Meet Tony Roma's Lamb Ribs Eating champs!

The ultimate lamb ribs eating champions were crowned in a recent finale of the world’s first Tony Roma’s Lamb Ribs Eating Contest 2016, in a speed-eating face-off here.

Dickson Low [Centre] with Lamb Ribs Eating champs 2016
Muhd Reza Putra Salam [Left] and Siti Farhana Azmi
A large weekend crowd gathered in the concourse of KOMTAR JBCC to witness how eight male and eight female contestants flexed their gastronomic muscles to compete for bragging rights and the coveted prize of eating Free-of-Charge at Tony Roma’s for the next 12 months.

To kick-off the event, ten contestants were invited from the audience to participate in a warm-up session of speed-eating a plate of French fries and drinking a tumbler of soda.

Dangling the attractive prize of a portable electric oven, it was quite easy to interest passers-by, shoppers and by-standers to join in the game and enjoy a free snack.

The audience cheered them on as a mixed group of male and female contestants sat down to race to finish a pile of French fries and wash it down with the fizzy drink.

Siti Farhana Azmi showing only bones left on her plate
The winner of this challenge, Ramesh Nadeson, is no stranger to this competition as he was also the past year’s winner!

The competition moved into the next (serious!) phase where female contestants took their seats to attempt the challenge to finish half a slab of Tony Roma’s famous lamb ribs and a portion of French fries.

First-timer, Siti Farhana Azmi, 26, clocked 4 minutes 51 seconds to emerge the winner in this eating contest.

Farhana, a junior secretary with a law firm in JB, who was tasting Tony Roma’s for the very first time, said her sister told her about the competition and urged her to take part.

Male contestants chewing into the barbecued lamb ribs
While most participants may have prepared their stomachs for the eating contest by starving themselves, Farhana came to the competition after having spaghetti for breakfast!

When asked if she would join Tony Roma’s eating competition again, Farhana said she may do so if given the opportunity but humbly added that it was better to let others win.

By this time the crowd in the concourse had swelled and shoppers, assailed by the tantalizing aroma of Tony Roma’s freshly barbecued lamb ribs, were also watching and cheering at all the action from the first and second level corridors.

Muhd Reza Putra Salam shows the thumbs-up sign on
finishing his portion of lamb ribs and French fries first
Then it was time for the male contestants to take the hot seats and deal with the serious challenge of eating a full slab of Tony Roma’s lamb ribs with a portion of French fries.

The mood was highly charged with heated fun while supporters in the audience cheered the contestants on as they chewed their way through the competition.

There must be a strategy to tucking into the juicy ribs and Muhd Reza Putra Salam, 35, must have hit on the solution because he polished his plate in 5 minutes and 28 seconds!

Reza, a Singaporean technician who lives in JB, had just come off his night shift and arrived on time for the competition – tired and hungry – so he made light work of completing the challenge quite effortlessly!

Also a first-time participant in the eating contest, Reza said he enjoys the taste of Tony Roma’s juicy beef and lamb ribs, and found that the lamb ribs tastes more tender.

Dickson Low with the female contestants and their prizes
This was the fourth time Tony Roma’s held their Ribs-Eating Competition and the very first time competitors experienced the Lamb Ribs Eating challenge.

Since Tony Roma’s opened in Malaysia a decade ago, this full-service, casual dining restaurant has garnered loyal fans for its juicy barbecued ribs, steak and seafood.

With eight outlets in the Klang Valley, one each in Malacca and Kuching, Tony Roma’s celebrated its 10th anniversary recently by adding their newest outlet at Aeon Tebrau City to join the one in KOMTAR JBCC, with two outlets now opened in JB.

While Tony Roma’s is a recognizable brand for its famous beef ribs, non-beef eaters were disappointed that they do not have the opportunity to taste these famous ribs.

“At Tony Roma’s we always listen to our customers,” said Tony Roma’s brand general manager, Muhammd Adam Mah, who is also an experienced chef and restauranteur.

Dickson Low with the male contestants and their prizes
Aware of the customers’ request for lamb ribs, he committed himself to creating a new item for the menu.

Five years ago, when Adam created his ultimate, lip-smacking lamb ribs, he served it in a private food-tasting session, to Grand Companions (Tony Roma’s licensed franchisee) chief operating officer, Dickson Low, who happens to have an aversion to lamb.

Adam knew that if Low – who does not like lamb – approved and accepted the taste of his barbecued lamb ribs, then they have certainly found the right recipe!

This story will be told and retold again because after Low tasted the lamb ribs, he enjoyed it so much that he has since become a “lamb convert” for Tony Roma’s barbecued lamb ribs!

These amazing lamb ribs have since been added into Tony Roma’s menu for non-beef eaters and lamb-lovers to enjoy.

Now Tony Roma’s is not just a place for ribs as the menu also includes a selection of seafood, steaks, chicken, lamb, salad, sandwiches and burgers along with appetizers and mini desserts – all served suitable for Muslim consumption.

Celebrate the festive season with Tony's Fiesta Lobster Platter at only RM199 for a limited season.  The platter comprises 1 US lobster, 2 Bountiful Beef Ribs, 2 Filet Medallions, Grilled Salmon, a quarter barbecued chicken and 3 side items of your choice.  Don't miss TR's refreshing mocktails served in Zesty Apple, Cranberry Fizz, Sweet Cherry and Miami Breeze.

Two outlets of Tony Roma’s in JB are located at Lot 2013, Level 2 of KOMTAR JBCC, 80000 Johor Baru, Tel: 607 – 300 5060 and at G-112, Ground Floor, AEON Tebrau City, Taman Desa Tebrau, 81100 Johor Baru, Tel: 607 – 351 0749.

Stagecraft's Tapestry of Malaysian Stories

Every now and then, I get emails from readers and in October, Elizabeth A. Louis wrote to tell me about Stagecraft, her company which is in the speaking skills business.

Pak Belalang [Vishal Nair] lazing about
while his wife looks on
Elizabeth, the director and principal trainer of Stagecraft, briefly explained their range of activities and one of the things they have been doing since 2014 is to get students between the ages of 7 and 17, to get interested in theatre.

Her students are trained in public speaking skills through a series of lessons.  She believes there’s no better way to show off their abilities than to present it in a live stage performance, usually at the end of each academic year.

Elizabeth would encourage all the students to participate in various roles and let them perform live to an audience for an experience that will inevitably help them gain more confidence in public speaking.

In past years, they have successfully staged popular children’s stories like The Gruffalo, Piglet – a parody of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, False Awakening – an original written by the students, a modern version of Cinderella and many more.

Nathan Wesley Goh Tsu Kien, the narrator for Si Tanggang
This year, Stagecraft decided to focus on something different.  They picked a few well-loved Malaysian folk tales or Cerita-cerita Rakyat Malaysia, as A Tapestry of Malaysian Stories that will be presented in black-box theatre.

Elizabeth’s message certainly piqued my interest and what followed was an exchange of emails where she gave me more information about A Tapestry of Malaysian Stories, their annual drama cornucopia that was happening this November.

While Stagecraft used their own premises for previous presentations, this year they decided to use a hall with a stage to present three ticketed shows over a weekend.  A preview held a day ahead, was mainly for parents and guardians.

When they were seeking a suitable venue, Elizabeth was delighted to discover the black box stage at Yayasan Warisan Johor in Jalan Mariamah, with a backdrop decorated with a kampong scene that was simply ideal for their show’s theme.

Si Tanggang [Dinesh Murugian] (Standing 2nd from Right)
showing disrespect to his parents
That afternoon’s pouring monsoon rain did not deter me from joining proud parents and family members in the audience to enjoy A Tapestry of Malaysian Stories, Malaysian folk tales that were adapted for children.

The programme of seven short dramas was presented with a 15-minute intermission after the fourth drama before they continued with the performance of the fifth drama.

In her brief introduction, Elizabeth explained that this showcase of Malaysian stories aimed to bring together multi-ethnic children as they take on various roles.

In black box theatre, every actor was dressed in black and will have limited use of props, costumes and accessories so that the audience may stretch their imagination as they watch the performances.

Shaun Wong Zhi Ren [2nd from Left] as Buyong
and his wife, journey on to the place that was
named in his honour, Teluk Sengat
From the first drama on the wily Pak Belalang and his powers of prediction, I could hear the students’ voices and enunciation clearly through their individual microphones and was impressed by how well they could emote the various expressions!

I’m a stickler for proper pronunciation and while the dialogue was bi-lingual in English and Malay, I was pleased to hear how the students were making good use of their lessons and speaking quite clearly throughout their performance.

In spite of his small stature, Vishal Nair who played the title role, gave a charming performance as the crafty husband and father.

I’m used to watching professionals perform on stage and as I enjoy the youngsters coming on and off stage in their well-rehearsed roles, I must commend them for their effort and commitment to not only learn their lines but also to understand their roles.

Si Tanggang, the next drama, was about a young boy who vows to get out of poverty.  He leaves the village to seek his fortune in the city and he not only worked hard to become wealthy but he also married the employer’s daughter.

The narrator, Nathan Wesley Goh Tsu Kien, did an excellent job with his lively narration that linked the various scenes in this drama.

And in that scene when Si Tanggang “disowned” his father (Shawn Lim Qi Sian) and his mother (Jin Yu Tong), I felt a sad twist in my gut as the moral of the story became obvious.

I guess it must have been difficult for Dinesh Murugian, who played the title role, to portray himself as an ungrateful son and act with disrespect to his parents!

Elizabeth, who was born in Kota Tinggi, said Teluk Sengat holds special memories and she picked the next drama to share a humorous take on how Teluk Sengat got its name.

The doctor examinig the king of the forest, believed
to be the tiger, in The Sick Tiger
As the story unfolded, I followed the journey that Buyong and his wife took to this place which was eventually named in honour of Buyong who died of a mysterious ailment that was too critical to be cured, even after consulting various medicine men.

I happen to know Shaun Wong Zhi Ren, who played the role of Buyong, and must admit that I recognized him more from his mannerisms than from his voice.

This was because the Shaun I know was quite shy and I was pleasantly surprised to see how his speaking skills have been developed and displayed in his portrayal of Buyong!

Mulling over this, I thought that Shaun was a classic example of how Stagecraft is helping students to develop themselves through a series of lessons and putting their acquired skills into action through a theatre production.

Later when I spoke to his mother, she told me that Shaun had kept his role a secret from the family.  And when she saw how well he performed on stage, she was impressed too! 

We cannot help but agree that speech and drama is certainly a powerful tool for personal development.

The cast of Puteri Gunung Ledang, taking a bow
The performance of Stagecraft’s showcase of Malaysian Stories continued with folk tales, Puteri Santubong & Puteri Sejinjang (a tale from East Malaysia), Batu Belah Batu Bertangkup (The Devouring Rock), The Sick Tiger and an excerpt from the Johor classic, Puteri Gunung Ledang.

Students as young as age seven were encouraged to participate in the performance because Elizabeth believed that stage experience was not only empowering and inclusive but also an opportunity to light the students’ passion for the performing arts.

Watching A Tapestry of Malaysian Stories was both enjoyable and encouraging as I saw how students’ speaking skills were being honed and nurtured.  Who knows?  This experience may be the first step that inspires someone to make the stage their career!

Stagecraft, which started in 2011 with some 40 students, has expanded to two centers located at Adda Heights and Nong Chik Riverside at Jalan Kolam Ayer. 

For more info about Stagecraft, visit website:  Tel: 607 – 364 6050 or email:

Meet T-Rex and friends!

Do you know that a pack of dinosaurs has stomped its way into Singapore Zoo and River Safari? 

Come meet T-Rex at Zoo-rassic Park, happening
in Singapore Zoo this holiday season
Come face-to-face with Tyrannosaurus Rex, Spinosaurus, Stegosaurus, Triceratops and a host of their prehistoric cousins this year-end for a fun-filled, immersive discovery adventure and observe interesting parallels with the parks’ living collections and learn valuable lessons about saving today’s species from extinction. 

In a unique display that does not involve living animals, Singapore Zoo and River Safari present a lifelike animatronics collection of pre-historic creatures at Zoo-rassic Park during weekends between Nov 26 and Dec 18. 

Don't miss that Velociraptor lurking in the bushes!
Dinosaurs disappeared from the face of the earth in the fifth extinction and now animal species are being wiped out at an unprecedented rate.  In the last 50 years, we have lost 67 per cent of the world’s biodiversity. 

Through the Zoo-rassic Park experience, Singapore Zoo aims to raise awareness on this issue and rally visitors to do something to save the world’s biodiversity before it’s too late.  

Journey through the Same Same But Different Trail to learn about convergent evolution and be amazed by how the animals of today like giraffes, rhinos and bats, share similar features and behaviours with these relics of the past.  

Look out for the Compsognathus!
You can also try your hand at being a paleontologist by excavating dinosaur fossils! Escorted by the dinosaur keeper into the realm of past giants, you cannot miss the opportunity to capture photo mementoes with the towering T-Rex and Velociraptor friends.  

On a misty walk in an exciting outdoor environment, look out for dinosaurs peeping at you through the foliage and unlock an interactive experience to learn fun facts about their relationship to other animals in the zoo through a Visual Discovery app, Blippar.  

Zoo-rassic Park activities are on now till Dec 18, 2016
Some Zoo-rassic Park residents have made their way to the freshwater attraction to meet their old friends in River Safari.  

Continue your prehistoric learning journey in Singapore Zoo’s sister park, River Safari, to learn about living fossils in the Extinction Escapees Trail.  

Here you will discover ancient animals like the Alligator Snapping Turtle, Indian Gharial and Giant Chinese Salamander that still exists now! 

While dinosaur-themed activities happen during weekends between Nov 26 and Dec 18, you can still catch the dinosaurs grazing in their new home at Singapore Zoo and River Safari until May 2017. 

Come meet Sunny the hornbill at Jurong Bird Park
Then hop over to Jurong Bird Park to meet the park’s animal icon, Sunny the hornbill, who’s also the ambassador for all threatened bird species that need our help and protection. 

Jurong Bird Park, which started with just five hornbill species when the park opened in 1971, is now home to the largest collection of Southeast Asian hornbills in the world.  Of the 18 hornbill species in the park, 11 are native to Southeast Asia. 

Visitors can participate in many hornbill-focused activities between now and Dec 11 including meeting Sunny the hornbill, feeding hornbills, doing craft activities, writing love notes for the Hornbill Love Mail and learning about them in the daily Hornbill Chit-Chat sessions. 

Enjoy Twilight Encounters with Chawang and his family!
In the evening, head to the Night Safari to enjoy festive cheer with the Paw-some Parade where quirky costumed animal characters will parade down the entrance to jump start your night of animal encounters over Fridays and Saturdays between now and Dec 10. 

This year-end, Night Safari presents Twilight Encounters in activities themed around Chawang, the park’s famous elephant.  

Take a ride on the tram to meet the elephant family and be awed by the sheer size and power of the majestic Chawang with the latest addition to the family, baby Neha. 

Get ready for some Jumbo-sized Fun when you meet the Chawang mascot and be enthralled by the grace and finesse of fluorescent light show performers in Illumi-night as they dance and twirl with their lighted props against the dark backdrop of night. 

For a chance to win a pair of adult ParkHopper tickets valued at approx. RM420 per package, take part in a simple online contest.  Just answer True or False to two questions:

 1.        Zoorasic-Park takes place at Singapore Zoo and River Safari on weekends between            November 26 and December 18.

2.     Sunny the hornbill is Jurong Bird Park's new animal icon.

Don't miss this opportunity to come face-to-face with T-Rex!
The contest to win ten [10] pairs of ParkHopper tickets, closes on Dec 1 so send your answers to email: with your full name, IC number, email address and telephone number.  Winners will be notified by email.

Managed by Wildlife Reserves Singapore, world-leading zoological institutions – Singapore Zoo, River Safari, Jurong Bird Park and Night Safari – aim to inspire people to value and conserve biodiversity by providing meaningful and memorable wildlife experiences at their parks.  Website:  

For more information on Dino-mite admission combo tickets, visit

Photos are courtesy of Wildlife Reserves Singapore

A version of this was published in The New Straits Times, Life & Times on 24 November 2016

Escape to the movies!

It may be hard to imagine now but there was a time when the only affordable public entertainment in Johor Baru was going to the movies because only the affluent could afford to own a television. 

The former Capitol theatre at Jalan Station
Movies are a popular entertainment choice because it’s an avenue to unwind and escape into another realm, to get involved with the plot and lives of screen characters, even for a while.  Enveloped in dim darkness, it’s perfectly all right to cheer for the underdogs, scream aloud at shocking scenes or shed tears at tender moments. 

But there’s simply something magical about watching movies on the big screen.  Many will fondly remember their first date of going to a movie after a meal because couples, getting to know each other, could enjoy being with their date for several hours without trying to impress or make intelligent conversation! 

The movie halls of today are small compared to former movie theatres that were stand-alone landmarks built with adjacent parking lots.  

Theatre locations were within convenient walking distances and as few people owned cars then, there was sufficient parking space. 

JB’s first cinema was the Sino-English theatre at the corner of Jalan Trus and Jalan Dhoby, opposite Hua Mui Restaurant.  A few concrete steps is the only evidence left of this theatre today. 

The former Cathay theatre on Jalan Bukit Meldrum
The Capitol at Jalan Station was a premier theatre popular for screening Chinese movies.  During an era when operas were made into movies, this attracted hordes of fans who enjoyed watching their favourite stars perform opera on the big screen. 

Besides Chinese movies, Capitol used to screen coloured, talking movies, mostly American Western or cowboy movies and blockbusters like The Greatest Show on Earth. The Capitol boasted of a stage which often hosted live shows by visiting opera stars from Hong Kong to promote opera movies by performing an excerpt of the film in a live show.  

In addition to large billboards displayed outside the theatre, publicity for coming movies and stage shows were also done by distributing printed flyers.  Publicity flyers, commonly cut in landscape format with one-colour printing, were distributed by a vendor who walked around to shops, businesses and homes in town. 

My siblings, cousins and I, who stayed with our grandparents at No. 154 Jalan Ngee Heng during our school-going years, used to be fascinated by these flyers received in the letterbox.  They were printed mainly in Chinese with brief English or Malay translations but we understood enough from the interesting pictures.  

Our grandparents, who were opera fans, made it a point to attend the live shows whenever Hong Kong stars came to perform.  These thung thoi shows were very popular and the theatre offered free-seating on a first-come-first-served basis. 

But if our grandparents were to walk from Jalan Ngee Heng to Jalan Station, their favourite seats might have already been taken.  So grandfather or Ah Kong, used to have an arrangement with his friend, the theatre manager, James Ho, to reserve their seats by tying a handkerchief to indicate that two seats were booked! 

At that time, tickets cost RM2 for upstairs seats while the best seats downstairs were only RM1.25 and prices ranged between RM 1 and 65 sen for seats closest to the screen. Even though Capitol did not have air-conditioning, it was popular until it was demolished in 1972.  

The former Lido theatre on Jalan Wong Ah Fook
Later, a cinema hall by the same name was reopened within the Merlin Tower building. At the same time, two of the most important landmarks along Jalan Wong Ah Fook were the Rex and Lido theatres.  

Rex, the older of the two, was ventilated only by ceiling fans. Audiences flocked to the adjacent Lido when it opened as a modern air-conditioned theatre and this probably forced the owners of Rex to upgrade and install air-conditioning! 

On Saturday morning, if we finished our chores early, Ah Kong would take his grand-children for a morning show at Rex or Lido.  The cheap seats for matinee and morning shows was just 80 sen and if the show was popular, we would end up with tickets for the dreaded first row seats! 

These were the most uncomfortable seats in the house because we had to sink deep into the seats to angle our heads almost horizontal to watch the screen.  Thankfully, this did not happen often because we always tried to walk to the theatre on time to get good seats! 

A collection of theatre tickets and movie promotion flyers
at the JB Kwong Siew Heritage Gallery
Perched on a hillock on Jalan Bukit Meldrum was the Cathay and we were sorry to see it demolished to make way for the Customs, Immigration and Quarantine complex.  A nearby row of shops that served food conveniently provided meals before or after shows.  

Here, a popular laksa noodle adopted its name from the theatre and is known as Cathay laksa to this day! While all the other theatres were demolished in the 1990s, Broadway at Jalan Segget, popular for screening Tamil movies, is still in business. 

In those days, tickets were bound in booklets and various priced tickets were usually identified by different colours.  The lady at the ticket counter was a familiar neighbour and she would mark our tickets with a thick red pencil before tearing it off from the counterfoil. 

In the lobby was a snack stall and Ah Kong would let us choose our favourite treats and we would select Mentos mints or Roundtree fruit gums while he picked Hacks cough-drops.  It also sold a range of soft drinks, crisps, chewing gum and cut fruits on sticks but we were not to choose these. 

A kacang puteh man and his parked bicycle would offer a choice of toasted nuts and sometimes we bought our pick of nuts wrapped in paper cones made from paper recycled from old telephone directories! 

If popcorn is the staple snack for modern movie-goers then it must have replaced kuaci or melon seeds.  Our movie watching experience was always punctuated by click-clicking sounds and at the end of the show, we would walk gingerly out of the theatre, crunching piles of kuaci shells underfoot!

Old photos are courtesy of Johor Baru Tiong Hua Association

A version of this was published in the November 2016 issue of The Iskandarian

CCI's Jewel of My Heart carnival

Cruyff Court Iskandar hosted CCI-PDK Permata Hatiku 2016, a carnival that brought together some 150 children with special needs from nine Pusat Pemulihan Dalam Komuniti (PDK) or Community Rehabilitation Centres, in Johor.
The recent CCI-PDK Permata Hatiku 2016 carnival
kicked off with a group aerobic exercise
The carnival which aims to empower every child with special needs with the opportunity to experience the pleasure of sports in the community, was jointly organized by PDK and Iskandar Investment Berhad (IIB) through Cruyff Court Iskandar (CCI).

On 3 November 2016, CCI was recognised by the Iskandar Malaysia Social Hero Award (IMSHA) in the Corporate Social Responsibility category, solidifying its purpose of making significant contributions towards the society through impactful and meaningful community service in Johor.

The CCI football pitch in Kampung Melayu Majidee came to life on a recent Saturday morning with participants enjoying a variety of nine games like coconut bowling and joining straws among other traditional games.

Nine teams made up of able-bodied children and children with disabilities from various schools and institutions, competed in the carnival games.

Participants came from nine PDK in JB including PDK Tanjung Puteri, PDK Nusajaya, PDK Johor Jaya, PDK Permas Jaya, PDK Ulu Tiram, PDK Kempas, PDK Puteri Wangsa, PDK Tun Aminah and PDK Kota Masai.

They were joined by teachers and staff from IIB’s adopted schools, namely Sekolah Kanak-kanak Istimewa Johor Baru, Sekolah Mohd Khir Johari and Sekolah Kebangsaan Taman Suria who were part of the organizing committee, as well as 40 student volunteers from Kolej Politeknik Metro and Institute Kamahiran Mara, Pasir Gudang, who coordinated the carnival programme.

A young clown greeting Datin Rosni Omar at
PDK Tanjung Puteri's Candy World booth
The successful half-day carnival was graced by wife of Menteri Besar Johor, Datin Rosni Omar, who officially closed the event.

IIB president and chief executive officer, Datuk Ir Khairil Anwar Ahmad said that IIB was proud of their close collaboration with CCI as social inclusion and sustainability are the organisation’s key focus areas.

“As we progress in developing the region, we also want to strengthen the community and continuously improve the lives of people here,” said Datuk Khairil.

“Together with various partners, including adopted schools and institutions, corporations and the Johor State Welfare Department, CCI has shown much dedication towards achieving our goals through this carnival and other initiatives,” he added.

Patron of PDK and Johor State Assembly Member, Datuk Adam Sumiru, who worked closely with PDK Tanjung Puteri, was equally delighted with the level of collaboration among corporate citizens, government and educational institutions for the success of this carnival.

“It’s heartening to see various segments of the community working together for a cause that will benefit everyone,” said Datuk Adam.

A section of the participants with special children
having great fun at the carnival
“We hope to see more of such collaborations as the region develops in the coming years,” he added.

IIB is both a strategic developer stimulating the long-term development of Iskandar Malaysia and a solution centre for investors.

Working with the government to develop attractive incentives for investors, IIB is assisting the relocation of companies and individuals.  It acts as a bridge between the private sector, developers and the public sector and is encouraging the growth of a complete lifestyle ecosystem in Iskandar Malaysia.

IIB is providing talent to Iskandar Malaysia by fostering the growth of knowledge and expertise needed to drive strategic sectors through tertiary education.  It is also nurturing the development of vocational skills needed by industry through education and training.

IIB has a track record of delivering dynamic catalytic projects to steer growth in strategic sectors.

Its key achievements to date include successful joint ventures and investment partnerships in the development of the international education hub, EduCity, the launch of the LEGOLAND® Malaysia theme park and the master planning of the commercial hub at Medini.

IIB is owned by federal and state government investment agencies including Khazanah Nasional Berhad (KNB), Employees Provident Fund (EPF) and Kumpulan Prasarana Rakyat Johor (KPRJ), a company wholly owned by the Johor State Government.

It is committed to steering economic and environmentally sustainable growth in Iskandar Malaysia and ensuring inclusive growth towards a common goal for local Iskandarians through employment and income opportunities.

IIB’s community initiatives include the adoption of schools, the sponsorship of community sporting programmes and the establishment of a foundation for special needs children and those from low-income families.

This is the carnival’s fourth edition since CCI was launched in 2012.  IIB collaborated with Cruyff Court Kuala Lumpur, Pan-Disability Football Club and the Malaysia Blind Football Team for a special event in 2015.

For more information on IIB, please visit

Tony Roma's now opened in Tebrau City!

As Tony Roma’s celebrates its 10th anniversary, this casual-dining family restaurant recently opened its 12th outlet at AEON’s largest shopping mall in Tebrau City, Johor Baru.

Tony Roma's is now opened in AEON Tebrau City!
I’m told that this latest outlet in Tebrau City is also its largest, with indoor and covered outdoor seating spaces.  Situated on the ground level of the recently renovated new wing of Tebrau City, Tony Roma’s also has a convenient entrance from the outdoor carpark.

Since its arrival in Malaysia a decade ago, Tony Roma’s has gained loyal fans of its juicy barbecued ribs, steak and seafood. 

With eight outlets in the Klang Valley, one each in Malacca and Kuching, this new opening at Tebrau City will join the one in KOMTAR JBCC to make two outlets in Johor Baru.

Outdoor covered dining area at the entrance from the
mall's outdoor carpark
I was overjoyed when the first Tony Roma’s opened in KOMTAR JBCC.  Now with its second outlet in Tebrau City, it gives me yet another destination to enjoy Tony Roma’s signature dishes.

In Malaysia, Tony Roma’s is not just a place for ribs as the menu has expanded to include a selection of seafood, steaks, chicken, lamb, salad, sandwiches and burgers along with appetizers and mini desserts – all served suitable for Muslim consumption.

Tony Roma’s, a recognizable brand for its famous beef ribs, has now added lamb ribs to its menu.  So non-beef eaters and lamb-lovers can also savour these amazing lamb ribs!

Muhammad Adam Mah presents an Onion
Loaf which is made from a Spanish onion
I soon learn that barbecued lamb ribs is a creation of Tony Roma’s brand general manager, Muhammd Adam Mah (AKA Godfather!), who is also an experienced chef and restauranteur.  The man himself comes over to introduce dish by dish as the menu is served.

I’m familiar with the menu and privately wish they will serve my favourite Kickin’ Shrimp salad but the waiter comes along with their equally famous Onion Loaf.  This sweet and crispy creation is made from whole Spanish onions and savoured with a smoky flavoured barbecue dip sauce.

A chef recommended salad, Tony’s Asian Salad, made with fresh chopped Asian greens, diced red peppers, cilantro bits, crispy strips of fried wonton skin noodles, sesame seeds, topped with grilled chicken and flavoured with sweet Thai chili sauce, is served with a side of Pan-Asian dressing.

“This will remind you of the taste of yee sang,” said Adam who graciously helps to drizzle the dressing onto the salad.  

The Asian Salad which tastes quite like yee sang!
And while I crunch through the crispy wonton skin noodles and vegetables, I agree that the salad certainly hints of the familiar yee sang flavour but I must say the grilled chicken meat is incredibly tender!

The appetizers paved the way for the main course and with a palate eagerly anticipating the meat servings, a waitress joins us at the table with a set of Tony Roma’s signature hot sauces.  She presents each of the four flavours on a saucer and leaves it on the table for us to sample.

These signature sauces are designed to complement the meat flavours but some diners (like me!) think that the barbecued ribs taste so good that I can eat it on its own – without any additional sauces!

Before the ribs are served, the staff approach our table, each holding a plastic bib and helps to fasten it round each of the diner’s necks.  I understand some of the sauces, which are made with molasses, may leave stubborn stains on fabrics so wearing a bib is just a precaution for messy eaters.

Bountiful Ribs with a side of Ranch style beans and fries
As I sink my teeth into its juicy fall-off-the-bone tenderness, the taste of Bountiful Ribs, glazed with Tony Roma’s original barbecue sauce, is exactly as I remember it.

I think Adam overheard my “mmm…” of satisfaction as I set aside the bone and reach for the next rib.

Adam urges me, “Use your hands!”

That’s because they have a wash basin within the outlet for diners who wish to use their hands, to conveniently wash their hands.

It’s a small wonder that Tony Roma’s Lamb Ribs is so popular with diners who enjoy lamb because I can taste a hint of lamb aroma which makes lamb so distinctly delicious.

Lamb Ribs with a side of greens and loaded mashed potatoes
The ribs are served with a portion of loaded mashed potatoes.  Yes, the delicious mash is made from real potatoes loaded with beef bacon, parmesan cheese and chives.

After using the meat knife for a while longer, I decide to follow Adam’s suggestion to use my hands.  So I’m holding the ribs and chewing the meat off in quite an unladylike manner!

My only concern is someone (who knows me!) spotting me chomping away because I’m in full view of shoppers passing the restaurant! 

Tony Roma's Dessert Trio with three mini desserts
But as I ignore the onlookers and carry on eating, I’m not letting this thought deter me from thoroughly enjoying my meal.

After such a satisfying meal, there is indeed very little room left for dessert.  But Tony Roma’s dessert menu offers a Dessert Trio where diners can sample three mini desserts in one serving.

When I see the trio of Red Velvet Cake, Raspberry Brownie Royale and Shortcake with Strawberry sauce, I realise that their mini is not quite mini after all. 

But it certainly is a pleasant sweet ending to another delightful meal at Tony Roma’s!

Tony Roma’s is located at G-112, Ground Floor, AEON Tebrau City, Taman Desa Tebrau, 81100 Johor Baru.   For reservations, Tel: 607 – 351 0749.