Malaysia and Japan have long enjoyed good bilateral ties – and it’s no secret that Malaysians love everything Japanese, from its food to its culture and traditions. Anything trendy from Japan, such as discount chain store Don Don Donki (which opened last year), or brands such as Daiso, Uniqlo, and Muji, are hugely popular – as are the slew of notable Japanese restaurants (especially in KL) that are always packed with customers. Pre-pandemic, Japan was also one of the top international tourist destinations for Malaysians.
While COVID-19 has dashed many hopes for the latter, fret not. You can still experience a slice of Japan, right in the heart of the Malaysian capital: at the Selangor-Japan Friendship Garden in Shah Alam.
Opened in March 2021, this beautiful park spans 2.4 hectares and is located adjacent to the Shah Alam Lake Gardens. Built at a cost of RM3.8 mil, the garden is meant to symbolises the warm ties between the goverments of Selangor and Japan, on top of being an added attraction for the state. For those who have missed travelling to Japan, a trip to the garden might just be what you need to cure your Japan blues.
The gardens are beautifully landscaped, with five themed zones. Just next to it is the famous Sultan Salahuddin Abdul Aziz Mosque (also known as the Blue Mosque), its dramatic spires and giant dome peeking from above the tree tops.
Expect to see Japanese-inspired features here, including trimmed bonsai trees, traditional torii gates which are commonly found at Japanese shrines, as well as fixtures such as tsukubai (washbasin – pictured).
The central feature is a huge pond stocked with colourful koi fish. You can buy feed from the counter to feed the fishes and turtles.
Next to the pond is the Rumah Selangor (Selangor House), which provides some welcome respite from the heat. For those who want the full experience, you can rent some summer yukatas to wear and imagine that you’re in an authentic Japanese garden. There is also a small museum at the back with displays of items from Japanese culture such as clothing and traditional dolls.
Meander along the shady pathways, past a maze of waterways and over small bridges with exquisite architecture, or just sit down on one of the benches and wile the morning away.
The garden has reflexology paths as well, where visitors are encouraged to remove their shoes and walk on the stones, which purportedly helps with improving blood circulation.
The Zen garden section boasts features such as carefully stacked stones and meticulously spread-out gravel. In traditional Zen philosophy, this stripping of nature to its barest form is meant to promote meditation and bring out the meaning of life.
We spent a good hour strolling through the garden, and since it was the afternoon, we had the whole place to ourselves. Best of all, entry is free!
The garden is open daily from 10AM – 6PM.
SELANGOR-JAPAN FRIENDSHIP GARDEN
Persiaran Bandar Raya, Seksyen 14, 40000 Shah Alam, Selangor
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Malls these days follow a cookie-cutter formula – if you’ve been to one, you’ve been to them all.
Once in awhile, though, you find neighbourhood places like Tropicana Gardens Mall in Kota Damansara. Despite being a stone’s throw away from well known malls like IKEA Damansara, 1Utama and The Curve, Tropicana Gardens holds its own with a unique mix of offerings and cool tenants; most notably Japanese discount chain store Don Don Donki, as well as the largest Starbucks Reserve in Malaysia.
Although it’s far from my house, I’ve been here a couple of times, mostly to visit Donki, but also coz it’s a nice mall to shop at, with everything under one roof.
If you haven’t had the chance to visit, here’s what to expect!
The mall spans five floors, and has a star-shaped layout. It’s fairly new (the mall opened in February 2021), so the upper floors are quite empty – but there’s plenty to explore on the lower floors. A golden tree takes centre stage at the main concourse, and they spruce it up with different decorations for every season (this pic was taken over a Christmas visit).
SHOP FOR JAPANESE SNACKS AND GOODS AT DON DON DONKI
One of the mall’s highlights is, of course, the Don Don Donki. This is the second Donki outlet in Malaysia and also the largest, covering nearly 4,000 sq m across two floors. There is a wide variety of goods to shop for here, from fresh produce and snacks, to cosmetics, gym equipment and toys imported from Japan. You can read a more detailed post here.
DO SOME READING AT BOOK XCESS
Lifestyle bookstore Book Xcess, which sells most of its titles for half the price of what you get at normal bookstores (they’re able to do this as they sell remainder books — books that were overprinted and weren’t taken by conventional bookstores, but are brand new), has a branch on the 2nd floor. If you’re a bibliophile, you can wile the hours away browsing, or just soaking in the store’s cosy aesthetics. I especially like the floor to ceiling ‘wave’ book shelf that stretches from one end of the shop to the other.
GRAB A BITE
Tropicana Gardens Mall has a fair selection of F&B tenants, from fast food chains to chic cafes. There is also an area called Pitstop which is inspired by the food truck concept — with food truck-shaped kiosks, open seating, and gas station-themed decor.
Personally, I would recommend Tendon Kohaku, which specialises in tempura bowls. Other notable restaurants here include Delay No More Crab Restaurant, Dodo Dimsum Bowls, Go Street Noodle, Ramen Bankara, Rakuzen, D’Italiane, and Sukishi. Don’t forget to check out the snack bars, cafes and bakeries such as Chizu, Park’s Bagels and Gula Cakery.
GET A MAKEOVER
The upper floors host a number of salons and beauty parlours where you can get your hair cut, washed and styled, or enjoy beauty treatments.
JOIN A DANCE OR SINGING CLASS
Here, you can find Flow Academy, a creative school dedicated to the performing arts. They offer dancing and fitness as well as music and singing classes. Many of the academy’s students perform professionally, but you can sign up too if you’re looking to pick up a hobby.
PLAY AND BUY TRADING CARDS AND BOARD GAMES
If nerdy stuff is more your thing (and I mean it in the best way, being a nerd myself), Invictus Force carries a wide selection of tabletop accessories, trading cards and board games. They also host events for games like Pokemon and Magic: The Gathering.
CATCH A FILM
I haven’t been to the theatres for over two years now, and probably will not in the near future — but for movie-buffs, the mall has a Golden Screen Cinemas on the top floor.
Another activity that I haven’t done for years is karaoke — my college mates and I used to go every other week, as it was relatively ‘cheap’ entertainment (20 bucks for 4 hours — but this was back in the 2010s :P). Now that we’re all working, it has been hard to go for such activities, and even if we have free time we end up at a cafe anyway.
If you’d like to sing your heart out and belt out some Whitney Houston, Loudspeaker is on the same floor as the cinema.
SHOOT STUFF UP AT THE ARCADE
Or race some cars, play some drums, shoot a few hoops.
Last but not least…
GRAB SOME COFFEE AT THE STARBUCKS RESERVE
The mall is home to Malaysia’s largest Starbucks Reserve (they’re essentially ‘high-end Starbucks’, carrying ‘a selection of the rarest, most extraordinary coffees Starbucks has to offer’, prepared through different techniques such as Chemex, siphon and pour-over). I haven’t actually been inside (on my visits, I was always too full from eating at the other restos or stuffing my face at Donki, lol), but I’d like to drop by on my next trip. It looks impressive enough from the outside, where there is al fresco seating and an outdoor area with beautiful murals.
If you have the weekend free, Tropicana Gardens Mall is worth a visit! There is ample parking (although the entrance is quite difficult to find — you have to go past the drop-off point in front of the mall, then make a U-turn when you’re almost at the exit), and alternatively, you can take the MRT and stop at the Surian station.
TROPICANA GARDENS MALL
29 No, Unit CC, 2A, Persiaran Surian, Tropicana Indah, 47810 Petaling Jaya, Selangor
Pre-COVID, I always wanted to ‘discover’ new places and experiences – but this pandemic has made merealise that these things can be had, even in our own backyard: it’s all a matter of how you ‘frame’ it. Even something like grocery shopping can be an adventure!
The hubs finally arrived in Malaysia over Christmas, and while dropping off supplies at his quarantine hotel near Dataran Merdeka in Kuala Lumpur, I took the chance to do some sightseeing – and was pleasantly surprised at how much there is to explore within this small but historically-rich area.
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There’s something very powerful and moving about being in places where history was written – you get a sense of being separated only by time, and not by space. Dataran Merdeka, or Merdeka Square, is one such place. It was where Malaya declared its independence from British colonists, where the Union Jack flag was lowered and the Malaysian flag hoisted in its place, and where our forefathers basically laid the foundations of our country.
The field was not purpose-built for this; rather, it was formerly used as a cricket field for the adjacent Royal Selangor Club, which was a country club for wealthy British and government officials. Fitting, then, that it was repurposed – I find the idea of taking something that stood for colonisation and reclaiming it as our own quite poetic.
Standing underneath the giant flag pole facing the green, it’s easy to visualise how this place would have looked like years ago – minus the modern skyscrapers – and marvel at how far we have come as a nation.
SULTAN ABDUL SAMAD BUILDING
Even if you’re not a history buff, there are many beautiful historical buildings around Dataran Merdeka that make for great photos, such as the Sultan Abdul Samad building. Completed in 1897, it was used to house British government offices, and then the Malaysian Courts, post-independence. It is currently home to offices of the Ministry of Communications and Multimedia, as well as the Ministry of Tourism and Culture.
Spanning two floors, the building is an eclectic mix of architectural styles, such as Indo-Saracenic and Neo-Mughal, which were popular in British colonies such as India, Sri Lanka, and Malaya. The arched windows are distinctively Moorish, and the towers are topped with copper domes, which are common elements in Muslim architecture. One of the building’s highlights is the clocktower, which was designed to mimic London’s Big Ben. It first chimed at the building’s completion, and has continued to do so ever since.
ROYAL SELANGOR CLUB
As mentioned earlier, the field that is now Dataran Merdeka formerly belonged to the Selangor Club (now the Royal Selangor Club) – a clubhouse founded by the British administration as a place for British elites to gather and socialise. The club still stands, boasting Mock Tudor design and the style’s distinctive ‘striped’ look (which is meant to mimic historical homes with half-timbering effects).
Access is for members only, where they can enjoy facilities such as football fields, pool and billiards rooms, squash courts, tennis courts, as well as bars, lounges and restaurants. Pre-pandemic, there were tours that the public could join for a glimpse inside the exclusive clubhouse.
OLD CHARTERED BANK BUILDING/ MUSIC MUSEUM
Sporting similar Mughal architecture as the Sultan Abdul Samad Building across the road, the old Chartered Bank building was the very first bank to open in Kuala Lumpur. Aside from scalloped windows and a signature arched entrance, the building also has four large domes on each of the roof’s corners. An interesting story: as the buildings here are close to the river, the area was prone to massive floods before KL upgraded its flood and drainage systems. In 1926, a severe flood caused damage to millions worth of bank notes in the bank’s vault. So they took them out and laid them on the field to dry in the sun. It must have been quite a sight!
The building now hosts a Music Museum (I visited back in 2016), which chronicles the history and diversity of traditional and modern music in Malaysia, with displays of instruments and more.
KUALA LUMPUR CITY GALLERY
Just next door is another historical building: the former Government Printing Office building, which was responsible for printing all government reports, publications and other media. Today, it houses the Kuala Lumpur City Gallery, a tourist hub with its own museum, souvenir shop and cafe. There is also an iconic “I Love KL” sign outside the building, which is popular with tourists. The building’s Jacobean facade is a nice contrast to the other Mughal-inspired buildings in the area, and features details such as oriel windows (windows that jut out from the wall). Fun fact: as electricity was not available at the time (the building dates back to the 1900s), the building was designed with lots of windows so that workers at the press could work better with natural sunlight.
I wanted to pop in for a visit, but unfortunately they were closed for cleaning. KL suffered a bad flood in December, and the KL City Gallery was also affected.
KUALA LUMPUR LIBRARY
Bibliophiles will want to stop by the Kuala Lumpur Library (Perpustakaan Kuala Lumpur), which has an extensive collection of physical books as well as audio visual materials. You have to register as a member to enter, though, but the process should be quick and easy. Bags need to be placed in lockers. The library is open in the afternoon on Mondays, from 10am – 6.45pm from Tuesdays to Fridays, and 10am to 5pm on weekends. It is closed on the first Saturday and Sunday of each month.
RIVER OF LIFE – MASJID JAMEK
A short walk away from Dataran Merdeka is the confluence where two rivers meet; namely the Gombak River and the Klang River. They come together in a Y-shape in front of Masjid Jamek — the oldest mosque in Kuala Lumpur — which was built in 1909 and was designed by (surprise!) a British architect. Although opinions might differ, I like to consider this place the true ‘heart’ of Kuala Lumpur, as opposed to the Petronas Twin Towers or even the Golden Triangle of Bukit Bintang. This is where KL got its name, as the Gombak River was once known as ‘Sungai Lumpur’ (literally ‘muddy river’), and Kuala Lumpur itself means “Muddy Confluence”.
There are two bridges spanning the river, one located right in front of the mosque, which is the perfect spot for photos. You’ll also get to see the Kuala Lumpur Tower and Petronas Twin Towers in the distance. The walkway between the River and the back portion of the Sultan Abdul Samad building is nicely paved, and lined with greenery.
If you’re interested in visiting the mosque, it is open to visitors — but non-Muslims would have to wear a robe or scarf to cover up. If you’re a man and wearing shorts, they have sarongs on hand too.
Dataran Merdeka is also quite close to Petaling Street (Chinatown), but I’ll detail that in another post. The area is central and easily accessible via public transport, including the LRT (Masjid Jamek stop). From there, Dataran Merdeka is a five minute walk away.
And there you have it! I hope this mini-guide has been helpful. If you liked this post, please consider supporting my blog via Patreon, so I can make more. Or buy me a cup of coffee on Paypal @erisgoesto.
I have much to be thankful for as I bid adieu to the old and welcome the new. Although it wasn’t a great start to 2021 – what with extended lockdowns due to the pandemic, job uncertainty and a general feeling of being stuck in limbo – things picked up towards the final quarter; the highlight being that my husband and I were finally able to reunite after almost two years apart from each other. He had to spend Christmas in quarantine, but we were able to usher in the new year together – and that for me has been the best present ever.
While waiting for the hubs to finish quarantine, I busied myself with preparations, finishing up work for my old job (I’m starting a new job tomorrow!), and catching up with old friends – which helped keep my nervous energy to a minimum. Here’s what I’ve been up to:
November to December is typically monsoon season, and floods often occur on the east coast of West Malaysia, due to their proximity to the South China Sea. It is rare for serious floods to occur on the west coast, where I live, as we’re protected from most bad weather, thanks to the Indonesian islands. On 18 December, however, a continuous heavy downpour (it rained almost non-stop for more than 24 hours) caused by a tropical depression caused parts of Selangor and Kuala Lumpur to be inundated by floods.
The flooding was so severe that in some cases, homes in low lying areas were completely submerged up until the second floor. In total, 50 people across the different states lost their lives. People were extremely angry with the government, as they were ill prepared and the response was slow – leaving victims to fend for themselves, and some lost their lives while waiting for help that was too slow to come. But where the government failed, it was heartening to see how ordinary Malaysians from all walks of life banded together to help each other, with volunteers risking their lives and bringing their own boats to help with search and rescue.
My brother and I did our own little part by volunteering to pack vegetarian food, to be distributed to victims at relief centres. The activity was organised by the Kuala Lumpur Chung De Confucian Association, of which my brother’s ex-lecturer is a member – that’s how we came to know about it. We were up early to head to May Yen Vegetarian Restaurant in Kepong, KL, where we joined a group of mostly young volunteers to pack 900 packets of lunch boxes.
The kitchen was sweltering hot, and there was little space to maneuver about. It was a bit chaotic in the beginning, but once we had coordinated the roles, things moved quickly – there was a team assigned to ladling food (tofu, mock meat, vegetables and rice) into plastic containers, another team assigned to putting garnish and sealing off the lunch boxes, and yet another in charge of packing them into plastic bags for transport. We didn’t really have much chance to mingle as everyone was focused on completing their tasks as quickly as possible, but it was a good experience nonetheless.
As of the time of this writing, flood victims are still in need of help, so it would be good to donate either monetary assistance or in the form of goods, if you’re not able to be on-ground for relief efforts.
That aside, I’ve been taking time to catch up with old friends. Shopped for gifts for a few close friends, and also met up with G, a high school friend of mine whom I’ve been friends with for over 18 years. We don’t always get to hangout since she’s based in Ipoh, but we managed to have a quick catchup session. I think she badly needed some alone time that didn’t involve bringing her kid along.
Motherhood is an immense sacrifice – I think a lot of mothers give so much of themselves to their child, that they lose who they are as a person. I’m not here to judge, but that shouldn’t be how it is, even though society often expects it of mothers – and it’s sad that in Malaysian society, we still have this mentality. A healthy environment should involve a mother having the proper support to raise her child, but also the freedom to stay true to her own dreams.
Anyway, I brought her to 1Utama and we ended up at Rocku Yakiniku, a Japanese-style BBQ buffet that offers free flow of various cuts of meat and seafood, including lamb, chicken, beef, pork, shrimp and squid. I’ve been here several times, including once solo for my birthday celebration (yes, I celebrated my birthday by gorging on a BBQ buffet alone. lol), and they’ve never failed to disappoint. This time was no exception, and I think we got back our money’s worth.
We got to 1Utama pretty late, so I was starving. While waiting for the charcoal brazier to heat up, I got some quick bites – stir-fried udon, samosas, hams and fried dumplings. I know you’re not supposed to eat a lot of these at a buffet, coz they’ll fill up space in your stomach quickly, but the fried dumplings were exceptionally good.
Two things that I recommend: the enoki mushrooms, and the scallops. They come served in small aluminium bowls that you can heat directly over the grill. The former has butter, which brings out the rich, natural sweetness of the mushrooms; the latter comes swimming in a clear, sweet broth, with sizable scallops that squirt juice forth with each bite.
Another thing about Rocku Yakiniku: the shrimps are huge. Just eating the shrimps alone will give you your money’s worth, since shrimps of this size are usually expensive. They’re not marinated, but they’re fresh and juicy, and the grill highlights the meat’s natural sweetness.
The meat selection is great too, especially if you eat it with fresh lettuce, which cuts through the greasiness.
Our meal for two came up to RM120, inclusive of drinks. Quite a reasonable price, given the amount we ate, the variety, and the service.
ROCKU YAKINIKU (1UTAMA)
F.355, F.356 & F.357, First Floor, Rainforest, No. 1, Lebuh Bandar Utama, Bandar Utama, 47800 Petaling Jaya, Selangor.
Opening hours: 11AM – 10PM (Daily)
Dropped G back at her house and took the chance to play with her cats.
And that was how I spent my Christmas! It was a great one, all things considered.
As a college student, I frequented the shops at Desa Setapak, as I often had lunch there in between classes, or before I hopped onto the LRT back home. One of my favourite eateries there was Fancy Mee Corner, which served pan mee. I have fond memories of the place, not only for its excellent food, but also the company: many an afternoon was spent there with my friends, either having a meal, chilling out, or doing assignments while we munched on fried snacks.
But times change – and a lot can happen within a decade, which is also how long I haven’t been back to this neighbourhood. I was nearby after dropping off a Christmas gift for a friend, and decided to make a stop for old times’ sake.
The main thoroughfare (Jalan Genting Klang) was almost unrecognisable. You know how a place feels familiar yet strange, because it has changed so much? The LRT station is still there, but there are now two massive flyovers, and there are multiple new high-rise projects within the area.
I walked over to where Fancy Mee Corner used to be. Unfortunately, it’s gone – but there is another restaurant in its place, called SRK Borneo Noodle House. Apparently it is not the same as the popular SRK Noodle House, even though the names are very similar, and the dishes are almost identical: they specialise in Sarawak-style kolo (dry) mee.
The decor, however, is familiar, as it has the same layout as how Fancy Mee Corner used to look like. Nothing fancy (pardon the pun), with wooden stools and simple tables. Not a place to ‘chill’, but to have a quick meal.
They have a lunch option going for RM6.50.
You can choose from a variety of noodles, including kolo mee, which has a thinner texture, wantan (egg noodles), as well as mee pok, which is what I prefer – the noodles are flat and thick, so it gives a good bite. They come with different accompaniments: the basic version has minced pork and slices of fishcake, and there is also a version with fishball. I opted for the one with charsiew (roast pork) sauce, which has a sweet and savoury flavour.
Iced milk tea
The char siew mee pok has a distinctive orange hue. The dish was pretty good: noodles were cooked al dente, the char siew sauce was sweet but not overwhelming, and the portions were generous. The bits of fried pork lard added extra oomph.
For sides, I got a bowl of bursting pork balls, which were filled with minced pork and broth. They were bouncy with plenty of bite.
Another side of fried wantans. Again, decent – they were freshly fried, sizable, crunchy and flavourful.
The food was pretty good, and the flavour is similar to SRK Noodle House. I wonder if they’re a ‘branch’ of sorts – it’s common here to have two ‘rival’ restaurants selling the same items, one opened by the original proprietor and another by a disciple/family member who had a disgareement or something.
The service, however, leaves much to be desired, especially from the main wait staff who also manned the cashier. The difference in service provided to me and another group of customers was too blatant for me to pass it off as me being paranoid, lol.
When I entered the shop and asked if there was a table for one, the staff (let’s call him A) didn’t even bother to reply : he simply looked at me as if I was annoying him by asking the obvious, and nodded to an empty table. After sitting down, I was given the menu, all without a word of hello, or any sort of acknowledgment. Well, at first I was like whatever – I’m here to eat, not to make chitchat. But then another group of diners – consisting of young college students, with what society would call ‘pretty’ girls – came in.
The difference in service was astounding. A came to their table, laid out menus for them, gave them recommendations, made jokes, laughed, and was generally the perfect picture of a friendly waiter. When he carried their meals to them, it was with a ‘enjoy your meal’, “oh this is your bowl, you didn’t want the pork intestines, right?”
Meanwhile, my meal was served and A was practically throwing the box of cutlery on my table.
Well, I know I’m not a pretty young thang … but dude. Same thing went I went to pay at the counter. Unsmiling, not so much a thank you for coming. If Malaysia had a tipping system, you’d get a 0 from me, my friend.
And guess what? It was the foreign wait staff who was professional and courteous to me when I had to place my order. Kudos to you, foreign wait staff.
So yeah. Probably not going to come back here. Not coz the food is bad, mind you. At first I thought it was just me being sensitive, but I was looking up Google reviews while writing this, and apparently I’m not the only one to think so. 😛
Or, you know. If you have faith in your ‘looks’, (I think I look okay, but apparently I don’t qualify, lol), by all means, give it a shot.
SRK BORNEO NOODLE HOUSE
Lot 15, 1/27B Desa Setapak 53300 Kuala Lumpur
Opening hours: 9AM – 9PM
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PS2: Opinions here are entirely my own, and are not presented as fact. So if you’re thinking of suing me for a negative review, note that I’ve read up the relevant laws on libel. And hey – I did say your food is good, didn’t I?
Why choose, when you can have both? Newly opened at Le Pavillion in Bandar Puteri Puchong, The IceCream Bar serves artisanal ice cream infused with alcohol, with boozy creations the likes of Rum & Raisin and Bailey’s Original Ice Cream Liqueur. This is the brand’s latest outlet, after successful stints in Hartamas, 1Utama, and Seapark.
Interiors are cool and sophisticated, with a sleek black and white colour scheme, paired with high ceilings and lots of windows to give the space an airy feeling.
Pick your poison: aside from the signatures mentioned above, they also carry flavours such as Smoked Cognac, Guinness Brownies, Kahlua Cheesecake, and more. For those who prefer non-alcoholic flavours, opt for choices such as Valrhona Chocolate or Vanilla.
PS: If the design/feel/flavours of The Ice Cream Bar remind you of homegrown artisanal ice cream brand, Inside Scoop, that’s because they are under the same company.
You can have your scoop ice cream in cups, with cones, or on waffles. S and I went for the latter with three scoops of ice cream (RM27) : Whisky Cream, Popcorn Daiquiri, and their signature Rum & Raisin.
Now, I’m a bit of a teetotaler. I can’t hold my liquor well, and I can’t identify different kinds of liquor to save my life. So if you want my honest opinion: the ice cream tasted boozy. But they also tasted very similar to me. The Rum & Raisin had a distinctive flavour, but otherwise, all the flavours kind of blended together into one big hodgepodge of creamy alcoholic ice cream lol. That’s not to say it wasn’t good though; and I can see how people would enjoy this. It’s not like we have many boozy ice cream bars in Malaysia, so the concept is unique – that alone makes it worth a try.
Bought a Mapled Churchill for the bro. I like that they put it in these little transparent cans: not only is the packaging adorable, it’s also easy to store and eat from.
THE ICE CREAM BAR (PUCHONG)
LPC GF 18, Block C, Le Pavillion, Jalan Puteri 7/13, Bandar Puteri, 47100 Puchong Phone: 03-5878 4735
Earlier this year, Japanese discount chain store Don Don Donki opened its first outlet in Malaysia at Lot 10, Bukit Bintang, Kuala Lumpur. It was very well received, with people queueing up for hours just to get into the shop on the first day. I visited the store a month after its opening (read about it here), and it was a great shopping experience, with lots of interesting things to see and buy.
Fast forward to December 2021, and Don Don Donki has opened its second store at Tropicana Gardens Mall, Petaling Jaya. Covering over 42,000 square feet and spanning two floors, this is also the largest Donki in the country. Plans are in the works for a dozen other Donkis, but in the meantime, let’s see what this outlet has in store!
I came during a weekday, so there was no queue, and I was able to shop in peace without having to squeeze my way through crowded aisles.
The entrance to the shop is located on the first floor. You go up the escalator in the central area ,then make a U-turn to where Donki is. The signs are a bit confusing as they point to the far end of the ground floor, which is where the exit is.
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You’ll be greeted by CosmeDonki as soon as you enter the shop, which is a section that carries makeup, beauty, and wellness products. Not my thing, so I made a beeline for the food section next to it. This area has numerous dessert counters, with items such as souffle, pudding, jellies, mochi, sweet sando (sandwiches), basque cheesecakes served in cups, and more.
On this floor, you can choose from a wide variety of ready-to-eat meals, from sushi rolls and sashimi over rice, to fried gyoza, karaage (fried chicken), bento bowls, and more.
Aside from food, there is a section dedicated to sports and gym equipment, as well as hobbies and toys. Check out these adorable socks.
One thing I observed with this Donki outlet – they seem to be focused more on food. The Donki in KL has a wider selection of household products. But being a foodie, I’m not complaining! The aisles are also a little organised compared to Don Don Donki KL, in that they’re neatly sectioned according to category, so it makes it easier to shop. The design still has that characteristic Donki ‘feel’ though, with shelves piled high with products, loud and colourful posters and signages, and of course, their mascot Donpen.
After buying your snacks or ready-to-eat meals, you can pay for them directly and enjoy the food at a dining area nearby. There’s more to explore downstairs, though, so this can be like a ‘pitstop’ to your shopping.
Just before the escalator is a section selling street food. I adore this concept as they’ve designed the stalls (yatai) to look like Japanese railway stations, with the signs at each stall displaying destinations like Tokyo and Osaka. Each stall also sells a street food that is famous from that region; for example Taiyaki (fish-shaped pastries with filling) for Tokyo, Takoyaki (octopus balls) for Osaka, and Tako Senbei (octopus crackers) for Kanagawa.
On the ground floor, you’ll be directed past a section selling premium Japanese goods, such as handmade Ukiyoe soaps, frozen seafood from Hokkaido including giant hairy crabs and fat, juicy scallops, handmade crafts, teas, as well as kimonos.
Also in this area is the kitchen, where you’ll be able to see through a glass window the staff prepare sushi and sashimi, to be sold at the store.
You then exit from this small section and reenter through another entrance, which is where they have the fresh produce, such as vegetables, fruits, meat and seafood. Most of these are imported from Japan. Everything looks fresh and is beautifully displayed – but expect to pay higher-than-average prices, of course.
Of course, not to be missed is the fresh seafood section. Thick cuts of tuna, uni (sea urchin), salmon, tako (octopus) – you name it, they got it.
Moving on from the fresh produce section, you’ll come to the snacks section selling dry goods, including snacks, ramen, biscuits, drinks, and more.
Have you tried Ramune? I first had this carbonated drink in San Francisco’s Japantown, and the little glass ball in the bottle has always fascinated me. Apparently in the old days, before the invention of bottle caps, it was used to stopper the drink and prevent the carbon from escaping. In modern times, Ramune is a symbol of summer in Japan, where it is often enjoyed at festivals.
Anime fans are not left out, as you’ll also find anime-themed merchandise here, such as these Demon Slayer-themed snacks.
I was tickled to find the Sakeru Gummy candy, which was popularised by the hilarious series of ads featuring the Long Long Man character. And it was, indeed, true to the name, measuring 50cm. There was a short version too.
A lot of thought goes into packaging and presentation when it comes to Japanese products. I, at least, feel tempted to buy (and keep) them just for their looks lol.
After over an hour exploring the aisles, I finally settled on a couple of snacks, some chuuka idako (marinated baby octopus) and fried squid. Would have liked to get more, but my budget doesn’t allow for it. Check out was fast as they have multiple counters, and there are staff members to help you bag your purchases. But do note that they don’t provide plastic bags, so you’ll have to bring your own or buy their recyclable tote bags.
The squid was a bit rubbery since it had been fried early in the day, but it was well seasoned. The octopus was excellent and came in a sizable portion, considering the price.
And that was my trip to Don Don Donki Tropicana Gardens Mall! I actually enjoyed shopping here more than the KL outlet. Not only is it closer to where I stay, so I don’t have to brave KL traffic, they also have a larger section dedicated to food and snacks, which is what I prefer over household goods or toys anyway. Another plus point would be the organisation – it’s definitely more neatly organised than Donki KL.
To those planning a visit, I recommend coming early or on a weekday to avoid the crowds. Tropicana Gardens Mall is a good place to shop too, with lots to see.
DON DON DONKI (TROPICANA GARDENS MALL)
Lot CC-26, 27, 28 & Lot G-20, 20A, 21 Tropicana Gardens Mall 2A, Persiaran Surian, Tropicana Indah Petaling Jaya, 47810 Selangor
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Donburi – literally ‘rice bowl dish’ – is a staple in Japan, consisting of fish, meat, vegetables or other ingredients that are either simmered or fried, then served over a bed of rice. There are many different types of donburi, but the most well known are gyudon (beef), oyakodon (chicken and egg), katsudon (fried pork/chicken/beef cutlet), and of course, tendon (tempura). There’s a Japanese chain in Malaysia that specialises in the latter, called Tendon Kohaku (kohaku meaning amber) – and while I’ve seen the shop several times while at J’s Gate Dining in Lot 10 Kuala Lumpur, I only got to try their food recently at their second outlet at Tropicana Gardens Mall.
The eatery is small but cosy, with lots of wood furniture. You can view the chefs in action through a glass window.
The menu is limited – it’s a specialty restaurant after all – but what few items they serve, they do extremely well. Their signature tendon comes with tempura prawn, squid, crab stick, chicken breast, french beans, baby corn, shiitake mushroom and pumpkin. Alternatively, you can go for the kakiage tendon (mixed vegetables and shrimp fritters), or the single item dons.
I wanted noodles, so I went for udon instead of rice. As the restaurant makes each dish fresh to order, expect some waiting time.
My tempura shrimps (set of 5 – RM38) came to the table freshly fried and piping hot, alongside a belly warming bowl of udon noodles, some pickles and grated radish for palate cleansing, as well as a dipping sauce.
The shrimps were sizable and deep fried to golden perfection. The mark of good tempura is in its batter, and Tendon Kohaku aced the test – it was crispy, light and did not feel greasy at all. The dipping sauce was light too; I would have liked it to be saltier, but it brought out the natural sweetness of the shrimp really well.
The udon was excellent. These are ‘hoso udon’, or thin udon. They had a chewy texture, and the warm broth it was served in was very comforting. Portions were substantial. You can have these either warm or cold.
Overall, really satisfied with my Tendon Kohaku meal! Service was attentive and friendly. Food is on the pricier end, but I think it’s worth the splurge every now and then. Will be making a return visit to try their signature rice bowls!
TENDON KOHAKU (TROPICANA GARDENS MALL)
Lot CC-25, Concourse Floor, Tropicana Gardens Mall, No, 2A, Persiaran Surian, Tropicana Indah, 47810 Petaling Jaya, Selangor
Opening hours: 11AM – 8PM (daily)
PS: I hope you liked this post! Please consider supporting my blog via my Patreon, so I can make more. Or buy me a cup of coffee on Paypal @erisgoesto.