Sailboats, scallops and ‘sachertorte’: The other side of Senibong, Johor

JOHOR BARU : Plans that don’t quite match don’t have to be a problem. As with many things, what seems at first to be an inconvenience can be an opportunity – to discover something new and see with fresh eyes.

Our Johorean friends had suggested the famous nasi lemak by the sea at Senibong. Dining al fresco with sides (or mains, depending on how you look at it) of ikan bakar while the sea breeze invigorates us during our meal.null

Sailboats berthed at Senibong Cove’s waterfront – Pictures by CK Lim
Sailboats berthed at Senibong Cove’s waterfront – Pictures by CK Lim

Alas the majority of the shops – whether warong nasi lemak or restoran ikan bakar again depends on our point of view – only open in the evenings and we already had a dinner appointment.

So: not today. Maybe another trip. Goodbye, coconut milk rice. Goodbye, grilled fish.

But not necessarily “Goodbye, Senibong.”null

Since we were free during the day, our friends offered to show us a different side of Senibong. One we hadn’t experienced or, indeed, even knew existed. Our curiosity piqued, we prepared to be surprised.

Past the food haven of Permas Jaya, we turned off the JB East Coast Highway into Senibong Cove, towards the waterfront. Many visitors come here to watch the sun set over the Straits of Johor.

Not today, not for us. We’d be missing out on this sight, unfortunately, given we have to leave before evening.

Still, the view of sailboats berthed around the marina’s staggered docks are more than enough to compensate. It’s not a particularly sunny day, with gentle clouds that assure us there won’t be any sudden rainstorms.

Perfect weather to stroll along the waterfront with our friends, catching up on our lives during the lockdown and our lives now. It’s a good excuse to check out the various restaurants and eateries running alongside the marina; time for a late lunch.

We decide on The Bierhaus, hoping for some hearty Bavarian fare and cold beers. I order a Weißbier. Our server returns apologetically with a list of beers that aren’t available. We understand: a pandemic is still raging across the globe; they are still waiting for their supply to arrive.

While waiting for our food, we reminisce about travels past. My friends tell me they miss Bangkok, the street food and the vibrant atmosphere. Given the venue, I get nostalgic about my time in Munich, my friends and I spending summers in Biergartens devouring halbes Hendl(half a grilled chicken) each and more beer than I care to remember.

Grilled scallops with bacon at The Bierhaus Senibong Cove
Grilled scallops with bacon at The Bierhaus Senibong Cove

It’s the feeling of Gemütlichkeit, what Germans call good cheer. We aren’t in Bavaria or Bangkok but we are having a meal together – the obvious choice of Schweinshaxe (roasted pork knuckle) and a waterfront-inspired platter of grilled scallops with bacon – and enjoying each other’s company and stories.

What’s more Bavarian than 'Schweinshaxe' (roasted pork knuckle)?
What’s more Bavarian than ‘Schweinshaxe’ (roasted pork knuckle)?

Our bellies full, it’s time for another walk. Now that the weather is even cooler, there are more people out strolling too. Everyone is wearing a face mask. Each group, each bubble, keeps a specific distance from others. No one comments on this any more; it’s simply how things are now. We adapt quickly.

We stop and enjoy the view across the strait; our friends tell us what we’re seeing on the other side is Singapore. We ask, this close? Yes, this close, they reply.

I look across the body of water at the island where my best friend and her husband now reside with their cats. She won’t be coming home soon; he won’t be flying to Ho Chi Minh City for work in the near future. But they are safe and sound, which is all that matters.

They are there, with their felines, and we are here, with our friends. And the present must matter more. There will be time for Gemütlichkeit in the future when we reunite.

Vanilla Bean is famous for their freshly baked breads and cakes
Vanilla Bean is famous for their freshly baked breads and cakes

And at present what we need is coffee and cake. Teatime. Something to perk us up, to wake us from our late afternoon miasma. A barista friend had recommended Vanilla Bean, a bakery café, for a cuppa nearby. They might even have filter coffee but no promises.

Sure enough, there isn’t any filter coffee. Not today. It doesn’t matter: the Americano is good, robust without being bitter. All the pick-me-up we need: black coffee, no sugar.

A slice of Viennese 'sachertorte' (left) and hot Americano (right) at Vanilla Bean
A slice of Viennese ‘sachertorte’ (left) and hot Americano (right) at Vanilla Bean

What draws folks to Vanilla Bean is their breads and cakes. Our slices of vanilla burnt cheesecake and sachertorte are divine. Besides vanilla, they also have burnt cheesecakes in avocado, durian and cempedakflavours. The dark decadence of the Viennese sachertorte would win over any chocolate lover.

Burnt cheesecakes at Vanilla Bean come in four flavours: vanilla, avocado, durian and cempedak
Burnt cheesecakes at Vanilla Bean come in four flavours: vanilla, avocado, durian and cempedak

We feel lifted, our energy levels after a heavy lunch and our spirits too. We leave the waterfront, the sailboats and their masts reaching heavenwards, to have dinner elsewhere, another engagement. There is still light in the skies when we depart.

The silhouette of sailboat masts at Senibong Cove as sunset approaches
The silhouette of sailboat masts at Senibong Cove as sunset approaches

No sun setting on us, no darkness falling. Not today.

The Bierhaus Senibong Cove

No.2, Blok B, PTD 213068, Pembangunan Teluk Senibong, Johor Bahru, Johor

facebook.com/bierhaussenibong/

Vanilla Bean

G-09, Blok B, WaterEdge Condo, 2 Persiaran Senibong, Johor Bahru, Johor

facebook.com/cafe.vanillabean/

By : Kenny Mah – MALAY MAIL

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