Old brand in a new place

Regulars at Kerala Restaurant followed them when the restaurant shifted from Jalan Ibrahim to a new location at Jalan Storey.

Eugene P. Kurisinkal in front of Kerala Restaurant at
Jalan Tun Abdul Razak, Susur 1/1, 80000 Johor Baru
In January 2020, Kerala Restaurant moved into their own premises at Jalan Tun Abdul Razak, Susur 1/1, and fans of their food again followed them here.

As the economy is gradually opening again, the restaurant is seeing regulars dining in more often as well as a new clientele of young families, who probably discovered the restaurant through social media.

Eugene P. Kurisinkal shared this with me when we met again at the restaurant recently.

Eugene, who operates this family-owned restaurant with the help of a loyal team, was pleased that more of their regular diners have ventured to this new location in spite of (at first!) having some trouble in finding the place.

Servings of brewed coffee
But once they have found their way, it was easy to spot the restaurant from that familiar signboard which was used to establish this brand since 1949.

Now diners can enjoy their favourite food in air-conditioned comfort, seated in a choice of the dining halls located downstairs or upstairs.

The lady staff who welcomed me on arrival, ushered me to a table in the downstairs dining hall, and was rapidly taking my order when she suddenly paused.

By this time, I had removed my shades and looked at her properly before I noticed that she was wearing a headset and speaking into a mouthpiece.

Boss suruh naik atas,” she said – literally meaning, the boss asked to go upstairs – and before I headed up the stairs, she was quick to confirm my order for brewed coffee and instantly relayed the order into her mouthpiece.

It was interesting to note that, One: Kerala Restaurant is now operating more efficiently with the use of walkie-talkie radio communications among the staff, and Two: I saw no sign of the boss but how did he know that I was downstairs?

Serving staff retrieving food
from the dumb waiter
I was still wondering as I walked upstairs and settled myself at a table…

Moments later when Eugene joined me at the table, I had to ask him about it.

Then I learnt that my arrival was observed through the use of more modern technology: Closed Circuit TVs.

Eugene explained that technology was applied to improve efficiency in customer service because they were serving diners in the downstairs and upstairs dining halls.

While the restaurant’s main kitchen is located downstairs, there was also a mini kitchen upstairs.

From where I was seated, I could observe the serving staff who were retrieving platters of food and drinks from a window that opened and shut – a dumb waiter.

Unlike traditional dumb waiters that were operated manually by using pulleys and ropes, this was like an electric powered tiny elevator that efficiently delivered food prepared in the kitchen downstairs to serve to diners upstairs.

Idili and vadai are popular choices
diners enjoy for breakfast
My order of brewed coffee was served hot topped with a discreet layer of foam – probably from traditional “pulling” – and when I tasted my first sip, I was glad they fulfilled my request for a kurang manis (less sweet) serving.

When my breakfast meal was served, I guessed Eugene (who placed the order on my behalf) was anticipating my reaction because this serving of roti pratha was unlike the traditional serving of Indian flat bread.

When the plate of pratha was set before me, I saw the poached eggs resting on a bed of roti, moving because they were still wobbly.

The two eggs on the roti were reminiscent of Eggs Benedict ala Kerala Restaurant style, drizzled with whirls of lightly spiced curry instead of hollandaise sauce.

He watched as I ate and wiped the plate clean of egg and curry with the small pieces of roti that were served torn.

Eugene then explained that it was a house specialty that the kitchen created to feed him when he wanted a more filling roti pratha meal.

A serving of house specialty, Roti Goyang!
“So is it on the menu? What to say if I wanted to order it?” I wanted to know.

To which Eugene gently replied, “Just say Roti Goyang!”

While Eugene and I chatted on, I watched as orders for breads like dosai, idili, vadai and apam were served to other diners for breakfast (7am to 11.30am) and after these hours, the restaurant will serve a full banana-leaf rice meal for lunch until 4pm.

Kerala Restaurant [Halal] is located at No. 55, Jalan Tun Abdul Razak, Susur 1/1, 80000 Johor Baru, Johor, in a block of shops near Danga City Mall, which faces Wadi Hana and the old railway quarters.

Open Monday to Saturday from 7am to 4pm. Closed on Sunday and major Public Holidays. For reservations, Tel: +607 – 223 4282.

A section of diners at the upstairs dining hall in Kerala Restaurant Johor Baru
Note: Read my story on Kerala Restaurant featured under Heritage Trades in my book sequel, My Johor Stories 2: Interesting Places and Inspirational People.

A classic photo of Uncle Joseph who used to man the cashier counter at Kerala Restaurant, is also featured in my book’s cover design.

The My Johor Stories series of books are available from MPH bookstores nationwide and conveniently online via mphonline.

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