What do you do and how did you get into the industry?
My sister and I are the founders and operators of Asia Mex Concepts S/B, which owns the brands Fresca Mexican Kitchen & Bar, Dolly Dim Sum and Bankara Ramen.
Having studied and worked abroad for many years, I travelled extensively in my youth, across USA, Mexico, Europe, Japan and China and was able to explore many different cultures and cuisines globally. When I returned to Malaysia five years ago after being in a finance job, my vision was to push the boundaries of the Malaysian food and beverage scene by creating niche, lifestyle-oriented concepts that appeal not only in food quality but in the overall dining ambience and experience.
A day in the life of a restauranteur entails….
No day is the same and that’s why I love my ‘job’!
Only a couple of months ago, I was in Mexico City and from there travelled south to the Oaxaca region to gain more inspiration and recipe ideas for Fresca. On that trip, I visited many small towns along the way and hand-picked colorful ceramics and handicraft decoration for the outlets. I also had the pleasure of tasting ant larvae, salsa made from grasshoppers and a ‘mole’ that had been re-cooked in the same pan for 300 days by one of the most well-known Mexican chefs by the name of Enrique Olvera.
What’s the best/ worst part of your job?
Best part: I get a real satisfaction when I can sense or receive direct feedback that a customer thoroughly enjoyed their dining experience and even more so when they become die-hard fans of our restaurants.
Worst part: when good and well-trained staff have to leave us (no different from any other business I guess!)
What’s your favourite meal/ drink?
It’s hard to pick one dish but at Fresca Mexican Kitchen & Bar very often I will have the Tacos de Camarones (shrimp tacos). Our corn tortillas are home-made in our kitchen and hand-pressed the traditional way using a cast-iron press. The sautéed jalapeno chilies give a bold flavour to the dish. On the weekends, I might be found having a margarita at Fresca. It is an awesome feeling to just sit at the bar, sip away at a classic margarita on the rocks and watch the lively action around the restaurant.
At Dolly Dim Sum, I will go for the Szechuan prawn dumplings. These fresh dumplings come in a sweet and spicy soy sauce that is just delicious when accompanied with my favourite Fo Shou Oolong tea (whose name literally means “Buddha’s hand”).
The perfect day off would be…
Going hiking in the morning followed by trying out the latest new restaurant in town with my besties. Learning from others and applying that knowledge to improve our own operations.
What’s something you’d like guests to know about Dolly Dim Sum ?
Dolly Dim Sum brings to life a part of Oriental cuisine that is steeped in tradition and embraced by many over the centuries.
Dolly is the central character of Dolly Dim Sum. In the restaurant she can be found in hand-painted wall murals with chopsticks in hand, holding up different types of dim sum ready to tuck in. Not only does Dolly epitomise modern oriental chic, but we truly believe making dim sum is an art-form – each piece is delicate and exquisite like a porcelain “dolly”.
What’s your view on the KL food scene?
New eateries are popping up on a daily basis. There is a proliferation of young people starting their own café or restaurant. I am encouraged by the increasing number of brunch places on offer, but I find there is still a lack of high quality western food in KL e.g. There are very few options for a good traditional and authentic French or Italian meal. Dining ambience is still lacking compared to our neighbouring Jakarta and Bangkok, not to mention Singapore and Hong Kong. I think it will take a while for KL to catch up as the willingness to spend on food is still relatively low.
What’s in store for you in the upcoming months?
We are excited about Fresca’s Christmas menu which consists of braised shortrib “carnitas” tacos, ceviche and molotes (Mexican street snack like a curry puff made with corn flour) to start; followed by a venison done “barbacoa” style in banana leaf and an ancho-harbanero-guajillo salsa, as well as a roast duck with jerusalem artichoke and mixed berry compote.
Year-end count down time is also a very busy planning yet fun time for us as we will be having a few famous DJs spin at Fresca & Dolly @ Avenue-K as well as a Latin live band at Fresca Gardens.
Dolly Dim Sum just opened its second outlet at Nu Sentral in November so in the coming months we will be working to increase awareness and build on the goodwill that has been garnered thus far at our flagship Avenue-K outlet.