[编辑 Editor 吕大人 英译 Translator 刘大人 摄影 Photographer 刘大人]
The Majidee Army Camp, one of the oldest in Malaysia, is one example of Johor Bahru’s heritage preservation gatherings of former military barracks, elegantly transformed into SouthKey. With an excellent mix of restaurants, cafes and retail outlets, this trendy lifestyle destination runs alongside a newly upgraded six-lane Jalan Bakar Batu which connects the Tebrau Highway and the Eastern Dispersal Link (EDL).
庆幸自己始终没远离这个伴随了数十年的老社区，原来终有蓬勃的一日。宇宙混沌的时候，盘古开天辟地，天地逐渐成形，「欸，南钥城 (SouthKey) 这片土地还未被大肆滋养的时候，也颇有这种画面感。」
Located on a 330-acre site and dubbed as the “last remaining large prime land” less than 5km north of the JB city centre, SouthKey represents the best in mixed-use urban revitalisation in the heart of JB. We can still enjoy pleasurable walks at Central Park, interspersed with pockets of greenery, amidst a carefully curated collection of serviced residences, boutique pods, lakefront commercial lots, a specialist hospital, a university college, all in one charming and pedestrian-friendly location.
The recent opening of The Mall, Mid Valley Southkey, a strong magnet for many retailers nationwide and overseas to set up shops here before venturing to other places in the country also augurs well for us. Any successful commercial and retail hub often has easy access to parking, but the design and layout in SouthKey appear to dampen the visitors’ spirits. In fact, the commercial precinct currently provides amply covered car park with round the clock security so that we can shop, dine and chill to our hearts’ content at the latest lifestyle hotspot in town.
If all the restaurants and cafes in Johor Bahru are starting to look the same and becoming too mainstream, you’ve come to the right place. A casual, full-service dining restaurant overlooking the lakefront pedestrian-friendly boulevard, this is for intimate family dinners or hot dates and plates around town for that special occasion with our loved one. More surprisingly, we discovered the traditional method of brewing Hainese-style coffee is alive here, of all places! 😯
许多餐饮业者对于设点於二楼，总是避之不及，唯这儿的主人家却异常钟爱二楼的居高景致。「我自己非常喜欢在高视角的地方用餐，比起底层更幽静，有种回家卸下心防的舒适。这一大片的玻璃与日照，和我心目中的餐厅面积相符。」对于美食与生活，Chef Tee 并不打算妥协。
While the ground floor units are hugely popular with cafes and eateries, the folks at Monaco begs to differ and opt instead for the second floor at this Southkey Mosaic commercial lot. “We wanted to create an atmosphere where clear views of the street scenes could be enjoyed with our food through the full-length windows, while our pleasingly muted décor will augment your dining pleasure and experience,” explained Chef Tee.
才一就坐，就瞧见饕客陆续前来，仿佛有种说好的默契，有阖家三代共聚、有邻近店家的相知欣赏、有同事间的午餐时光、有一人独享的午后闲情、有闺蜜小聚，看着 Chef Koh 与每桌间的悠暖互动，大人心知自三月中旬矗立于此的宾客盈门秘诀，绝对不仅仅是因为料理的滋味。
Taking our seats among the early birds, we couldn’t help but notice how fast the restaurant begins to fill up with customers strolling in. From couples to families, single girls out for a night out or a group of guys fuelling up, being able to greet and cook for their customers and to see their responses is an immediate reaffirmation that Chef Koh and his partners are at where they belong since opening their doors in mid-March.
自古宽餐饮管理科毕业后，Chef Tee (左二) 就决意前往彼岸扎实习艺，「以前常听人说，书念得不好才会从事餐饮业，但我觉得不管在什么行业，只要用心，就有机会成功。」十年磨一剑的他於今年3月归国后，便与三名好友各司其职开设了这家位于二楼、结合法、意、西式料理的 Monaco，而平日掌管这儿美味的重任就肩负在 Chef Koh (左三) 身上。
在新加坡师从足迹遍及欧亚美各地的米其林三星大厨 Bruno Ménard，Chef Koh 坚持不妥协食材与料理的品质，「在自家经营的餐馆所推出的菜式比起以前工作时更随心灵活。我们这儿每月更新的午间套餐就以较随性的餐点出发，让厨房间的同伴一起绞尽脑汁，所以有时你会发现我们会推出印度料理，那是由我们的印籍厨师研发的新菜色。」初次创业，从两人言谈间那股超乎年龄的沉稳，回想职场十年，多年离家在外的打拼， Monaco 所要展现的，已非从厨房里端出料理那么简单，更像是一个从供应原酱料至展现出众厨艺的综合动线。
Being high school buddies from their days in Foon Yew High School, Chef Tee and his food-loving gang made the crossing across the causeway to further their culinary interest and education almost a decade before returning home to set up shop in March. “Many people are still tuned with a traditional mindset that early school leavers will end up in the kitchen for life, but we can now see a lot of graduates from food-based studies at various positions at different levels, even up to the top management of leading companies,” Chef Tee remarked. Together with Chef Koh, Jun Wei and Tuan Xiang, the four good pals were reunited to set up Monaco offering modern European cuisine inspired by French, Italian and Spanish cooking.
Live to cook, cook to live; this lifetime dedication and food philosophy certainly impressed upon Chef Koh while learning his trade from celebrated French chef Bruno Ménard, a judge in MasterChef Asia and former three Michelin stars chef based in Singapore. Not one to compromise on quality, Chef Koh and his team work remarkably hard to maintain the standards. “Our set lunches is a monthly showcase of the best seasonal ingredients and fresh flavours by the culinary team who took pride in planning and presenting their ideas into the menu,” Chef Koh beamed. Even as first-time restaurant owners, the young F&B startup seems to possess all the necessary ingredients to succeed!
「平日就餐时可容34人，若是设宴则可容纳48人。有时顾客兴起而忘了餐厅的打烊时间，我们也不想打扰他们的兴致，甚至还能跟他们一块儿聊天喝两杯，能愉悦地用餐对我来说比任何事都还重要。」Chef Tee 的随性，由此可见。
“On average, we can accommodate 34 comfortably while hosting up to 48 pax for private parties or special occasion,” Chef Tee added. “Whenever possible, we may join them for late-night drinks even after we’ve called it a day. Great customer service and customer satisfaction will always be our top priority.”
「Menu 仅是料理的指引规范，我们并不想将餐点局限在既定餐谱的框架里，若是顾客们有特别想吃的料理，而我们厨房也恰好有食材，何尝不可？」大人当然还是觉得预约比较上道 (哈)，而 Monaco 的餐点从30令吉至700令吉不等，翻阅餐谱的那一刻已能感受完整性，价格亦相对合理，至于份量就有待大人亲尝才能知晓了。
“Our menu is the best way to engage our customers, but we also welcome their input on how they would like their favourite dish done, within reasonable limits and subject to the availability of ingredients of course,” remarked Chef Koh with a hearty laugh. With a varied menu that’s reasonably priced from RM30 to RM700, it remains to be seen if the portion on our plates offers excellent value for money.
Sangria + Root Beer
贯彻执行「真正的幸福，是懂得享受生活、享受美食」的主人家，精挑精调的饮料也与众不同。被网民封为夏日神水的的澳洲酿饮 Bundaberg Root Beer，完全就是为了夏天而生，喝过就离不开的上瘾滋味！
而极受饕客青睐的西班牙水果酒 Sangria (Red Wine or White Wine, RM25) 各以红白酒搭配清新水果现身，「红酒版搭着鲜橙与苹果，酒香较醇厚；刚推出的白酒版则以苹果、桃子与薄荷匀和，类似经典调酒 Mojito。刚从盛夏的午后到馆，清凉的白酒版略占了上风。」据悉曾有8名女生到此庆生时，一举饮下了6大壶 (一壶约6杯量) 的 Sangria，风味之佳，可见一斑啊！
Mention root beer, and Sarsi, as well as A&W, are probably the first thing that comes to mind, but in Bundaberg Root Beer, we might have found the real McCoy. True enough, these premium root beers from Australia are in a different league altogether and boasts of having an authentic root beer taste, with sarsaparilla root, licorice and all the original stuff!
Looking for something more refreshing and crowd-pleasing, we definitely can’t go wrong with Sangria. Available in red wine or white wine, this Spanish cocktail delivers some serious party punch with a squeeze of fresh citrus, apple and other tropical fruits. Like a group of eight ladies before us who downed six pitchers which serves six glasses each, the white Sangria – a Mojito-inspired blend mixed with apple, peach and peppermint is our unanimous choice in this summer heat!
Coffee + Tea
「我们这儿的咖啡粉都是自己调配的。」来自传统咖啡世家的 Chef Tee，准备起充满南洋正宗风味的咖啡与奶茶 (Coffee & Tea, RM8 each)，驾轻就熟。
老实说，大人我满心欢喜，毕竟这藏在心里多年想要鲜尝的撞击组合，今日居然在 Monaco 如愿，「传统咖啡上的泡沫看了好疗愈，迫不及待就想啜一口醒神，香滑醇厚不在话下。」只不过今天伴随在桌的并非一贯的半生熟蛋或牛油咖椰烤面包，而是 …
Although Monaco may not be the place for good old local kopi and teh brewed fresh from a coffee sock, these are exactly what we have got. Hailing from a family-run kopitiam when he was a kid, Chef Tee really knows his Tea and Coffee well and insists on making the brew himself whenever he can because he wants to make sure that we get the cup of satisfaction we seek. Seriously, there are not many kopitiams (or cafes) out there where the owner still insists on pulling the coffee himself, let alone a barista who’s willing to ditch the Expresso machine to focus on making that perfect cup of authentic Nanyang-style beverages. Even without the customary soft-boiled eggs and kaya toast, there’s always this rightful dish which is coming up next…
Pan Seared Foie Gras
「… 是鹅肝！」日正当中，大人就如此宠爱自己。话说自从大人当年在香港的米其林餐厅被鹅肝勾走了魂魄后，便顺理成章成为其裙下之臣，「脂有为你啊！我才愿意献出我的热量配额。」这香煎鹅肝 Pan Seared Foie Gras (RM58) 搭着面包与沙拉送入口中后，毫无膻腥，细润绵密，不仅口舌间油花四溢，心里的惊叹号瞬间五连发！「心已随着鹅肝一起融化了。」
The Pan Seared Foie Gras drew our attention instantly when we spotted it on the menu, evoking memories of our unforgettable first experience with the “fatty liver” in a Michelin starred restaurant in Hong Kong. With the call of the craving just too hard to deny, we allow ourselves the rare indulgence of this rich and creamy goose liver patty. Combined with the earthiness of the frisee salad, crispy crouton and sweetness of the berries sauce and candy walnut adding a fine finishing touch, it’s almost felt like having animal butter, but even richer. With a rather affordable price tag, we suppose even the none die-hard fans of goose liver would still take a chance on this.
这刚晋升为超级水果之一的菠萝蜜，素有世界最大水果之称，今天藏匿在鸡尾酒杯里，香气不减，却多了一份纤细优雅。必须承认有些功夫我真的学不会，尤其崇拜懂得制酱调汁的职人，「Chicken Martini (RM18) 里那带有柑橘香的酱汁一入味，就能将所有食材的关系给拉近了一层，低温慢煮的弹嫩鸡肉与蔬果的爽脆，你中有我，我中有你，酸甜宜人。」
The Chicken Martini is an understated presentation and pairing of two very unlikely ingredients in jackfruit and chicken, and over here it’s given a touch of citrus mayo to amp up the tanginess. Packed with nutrients, including fibre and antioxidants, the newly minted “miracle” jackfruit is increasingly being used in many parts of the world as the flesh soak up flavour thoroughly and offer a “meat-like” texture and pairs well with the tender slow-cooked chicken breast. Meanwhile, the jackfruit seeds taste almost similar to chestnuts, and alongside the green apple, raisin and wolfberry, provide for the extra crunch. Although an unlikely combination, this cocktail starter served the all-important purpose of opening our appetites for the day!
Wild Mushroom Soup + Onion Soup
一白一黑，谁也取代不了谁。菌菇浓汤 Wild Mushroom Soup (RM26) 仅以 Button Mushroom 一味炒制后再添奶油拌匀至毫无颗粒感的幼滑等级，还有那绕场数周、让人爱恨交加的松露油，联手奉上的是一股化不开的浓情，「若你深爱奶油香，我想定是逃不出它掌心。」
「不是草草了事，而是炒炒才能了事。这汤里没有轻巧捷径。」大人说的正是法式洋葱汤 Onion Soup (RM24)。要将洋葱炒至软绵，稍有耐心即可，若要格外香甜，就非得请主人家透露点秘诀给大人才行了，「边炒边焖煮的同时，要再加入洋葱，新旧交替翻炒才会越来越甜。」将粉白色的辛呛洋葱炒至甜香的琥珀色，色阶与香气是时光的淬炼，法棍上的 Parmesan 与 Mozarella，充盈着汤汁的精华，「我就是抗拒不了洋葱的焦甜滋味。」
The light mushroom soup and dark flavourful onion soup makes for an irresistible “yuan yang” pairing. The Wild Mushroom Soup’s consistency was silky smooth as the button mushroom was finely blended and glazed over our tongues, followed by a mild truffle fragrance – exactly what mushroom soups should aim to be.
The French Onion Soup, on the other hand, was steeped in sweet flavour yet not overly tiring. The onions are stewed for hours and repeatedly topped up to extract the sweet essence before placing a substantial piece of toasted garlic bread with parmesan and mozzarella cheese crouton on the surface. Talk about a flavour explosion!
TAPAS & SIDE
Gambas Al Pil Pil
Gambas Al Pil Pil (RM28) 这道偏辣的西班牙皮皮虾乃经典下酒小菜，而 Monaco 的版本还能尝到虾头的精华滋味哦！「身为正宗的亚洲人，舍弃虾头罪不可赦。」酱汁里的蒜片、鲜葱、红椒、辣椒、白酒等无限释放魅力，而鲜虾也不甘示弱鲜美了汤汁，万幸我的同桌不爱虾，这五只模样诱人的虾子才能如我所愿安置在本人腹中啊！
The term “pil pil” is Basque in origin and sounds like the sizzling that takes place when the sea prawns are doused in olive oil, chilli flake, garlic, grilled capsicum and a splash of white wine, so that pretty much sums up the red hot nature of Gambas Al Pil Pil, doesn’t it? We loved that the sea prawns were sizeable, tender yet firm with a delightful crunch with each bite, and we get to suck out all that briny goodness from the prawn head too!
Need we mention the crusty bread to mop up all that delicious oil is a must too?
PASTA & RISOTTO
考验大人我羞耻心的一道料理 (偶像包袱太重)， 墨汁意大利面 Black Angel (RM48) 以真材实料的墨鱼汁入味，大人这下子可忙碌了，每吃一口就得抹抹小嘴，尽显仪态万千。「这黑压压一片好美味啊！落足了眼力才瞧出原来里头藏匿着鱼片、鲜虾、带子、扇贝等海底生物。」面对如此有诚意的料理，但 … 大人无法开怀咧嘴笑，内心居然有些压抑。
One of the most popular pasta dishes here, this briny Black Angel showcases a generous amount of mix seafood, composing of fish, prawns, scallops, clams and squid. Topped with parmesan cheese and tossed in squid ink in all its glory, every mouthful is infused with a naturally fragrant oceanic aroma. Love them or hate them, be wary of eating with a date though, as our teeth will probably be stained black! 😂
大人我爱的食材都摆在这白色器皿里了。日本鳕鱼、有机黑米、鲜芦笋、柴鱼片、鱼籽… 慧眼识珠的人可不仅是大人，原来这味噌鳕鱼 Miso Cod (RM88) 乃这儿的当家料理。将味噌匀和蜜糖后涂抹在日本鳕鱼肉身后焗烤，搭配以鳕鱼骨所熬出的高胶原蛋白汤汁浇淋其中，「虐心啊，居然还得再看图告诉自己这有多美味！」
而藏匿在深处的有机黑米滋味相当独特，带有些许坚果香气。黑米属低GI (升糖指数) 值低的食物，抗氧化物质与膳食纤维丰富，可使餐后血糖升幅较稳定，素有「吃不胖的米」之称，好处数不尽啊！最近在减醣的大人，这下子可就不必谦让，吃得可就放心多了。
Japanese black cod, organic black rice, grilled asparagus, dried bonito flakes and ebiko, what is there not to love about this Miso Cod dish? Marinated in miso and honey for hours before baking it, the hefty slab of Japanese cod rested on black rice with collagen-rich broth maintained its delicate texture and intense flavour and we could easily break off pieces of the flaky fish which was silky smooth and buttery.
Being in Asia and home to countless cultures, one ingredient that unites us all is having rice as part of our daily diet. With white rice taking a beating of late for causing health issues such as raising blood sugar levels due to its high Glycemic Index (GI), we know skipping it is too much to bear for some of us. However, that doesn’t mean we have to avoid rice altogether. Thanks to Chef Koh, we can indulge in the “forbidden rice” almost guilt-free as nutritionally, it has a low GI, contains three times as much fibre as white rice and is packed with multiple essential vitamins and nutrients. Needless to say, we’ve no qualms about polishing every grain off the plate for its firm texture and nutty flavour!
Signature Steak (Ribeye)
澳洲安格斯谷饲牛肋眼 Signature Steak (Ribeye, 200g, RM90)，Monaco 的薄切牛排 (若想品尝厚切牛排，需预先通知)，大人依旧最爱三分熟，「由于上桌前有经过静置松弛这个步骤，因此切开时才不见微红的肉汁倾流而出。」
Although technically not the most premium cut, our Signature Steak arrived glisteningly hot and topped with a pat of anchovy butter and torched to provide a smooth, buttery texture. Grilled to a perfect medium-rare, our steak was rested for a few minutes before serving, so we’ve possibly missed out on some red juice. To be fair, the Aussie ribeye was prepared well and flavourful, but a bit thin for our liking. We still prefer biting into a good mouthful of beef, but other than that it’s perfect. The accompanying sides of homemade mash potato, confit shallot and mesclun salad also adds to our satisfaction, so much so that we have some friends having a steak out on the very night we posted our pictures in our Whatsapp group.
We applaud Monaco for delivering excellent quality at pocket-friendly prices, and also serves wagyu steaks if you like very marbled and fatty meat.
Every now and then, we like to pamper ourselves silly with a dining feast that makes the daily grind seem worthwhile, filling up on delicious dishes and to satiate our need to feed our ‘gram at the same time! Actually, we spent a good 3 hours here just having lunch, taking photos and park here with a nice cuppa of kopi and teh, immersing ourselves into a good view of SouthKey above the city crowd. Although Monaco has been around for almost 6 months now, most locals still are unaware of its presence here in the heart of Johor Bahru. Not for long, trust us!
Monaco Dining Restaurant
📍 No 02-09, Block G, Komersil Southkey Mozek Persiaran Southkey 1, Kota Southkey, 81100 Johor Bahru, Johor
📞 +6016-663 7004
🕙 12 noon to 3.00pm; 6:00pm to 11:00pm (Closed on Thursdays)
💻 Monaco Dining Restaurant
🍽️ NO PORK, NO LARD