Tony Johor Kaki Travels for Food · Heritage · Culture · History

Travel, people & food storyteller with 63 million+ reads since 2012 🇸🇬 johorkaki@gmail

Japanese Food at Dontaku in City Square Mall, Johor Bahru

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My friend Kumes have been telling me about Dontaku Japanese restaurant in City Square, one of his favourite hangouts for some time and we finally visited it together last week. City Square has mushroomed with many new eateries since its recent major renovation and has become a mini food paradise. Dontaku is one of the established tenants in City Square and is now tucked at the southern end in a relatively small space. Dontaku is near the Sakae Sushi outlet. 
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Inside Dontaku, the decor is not posh but certainly well appointed. I like this interesting feature wall with various quaint looking bottles and receptacles.

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These green bamboo stands serve as partitions and privacy shields in the tight, small space.

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We started our meal off with a couple of this sake. I'm not sure what brand this was, I only heard Kumes telling the waiter "the usual" :P And, I didn't really pay attention as I am not a big fan of sake. Taste wise, this sake was quite smooth and pleasant.

Dontaku serves pretty good Japanese fare at very reasonable prices (especially, if you skip the sake and deserts) at a convenient location with a comfortable ambiance. For foodies and shoppers coming to City Square from Singapore by SMRT bus, Dontaku is one place for a good pit stop for Japanese food.

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First up was this "hamburger steak". There were no buns but it came with a large chunk of salmon and a thick beef patty, both blanketed by a cheesy creamy Japanese mayonnaise.

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I liked the salmon as it was nicely done with the usual flavour of fresh salmon which I liked. The salmon was enhanced by the savoury creamy cheesy Japanese mayo.

I am not a big fan of the "hamburger steak" but I can see that Kumes enjoyed it very much. It was a minced beef patty cooked and served with a slightly tangy, savoury gravy with lots of chopped onions. Kumes said this "hamburger" reminded him of those in Japan. It was almost like what he had "over there", he said.

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The ramen came next. I usually eat ramen just to go along with my companions as I always wondered why we have to pay so much for heavily MSG laden soup and flat tasting, "lifeless" noodles. I must confess that I have not tried ramen in "higher class" Japanese restaurants - having experienced only mid-range ramen shops. So, my expectations were not high for this ramen at the simple shopping mall cafe, that Dontaku is.

Dontaku's ramen turned out to be a pleasant surprise. The broth was not laced with MSG - the umami  savouriness came from boiling stock bones the old fashioned way. I slurped up the broth noisily and by holding up the bowl in a way that would please any Japanese food connoisseur.

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The ramen noodle had a certain firmness and springiness. It's not quite like the whole egg wanton noodle type of spring but the bounce was definitely there and was quite likable.

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That thin slice of pork was nice too - a good balance of fat and meat. If you are a ramen fan, Dontaku's ramen range is worth a try. Good ramen and reasonable prices. 

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We tried this Dontaku Bento set.  At RM18.00, this was really good value.

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The three big shrimps encrusted in light crackly batter were very fresh, plump and sweet with natural juices. Yummy!

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Everything else in the bento set was pretty good too.

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Before our dessert, we added an order for a simple grilled salmon head to help us finish off our second bottle of sake. I am so glad that we did.

The palm sized fresh salmon head was nicely grilled. I ate up everything - all the skin, meat and gelatinous parts including the eyes, leaving only the bones. Kumes is queasy about anything gelatinous, so I got to eat most of the head :) Fish head lovers, remember to try Dontaku's grilled salmon head :)) At RM14, I think this is a very good deal.

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We rounded up our meal with a couple of ice creams. This  was the first time that I tried Kuro Goma Black. I liked it for its subtle sesame flavour. RM8 a scoop, which is rather pricey.

Give Dontaku a try, if you are in City Square Mall. Nice Japanese fare at reasonable prices sans the sake and ice cream.

(Update: During my subsequent visits to Dontaku, the quality of ramen had taken a dip.)

Restaurant name: Dontaku Japanese Restaurant
Address: Level 3, Johor Bahru City Square (near the Sakae Sushi outlet)
GPS: 1.461870,103.763401
Hours: 11:00am to 10:00pm

Non Halal

Date visited: 22 Jan 2013, 26 Jan 2015

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Red Rice Wine Mee Suah and Wanton Mee at Restoran Lima Ratus in Taman Perling, Johor Bahru Update 2019

Red Rice Wine Mee Suah and Wanton Mee at Restoran Lima Ratus in Taman Perling, Johor Bahru

This morning we popped over to Restoran Lima Ratus in Taman Perling for their red rice wine mee suah as we had a sudden craving for it. (Where do sudden cravings for specific dishes come from? 😂 )

Halal Dim Sum at Kai Xuan Chinese Restaurant. Puteri Pacific Hotel in Johor Bahru is CLOSED


Puteri Pacific Hotel Johor Bahru is closed from 30 Aug 2020. There is no announcement of the reason for its closure but the closing of Malaysia's borders to tourists since Mar 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic has greatly affected its operations.

We have been regulars here in the heart of downtown Johor Bahru. Thanks to all staff for the memories.

"Always and Forever in our Hearts, 1991 - 2020."

Vietnamese Food at Saigon Cafe in Taman Gaya, Johor Bahru

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I was foodspotting around the new shoplots at Taman Gaya and stumbled upon this simple Vietnamese cafe. Saigon Cafe just opened for business about a month ago. The boss who is a Johorean manages the cafe while the lady boss who is from Vietnam, runs the kitchen.

One of the first things that caught my eye when I was at Saigon Cafe was a simple notice printed on normal white A4 size letter paper that says "Civet Cat Coffee RM29.90". I did a quick mental calculation and realised that this was much more affordable than in Singapore or Bali where I had civet cat coffee before.

Without much ado, I set down at Saigon Cafe and ordered a Vietnamese civet cat coffee (known as kopi luwak in Indonesia).

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The coffee was served in this simple double decker filtering device which is signature of Vietnamese coffee.

My experience with civet cat coffee is very limited but I must say that this was the best that I have had so far.

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The deep black coffee was robust, full bodied, smooth and has that unique flavour that only civet cat coffee can have. I felt this was worth every sen of the RM29.90 (especially, for coffee addicts like me :P).

Along with the civet cat coffee, I also had Vietnamese style crispy French loaf, which was a great pair - the coffee and French loaf.

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The bread was very crispy on the outside. As I bit into the bread, the outer crispy skin started to break up and the bits fell all over the table and on my trousers. I instinctively tried to sweep the crumbs away, feeling a little embarrassed for being so untidy. The boss stopped me and told me that good crispy French loaf are eaten with crumbs falling all over :P

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Between the crispy shell, there were thin slices of braised belly pork, scrambled eggs, margarine, and slivers of greens and carrots. Each mouthful was a blend of soft smokey, savoury meat, crunchy vegetables and crackly bread crust. There were also interesting tangy notes from the sauce. This Vietnamese style French loaf at RM7 went very well with the civet cat coffee (kopi luwak).

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We also had Saigon Cafe's Vietnamese bee hoon salad with spring roll.

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The bee hoon is buried under a blanket of crispy fried spring roll skin, thin strips of pork, chopped peanuts, taugeh (bean sprouts), greens and - now hear this - lard crackles.

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These toppings were all nice but when we swept them aside for a while and try the Vietnamese bee hoon, we were delighted. The mouth feel of the bee hoon was refreshingly springy. When we bit into the bee hoon strands, they popped apart lightly with a gentle spring. The bee hoon was like tender rubber bands made of rice. Don't know what is the trade secret to make bee hoon taste this way but it's just so fun! And, when we ate the bee hoon together with the sides and condiments, it was a thoroughly enjoyable light meal. I love this Vietnamese treat at RM5.50.
 
 
A mug of Vietnamese ice coffee for RM5.90.
 
 
Saigon Cafe serves a wide range of fruit ice blends. This one is sour sop ice blend for RM5.30.
 
I shall be back for the delicious treats that I had today and try out other items on Saigon Cafe's menu.

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Restaurant name: Saigon Cafe
Address: Jalan Gaya 1, Taman Gaya, Ulu Tiram, Johor Bahru
Map: http://goo.gl/maps/AT1ya
GPS: 1.562439,103.799943
Hours: 8:30am to 5:00pm (Closed on Monday)
Non Halal

Date visited: 24 Jan 2013

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Sini Ada Bak Kut Teh 这里有肉骨茶 in Taman Mount Austin (near Jusco Tebrau), Johor Bahru (This Restaurant has Closed.)

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Sini Ada Bak Kut Teh 这里有肉骨茶 opened (near Jusco Tebrau) about a month ago and there was already quite a buzz about it on foodie chats online. Sini Ada Bak Kut Teh is a new kid on the block and its style of BKT was different from what people are familiar with in Johor Bahru. With so much talk and different opinions about it, we decided to make a trip to find things out for ourselves.

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When we entered the double storey shop, the first thing that struck us was the contemporary, well appointed decor, unlike the familiar kopitiam or bare bones shoplot stalls.

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Everything in the restaurant was spic and spank, and the ordering system too uses the latest wireless technology and mobile devices. Still, the atmosphere was cosy and relaxed. The staff in cheery yellow tops greeted every customer in an earnest and cheerful way as they arrive and as they leave.

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The bak kut teh was in the soupy Teochew style but it tastes different from the popular old names in JB. It is not surprising then that Johoreans are split between those who welcome this new flavour and others who prefer the old familiar taste.  The soup here was thicker than the usual Teochew style BKT and there was very little of the savoury sweetness that JB Teochew BKT is famous for. The taste of herbs was present with a very subtle hint of "kam" flavour - the kind of taste that we get from dried Mandarin orange peel. The "kam" taste lingered in the mouth for a while after eating. Initially, I was was not wowed as I expected the usual savoury sweet taste, but as the meal went on, I found the taste pleasant though different. My companion adjusted to the new taste faster than me and actually enjoyed it more.

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The meat was the firmer kind similar to other popular places that serve Teochew style BKT. You have to try it and decide for yourself if you like it or not. Looking at the steady stream of customers around, it appeared that JBrians are slowly accepting this new taste. 

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The BKT are cooked in small batches throughout the day to ensure that customers are served only freshly cooked meat.

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The mixed claypot of braised items like pork, tendons and intestines. We also had a claypot of braised trotters.

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The braised items were less controversial as they were quite similar to the familiar local tastes. The braised meat was the tender type (not soft) with the bouncy firm feel. Personally, I liked my braised pork very soft, like tung po rou style.

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Flavour wise, the braised items were a blend of sweetness and savouriness. The braising sauce was also heavier than the other usual BKT shops.

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I love tendons and this savoury braised tendon was nicely tender and gummy chewy.

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Try this small intestines stuffed with.... more small intestines :)) It has a firm, bouncy texture and a slightly bitter flavour which blended well with the sweet and savoury braising sauce. 

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Braised chicken claws are a must have for me at BKT shops. The braised chicken claws here were competent, and just nice in terms of tenderness and saltiness. (Average braised chicken claws tend to be overly salty but not at Sini Ada BKT.) At my next visit, I shall ask the staff for more braising sauce with my chicken feet as I like my chicken feet to be soaking wet in savoury sauce.

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Simple greens stir fried with garlic and soy sauce. Nicely executed, we cleaned up this dish.

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This preserved vegetable was sweet and crunchy.

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These chunky tau pok did an excellent job of sponging up the braising sauce.

Pricing for reference (small claypot size - the size we had):

Bak kut teh - RM15
Pork ribs only - RM20
Pig tail in bak kut teh soup - RM18
Braised pork belly - RM18
Braised pork trotter - RM12
Braised mixed meat (includes intestines) - RM22

Price wise, Sini Ada BKT is at a slight premium over basic shoplot stall or kopitiam prices. For people who prefer their eating places to be very clean and to have a nicer, more comfortable ambiance, the premium may be worth paying.

Based on what I read in foodie online chats and my own chat with David, the manager here, Sini Ada BKT has been adjusting their servings and arrangements following customer feedback. David said that they have changed some of the serving containers and utensils to enhance efficiency.

In other aspects, David said Sini Ada BKT decided to persist. For example, Sini Ada BKT does not use any synthetic flavourings like MSG, relying solely on boiling stock bones to extract flavours.

If I am in the Mount Austin area, I will drop by Sini Ada BKT again to try their pig's tail in herbal BKT soup which I missed today. If you haven't tried Sini Ada BKT, you may want to check it out for its style of BKT and its ambiance. See for yourself, if you like this.

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Restaurant name: Sini Ada Bak Kut Teh 这里有肉骨茶
Address: G01, Jalan Mutiara Emas 9/3, Taman Mount Austin, Johor Bahru (near Jusco Tebrau)
Map: http://goo.gl/maps/xEscn
GPS: 1.545108,103.789504
Hours: 7:00am to 9:00pm (Closed on alternate Monday)
Non Halal

Date visited: 25 Jan 2013

Chinese New Year Goodies 2013 in Johor Bahru

The Chinese New Year goodie shopping frenzy has started. Here are the goodies I've bought as the Lunar New Year day approaches. These are the ones that I have tasted and personally liked. I will be adding more to this list as I taste and stock up more in the coming days. Stay tuned for more :))
 
From Chocolicious House home bake shop. Tested OK :)) Like. To order, call or SMS Yan on 0127100886 or Aida on 0172211231.

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Almond London cookies 50 pieces for RM23, 100 pieces for RM45

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Kuih Kapit or "love letter" RM13 per bottle. My favourite - very crispy with light coconuty flavour.

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Chocolate chip cookies 50 pieces for RM21, 100 pieces for RM40

From Daily Grain Bakery in Taman Perling. All CNY goodies are handmade, with no preservatives used.

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Almond butter cookies RM24 per bottle

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Walnut cookies RM24 per bottle

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Fried lotus roots RM16 per bottle

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Five grain cookies RM22 per bottle

Oh my! delicious pineapple tarts from Oh My Cakes. Everything is handmade by Bryan including hand grating the fresh pineapples, you will taste the difference. Call Bryan at +6016-792-4999 to order.

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Pineapple tarts RM28 per bottle