Johor Bahru: IT Roo Cafe | Jalan Dhoby

So near yet so far, but I’d still go.

I’ve to say, I’m much less intimidated about crossing the Causeway to Johor Bahru these days. Sure, it takes a little longer to get to, but it seems to appear longer by just a tad. More importantly, it’s exciting, visiting new places and all… I’m well aware that for many, JB’s far from new, but it is to me.

Although I was aware that Titus had planned a visit with Tom, my last-minute decision to go was made independently. I know I had dedicated Sundays to cafe-hopping in Singapore, but the idea just didn’t titilate my senses. I was restless, and I wanted a sense of adventure, so just before lunchtime, I went overseas. Also, I wanted to shop for some decent clothes for Chinese New Year. So, I rang Titus informing him of my plans, so we could meet up for afternoon tea or dinner, depending on our schedules. To my surprise, the “Tom” part of the plan had dropped out, but Titus himself wouldn’t be able to cross so quickly. I’d cross the border anyway, because I needed to have my lunch.

Interestingly, it’s not very difficult to find good food beyond City Square, the first commercial point of contact for anyone who crosses the border from Singapore’s Woodlands checkpoint. In fact, you could throw a stone in any direction, and I’d guarantee you that there’d be a line – entirely comprised of Singaporeans – eager to sample some of Johor’s gastronomical delights.

Walk a little further southwest, and you’ll hit old downtown Johor Bahru. Anchored by Jalan Tan Hiok Nee, it’s a quaint little place rife with eateries of every kind, from Johor kaya toast to hipster indie cafes. It even has a night market to boot.

This afternoon, I find myself at IT Roo Cafe, which is a cafe in the local sense of it all, a coffee shop, not the indie type. Located at the junction of Jalan Dhoby and Jalan Pahang, there’s only one thing that this place is famous for: fried chicken chop. Sure, you’ll have the obligatory coleslaw, two slices of cucumber and a single slice of tomato, but what it is, what it really is, is a bad-ass calorie bursting, belt busting, cholestrol laden sinful indulgence of crispy fried chicken skin wrapped in a juicy whole tender thigh.

The cafe was crowded, with I don’t know, Singaporeans? Malaysians? I know there was a table of Koreans, but who cares, really? We all look alike – the harsh tropical sun affects even the fairest persuasion. And frankly, it’s all about the food, here. Service is professional enough, prompt, and while many food sites caution about the waiting time, it passes by all too quickly, thanks to the free WiFi and a nice ice-cold A&W root beer float…or was it Mug?

Do you know Mug and A&W root beer actually use the same recipe? It’s true, when Pepsi’s Yum! Brands, which also owns KFC, bought over A&W, the deal did not include A&W’s Root Beer, which was licensed to rival Dr Pepper Snapple Group. Because A&W themselves weren’t too happy about the Dr Pepper Snapple Group deal to begin with, being stuck in what was basically a permanent contract, they “shared” the recipe with Pepsi.

Anyways, the chicken chop is offered with a choice between mushroom or pepper sauce, and I of course, chose the pepper sauce. It wasn’t very peppery, but it did the trick. The star however, has to be the meat – juicy, tender and while the skin is crispy, one could hardly describe the chicken as oily. It’s easily the best chicken chop I’ve had so far.

I can’t wait for my next visit, that is, once I’m through with the other eateries nearby.

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