Friday, August 29, 2014

What to Eat at Gelang Patah (Near LEGOLAND Malaysia)

Whenever the monkies clamour to go to LEGOLAND Malaysia, they predictably will be looking forward to the rides. I, on the other hand, will be pondering on what food to gorge on. But let's face it - food options within LEGOLAND Malaysia and at the adjacent Medini Mall are no culinary extraordinaire so I am always on the lookout for something to excite the taste buds.

During our recent stay at Traders Hotel, Puteri Harbour, we struck gold.

We ventured slightly further away from LEGOLAND Malaysia and Puteri Harbour and found ourselves in Gelang Patah, a small town in Johor which is approximately 10-minute drive away from Puteri Harbour (and less, if you are leaving from LEGOLAND).

Gelang Patah is a sleepy rustic town where its shops seem to have froze in time, exuding an extremely laid-back vibe. In short, the wifey and I loved it... made even more so when we stumbled onto a small kopitiam located smack in the middle of hardware and provision shops.

Instead of the hotel's buffet breakfast, we decided to try something different during one of the mornings and we were glad we did. Wee Hoi Kopitiam (惠海) is your typical old-style coffee shop which serves the usual kaya toast and kopi... complete with a selection of dim sum!

Okay, the dim sum selection is not great but there were the standard siew mai, har gow, chicken feet, spare ribs in bean sauce and lor mai kai. Pretty decent fare, but the lor mai kai definitely stood out for the monkies. Or so they declared, as the wifey and I were too slow to even snag a bite before the everything was walloped clean. So we just had to make do with the kaya toast, which was okay but nothing spectacular.

What is a kopitiam breakfast without soft boiled eggs? Wee Hoi's soft boiled eggs come from kampung chickens, which supposedly taste different from the usual eggs we are familiar with in Singapore. At first glance, the soft boiled eggs do look different, with the yolks being a slightly darker yellow in colour.

Taste-wise, I found the egg yolks to be so much richer compared to the local ones we have here. I loved how the soft boiled eggs tasted more flavourful, with its texture being less runny. The monkies though, did not exactly take to the taste as readily, presumably because they were more used to the usual taste of soft boiled eggs in Singapore.

I then washed it all down with a cup of kopi, which I found to be very aromatic and strong in flavour. Not the best I have had, but above average.

But clearly, the monkies enjoyed their breakfast... even though it was not the equivalent of a hotel buffet breakfast!

Oh and apparently, Wee Hoi is super famous for its handmade bao (or buns)! But alas, the buns are only delivered daily at 1pm (except Thursdays) and get this, they are usually sold out in less than 30 minutes! Or at least that was what I read from the newspaper cutting. Looks like there is one more great excuse to come back another time.

The other fantastic thing about Gelang Patah is there are no lack of seafood zichar restaurants. Chua Kee, Tian Lai and Star Chef are some of the more popular seafood restaurants that I have came across online. But since we did not have the luxury of time to savour all of them, we settled for Star Chef Seafood Restaurant (星名厨) this time around.

Star Chef is opened for both lunch and dinner, and the location was not exactly that difficult to get to. As a seafood restaurant, it is as no-frills as it can get - no air-con but airy place, wooden tables and plastic chairs... but the food is what ultimately mattered and my word, it did its job splendidly.

Let's just get down to the food, shall we? The Lala (Clams) cooked in broth with ginger and spring onion (RM12) was up first and as you can probably tell from the photo below, I only managed to snap it AFTER the clams have been depleted in half.

The clams were very fresh, and the broth was so good that not a single drop was left after our meal. But nothing could have prepared us for the next dish, Tong Po Pork (RM13). The price is for one portion but we ended up ordering two portions instead which on hindsight, was the best decision ever.

Simply put, I had never tasted Tong Po meat this good. The meat was savoury, and everything just melted so effortlessly in the mouth.

Next up, Fried Chicken in Mala (麻辣) Sauce (RM16 for half-chicken).

Despite its name, the dish was not overly spicy. The chicken was well-marinated, with its crunchy fired skin the main highlight. Overall, it was pretty decent but not something I will order again.

And since the chicken was a tad spicy, we ordered the Braised Duck for the kids.

I think the adults ended up having more of the duck than the kids! The braised gravy was very flavourful with a hint of spices, and the duck meat was tender with a a tinge of sweetness.

Even for the madatory fibre dish, there was no running away from seafood.

We had the Stir Fried Grouper with Broccoli (RM28) and what surprised me was the huge thick chunks of fish slices that came with the broccoli... plus the fish slices were very fresh too!

Of course, it would be criminal if a crab dish did not feature in our orders. And we decided to to be a tad more adventurous and try something new as opposed to the usual Chilli Crab, Black Pepper Crab or Steamed Crab.

Say hello to Butter Cream Crab with Coconut Milk (RM108 for 2 average-sized crabs). Its taste was somewhat similar to that of Butter Crabs, but with the fragrant accompaniment of fresh coconut milk and shredded coconut. I loved how the buttery, creamy and sweet taste of the sauce complemented the juiciness of the crab meat... though the wifey found the taste to be slightly too sweet for her liking.

But overall, the food was immensely satisfying because you just don't get food like this anymore in Singapore - unpretentiously tasty food in a no-frills environment.

Come dinner time, we were once again on the prowl for more food in Gelang Patah. While driving around, we came across this open air food court.

Restoran 777 Food Centre serves up the usual Malaysian hawker food, in an al fresco setting. Lots of stalls, selling a variety of food like bak kut teh, chicken rice, yong tau foo, satay celup, char kway teow, orh luak, rojak line the road and it was a hive of activity!

But with the monkies' energy level fast depleting after a full day at LEGOLAND Malaysia, we decided to pack our dinner back to the hotel room instead. And we obviously over-ordered once again.

The next time you are at LEGOLAND Malaysia or Puteri Harbour with the family, why not head down to Gelang Patah for more food choices at cheaper prices? They are just a short drive away. Besides, there is only so much pizza, pasta or sushi that we parents can take!

Useful Information

Wee Hoi Kopitiam (惠海)
6, Jalan Kacang Panjang, Gelang Patah, Johor (Map)
GPS: 1.446838,103.587325
Opening hours: 6am to 5pm (closed on Thursday)

Star Chef Restaurant (星名厨)
51, Jalan Gelang Emas 1, Taman Gelang Emas
Gelang Patah, (Map)
GPS: 1.450726,103.585367
Opening hours: 9.30am to 10:30pm (Closed on alternate Thursdays)
Tel: +60 19-772 6606

Restoran 777 Food Centre
2 Jln Medan Nusa Perintis 8, Taman Nusa Perintis 2
81550 Gelang Patah, Johor (Map)

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Short Getaways for Families: Traders Hotel Puteri Harbour

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The depressing thing about heading down to LEGOLAND Malaysia - and/or Hello Kitty Town and The Little Big Club for that matter - is having to scurry back to Singapore after a day's worth of energy-sapping fun. Because lugging back tired and cranky kids with the prospect of facing a lengthy jam at the Tuas Checkpoint is not exactly ending a fun day on the right note.

Well, not if you choose to spend the night at Traders Hotel, Puteri Harbour.

Strategically positioned in the heart of a 688-acre Nusajaya waterfront precinct, Traders Hotel, Puteri Harbour is a mere 15-minute drive away from Tuas Checkpoint and was where we were put up for 2 nights in celebration of Ayd's Birthday earlier this month.

Upon arrival, I was struck by the lush green surroundings with the hotel being fronted by a picturesque harbour where yachts are docked, providing a tranquil atmosphere come dusk. Inside, the marine theme was further reinforced by the hotel's design of undulating sea waves throughout its lobby.

For the monkies though, it was our hotel room that received all the plaudits. And it was not difficult to see why.

The hotel had upgraded us to the Premier Room (with an extra bed too), which was twice the size of a Deluxe Room as it came with a living area... as well as - and this is perhaps the highlight for the monkies - a TV that could swivel depending on where they chose to exhibit sloth-like behaviour!

The wifey and I loved how the room's interior exuded a calming feel with its warm and earthy colours. And can I just say that the beds are one of the plushiest that I have ever laid on??? I didn't even felt like moving an inch once I got comfortable on the bed.

The small, but functional walk-in wardrobe area was very welcome, though I think the monkies had a hard time deciding between the standing shower which came with a super shiok rainshower option and the perennial bathtub fave.

Oh, do go for the Harbour View rooms as they certainly pack a mesmerizing view of Puteri Harbour!

Frankly, if it was left up to me, I could have vegetated in the room the entire day, which I am sure the wifey will no doubt approve. It was that comfortable.

And the monkies? They too, could have lazed in the bed and watched Cartoon Network all day long... if not for something else.

That something else turned out to be the retail outlets - specifically Toys 'R' Us for the kiddos - that were footsteps away from the hotel.

Traders Hotel, Puteri Harbour is conveniently plonked right in front of the marina, with landscaped walkways and surrounded by alfresco restaurants and retail outlets.

More importantly though, The Little Red Cube, which houses both retail and dining outlets, is located just beside the hotel! Which means that Hello Kitty Town and The Little Big Club are just but less than one minute walk away.

Familiar Food & Bevarge options like Kenny Rogers, Ajisen Ramen and Starbucks dot the Level One atrium... and just for kicks, a water fountain with playful jet streams is thrown into the mix as well. After all, which kid can ever resist getting drenched all in the name of fun?

Predictably, Ayd was not in favour of visiting Hello Kitty Town on his birthday (He chose LEGOLAND Malaysia by the way, which you can read all about his awesome birthday surprise HERE) so the girls made do with the Sanrio shop.

All those shopping and walking must have been hard work because come dinner time, our tummies were just crying out for food! Luckily for us, the Harbour Cafe at Traders Hotel, Puteri Harbour has probably one of the best buffets in Johor Bahru.

The all-day restaurant serves up scrumptious buffet offerings, which ups the ante even further on weekends with its Seafood Buffet spread!

So expect to enjoy mouthwatering seafood favourites, including crabs (Alaskan, mud and flower crabs), mussels (New Zealand green and black mussels), prawns (tiger and freshwater prawns), yabbies, squid and fish (mackerel, stingray and pomfret), all grilled or cooked to perfection.

Of course, a buffet of this scale will never be complete without fresh sashimi and for the wifey, this was what it all mattered.

And since we were there over the National Day weekend, there was even a sushi platter in the form of a Singapore Flag!

A very nice touch, considering I spied the almost full-house restaurant to be filled with patrons from Singapore. But it was no surprise actually, because Singaporeans know good food when they see it! The buffet spread is truly all-encompassing and the selection is fantastic. The boys had such a hard time in figuring what to begin eating first that they actually walked more than 3 times along the buffet aisle!

In fact, I even quipped to the wifey that for our parents' future birthday celebratory dinners, we can head down to Traders Hotel, Puteri Harbour for the buffet from Singapore - yes, it is definitely worth the drive.

Oh, forgot the dessert spread did I? Looking at the dessert options, I regretted stuffing myself to the brim at the main foods section. From crepes and cupcakes to kueh kueh and ice cream, there was simply no time to give my stomach juices a breather.

Of course, the main highlight for the monkies at the dessert table was the towering Chocolate Fondue, which came in the form of a double dipper.

I guess I do not have to tell you how much they enjoyed the Fondue then.

The Seafood Buffet is priced at RM108 per adult and RM54 per child (under 12 years old), excluding a 10% service charge and 6% government charge... which eventually works out to approximately S$50 and S$25 respectively. Pretty decent for such an amazing spread of food if you ask me.

Our breakfast was also at Harbour Cafe and compared to the dinner buffet, it was expectantly more subdued with the usual breakfast offerings found at most hotels.

Do try the noodles soup if you are there, as the broth is flavourful and is the perfect accompaniment after a good night's sleep. Even Ash who is favours all things rice over noodles, loved it!

Although the tasty food could probably be attributed to them wolfing down their breakfast in record time, there was a more compelling reason.


Nothing like lazing in a rooftop infinity swimming pool, while soaking in the scenic views of Puteri Harbour at the same time!

The pool water is mixed with a small level of salt (which is beneficial to the skin, I'm told) and besides the full lap pool, a shallow pool for Kids is available too.

Fancy a bubbly dip while enjoying the harbour view? The Jacuzzi beside the main pool is perfect.

Besides the pool, guests will also be able to indulge in the fully-equipped gymnasium, steam bath and massage and treatment rooms.

The pool deck is also home to the SkyBar, which turns into a happening watering hole when the sun goes down.

And did I mention there is complimentary WIFI throughout the entire hotel? From our room, to the restaurants, to the pool... and even to the retail outlets below the hotel if you are really lucky. Heh.

All in, Traders Hotel, Puteri Harbour makes for a wonderful proposition if you are looking for a short weekend getaway with the family. There are ample activities - Hello Kitty Land and The Little Big Club just next door and LEGOLAND Malaysia a 5-minute drive away - to keep the kids entertained but yet, the hotel's tranquil location makes it feel detached from the bustle of city life.

A huge thanks to Traders Hotel, Puteri Harbour for making Ayd's birthday celebrations such a memorable one, complete with the added touch of a birthday cake!

The monkies were extremely reluctant to check out and for once, the wifey and I fully understood how they felt.

Useful Information

Traders Hotel, Puteri Harbour
Persiaran Puteri Selatan, Puteri Harbour
Nusajaya 79000, Johor Darul Takzim, Malalysia
Tel: +607 5608888
For room offers and packages, visit HERE.


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