I have always been a fan of Nyonya food and Nyonya Café (June's Kitchen) was the first time I had Nyonya food in JB. We absolutely enjoyed our sumptuous and delicious Nyonya lunch at June's Kitchen in Permas Jaya at the invitation of the owners, June and Daniel.
Today was a very good day for the foodie me :)
June Seah, the founder was at the restaurant as well as her son Daniel, who is the new owner, and Andrew, who is the Chief Chef. Everyone at June's Kitchen was passionate about Nyonya culinary heritage and tradition - their infectious energy was palpable in the air. From what I saw, June's Kitchen is more than just a restaurant, it is also a place where June and her family share their passion for Nyonya cuisine.
Daniel received his culinary art training at SHATEC while June (who is Peranakan) said she didn't have any "training" and learnt her art from her grandparents, parents, aunts and relatives. Personally, the essence and intricacies of culinary heritage and traditions passed down through the generations in close knitted families is the best training.
Everyone was very friendly at June's Kitchen, while June and Daniel busy as they were, were also eager to share interesting tidbits and the history behind Nyonya food culture.
Nyonya dishes done the traditional way, demand tedious and long preparation, and many of the spices take a lot of effort and ingenuity just to obtain.
We had this Nyonya classic, ayam buah keluak for RM15.
And, of course, the first thing we did was to dig the priced black paste out of the buah keluak nut like excited children breaking open a Kinder Surprise candy.
The creamy black paste was made by combining buah keluak flesh with pounded chicken meat. To get that distinctive, delicious ayam buah keluak's smooth yet slightly grainy texture, nutty flavour and subtly bitter note, the chicken meat had to be pounded by hand and not minced or chopped. This is an example of the intricacies and tediousness of Nyonya cuisine prepared the traditional way.
The chunks of chicken in the little claypot deserved mention too as they were tenderly sweet and enveloped in savoury sauce that resembles the buah keluak stuffing. June's Kitchen's ayam buah keluak is one of the best that I've tasted.
I love June's Kitchen's Nyonya steam fish. The super fresh Snapper fish (Ikan Jenahak) fillets were steamed and then smothered with a savoury gravy that was a complex blend of delicate tanginess, sweetness, spicy hot and saltiness.
June's Kitchen's is one of the best steamed fish dish that I've had - in any style. This Nyonya steamed fish was for RM22.
Nyonya lady's finger for RM7 - blanched fresh lady's finger topped with a June's Kitchen special blend sambal that whetted our appetite and got our saliva flowing.
June's Kitchen's Nyonya sweet and sour tofu was a delicious fusion of the Chinese staple with Southeast Asian and Indian spices. This large brick of tender smooth tofu generously topped with lovely gravy for RM7.
June's Kitchen's pie tee hat (RM7.80) came with fresh naturally sweet cut vegetables stuffed in a crispy tart shell and topped with a large juicy fresh shrimp. Adding a dab of that accompanying spicy and sweet sambal chili gave this popular bite sized treat an extra kick.
We rounded up our sumptuous lunch with June's Kitchen's popular durian chendol (RM5.80) - green pandan jelly, boiled beans in santan and gula Melaka on a bed of crushed ice and topped with durian puree. Full of flavours and not overly sweet.
I asked June how would she describe the food in June's Kitchen. Her instinctive response, "Mum's home cooking". June and Daniel shared that there had been customers who became sentimental and even moved to tears on tasting her food as the aroma, flavours and textures reminded them of home, their childhood and their loved ones.
The friendly Fernandez family obliged my request to take a picture of them having lunch with all their staff, just after all the happy guests had left and the restaurant closed for the afternoon break.
June's Kitchen is in Permas Jaya which is very accessible from the CIQ, if you are coming from Singapore. Once clear immigration, head for the EDL (Eastern Dispersal Link) and follow the signs to Permas Jaya. The car journey takes less than 10 minutes of leisurely driving.
I am definitely coming back to try the other well executed Nyonya favourites at every reasonable prices in June's Kitchen.
Restaurant name: Nyonya Café (June's Kitchen Nyonya Restaurant) 娘惹美食餐厅
Address: 9, Jalan Permas 10/7, Bandar Baru Permas Jaya, Johor Bahru
Hours: Tues to Friday - Lunch from 11:45am to 3:30pm, Dinner from 5:30pm to 9:30pm; Sat and Sun - 11:45am to 9:30pm (closed on Monday)
No pork no lard
Date visited: 18 Sep 2012