From Kitchen Stories to KS Treasures

I accepted the invitation to dine with Frankie and am glad to meet him again with his wife and son at KS Treasures, a recently opened Chinese restaurant at Taman Sentosa.

Facade of KS Treasures restaurant at Taman Sentosa, JB
I’m wondering what ‘K S’ means until Frankie, who’s a fan of the food at Kitchen Stories, a restaurant popular for Teochew home-style dishes, explains that it’s the short-form for Kitchen Stories, their other restaurant in Taman Johor Jaya.

A few friends join us for this exciting food-tasting meal and Frankie introduces us to co-owners, Jeremy Teo, Chef Benson Chia and his wife, May.

A glance at the menu tells me that KS Treasures serves traditional Chinese cuisine and as I learn about Chef Benson’s proud credentials, I quietly anticipate being wowed by his modern touch, not only in taste but also in creative presentation.

Chef Benson Chia and his wife, May at KS Treasures
Chef Benson, whose hometown is Segamat, is living his dream – cooking in his own restaurant and applying the culinary skills he acquired from an illustrious career with international brand Chinese restaurants from Singapore, Shanghai to Miami, USA.

From his stints with Tung Lok Singapore, the Ritz-Carlton Shanghai, to award-winning Michelin Star Cantonese restaurant, Hakkasan in Miami, Chef Benson, longed to have his own restaurant.

Now he’s back in Johor, leading his kitchen team at KS Treasures to present a menu of dishes that will keep diners coming back for more.

While waiting for the first dish to be served – double-boiled chicken soup with white fungus and peach plum in a coconut – we can in fact, watch through a wide glass window (which separates the dining hall from the kitchen), as Chef Benson and his culinary team are in action in the kitchen.

A serving of Deep-fried Duck Salad
To whet our appetite for the meal, a white bowl stuffed with shaved ice and topped with cherry tomatoes, is presented along with a few bamboo skewers. Its pointed tips help us pick up the chilled cherry tomatoes with sour plum flavour that tastes so refreshing.

Interestingly, the next dish of Deep-fried Duck Salad comes with more duck than salad greens but I’m not complaining.

Wisps of wild rocket or arugula, pomelo beads and pine nuts rest on a bed of pulled-fried duck meat and it is tossed thoroughly before each serving has a balance of delightful duck meat with greens.

At first bite, I’m pleasantly surprised by its agreeable flavour and I make a mental note to myself – "Must order this when I’m dining again at KS Treasures!"

Signature Spinach Beancurd with mushrooms
The sizzle spluttering from a cast-iron hotplate signals the arrival of the next dish, slices of sautéed Garoupa fish fillets with white pepper and a trilogy of onions.

Once the clouds of steam clear off, I can see better to help myself to a portion to taste.

The tasty and tender fish fillet is a winner but I’m pleasantly surprised to chew into something with more bite. After a moment of tasting, I discover that it’s a slice of fried dough stick that locals call, yew-char-kway!

For something soft, it must be their signature own-made Spinach Beancurd squares topped with enoki and shimeji mushrooms and braised in oyster sauce.

Topping the Seafood Poached Rice with rice bubbles
Aware that rice is a staple in Asian diets, KS Treasures presents its popular main course dish of Poached Rice with seafood like whole prawns, clams and crabs in a rich seafood bisque, served in a bubbling claypot.

A side dish of rice bubbles/pops is provided as a topping for diners who wish to enjoy a bit more texture while they savour this comforting poached rice dish.

It’s steaming hot, too hot for me to eat so I let my bowl cool down before digging in.

By then the rich seafood flavours are further absorbed into the poached rice for a more delicious and satisfying taste!

Portions of Seafood Poached Rice topped with seafood
Tea-smoked pork Spare Ribs are next. One serving comes with four ribs that are infused with Longjing tea and tea-smoked for a unique smoky flavour.

“It is musky!” declares Frankie, who found his favourtie word to describe the ribs, which I agree, is quite distinct from the common taste of barbecue sauce.

The next dish sounds rather unusual so I take a moment to process the thought of what ‘sweet fermented rice’ is because this sauce is used to prepare sautéed Sea Prawns.

Enjoy the distinct taste of Tea-smoked Pork Spare Ribs 
I look at a spoonful of its reddish gravy and see rice granules. Its mildly alcoholic taste seems to light up a bulb in my brain because I instantly recognize it, a taste akin to traditional tapai, tapioca fermented with sweet glutinous rice!

The dish of sautéed Sea Prawns in sweet fermented rice comes with a side of fried buns or mantou, recommended to soak up all the sweet fermented rice gravy…

Someone commented that the mantou here has a different texture compared to those at other Chinese restaurants so I tear one sakura flower-shaped mantou in half (and put back half on its serving plate) just to have a taste.

It is indeed a bit more chewy but nonetheless, still tasty. Then Jeremy volunteers the information that the mantou here are made by the Chef’s wife, May.

Jeremy Teo [Left] with Chef Benson Chia at KS Treasures
Our meal at KS Treasures aptly ends with a dish of Braised Assorted Treasures served in a pumpkin. A long-handle ladle is provided for diners to dig into the deep pumpkin to fish out the ‘treasures’ that include slices of fish maw, flower mushrooms and sea cucumber.

When he has completed his duties, Chef Benson emerges from the kitchen, wreathed in smiles, ready for a chat and to hear our comments about his food.

While each one may have our own favourites, all of us can agree on the superior quality ingredients that went into the preparation of the various dishes we enjoyed together.

Throughout our meal (it’s a week night), diners have been coming into the restaurant and this is a clear sign that KS Treasures is fast gaining popularity.

Diners have a clear view of the action in the kitchen through a glass window
Cheers! Thanks Frankie and KS Treasures for an interesting dining experience at KS Treasures!
Jeremy says that work is still in progress to furnish the private dining rooms upstairs and when the restaurant is fully opened, there will also be outdoor dining on the ground floor of this corner double-shop unit.

KS Treasures Restaurant [NON-HALAL] is located at No. 155 & 157, Jalan Sutera, Taman Sentosa, Johor Baru, Johor.

Open daily, from 11.30am to 3pm and from 5.30pm to 10.30pm, with an afternoon break. Reservations are recommended for weekends. Tel: +607 – 665 1133.

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