Vivo @ Setia Tropika

Reception and cake counter at Vivo @ Setia Tropika
The drive to Setia Tropika should have been a smooth but a truck decided to break down almost exactly at the crossing with Jalan Tampoi and caused traffic to build up into quite a long queue.  My lunch date with Blessie was postponed twice – once by me and the other time by her – but we finally agreed on today and it looks like I’m going to be late.  I’m not good with long queues and the pelting rain, coming down in a steady downpour, is obliterating my view as I head on after leaving the traffic snarl.

I remember bumping into Blessie and her husband C S Choo on one of our morning walks at the Merdeka Park last year but we have not met again since.  It occurred to me that I have some “history” with this couple because when they were married some 23 years ago, I was the Master of Ceremony at their wedding banquet.  It seems like such a long time ago since we parted ways and they went into the Food & Beverage business to operate the Vivo chain of halal quick service restaurants. 
Façade of entrance into Vivo @ Setia Tropika at
the Tropika Welcome Centre
I have dined at Vivo in Plaza Pelangi and saw its outlets at malls like Sutera Mall, Aeon Tebrau City and Aeon Bukit Indah in Johor Baru.  Little did I know that they have also opened outlets in Kulaijaya, Segamat, Malacca and Aeon Bukit Tinggi, as well as in Empire Shopping Gallery, 1Utama, The Curve and Times Square in KL!

The rain did not let up at all as I make my way towards the Tropika Welcome Centre where the latest outlet of Vivo is located.  Setia Tropika is a relatively new area in Johor Baru but it is fast getting familiar with the locals because several government offices, including the Immigration Department, have relocated here. 

Top view of the refreshing Mango Delight drink
As I draw closer, I can spot the sign with the Vivo logo among the names of other eateries that are situated on the Centre’s ground floor.  It is lunch time and all the parking spaces nearest the Centre are occupied so I take a turn around to the adjacent parking lot where ample spaces are available.  After months of drought, the heavy rain is very welcome and I have the chance to use my umbrella again as I carefully avoid puddles in my brisk walk towards the Centre.

After 13 Vivo outlets and 4 children, Blessie looks as radiant and robust as I first met her so many years ago when she came to Johor Baru from the Philippines.  Speaking with a just hint of her distinct accent, she warmly welcomed me to Vivo at Setia Tropika, their first outlet which is not located within a mall.  She said many diners prefer to head directly to the eatery instead of going into a shopping mall for food so this outlet is seeing regulars who seem to enjoy this concept.

A whole prawn in my slice of Prawn Pizza!
There is so much for us to catch up with each other but I must first congratulate her on the recent opening of this newest outlet of Vivo at Setia Tropika.  The restaurant has a menu of more 100 items including American-style pizza, pasta, Panini as well as rice items to meet the taste of Malaysian palates.  In between sips of drinks and bites of tasty food, she told me about their plans to open more branches nationwide this year and eventually make Vivo a household name!

I learnt about Vivo’s Chicago origins and while they have adopted the American quick service restaurant concept, they have also modified some of the recipes to match local tastes.  The items are presented in a pictorial menu for easy selection and when our choices are served, I can see that the pizza toppings are generous, the portions are good value for money and when I sample each item, I’m impressed by the full flavours from fresh ingredients.  This is very satisfying and certainly reflects the sentiment of their tagline, Live with passion!

Our 11" thin crust yummy Bed of Mushrooms pizza
I warned Blessie that I usually have small meals but she went on to recommend the Must Try items and assured me that any pizza leftovers can be packed as takeaways for me to savour again later.  I can hear the pride in her voice as she introduced me to their Mango Delight, a drink made with fresh mango specially imported from the Philippines.  Filled with sweet mango puree, this tall drink is capped with fresh cream dotted with slivers of fresh mango for a truly delightful mango slushy experience.  

Spicy Seafood Spaghetti Aglio Olio
As we are sharing the food items, I have the chance to sample some of Vivo’s popular mains like the Baked Chicken Chop that comes in a choice of sauces and we picked black pepper served separately with a side of buttered rice and salad greens.  Another favourite is the Seafood Spaghetti Aglio Olio with salmon chunks, mussels and plump prawns, tossed in an appetizing spicy sauce.

Pizzas are particularly popular at Vivo not only because they are 33% bigger in size compared to other brands but because they are evenly topped with more ingredients.  Pizzas here are 8” for Small, 11” for Medium and 14” for Large, served in a choice of thick or thin crusts.  Our Prawn Pizza is a 10” thick crust premium pizza and when served, I can see whole prawns in every slice and I thoroughly enjoyed every bite of the thick and fluffy pastry!

Tender Honey Baked Chicken Wings [Right] and
Smoked Chicken BBQ pizza [Left]
When I sink my teeth into the thin crust Smoked Chicken BBQ pizza, I can taste a distinct but delicious smoky flavour from the slices of smoked chicken among the chopped capsicum and melted cheese.   Made with fresh shitake mushrooms, aromatic pesto sauce, cream cheese and almond flakes, the thin crust Bed of Mushrooms pizza, a vegetarian favourite, is fast becoming my favourite too! 

“There’s no short-cut to a good product,” said Blessie as she watched me enjoying the food and I agree because I can taste the fresh ingredients – real slices of fresh mushrooms and whole prawns – wow!  Just as I’m ready to pack the rest of the pizza for takeaway, Blessie reminded me that there’s just one more item that I must try – Honey Baked Chicken Wings.  I’m already using my fingers to eat the pizza so I just went on to pick up a chicken wing and bit into it.  The evenly marinated meat is tender with honey sweetness and as I lick the bones clean, I’m glad I still have a little space left to savour it.

The Choco Brownie Mallows is identical
with its picture in the menu!
Usually the meal is not over until dessert is served but this time I must decline the tempting offer of their Volcanic Chocolate with Ice-cream so that I can enjoy it better at another time.  But Blessie still insists that I must end the meal sweetly and recommends the Choco Brownie Mallows – a tall chilled chocolate concoction topped with fresh cream and lots of tiny marshmallows!  She said her children love this and most customers do too.  Very often we complain that the item served does not look like the picture in the menu but here, the picture in the menu is labeled Actual Size and when I put my glass against the menu, I can see that it is indeed identical!

Feeling comfortably full, I bid farewell to Blessie and assured her that I will certainly be back again to taste more from their wide menu.  With one hand holding my folded umbrella and the other holding a carrier with my Vivo takeaways, I walk towards my car and am pleasantly surprised when a driver on a buggy offered to ferry me to my car.  I declined politely because I need the exercise and as I walk on my thoughts are centered on the pleasure of reconnecting with old friends and celebrating their success with them. 

Vivo @ Setia Tropika is at Unit G2, Ground Floor, Tropika Welcome Centre, Setia Tropika, 81100 Johor Baru.  For reservations, Tel: 607 – 232 6229. 

P.S.  My oven warmed takeaway pizza still tastes so good a day later!


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