Modern European at Initial Cuisine

At the tender age of 14, Koh Chin Hong had already decided that he wanted to be a chef.

At the entrance to Initial Modern European Cuisine
He probably made this decision while growing up on the good food that his mother dished out for the family and she inevitably was the inspiration that spurred him on to pursue a career in culinary arts.

Now the Head Chef at Initial, Chef Koh shares with me about his exciting culinary journey that started soon after he completed High School in Yong Peng, Johor.

His dream soon turned into reality when he completed a year in Japanese language studies and two years with a culinary school in Tokyo, Japan, where he mastered the art of Kaiseki, the traditional multi-course Japanese dinner.

Chef Koh Chin Hong in action,
seen through the open kitchen
Armed with the art of Kaiseki, Koh had the opportunity to meld this traditional Asian dining art with the art of Western haute cuisine when he worked with a Michelin-star restaurant that served Japanese-French cuisine in the Ritz Carlton.

An opportunity to work with a fine-dine restaurant in Sentosa Island, Singapore, brought him closer to home but the desire to explore the world to discover more cuisine took him to New Zealand where he worked with a resort popular with royalty in Huka, located close to scenic Lake Taupo.

Then it was a-dream-come-true experience for an aspiring chef like Koh when he was accepted to work with one of the world’s best restaurants, Noma in Copenhagen, Denmark.

The Prawn appetizer with the
crispy stuffed prawn heads 
The sum of experiences with renowned chefs and restaurants in such a short span of time drove Koh to seriously consider doing something on his own.

Over the years, the crazy work hours (very often from 6am to 2am!) under the instruction of celebrated/distinguished/notorious chefs, has shaped a sharp discipline in Koh and he’s more than ready to lead his own culinary team.

With the support of his family, Koh returned to Johor full of fresh ideas to open Initial to serve his culinary creations in Modern European Cuisine with a hint of Japanese.

Koh understands that everything has a beginning and Initial is where he aims to take discerning diners – who appreciate quality food prepared with the best ingredients – on a gastronomic adventure.

“The best ingredients make the best food!” declares Koh emphatically as he tells me about his daily routine in seeking different fish and vegetables, fresh from the sea and local farms, so that diners will be served with only the best.

Koh is pleased that Johor now has sources and suppliers for the products he has in mind because he’s very particular about the fresh produce, meat and poultry used in his menu.

Adding Miso Dashi to the Daikon appetizer
As far as possible, fresh products are sourced from Johor so diners may be served the ‘Catch of the Day’ or the ‘Veg of the Day’ depending on seasonal vegetables or premium fish (not farmed!) from the sea.

I can see how Koh and his team at Initial are working hard to distinguish themselves as dedicated chefs who take pride in creating food items from scratch, using the best (wherever possible!) local ingredients.

Then it’s time for a taste of Koh’s recommended Tasting Menu.

While he heads into the kitchen to prepare our meal, baguette slices – baked in-house – are served with a side of seaweed kombu spread for an interesting first taste of Japanese influence in his Modern European cuisine.

The Egg appetizer comes with chunks of Pineapple Chicken
The prawn appetizer comprises two headless large meaty prawns on a bed of tomato salsa, drizzled with lime dressing and garnished with a flake of charcoal tuile (baked wafer).

“Eh? Where are the heads?” this pops into my mind as I’m looking for them but in vain.

As if to answer my question, the staff serves up on a separate plate, the two stuffed crispy prawn heads.

The suggestion is to put the entire prawn head into my mouth and crunch it up…

Very carefully (to avoid any harm to the tender insides of my mouth!) I do so and am pleasantly surprised to taste the burst of curry-flavoured concoction with hints of toasted dried prawns in the creamy stuffing.

The Pork Belly main course dish
Daikon or white radish is another recommendation, garnished with eryngii (mushroom), charred baby corn sticks, aburaage (Japanese fried tofu) and topped with a sprig of dehydrated enoki (mushroom).

At the table, a small jug of miso dashi (rich soup stock) is added to this serving.

The Egg appetizer is made with an Onsen egg, chunks of Pineapple Chicken, shimeji (mushroom), snow peas and finally, genmaicha (roasted rice) broth is poured in.

Curious about the Pineapple Chicken, I ask Koh if I heard him correctly and he clarified that this specialty chicken, was fed on pineapple – and not flavoured with pineapple – for a unique tender texture.

Sea Bass is featured in this Fish main course dish
With my curiosity and appetite suitably piqued, I’m ready for the main course items.

Koh explains that the Pork Belly dish is a new addition to the menu and this serving comes with a generous portion of pork complete with crispy skin on a bed of cabbage puree with a side of charred cubes of cabbage, minced pork belly wrapped in Chinese cabbage and drizzled with a savoury sauce.

When I sink my teeth into the pork, I can understand why Koh is determined to serve quality meat because it tastes so good when its free from any gamey scent.

An Eye Fillet in this Beef dish
The Fish dish features fillets of Sea Bass with a side of kale (green leafy vegetables), semi-dried tomatoes, water chestnut and drizzled with saffron beurre (butter sauce).

The Sea Bass happens to be the Catch of the Day and Koh explains that it may be substituted by Snapper or Garoupa on other days.

The Beef dish is made with Eye Fillet (you can ask for Wagyu!) on a bed of mushroom puree, garnished with marrow crumbs, pickled Japanese artichoke and wasabi lebneh (Greek yoghurt) with a rectangle of layered-potato gratin.

At the table, house wine jus is drizzled on its side before I enjoy the taste of tender beef.

Initial also serves Afternoon Tea and when I spy the freshly-baked cakes and pastries, I cannot resist having a taste of the apple tart.

Finally, when I compliment the chef for a delightful dining experience, Koh is all smiles because such good compliments are the desired reward for every good chef.

A slice of Apple Tart - loaded with apple slices!
I’m pleased to know that Koh is catering to private events with special menus tailored to the guests’ requirements because Initial is certainly a dining destination for any occasion.

Initial Modern European Cuisine [Non-Halal] is at No. 9-G, Jalan Molek 3/20, Taman Molek, 81100 Johor Baru, Johor.

Open for Dinner from 6pm to 11pm; Afternoon Tea from 1pm to 5pm.
Closed on Monday.

The premises at Initial comfortably seats 30 guests.

To avoid disappointment, reservations are recommended.

Tel: +6016 247 0977 or email:

For daily updates, visit

No comments:

Post a Comment