November 4, 2015
In feudal Japan, ronins were masterless samurais who had fallen out of favour & were doomed to disgrace. But in modern-day Malaysia, the Coolinary Ronins represent a gastronomic strike force that's on the rise - this collective of current & former restaurateurs, chefs & baristas has banded together to carve a new niche for themselves & challenge the boundaries of what the public can expect from Malaysia's most intrepid F&B innovators, promising plenty of fun, thrills & surprises in the process.
Their kitchen knives are their swords, their aprons are their armour: The enigmatic Coolinary Ronins, who insist on anonymity for now (but who've been instrumental in shepherding high-profile restaurants from Bangsar to Changkat Bukit Bintang & Mont Kiara) unleashed their opening salvo this year as a pop-up kitchen on Fri-Sat at Damansara Uptown's The Great Beer Bar, but their stint there will end Nov. 30. If you'd like an early peek at their potential, visit the bar this month for singular creations like the Malaysian-Mexican quixotic quesadillas (RM14) - folded tortillas filled with mutton varuval, layered with mayo, mango chutney & cheddar cheese, commandingly flavourful while still distinctively nuanced enough to deliver a dynamic impression.
The Ronins are people after our own heart - they adore offal too, & their fetishes are unmasked in the dim sum basket of bao-styled steamed mantao stuffed with ox tripe, tongue, lung & meat in Chinese soy sauce (RM10; nicknamed 'bovine harakiri'); bak-chang glutinous rice dumplings wrapped in bamboo leaves & studded with pieces of pope's nose, duck sausage (or 'ngap cheong') & duck fat, tinged with Straits Settlements' sambal serai spices (RM8); & gyoza packed with a Franken-fowl blend of chicken meat, duck meat & crunchy duck gizzard, laced with salt & chilli flakes, accompanied by black vinegar sauce with ginger (RM12). Every dish is expertly tuned, with memorably robust dimensions that put a fresh spin on familiar local flavours.
Versatility is a strong suit of the Ronins - meat-free options are no obstacle; our top recommendation from their repertoire may be the vegetarian sliders, showcasing eryngii mushrooms with a juicy bite, pulled & pan-seared, sauteed in home-made spicy BBQ sauce, crowned with coleslaw in wholemeal buns, served with an unexpected accompaniment of dehydrated jackfruit pulp, flash-fried & lightly salted to function as sweet-savoury crisps - an ingenious display of talent (RM10). But for mindless munching, order a packet of popcorn, sweetly infused with Gula Melaka caramel & toasted dessicated coconut 'kerisik' (RM5).
The Coolinary Ronins have cool ambitions - in the next two years, they hope to help budding F&B aspirants take charge of their dishes & their destiny, making the leap to become warriors in the Klang Valley's bone-crushing F&B landscape. There's not much more that can be revealed for now, as ronins are so often shrouded in secrecy, but if you'd like to contact the collective for collaborations, email [email protected] - many thanks to the Ronins for having us over their sanctum.
Pop-up kitchen at The Great Beer Bar, Damansara Uptown, on Fridays & Saturdays only until November 30.
Available for collaboration & consultation by request: [email protected]
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