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An Interview with Kuala Lumpur Restaurant & Bar JOLOKO

An Interview with Kuala Lumpur Restaurant & Bar JOLOKO

I think we managed most of our expectations fairly well in this sense as all of the team have had previous experience opening venues

What do you get when you cross two Kaula Lumpur architectural design/food and beverage wizards, another who has worked with some well known outlets in the city, an F&B executive behind the Middle East expansion of The Cheesecake Factory and a fifth who fell in love with the Aussie style of hospitality whilst living in Melbourne? JOLOKO!

Recently opened in Chow Kit besides Hotel Stripes we spoke to Kit Yin Chan(one of the owners) to find out a little bit more about the story behind this quirky bar and restaurant, the team and some of the challenges in opening a new outlet.

Hi Kit, Welcome to The City list, So what’s the story behind Joloko?

Hey guys! Basically, Rick and I stumbled across the building while walking our dogs. Weeks had passed and we couldn’t stop thinking about it. We called up our now partners, Shin and Penny to come have a look at it and we all instantly fell in love with the charm and vibrance of the space. From the get go, we had a pretty clear idea what we wanted to do with the space. I suppose it helps that we all share a mutual love for all things food, wine, and tequila. Finding Chef Tim was a blessing and he’s done a fantastic job creating the dishes on our menu.

How did the name come about?

I’d love to say that the name JOLOKO has this crazy, drunken story behind it. It doesn’t. We initially wanted to call it Jolokia (after the chilli’s we’re growing and using in our hot sauce) but felt it didn’t quite roll off the tongue. Now come to think of it, it almost sounds like the Caribbean slang for “I’m crazy". 

Tell us a little bit more about the team?

Shin and Penny are the architectural and design wizards behind Mentahmatter. The duo work so well together it’s amazing to watch. In the F&B scene, they have Chocha Foodstore and Botak Liquor. Rick found his way over to KL from the Netherlands. He’s previously worked with the Troika Sky Dining team in KL and was part of the opening of Fuego, Mr. Chew’s and Brasserie Fritz. He finished hotel school Amsterdam and fell in love with bartending and developing cocktails. Winning several cocktail competitions had brought him to some of the top bars around. 

Chef Tim started his career in Chicago and has since been travelling around the world perfecting his craft. He led the opening of the Cheesecake Factory restaurants in Dubai, Kuwait and Qatar, as well as having been the F&B Director for Novotel Dubai. Don’t ever challenge him to a chilli eating contest because he’ll win.

As for me, I found a love and appreciation for F&B while living in Melbourne. Since moving back, I’ve felt KL could use a little touch of Aussie hospitality. It’s still a huge learning curve for me and I’ve been incredibly blessed with our team. 

What was the inspiration behind the food?

The house was really the catalyst for everything that we are doing. The yellow reminded us all of the Caribbean and Rick, having previously lived there, knew exactly what kind of dishes we should have. It was a good thing Chef Tim was really keen to play around with the recipes.

For first timers, what can people expect?

Expect to be transported out of KL through the ambiance and decor, share your food and simply feel relaxed, we are a casual place, for those who want to test their Scoville levels, try our super spicy homemade hot sauce (made from Jolokia’s), also expect Rick to tempt you to drink some very unique mezcal. 

What have been the challenges in opening?  

What aren’t the challenges! I think we managed most of our expectations fairly well in this sense as all of the team have had previous experience opening venues. We knew that if someone said renovations will be done in 2 weeks, it really meant another month. We knew there would be certain limitations for opening in a heritage building with things like the power supply. I think one of the most annoying things for us was getting our credit card machines in.

Where do you see JOLOKO in 12 months? 

I hope the restaurant side of the business will be well established by then. I also love to see our tequila and mezcal collection grow even more than it has in the last 2 months!

What frustrates you and what do you love about the Food & Beverage scene here?

Having only ever worked in F&B in Australia, I have to say the cultural way of “getting things done” in Malaysia can be quite trying after being used to things usually running systematically. 

I love the little community of people in the scene here. Everyone tries to get to know each other and is very supportive of one another. There is so much potential for growth in the local industry and I love that there’s a community of people who care enough to want to put KL on the map for foodies the world over.

What do you guys do when you’re not working in JOLOKO?

We usually find new places to eat together if we feel like being out and about. Otherwise, just chilling at home with the pups. Tim writes in his free time, both personal and for the Yum List. 

JOLOKO can be found at 43 Jalan Kamunting, Off Dang Wangi, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

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