Fine dining is about taste and presentation — and nowhere is this more evident than at Amaya Food Gallery. The breakfast buffet displays an exciting variety of Asian and international cuisine, including bite-sized desserts for the sweet-toothed, all arranged delicately on oversized wooden blocks and banana leaves. All day long, the restaurant also offers a la carte options inspired by local and foreign cultures. If you’re celebrating an event, or need to impress a special someone, this is the place to go.
With spectacular light features, drooping chandeliers, and button-backed couches, this urban fine-dining establishment will make your dining experience an experience, not just a meal. Featuring spicy Indian cuisine and classic Western dishes, the menu is as various and eclectic as their furniture. Hungry pescatarians will enjoy the light, flavorful, flaky white cod, while carnivores might prefer the special smoldering black chicken or the delightful Wagyu rib eye. For afters, there’s the decadently sweet Gulab Jamun — which is the only way to end the night, really.
For something little more “street” and a whole lot of spicy, the W. W. Laksa House promises laksa served in an aromatic fish-based curry broth, plus your own choice of noodles (egg noodles, vermicelli, or flat noodles). At RM$7 (US$1.80) per large portion, this is a steal. The setting here is kopitiam-style (local coffee shop-style), so no fancy napkins here. The otak-otak (Nyonya fish mousse) is a plump, juicy, coconut-ey side dish that will more than make up for the lack of ambiance.
The French may be known for fancy presentation, stingy portions, and exorbitant prices, but Chez Papa is overturning the stereotype. Homey portions and reasonable numbers are the name of the game here, and this 19-year-old establishment doesn’t shy away from serving up French classics like foie gras, escargots, and moules persillade (baked mussels with herb-garlic butter) in generous, joy-inducing serving sizes. If you like your reds and whites, a wine cellar is also available.
Hummus, falafels, fresh olives, tahini, wraps with tender-grilled meats and skewered vegetables roasted to caramelized perfection — why aren’t Malaysians dying of food intoxication already? Zaituna’s mixed grill is a delicious, carnivorous assortment of shish tawook, Lebanese kafta, and tender lamb chops, and may or may not make you an advocate of the protein-focussed Atkins diet. If you prefer a vegetarian fare, we recommend the falafels — these crunchy fried chickpea-and-broad-bean babies may look innocent, but they pack a flavorful punch, especially when dipped in tahini.
Got fish? At Fatfish, they have plenty — and it’s all fat and juicy from the hot, steaming, flavorful broth that Fatfish is well-known for. To order, pick your fish (barramundi, grouper, red snapper, or seasonal specials), your broth, and your noodles. If you wish, you can also request add-ons like mussels, sliced abalone, clams, or baby octopus. Best for groups and families.
It may be called a “warung” (small stall), but this place is anything but. Spacious, well-lit, and featuring a leaf-filled garden with a small pond (selfie, anyone?), Naughty Nuri’s brings the best of fun, laid-back Balinese culture to busy Johor Bahru. For a smoky, slightly charred treat, try the juicy barbecued pork ribs. But if you must have your daily nasi (rice), we recommend the crispy Bebek, served with two kinds of sambal (spicy paste) and a duck leg crispy-fried to perfection.
One of Johor’s top fine-dining locations, Sprout is proud and passionate about its cuisine — and for good reason. Their confit pork belly is a crispy-soft, caramel-glazed triumph served with mustard aioli and pear mostarda, and the pan-roasted barramundi is a tender-fleshed delicacy perfectly complemented by pickled cucumbers and a ginger emulsion. If you don’t do anything else for the rest of your life, make sure you do both of these. Note: Sprout is currently operating a pop-up kitchen at Senibong Cave while waiting for their new location to be ready (expected re-launch is July 2018).
Craving good Indian food but can’t afford the prices at Amaya and Spice Grill? Well, thank your chakras, because Chakra is here. This bungalow-turned-restaurant serves fresh, flavorful curries that are hot to the touch and taste, thrillingly infused with spices you’ll never be able to name. Portions are generous, and you can enjoy a filling meal for RM$40 (US$10). We love and recommend the biryani rice and tandoori chicken — together, they make a mouthful of heaven.