A rooftop meal complete with city views

When you dine at the rooftop café of Suasana Suites Iskandar Johor Baru, the bonus that comes with meals served by Suasana Suites Café are free aerial views of Johor Baru city.
An aerial view of Johor Baru City with the
iconic Sultan Ibrahim Building on Bukit Timbalan
and beyond to Singapore
“Where is that, uh?” (Curious to know more, I know this is your burning question.)
The Suasana Suites Iskandar JB is an all-suites hotel on Jalan Trus, linked to the Amari Johor Baru and Zenith Lifestyle Centre, conveniently located opposite Johor Baru City Centre Mall on Jalan Wong Ah Fook.

Designed with one, two and three-bedroom suites, Suasana Suites Iskandar JB is an ideal accommodation for family and group short stays.

When I had a tour of the facilities at its opening, I enjoyed the pleasure of the panoramic views of JB city from the lofty Level 33A where the swimming pool, gym and café, are all located on the building’s rooftop.

Another view of JB city with a view of buildings
along three roads: Jalan Trus, Jalan Wong Ah Fook
and Jalan Tun Abdul Razak
It’s not often that city folks can savour an authentic taste of local cuisine from another part of the country so the café’s Pay Day Treat promotion aims to serve something out of the menu just for a few days each month.

So just for a few days, from July 20 to August 4, Suasana Suites Café will serve Nasi Kerabu Kelantan for diners to pamper themselves with a Pay Day Treat.

Having heard about the Nasi Kerabu Kelantan being served only for a limited time, my friends and I decided to give ourselves a Pay Day Treat at Suasana Suites Café.

With my car safely parked in the building, a short ride on the elevator takes me to Level 33A of the Suasana Suites JB to meet my friends at the café for lunch.

A serving of Nasi Kerabu Kelantan with meat
choice of Daging Bakar, barbecued beef strips
At Level 33A I step out of the elevator lobby and am instantly wrapped in a blanket of familiar warm wind with a hint of salt, being whipped in from the Johor Straits.

At a glance I can tell from their outfits that diners at the café are a mix of tourists, in-house guests and staff members from nearby offices.

While the outdoor section may be ideal for dining by night, we choose the cooler interior of the café, designed with tall glass windows that allow natural light to pour in.

There is an air of casual dining here as diners chat over their meal – seated at the rooftop – surrounded by panoramic views of the city center.

A tasty portion of Muar Otah, filled with real fish!
From where we are seated, I have a clear view of buildings along Jalan Trus, Jalan Wong Ah Fook and Jalan Tun Abdul Razak, and beyond to Singapore in the horizon.

We cannot help but try to identify the buildings and I can even spot our city’s iconic Sultan Ibrahim Building perched majestically on Bukit Timbalan!

The wait-staff presents us with menus but I reach out to the flip-top menu standing on the table for a quick look of their recommended dishes.

After a short deliberation, we decided on the recommended dishes – a portion of steamed Muar Otah and a Chilled Tofu for appetizers, Freddie’s Signature Fish Soup Noodles, Hainanese Chicken Rice as well as the promoted item, Nasi Kerabu Kelantan.

The Nasi Kerabu set meal comes with a generous portion of blue rice, coloured naturally by the juice of butterfly pea flower or bunga telang, and various condiments like half a salted egg, fragrant raw herbs salad, Solok Lada (a whole chilli stuffed with tasty fish paste), kerisik or toasted coconut, crispy fish keropok and sambal sauce.
Chilled Tofu is served chilled, topped with freshly fried
shallots and drizzled in a delicious dark sauce
In the Nasi Kerabu set, diners can pick a choice of meat from Daging Bakar, barbecued beef strips, Ayam Goreng Berempah, fried spiced chicken, or Ayam Percik, barbecued spiced chicken slathered in rich coconut milk.

This set meal also comes with Sirap Selasih, a chilled syrup drink topped with basil seeds.

For the uninitiated, the array of condiments for the Nasi Kerabu set may seem quite intimidating but connoisseurs tell me that one of the best ways to savour this dish is to mash the salted egg and mix it into the rice along with the other ingredients and sambal.

Of course, the traditional and best way to eat this rice dish is by hand but at the café I decided to refrain.

A favourite comfort food:
Freddie's Signature Fish Soup Noodles
Eating Nasi Kerabu with a spoon is still an exciting experience – every spoonful absolutely bursting with delicious flavours!

The Muar Otah lives up to our expectation of what a good chunk of otak-otak should taste like, rich with flavour and full of real fish!

The Chilled Tofu is topped with fragrant, deep-fried shallots and drizzled in a delicious dark sauce – all aimed at (and succeeded in) whetting our appetite for more food.

If you are wondering who’s Freddie of the Freddie’s Signature Fish Soup Noodles fame, wonder no more.

He’s Freddie Lee, a member of the owner’s family who offered his favourite recipe for fish noodles and (I was duly informed!) ever since adding it to the menu, this dish has consistently remained the café’s top-selling item!

It’s not surprising because Teochew-style Fish Soup Noodles is a comfort food for many.

Affogato, ice-cream topped
with a shot of hot espresso
This must-try bowl of rice vermicelli is served, topped with a generous portion of fried fish – Sea Bass – in a deep bowl of rich fish soup, brewed with traditional ingredients like whole sour-plum, tomato wedges and shredded salted/preserved vegetables.

The soup is tinged white from adding a dash of evaporated milk, but if you prefer your fish soup clear (without milk), just inform the order-taker.

This mild, soupy, comforting dish comes with a side of cut chilli padi in soy sauce to add more flavour and a bit of zing.                                                                                             

One cannot go wrong with the familiar flavour of fragrant Hainanese Chicken Rice, another popular item here.

Served in a set, the chicken rice comes with a portion of chopped steamed chicken, clear chicken soup, and three dip sauces – dark soya sauce, chopped chilli and garlic sauce, and minced ginger.

With our stomachs comfortably full, it was still difficult to tear ourselves away from the lofty views so we decide to linger over coffee and dessert.

We each have our own preference so the order is placed for various types of coffee like Americano or Cappuccino.

Deep-fried Durian dessert
My choice is Affogato, an Italian coffee-based dessert where a scoop (or two!) of vanilla or chocolate ice-cream is drowned in a shot of hot espresso…mmm…

A popular dessert served at Suasana Suites Café is deep-fried durian, made with real durian wrapped in a light pastry.

It’s crispy on the outside but dripping with durian from the inside. Mmm…simply irresistible!

Suasana Suites Café is on Level 33A of Suasana Suites Iskandar Johor Baru, an all-suites hotel located at No. 82-C Jalan Trus, 80000 Johor Baru.

Crispy on the outside, dripping with durian from the inside
This all-day dining café with a menu suitable for all, is open daily from 7am to 11pm, with semi-buffet and ala carte menu for breakfast till 11.30am.

Look out for monthly promotions in Pay Day Treats where you can treat yourself to local food, not often found in a café menu, served from 11am to 10pm only on selected days.

Pay Day Treat prices are as low as RM18.90 nett for a meal plus chilled drink with a 10% discount for pre-purchases made a day in advance.

For table reservations and pre-purchases, Tel: +607 – 267 0148 Extn: 7717 or +6017 – 283 5226.

For more info on Suasana Suites Iskandar Johor Baru, visit their website and Facebook page.

Celebrate with Wan Li traditional mooncakes

In the weeks prior to the Mid-Autum Festival, it is a tradition for families and friends to present each other with mooncakes and mooncakes are often brought to the festive dinner and presented to the host with pride.

A range of traditional baked mooncakes by Wan Li
Chinese Restaurant in the Renaissance Johor Baru Hotel
Keeping close to traditions, Wan Li Chinese Restaurant at the Renaissance Johor Baru Hotel is preparing a range of handcrafted mooncakes, both the traditional baked version as well as the popular snow-skin mooncakes, to celebrate the season.

Wan Li knows that most traditional Chinese families would celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival with a family dinner, not unlike the Lunar New Year reunion dinner.

While the menu for the Mid-Autumn Festival may not be as elaborate or rich with auspicious ingredients as in the Spring Festival (celebrated during the Lunar New Year), it is a tradition to host a festive dinner to bring the family together again over a meal.

So for the coming festive season, Wan Li will be serving an interesting new menu, designed by their new head chef, Linus Mak.

A traditional wooden mooncake mould
At home, this Mid-Autumn Festival dinner will traditionally end with eating mooncakes washed down with sips of quality Chinese tea, usually set in the porch or garden – under the glow of the full moon.

And the topic of conversation would inevitably include exchanging anecdotes and legends about the origins of the Mid-Autumn Festival.

This festival is often called the Lantern Festival because this is also the season where children would light up lanterns and enjoy the fun of playing with glowing lanterns in the dark.

So I’m at Wan Li again for a media preview of these traditional pastries and at the restaurant entrance, a variety of freshly-made, handcrafted mooncakes are presented on platters for us to sample, along with a range of Chinese tea.

Mooncakes are best savoured, paired with quality,
freshly-brewed Chinese tea
Guests are welcome to help themselves to warm brewed tea, to sip as they sample the slivers of mooncakes.

I like how each porcelain pot of Chinese tea is clearly labelled with names that range from Pu Er to Guan Yin King, for guests to identify the types of leaves and flavours of tea.

Wan Li is proud of their tradition of making delectable mooncakes using preservative-free and low sugar recipes, so their mooncakes are best savoured within ten days from the date of purchase.

These quality pastries are shaped by traditional wooden moulds, designed with an embossed rendition of the capital letter “R” for Renaissance Hotel, and are easily distinguished by this identity on the baked mooncakes.

Mooncake gift boxes have become more creative, elaborate and attractive over the years and this year, Wan Li is proud of the new design of their mooncake boxes that comes with a matching paper carrier bag.

Mooncakes are proudly presented in impressive gift boxes
Family members or friends who know which type of baked mooncake filling their host prefers, can pick from choices like Pure Lotus Paste, Lotus Paste with Single or Double Yolk and those filled with Assorted Dried Fruit and Nuts.

In addition to the traditional fillings of Lotus Paste in the baked mooncakes, there are also choices like Red Bean Paste, Jade Custard and Green Tea with Single Yolk.

Renaissance JB is taking a contemporary approach to the traditional baked and snow skin varieties of mooncake and have created trendy types of fillings to meet the tastes of modern mooncake connoisseurs.

While snow skin mooncakes are a relatively new creation for the Mid-Autumn Festival, it has gained popularity and the increasing choices of fillings is proof that it’s here to stay.

Some of the exciting flavours to choose from include Dark Chocolate Crunchy Pearl, Coffee Truffle, Taro Paste Truffle, Lemon Paste Truffle, Green Tea Matcha Truffle, Passion Fruit Truffle, Peppermint Chocolate Truffle, Strawberry Fizzy Truffle and the tempting taste of Fresh Durian.

Snow-skin mooncakes prepared in pretty pastel colours
These handcrafted delicacies are made with natural ingredients with no preservatives and when the snow skin varieties are brought home, they should be kept refrigerated to preserve its quality.

The snow skin varieties are distinguished by a range of pretty pastel colours like purple for Taro, green for Green Tea Matcha and pink for Strawberry but it is rather challenging to tell which shade of yellow is Lemon or Passion Fruit.

It is however, very easy to spot the (yellow) snow skin mooncake stuffed with Fresh Durian because before we see it, we can already smell it from afar!
. . .

This range of handcrafted mooncakes are exclusively available from Wan Li for a limited time – until Sept 13 – so rush over to enjoy Early Bird discount of 15% off a single receipt for purchases before Aug 5.

A set of eight snow skin mooncakes is priced at RM98 nett and a set of four baked mooncakes cost RM98 nett only while the set of eight Fresh Durian snow skin mooncakes is priced at RM168 nett.

A variety of snow-skin mooncakes for us to sample!
Purchases of mooncakes of above 25 boxes will enjoy 15% discount while purchases above 100 boxes will enjoy 25% discount.

Existing Club Marriot members are entitled to receive a complimentary box of mooncakes for every purchase of eight boxes.

Standard Chartered Bank and UOB Bank card holders will receive 15% and 20% discount, respectively.

These exquisite mooncakes can be bought at Wan Li Chinese Restaurant while large orders and enquiries should be made by calling, Tel: +607 – 381 3388 or email: rhi.jhbbr.wanlirestaurant@renaissancehotels.com or henry.lee@renaissancehotels.com

Wan Li Restaurant [Pork-Free] is on the lobby level of the Renaissance Johor Baru Hotel, 2 Jalan Permas 11, Bandar Baru Permas Jaya, 81750 Masai, Johor.

Escape into a Skyscape adventure!

I last met Afiqah in April 2017 and when she got in touch with me again in early July, I was intrigued by her invitation, which was to have a Skyscape experience!

View of Jalan Wong Ah Fook through the glassy Sky Bridge;
[Guess which socked foot is mine?]
She introduced me to Skyscape @ Menara JLand, Johor’s first aerial entertainment space that features a range of high-tech indoor fun attractions for the whole family, the highlight of which is a thrilling outdoor walk along the Sky Bridge.

Telling me about it was certainly not enough so she encouraged me to have my own exciting experience soon.

I know it would be more fun as a group so I invited my thrill-seeking friends along for the experience.

Once we had agreed with Afiqah on a date and time, we reminded each other to dress appropriately – no skirts please – and to bring along a pair of socks, preferably socks with anti-slip soles to wear and walk comfortably on the glassy surface of the Sky Bridge.

[In the event anyone failed to bring along their own, Skyscape anti-slip socks are available for sale at only RM5 per pair.]

Look out for floor stickers that point
towards Skyscape @ Menara JLand
Afiqah told me that there were directional signs to point visitors to Skyscape @ Menara JLand from the Johor Bahru City Centre mall carpark but I thought it was best if we entered Menara JLand through its Ground Floor lobby.

So I headed to the ground level of JBCC mall.

Close to the JBCC Information counter, I spotted a sticker on the floor with arrows that guided visitors to exit JBCC mall, turn right and walk towards the adjacent Menara JLand.

At the Ground Floor lobby of Menara JLand, Afiqah welcomed us with her sweet smile and led us to a wide poster to introduce the various sections in Phase One of the Skyscape entertainment space and briefed us on how best to maximize our two-hour session.

She explained that each session would allow 10 persons to enjoy the facilities, limited to two hours, so that everyone should have enough time to enjoy their own experience.

Meanwhile, in an area located next to the ticketing counter, a variety of games were programmed into the Floor Interactive Games to keep us amused while waiting for the previous group to complete their session.

At Ground Floor lobby, check out photos of two views of
Johor Baru city by day and by night, from the Sky Bridge
It was a fun warm-up session as we interacted with the music and light effects on the floor and challenged each other at playing the Floor Interactive Games.

Before going into the elevator to zip up to Level 34, Afiqah invited us to join her for their official photographer to snap a group photo as a souvenir of our visit here.

At Level 34, the entrance to the Skyscape area was through a cool LED Tunnel designed with strobe lights that flicker to the rhythm of throbbing music.

The visual effect of this Tunnel was quite stunning as we posed for photos here but for our friends who may be photosensitive, it was a quick walk-through to reach the next section to play the Virtual Reality (VR) Games.

Afiqah giving us briefing before our Skyscape experience
The staff manning three separate darkened cubicles were on hand to help us put on the VR headset and guided us in using the relevant equipment to play these adrenalin-pumping games.

Outside the cubicles, three screens lined up in a row, mirror the screens within the cubicles so that others (outside) may observe and join in their thrills and spills.

While the screens were fun to watch, the experience was to a much lesser intensity.

Watching the exciting sequences only encouraged each one of us to take our own turn to immerse ourselves into the thrill of riding the rollercoaster, skiing on snowy slopes and fighting off zombies!

Enjoying a VR game within a cubicle
Exhausted from playing these thrilling VR games, we were then ushered into the Mini Theatre where we flopped down on comfy bean bags in front of a wide screen to chill out and watch an informative video on interesting Johor destinations.

After a few minutes of respite, we were rested and ready for the next exciting challenge: to defy any threat of acrophobia – extreme or irrational fear of heights – because it was time to walk the Sky Bridge.

The staff directed us to remove our footwear and store them in shelves provided before putting on our anti-slip socks.

Meanwhile Afiqah gently reminded us to secure any loose items or risk having them blown off by sudden gusts of wind.

The staff manning the Sky Bridge pointed to the poster for us to read the list of Do’s and Don’ts and assured us that we would have sufficient time to enjoy the outdoor experience.

So with socks on, bags zipped up and tudung pinned down, we exited the door to the Sky Bridge, some 149 meters above ground.

Watching a video in the Mini Theatre
Whipped by warm breezes, it took a while before I found my footing to slowly navigate the glassy surface to reach mid-way of the entire length of the Bridge.

With my eyes firmly on the panoramic view of Johor Baru city (I reminded myself not to look down!) I fearlessly made my way to the center of the Bridge.

Then Afiqah invited us to pose for a group photo (again?) but this time on the Sky Bridge while their official photographer snapped away.

While all our eyes were focused on smiling for the snapshot, something happened under our feet…

Visitors, please observe the Rules and Regulations here
We were all (except Afiqah!) unaware as one of the retractable layers of glass we were standing on, quietly retracted so that we could see right through the glass to the ground below!

Suddenly, the excitement shot up several notches and even the bravest among us, quite involuntarily… reached out and wound his/her hands firmly around the guard rails.

Once we got over the surprise, the courageous ones continued to pose for photos, we-fies and touristy-trick-photography, not just standing up but also seated down.

And one even wanted himself to be photographed lying down!

An unforgettable Sky Bridge experience in Johor Baru!
All too soon, our time on the Sky Bridge was up.

The staff ushered us off the Bridge back into the lobby where we exchanged the socks for our footwear before moving into the Observation Deck to enjoy another view of the city but this time, through glass walls.

We were informed that this lofty level doubles up as an Event Space for corporate or private events to accommodate from 30 to 180 guests.

Our exit from Level 34 would take us through the souvenir shop where we may buy exclusive Skyscape merchandise.

A view of Johor Baru city with Singapore in the horizon
It was also an opportunity to buy our group photos that looked rather irresistible, beautifully mounted on a cardboard Skyscape souvenir folder as well as within a keychain.

At the souvenir shop, admiring our group shots
Observing our satisfied smiles, Afiqah assured us that we could expect more exciting adventures in Phase Two of Skyscape that would include fun with holograms, augmented reality, interactive wall & 3-Dimentional modelling and views through telescopes. Wow!

So with sweaty brows, fast-recovering wobbly legs and quivering but happy hearts, we returned to earth and reluctantly left Skyscape.

Skyscape @ Menara JLand is at Ground Floor and Level 34 of Menara JLand, Johor Baru City Centre (JBCC), Jalan Tun Abdul Razak, 80000 Johor Baru.

Opening Hours: Daily 9.30am to 10pm, with the last admission at 8.30pm.

A lovely souvenir of our most memorable Skyscape experience, right here in Johor Baru!
Tickets categories are for Adult, Child and Senior Citizens above age 60 with reduced rates for MyKad holders.

For enquiries and ticketing info, Tel: +607 2888 722/ 2888 723 or send email to sales.skyscape@menarajland.com.my.

For more info, visit website: www.menarajland.com

Dazzled by exquisite handcrafted Zam Gems

When I received the invitation from Suasana Suites Iskandar Johor Baru to a jewellery exhibition held at their Corporate Floor, I knew that it was an exclusive one-day only event for selected guests.

Guests at the one-day only exclusive jewellery
exhibition by Zam Gems at Suasna Suiites Iskandar JB
A quick check on my calendar showed that I had a prior event to attend that same morning so I replied this invitation with a question, as to when would be an ideal time for me to turn up because it was a day-long event, up to 8pm that night.
So it was arranged for me to arrive comfortably on time for a cup of coffee and to catch a formal visual presentation by Zam Gems of Sri Lanka.

That afternoon, I found my way to Level 35 where the Corporate Floor was located and was warmly welcomed by my gracious host, Madam Ng-Lee Siew Koon.

Already a small group of jewellery connoisseurs were taking a close look at the gems displayed in the glass-topped showcases, arranged at one end of the hall.

Siew Koon introduced me to Managing Director of Zam Gems, Ahsan Refai, whom she described as a family friend who had accepted her invitation to exhibit their exquisite jewellery here.

Managing Director of Zam Gems, Ahsan Refai, [Centre]
showing some of the elegant jewellery designs to guests
With natural light pouring in from the windows’ parted curtains, the comfortable ambience of Suasana Suites Iskandar JB, was the ideal setting for such an exclusive exhibition of exquisite handcrafted jewellery.

I’m familiar with diamond merchants from Sri Lanka (formerly known as Ceylon) so I’m ever so keen for a first-hand look at the precious gems that Sri Lanka has been internationally renowned for.

Over coffee and a plate of tasty ginger biscuits from Sri Lanka, Ahsan shared with me about his family business in Zam Gems.

He’s proud that they are their nation’s pioneers in fine jewellery, who not only mined gemstones from their sources but also set them into attractive pieces.

That's an excellent choice of a necklace!
As market leaders for gems and jewellery, Zam Gems is headquartered in Colombo with some 15 branches opened around Sri Lanka, mainly in 5-star hotel galleries and department stores.

While Ahsan shared a brief history on his family business, more guests arrived and joined the sizeable crowd to view and buy jewellery.

Ahsan, the eldest of three siblings, was just aged seven when he would observe his father doing business in the jewellery trade in the front room of their home, which doubled up as an office.

Armed with a briefcase (filled with gems!) his father started this jewellery business in 1976 with the support of three staff members.

Choices! Choices!
Now Zam Gems employ some 225 people in their workforce at two manufacturing centers that include highly skilled workers and in-house designers.

Using only the finest gems, their skilled craftsmen would create a range of the most elegant jewellery by applying a combination of traditional techniques and cutting-edge technology.

“We don’t compromise on quality,” said Ahsan as he described how Zam Gems only seek the best quality gemstones from around the world to process and set into fine jewellery pieces to meet the tastes of connoisseurs both in Asia and Europe.

Ahsan also shared with me about current trends in jewellery making and designs, and commented that most Asian buyers prefer to buy their stones and to set them later.

In addition to operating their many outlets in Sri Lanka, Ahsan and his team often participate in jewellery exhibitions throughout Asia, mainly in Japan and China, and in cities like Kuala Lumpur and Singapore in Southeast Asia.

The most striking of them all must be the cornflower
blue of sapphires set with diamonds!
In the visual presentation, I had a glimpse of how precious stones were mined as well as the stone selection process, polishing and designing into unique and modern settings.

I also learnt that Zam Gems are all lab tested, quality controlled and backed by an international warranty, so buyers are assured that their gems have been authenticated and certified by a qualified gemologist.

Then it was my turn to drool over the dazzling display of gems.

I was simply enchanted by such timeless beauty in necklaces, bracelets, cufflinks and rings designed in sparkling sapphires, flawless moonstones, red rubies and glittering emeralds among other precious and semi-precious stones.

But for me, the most striking of them all must have been the cornflower blue of sapphires set with diamonds!

For more info on Zam Gems, visit website: www.zamgems.com