I’ve shown you my most favorite restaurant in Johor Bahru (JB). Next I’m going to show you my second most favorite restaurant.
Again, this was a place that I stumbled upon by chance. You see, when I first started doing these business trips to JB, those hotels in Century Garden were not yet in existence. Every time we come here, if we wanted to stay in JB, there was only one hotel for us, the Puteri Pacific. It was either this, or staying in Singapore.
Now, you might be wondering: “Then why so stupid and come here? Why not stay in Singapore?”.
The thing is, you know, it is fine to stay in Singapore if the trip only involves one or two nights stay. But engineers like us usually come for a week or more because we need to get work done. Getting caught in heavy traffic to get our passports stamped, twice a day, for a week or more, is an extremely frustrating thing. Not to mention that we have to get up extremely early and arrive back in Singapore extremely late. The amount of trouble is just not worth for that minor glamour of claiming “I can stay in Singapore yeah!”.
So, I was always staying in Puteri Pacific whenever I have to travel to JB in the first two or three years of my job. And then, because I was new and relatively inexperienced, not to mention that JB was (still is) actually notorious amongst us as the crime capital of Malaysia, we never went out of the hotel for dinner. It was always the hotel’s buffet dinner for us.
Now, I know a buffet dinner is expensive and lovely. But imagine having buffet dinner for a week or two, continuously. I can guarantee you that by day three, you will feel so tired (bordering on disgust) with the prospects of having another buffet dinner, lavish as it may be.
It was precisely because of this disgust, one day during my second trip to JB, I decided to explore the hotel a little bit. It was in this manner that I noticed the existence of a halal Chinese restaurant located at the lower ground floor of the hotel.
At that time, I was traveling with a big group of people, with a healthy mix of Malay, Chinese and Indian. Now the Indians were cool to try this Chinese restaurant. But, I had a hard time trying to convince the Malays to give this place a try. Especially when the restaurant also looked exactly like this when we took a peek from the outside.
I had to use every persuasion trick known to mankind to convince them that this place is 100% halal, and that the flavors that they will get will be drastically different compared the usual nasi kandar or ikan goreng that they were so used to.
In the end, I managed to get the oldest Malay guy on board (we’re best friends now). Once I won him over, the battle was won, and in we went…
Oh, I have talked so much without telling you the name of the restaurant. I mean this restaurant: 凯旋 Kai Xuan Chinese Restaurant @ Puteri Pacific Hotel.
As this is a halal restaurant, you can be rest assured that you won’t be able to find any oinks or alcohol in here.
One thing though… you know how most of those CMRs (Chinese Muslim Restaurants) in Malaysia, they are usually helmed by those China Muslims from Yunnan or Xinjiang? As a result, the CMRs in Malaysia mostly serves dishes that are unfamiliar to the mostly Cantonese Malaysians.
Here in Kai Xuan though, the chef is a Muslim from Guangzhou (that’s what the waitress told us). The dishes that we get here are Cantonese styled dishes. Dishes that most Malaysian Chinese are very accustomed to.
You know what happened that night? I introduced to my Malay coworkers the concept of [scallops] and [stir fry with garlic and soy sauce] and [龙躉 giant grouper] and [sharks fin] (Sorry, hippies. I’m Chinese…) and in the process, blew each and every one of their minds away. It was a splendid feast, and everyone loved it so much, especially my best friend elderly Malay guy. So much that in his subsequent trips, even without me, he would make it a point to come to this restaurant for dinner and convert other Malays into Chinese food loving people in the process.
Anyway… why am I getting carried away talking about grandmother stories from the past?
This time, I came here alone. So there was no way I could order away in reckless abandon. So I went with two dishes, one soup and no rice.
This prawns with salted egg yolk is my must order dish here. It is probably because of the presence of curry leaves and cili padi in the mix, but I really like the version here over any other versions that I have tried before.
Broccoli for the veggie quota of the day. I actually wanted to order the one with scallops, but decided against it. There’s already a plate full of prawns for me, can’t consume too much seafood at a go…
I could’ve gone with sharks fin soup, but I opted for this pickled cabbage soup instead because I had it once before and liked it very much. It was still as good as I remember.
I really enjoyed my meal here, as I have always enjoyed. Although this is a halal Chinese restaurant, I really feel the food here is very good, and much better than a lot of those non-halal establishments.
To be honest, I don’t understand why this restaurant always seems to be deserted at dinner time. I’ve seen so many Johor Chinese people blogs say good things about dim sum at this restaurant, but not one have ever featured dinner here.
I mean, yeah, it is in a hotel so the prices is a bit steeper. But for comparison, my bill here was about the same amount as my bill in Kinsahi. And I’m pretty sure the food here is even less expensive compared to, say, 汤师傅 Tang Shifu.
If you are a Johorean or are in Johor, I guess it is time for you guys to give this restaurant a chance. If you can accept halal dim sum, I don’t see any reason why you cannot accept halal Chinese style dinner…