's founder is 28-year-old lo­cal chef Mui Kai Quan, who has worked in Sin­ga­pore at Esquina and Os­te­ria Mozza, and es­pouses a man­i­festo to cel­e­brate fresh Malaysian pro­duce. His pre­vi­ous dishes in­cor­po­rate in­gre­di­ents, such as fresh-caught or­ange spot­ted garoupa and squid from Pon­tian, and mi­cro greens from Kem­pas. With so much prom­ise and tal­ent just wait­ing to take the stage across the bor­der, you'll be well re­warded for ven­tur­ing out of your com­fort zone.

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