Around Dusun OpenHouse, a hot spot registered firmly in the radar of influencers and KOLs who want to see a unique and unusual background for their content, Andrew Wong strolls and blends perfectly with earthenware pots, mamasan lounge chairs and cut tables rough . Dressed head to toe in her favorite fashion designer Rick Owens, the fashion and graphic design graduate from the University of Miami Art School looked lean and tanned in an olive green T-shirt and brown cargo pants. A pair of sand-colored lace-up boots completed her ensemble while a natural citrine crystal dangled from her neck.
An offshoot of Wong’s other OpenHouse restaurant – a luxurious and very photogenic restaurant located in Suria KLCC – Dusun OpenHouse is located in a discreet corner of Bangsar Shopping Center and is more casual and rustic in terms of decor and cuisine. Focusing on wood-smoked and flame-grilled dishes such as Slow Smoked Lamb Calf, Hell Tiger Prawns and Ember Baked Beef Ribs, this rattan-ceilinged and bamboo-walled restaurant doesn’t take sustainability lightly with locally sourced ingredients just as much as possible while in wood.
The mangroves they use in their grills and ovens are sustainably harvested and offset by donations to the Malaysian Nature Lovers Association for their reforestation program. Furthermore, RM1 for every bottle of filtered drinking water they donate to charities or foundations in turn. Seeing every inch of his style, it’s no surprise to learn that Wong was once Metrojaya’s merchandiser and menswear fashion director and then general manager of Tangs Malaysia before going to Singapore to work at PS Group (now called PS Cafe. ), a fashion turned hospitality group where he earned invaluable experience in operations.
So how does someone from the fickle world of fashion break into the competitive F&B arena? It started in 2012 when space became available in the three-tower luxury condominium The Troika in KLCC. I approached my previous boss Peter Teo of PS Cafe fame in Singapore if he wanted space to open a PS Cafe in KL,” recalls Wong. “He’s too busy growing his little empire in Singapore so I asked if he’d mind if I took the space and opened my own thing.
His own thing turned out to be Acme Bar & Coffee, the hipster cafe serving all-day breakfast and comfort food with freshly brewed coffee in a cosy setting. But during those early days, this initiation into the F&B industry was merely a side-line business as Wong was helping his business partner Brian Quirk in a design firm doing branding for their lifestyle clients.
Just then Quirk, co-founder with Wong of the Hospitality by Acme group which owns Dusun OpenHouse appears, apologising for being late and excusing himself for feeling out of sorts due to a recent bout of flu. Quirk arrived in Malaysia on transit to Bangkok while on a fellowship to study traditional South-East Asian Architecture, having studied it at Tulane University in New Orleans.
I ended up here by accident as I couldn’t get a flight to Bangkok,” Quirk says, slightly stoic but warms up after a shot of double espresso. He initially planned to stay for only six weeks but ended up working for Badan Warisan Malaysia (Malaysian Heritage Trust) and that was 31 years ago, a detour he himself would admit was unplanned. The idea for both Quirk and Wong’s newest F&B venture germinated when both of them learnt about local produce and jungle-foraged ingredients while developing and creating dishes for OpenHouse KLCC.
The genesis of a lot of our ingredients come from OpenHouse even though the menu is completely different,” Wong discloses. “One thing we did at Dusun was to use traditional kampung cooking techniques with mangrove wood fire.” The result is of course nothing short of mouth-watering, with a new menu just launched last month. The way Dusun differs from OpenHouse KLCC is that the former is more casual and relaxed while the latter is classic and traditional, with recipes sourced from the National Heritage Board (National Heritage Board).
There are more than 200 recipes gazetted as national heritage dishes at the National Heritage Department which they shared with us,” revealed Wong. The country’s edible treasures include dishes such as Kulim Butter Crouton Fisherman’s Soup (a clear mixed seafood soup with sea grapes and bamboo starfish with added butter croutons for an up-to-date taste), Kantan Sambal Umbut Grilled Octopus (josper grilled squid marinated with chili). , shrimp tempeh, palm sugar, torch ginger pulp and fresh lime) and Pajari Bua Amra (Ambarella cooked with coconut milk chili, curry powder and crackling).