The menu is written in clean printed fonts; “home cured salmon, aioli, cauliflower snow, Brussel sprout”—the dish is humorously called Snow White and Friends.
On a white plate, pieces of cured salmon are layered against one another, their orange red colour striking amidst the white and green sprinkles of cauliflower and Brussel sprouts. It’s so artfully placed that it seems too beautiful to eat and yet it looks so deliciously inviting.
This, you think even before you take the first bite, is how good food should be.
Look Beneath the Surface of the Dish
For the founders of Pop Up Dining KL, good food is all about creating a dish that looks as good as it taste, all made from fresh ingredients. But it’s so much more than just taste and presentation. It’s all about passion, the love for creation and cooking from the heart.
“It is the little details as such which people lack to understand when the term ‘good food’ comes to mind. It may look simple but not many people recognise the time, effort and different methods which are used by chefs to create that dish which will then soon be gone in just a few seconds. Many trials and research has been done to perfect the dish as to how we want it to taste,” said Amanda, one of the three founders of Pop Up Dining KL.
This meticulous attention to detail and taste is apparent from the way every dish is presented. Whether it’s a cinnamon egg pudding in its delicate cream-coloured eggshell or a prawn tartar sheet with freshly sliced cucumbers, each dish is an attempt to be something new and exciting—just like the concept of Pop Up Dining KL itself.
As the name suggests, Pop Up Dining KL serves fine petite food with a modern degustation twist by popping up on an irregular basis in different cafés and restaurants around KL and Selangor. The concept is a collaboration between three young chefs; Daniel Yap, Miki Lie and Amanda Huang who aim to bring people and food together for a one-time unique dining experience.
Passion for the Art
When I asked about their motivation for starting Pop Up Dining, the answer was rather surprising.
“We just wanted to start off something at that time. With our first tasting menu idea, we sourced for space and we jumped in to do our first pop up dinner. It was a very spontaneous move. We continued doing it since we received positive feedback,” explained Amanda, who honed her skills through the internet and friends after graduating from KDU in hospitality, tourism and culinary arts. She always had a passion for cooking, especially making desserts, ever since watching Anna Olson as a child.
Co-founder Miki Lie has a different take on the whole culinary experience. Before joining Pop Up, she worked in advertising but her passion for cooking led her to pursue it professionally, rather than just as a hobby. “For me, it’s not just learning to cook, but it’s the journey and the people I meet through this journey. Through my staging experience in Thailand and here in Malaysia, I learned so much from many experienced chefs and most importantly I made friends with so many wonderful people.”
For the third member of the team, Daniel Yap, a graduate from ALMA’s culinary programme in Italy, cooking is as exciting as it is uniting.
“Cooking my own dishes not only makes me feel excited, it also helps to bring the people around me together to have a proper meal and chit chat,” said Daniel adding that he didn’t want a 9-to-5 job where he would be doing the same things every day. Although being in the culinary industry is challenging, the challenges themselves are what makes the job interesting and rewarding.
Together the three of them make up the creative force behind Pop Up Dining KL. They each bring different strengths and skills to the business. “For example one of us handles the marketing and logistics, another handles inquiries and reservation, another handles the menu development and execution.”
All three will brainstorm for new ideas and try to expand Pop Up Dining KL’s scope especially when it comes to finding venues and cafés that fit into their concept.
You Are Where You Eat
The team pays a lot of attention to the venues which they choose to hold a dining event, targeting cafés with interesting and unique décor. Their very first pop up dinner was at Jaslyn Cakes in Bangsar, a small but welcoming café with wood countertops and white walls.
“We are always looking for new ways, concept and venues to create a better and more exciting dining experience not only for us but also to our guests,” said Amanda citing their first pop up brunch was at Project Space in SS15 which floor to ceiling windows allowed lots of natural light, perfectly suited for a mid-morning dining experience.
With all this moving around and irregular hours, there was bound to be some unusual challenges faced by Amanda and her team that most people owning a permanent restaurant would never experience. Pop up dining is not a completely new concept and it’s been around since the 2000s in Europe and the U.S., but in Malaysia, the idea is still very new.
The Pop Up Dining KL team will announce their dining venue (which are within Bangsar, KL, and PJ) and menu via Facebook and Instagram and then reservations can be made via WhatsApp or SMS. You can also inform them of any food restrictions or allergies and the team will do their best to adjust to your needs.
Upon confirmation, you are required to give a 50% non-refundable deposit and the other 50% is paid on the day of dining itself. Seats are limited so reservations will be closed 4 days before the pop up day or when seats are fully booked. Ingredients will be bought a few days prior to the service according to the number of people who have booked a spot.
“Many people don’t know or don’t understand the concept of what ‘pop up dining KL’ is and what we have to offer.” Plus, a changing venue means adapting and managing a new work place all the time. “Every venue is different and most do not have proper kitchen facilities for us to use such as stoves, plates and utensils. But no matter how tough the situation is, we always find a solution wisely and professionally.”
Bringing People Together
Amanda, Miki and Daniel also love interacting with their guests. The lack of discernible names for their dishes (most are merely a list of ingredients) are not just whims of fancy.
“There are few reasons,” the team explained, “One of the reasons is that we want our customers to be surprised when the dishes are presented in front of them. We believe that one of the best way to interact with our guests is to describe our dishes in front of them by telling them a brief story of the dishes and how it is been made. It basically acts as an ice breaker to start a conversation with our guests.”
So far, they have enjoyed every single one of their dining experiences. From being able to witness anniversaries and birthday dinners to guests which are so in-awe with the presentation of the food, having no experience with concept dining.
“After a long day of service, it feels so nice to receive positive feedback knowing that our guest enjoyed what we have to offer and that we are able to put a huge smile on their face and create a remarkable dining experience for them as well.”
If you are an adventurous diner or just want to try a fresh and new dining experience, Pop Up Dining KL is certainly a must-try. It’s a brilliant opportunity to try fine dining with a group of friends and family members and also the perfect chance to meet new people.