Johor Bahru: Restoran Kin Wah 锦华咖啡店 | Jalan Tan Hiok Nee

I’ve wanted to come here for quite a while ever since I passed by this place on the way to IT Roo Cafe.

That’s right, I’m talking about Restoran Kin Wah. Strategically located in the centre of old downtown Johor Bahru, you’ll almost certainly pass by this spot to the cafes in the area. Think of Restoran Kin Wah as Ya Kun or Kilinney if they were never commercialized…a Hainanese coffee shop just doing what it does best: serving Hainanese coffee, kaya toast, soft boiled eggs, mee siam and mee rebus. Fortunately enough, we don’t need to use our imagination. For now, Johor Bahru offers us Singaporeans a glimpse of what we’ve lost in the pursuit of prosperity, and that I suppose is why the sleepy but under construction southern gateway remains such a draw for us.

Since I was here alone, I won’t be able to sample Restoran Kin Wah’s delights in one serving, but hey, it gives me another reason to return. I begin with the laksa (called curry noodles in Malaysia) which was decent enough. The broth had a good consistency, thick enough to seal in the flavours but not overpowering. It’s certainly not worth crossing the Causeway for, but the kaya toast was, a whole different ballgame altogether.

While I applaud brands like Toast Box, Wang Cafe and Ya Kun for modernizing and taking the traditional Singaporean breakfast into the new age, we inadvertently end up losing things in translation. Sure, these things may not seem important in the eyes of bean counters but even if you cannot quantify it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Neither science nor religion has ever attempted to quantify love. For social bonding and social responsibility and moral consciousness, yes, religion does that. However, beyond parental love, religion never, for once, attempts to demonstrate or explain love. Despite the undeniable prevalance of charcoal fired preparation in our hawker food, no Singaporean chef has ever expounded on the importance of it. We can taste it, we can feel it, but as far as the bean counters are concerned, it doesn’t exist.

I’ll be the first to say, it’s not the best toast in the world by any technical standard. But in terms of finesse and passion, it surpasses most you’d find in Singapore.

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