Last night, I was invited by Chef Mui to visit Sprout, his newly opened modern European fine dining restaurant in Johor Bahru. I've heard good things about Sprout from my JB friends and was looking forward to the visit.
Sprout's facade is minimalist, typical of contemporary European fine dining establishments around the world.
But, this is JB, so it has more character :-D
Sprout is located at the corner of a row of shop houses at Kim Teng Park, off Jalan Tebrau. It's a stone's throw from the JB city centre, in a quiet residential enclave. Kim Teng Park is one of JB's oldest housing estates.
It is easy to miss Sprout as you drive down the Tebrau Highway towards JB city. It's at the short row of old single storey shop houses. Look out for the pedestrian foot bridge with the green roofing. Sprout is just next to it.
Slow down to a crawl as your car approach the pedestrian bridge. Drive under and pass the bridge, and turn left into the road just 20 metres after the bridge. Find the nearest open space to park your car, be careful not to obstruct traffic.
View of Sprout from the pedestrian foot bridge. That's how close they are.
The staircase to the overhead bridge, the bus stop, the decades old shop lots - and, there is Sprout - that bright light at the end of the corridor. Here is the leading edge of JB's transforming food scene - in a most unlikely place, but this is JB.
JB is about the can do spirit. It's not where you are but what you make of it.
If you need another landmark, Sprout is right across the Tebrau Highway from Fella Design.
Stepping into Sprout, we can be forgiven for thinking that we are suddenly teleported to northern Europe.
The decor is minimalist, functional yet warm and comfortable.
Sprout is not just another investment project by capitalists with deep pockets. It's the baby of the aspirations and adventurous spirit of a group of young people who are passionate about modern European cuisine. I said baby because Sprout is just 5 months old.
Mui from Kulai in "up state" Johor learnt his craft in Singapore at Esquina and Osteria Mozza, and from stints in European culinary capitals like Copenhagen.
Mui's business partner in this daring experiment is Joseph from Pelangi. Another true blue, passionate Johorean.
Mui and Joseph are supported by Beng who is as deeply into European cuisine as his seniors. Mui, Joseph and Beng all take turns to patiently explain the ingredients, cooking methods and concept of every dish they serve.
Mui started us off with this pumpkin slice slathered with bacon jam RM14+. It's a soft, savoury sweet snack.
Crispy toast with hummus dressed with black olive crumbs and sauerkraut at the side RM12+
Quinoa, broccoli puree, compressed and pickled cucumbers, confit tomatoes, sour dough crumble with fermented melon dressing RM24+. As far as possible, Sprout uses local produce for extra freshness.
I was scooping up the last drops and bits of this delicious dish.
Our first main course. Snapper fish, confit squid, cauliflower couscous with black olive crumbs and bouillabaisse sauce RM52+.
The crustacean flavour of the bouillabaisse sauce complemented the sweet white Snapper flesh very well.
I love squid and cooking it confit style made it even better :-D
Second main course. Roasted lamb loin, confit lamb belly, poached radish, baby gem puree, and lamb fat sauce (omg :-D ) RM75+.
The tender roasted lamb loin.
The delightful confit lamb belly. It's clean and fresh tasting with the flavour of lamb staying inside the nose like a subtle perfume. I love these. I was so preoccupied with the delightful taste, aroma and texture that I didn't worry about the fat even for a moment :-D
Desserts to round up the dinner on a sweet note. Actually, more than just sweet - the desserts at Sprout is a play of different flavours, colours and textures.
Passion fruit sorbet, coconut sorbet, pickled papaya, and meringue RM27+.
Banana, olive oil sponge, sesame paste, lime yogurt RM27+.
Chocolate, mint sorbet, lemon gel, cookie crumble, candied mint RM29+.
Espresso with Arabica grown in Chiang Mai, Thailand. A strong brew.
->> One of the most interesting new restaurants to open in JB in 2015.
Disclosure: This was an invited tasting.
Restaurant name: Sprout
Address: 61, Jalan Tebrau, Johor Bahru, Malaysia
GPS: 1.468548, 103.760945
Tel: +60 11-2181 6118
Hours: 6:00pm - 10:00pm (Closed on Mon)
Date visited: 22 Dec 2015
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