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Our Story

Where it all began…

Johnny Preparing for Service

Born in the 1960’s, in a small town in Kuala Selangor, Malaysia, Johnny grew a passion for cooking at a young age. He began working at 15 to support his family in Malaysia, though saw little results. In the 1980’s, Johnny came to Australia at a chance of a better life, despite not knowing any English, having to leave his family behind and needing to adjust to a different culture. What got him through was that he truly enjoyed cooking. He worked in numerous restaurants in rural Victoria, seeing where it would take him. 

In witnessing Johnny’s promising outcome after relocating to Australia, his brother’s and sister also took the chance to explore Australia and what they have to offer. 

In 1988 he found himself working at yet another restaurant,  though this was the year he met and married his wife now, Lily. After 2 years, they realized it was time to move into metro melbourne where there was a little more action.

Johnny & Lily
Johnny showing his artist side - vegetable carvings

His strong passion for cooking and vegetable carving prompted Johnny to open his very own restaurant in Bentleigh, serving traditional Malaysian cuisine. Though this restaurant was rather small, his zeal for building a successful business grew stronger when he had his first child, dawning greater responsibility on him, and the need to work to support and care for them- despite being confronted with constant challenges of very few customers.

In 1991, Johnny moved to a second location, where it was much larger and was situated for the next 25 years. Kotaraya restaurant grew to be synonymous with casual dining and Johnny became known among locals for his great tasting food and friendly demeanour.

Kotaraya Before Renovations

As time passed, the owner of the shops located on Elsternwick planned to build an apartment complex over the shops, driving Johnny to relocate his restaurant. Whilst it was a bittersweet ending, it allowed Johnny the opportunity to begin something new after more than two decades.

Mid Valleys Restaurant marks a new chapter for Johnny & Lily. Established in January 2020, but with over 40 years of experience and history attached. We care about satisfying the taste buds of our customers and aspire to be a place that once you leave, you want to return to. Our dishes are a blend of authentic classics; recipes passed down from Johnny’s early beginnings and fine tuned over the years, whilst others are reflective of modern trends, fused with Thai and Chinese cuisine to create our unique identity.