To my memory, Johnny's has been around for as long as I can remember. Even with all of the renovations that 1 Utama Shopping Centre has gone through, it has always remained in the same spot, a constant presence even as surrounding stores and restaurants came and went over the years. The very first Johnny's Restaurant was opened in 1997 in BB Plaza, and to date they have a total of 22 outlets across Malaysia. So far, I've only visited two, being the one at 1 Utama and one of their newest ones at Setia City Mall.
Decisions, decisions ...
I've been visiting Johnny's with my family for years - it's easily one of our favourite spots for a big dinner get-together. The beauty of it is that we can come in as a group of 13 people, and there will be more than enough space. With some tables joined together and extra cookers set up, group dinners are a breeze at Johnny's. The steamboat sets are also very flexible, with options for a group of 2 to 4. If your party is larger, it's just a matter of adding on more sets or choosing things from the steamboat or a la carte menu.
While my family will always go for the larger set, we always make room for some golden mushroom fried rice on the side. I've also tried the prawn fried rice, but the golden mushroom is definitely my favourite. Mouthfuls of tasty rice are interspersed with juicy chicken chunks and mushrooms, a definite must try if you're a fan of fried rice.
But the main attraction is definitely the steamboat. Here is a look at the selection you get for a two pax set. Service is very fast here; within a few minutes of placing your order, a steamboat and induction cooker is set up on your table, followed by the ingredients you've chosen for your meal.
There's a choice of two different soup bases at Johnny's. If you're a fan of spicy, tangy tom yam, there's an option for that. And if you're like me and prefer just the basics, there's also chicken soup. Then it's just a matter of tossing in all your ingredients and sitting back while your food cooks in front of you.
While we wait for the food to stew, what else is there to go with the meal? Johnny's has its own specialty 'sambal' or dipping sauce to go with the steamboat. I'm a big fan of this tangy sauce, and I feel it goes great with some fresh, crisp lettuce. It's spicy without being overpowering, with subtle hints of sesame seeds and herbs. Very tasty.
Food's ready! The cooking pots here are definitely big enough for the largest set available, so there's no worry about having to cook anything in batches. We also got free refills of soup throughout the meal.
Here are some bits and pieces from the smallest set available on the menu. Unfortunately, I didn't get a picture of everything we had cooking on our table that day. Here we have some fresh tiger prawn, an egg, fish ball and veggies. There is also a shrimp ravioli in there, which doesn't come with the set but we added on as an extra. It's more of wantan than ravioli, but definitely one of my favourite steamboat ingredients here. On a regular dinner, we'll usually order two extra batches of ravioli to share. Some of the other things we had were pieces of fish, tofu and some vermicelli noodles.
If you've still got some room after the main course, I suggest you try some of their desserts. Pictured here is their mixed dessert, a collection of sweet mango, red beans, corn and water chestnuts among other things. This is a lovely, silky sweet dessert, creamy from coconut milk and sweet from subtle hints of syrup and fruits. The red bits pictured above are the water chestnuts, which are wrapped in a kind of glutinous casing - the result is a chewy yet crunchy ingredient which is my favourite part of this dish. It's a bit of an acquired taste though.
I'm not a big steamboat eater, and I'll admit that Johnny's is the only steamboat restaurant I've ever frequented, which makes me a poor judge of whether it is the best among the rest. Even so, I really enjoy eating here. It's a great place for a group dinner, given the community spirit of sharing a steaming hot bowl of soup between everybody. The service is also very prompt, and after the renovation this restaurant had a few years back, it's much brighter and easier to navigate. If you've never given it a try, do check it out and let me know what you think!