We made a spontaneous decision to drive into Johor Bahru on Sunday evening because a friend had to pick up some groceries and pet supplies and we were pretty keen on having some dinner in JB. We arrived at Restoran Ah Kaw 亚九 at 9pm after spending a few hours roaming its gigantic malls, checking out some exotic creatures like hedgehogs, monkeys and giant snakes at a huge pet shop (yes this is legal in Malaysia).
Tucked away in a row of shophouses along a popular eating haunt was this bustling eatery specialising in curry fish head. Our appetites were whet just looking at the tables beside us tuck into their wide variety of dishes.
Price: $ – $$
To start, we went with some Salted Egg Fried Squid.
This actually turned out to be one of the top picks for the evening. The fritter was coated with a gorgeous layer of salted egg yolk that was neither too salty nor powdery. The layer was perfectly crisp, spiced with dried chilli and even had bits of the salted egg white clinging to it. Absolutely divine. It was tough to stop.
Another hit was the Stir-Fried Spicy Lala Clams.
Very fragrant with just the right amount of spice and garlic flavour, I liked that this was dry and full of flavour rather than soaked in a wet sauce. Delicious.
While the clams proved delicious, their Signature Fried Beancurd with Cocktail Sauce was so-so.
The beancurd wasn’t fried golden brown enough to give it flavour and wasn’t all that soft and smooth on the inside. Generally passable.
Next, the Homemade Otak-Otak.
It’s generally pretty hard to go wrong with an otah made with some quality coconut milk and chockful of large chunks of fresh fish meat. This was pretty spicy but very satisfying.
My personal favourite dishes were the Marmite Pork Ribs…
and their Signature Curry Fish Head.
The pork ribs were so soft and tender with that slight perfect crisp on the outside and coated with a gorgeous glistening marmite sauce that for once was not overwhelmed by coffee or any other salty additions. You could actually taste the true savoury, smoky flavour of the marmite on the pork and we cleaned this out quickly.
The fish curry was definitely a surprise. We’d expected something mild and more coconut-y like most Chinese-style fish curries. But this was more of the assam variety with a little of that milky coconut flavour. Full of mixed eggplant, ladies fingers, long beans and a generous portion of very fresh fish meat, definitely a thumbs up.
We ended things off with their Fried Bee Hoon which was also fried with an abundance of wok hei. No complaints here and both my companions took away a large portion each for supper or lunch the next day.
In total, the three of us paid roughly SGD $60 in total for all that food. Unbelievable. Especially given the quality of the dishes. Also, Ah Kaw Restoran is located conveniently close to the Woodlands Checkpoint so it’s a great place to have dinner and hang out just to wait for the jam to clear up.