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NIKO NEKOxOMAKASE+APPRECIATE



INTERVIEW WITH SHAWN CHONG OF OMAKASE+APPRECIATE



NIKO NEKOxOmakase + Appreciate



Introduction to Omakase + Appreciate



01

Your bar name is rather unique, with a twist of Japanese and western elements in it. How did the bar name Omakase + Appreciate (O+A) come about?

I opened up the bar with my partner, Karl. He and I have different bartending styles and tried to incorporate that. He is more to the western methods while I am influenced by the Japanese technique. At the same time, we customize almost each cocktail for every guest. So hopefully when you do “omakase” with us, you will appreciate the drink and the experience.



02

Why did you choose O+A to be a cocktail bar?

Karl and I are cocktail bartenders. It was only natural.



03

What is your view on the cocktail culture now in Malaysia?

The cocktail culture is definitely developing and is partly the reason I set up RAD Impressions with a couple of other partners as there are a lot of people curious to learn about cocktails.



INTERVIEW WITH SHAWN CHONG OF OMAKASE+APPRECIATE



file 1

INTRODUCTION TO OMAKASE + APPRECIATE




01



Your bar name is rather unique, with a twist of Japanese and western elements in it. How did the bar name Omakase + Appreciate (O+A) come about?


I opened up the bar with my partner, Karl. He and I have different bartending styles and tried to incorporate that. He is more to the western methods while I am influenced by the Japanese technique. At the same time, we customize almost each cocktail for every guest. So hopefully when you do “omakase” with us, you will appreciate the drink and the experience.

02



Why did you choose O+A to be a cocktail bar?


Karl and I are cocktail bartenders. It was only natural.

03



What is your view on the cocktail culture now in Malaysia?


The cocktail culture is definitely developing and is partly the reason I set up RAD Impressions with a couple of other partners as there are a lot of people curious to learn about cocktails.



file 2

THE BARTENDER SHAWN CHONG



01



Do tell us about your journey and story behind your bartending career; the early days, how you ventured into bartending, competitions, owning bars, and what you do now. 


I started off in the hospitality industry with my first job at Hilton Kuala Lumpur. Began with the poolside and fine dining restaurants and eventually moved to the bar. It is with Hilton that I joined competitions and that was the start of my bartending career so-to-speak. I’ve been competing from 2009 to 2015. I opened Omakase + Appreciate in 2013 which was the first speakeasy cocktail bar in KL. That’s still running and last year, I setup a new company called RAD Impressions that focuses on cocktail and spirit education.

02




How did your view of bartending change when you became a bar owner and businessman as to working as an employed bartender back then?


Major difference. When you’re an employed bartender, the focus is very much to ensure the operations is managed well. As a bar owner and a businessman however, you are forced to think about all aspects of the business that revolves around the bar. From admin work to operations and even maintenance, everything you have to take care of yourself as there is no support team/department. Most importantly, business is business and managing numbers is the one thing that is considered at every point of the business.

03




What does ‘cocktail’ mean to you, and what does it personally represents you as a bartender?


Cocktail is a craft. It allows bartenders like myself to express ourselves creatively in a glass. But more than anything, a cocktail is just a choice of drink that people have when they go out to have a good time. It’s a tool to create happiness for other people.

04



In your personal opinion and experience, what is the most important thing in preparing an excellent glass of cocktail?


Balance is important. But listening to a guest request and meeting that requirement is as important. Cocktails do not need to be complicated to achieve that.



file 3

COCKTAIL CREATING PROCESS



01



How do you normally come up with a cocktail recipe when dealing with a new ingredient? What is the process like?


I usually start with a flavour or ingredient I wish to champion and then I select a classic cocktail recipe that could possibly work well to incorporate the ingredient.

02



How adventurous are you in terms of trying out new ingredients? What is the most unique ingredient you have used before to make a cocktail? What cocktail did you make with it?


Being adventurous has its moments. Maybe when I’m inspired by a fruit I have never seen before. I have used savoury ingredients like tom yam paste and soy sauce before which I usually incorporate into a Bloody Mary inspired cocktail.



file 4

MATCHA + COCKTAIL



01



Matcha is still considered new in the bar industry. How did you get the idea of using Matcha for your cocktail in the first place?


I have always like using tea in cocktails and always find ways to incorporate different types in my drinks. And since Matcha is a popular tea flavour in Japanese desserts, it was a natural inspiration.

02



What kind of flavour or ingredients best compliment Matcha for cocktails?

I’m not sure exactly what flavours as I have yet to experiment extensively with Matcha. However, dessert flavours are safe flavour pairings with Matcha.

03



How is Niko Neko Matcha different from the Matcha you have used before?

Niko Neko is very high quality, that is for sure. Niko Neko offers aromas and fragrance that I have not come across in other Matcha teas. The YURI / Matcha is floral and fresh, in my opinion.

04



Tell us more on the Matcha cocktails you’ve made with Niko Neko Matcha, and how did you come up with those.

Currently there is one that I am featuring in O+A called Ma Neko Spritz which is a mix of YURI / Matcha, gin, elderflower, lemon and soda. (December 2017)



file 5

EDUCATION + COCKTAIL



01



You were once a lecturer in Sunway University. Did your experience as a lecturer open a new perspective in bartending?

Yes, it is with this experience that I thought I could run my own education center. Paired with my expertise in cocktails and spirits, I decided to be more specific in my teachings and that was how RAD Impressions was born.

02



You do conduct bartender courses under RAD Academy; your venture in the education side of bartending.  Tell us more about RAD Academy.

There are 3 courses being run:

  • The Whisky Academy by William Grant & Sons is a whisky certification program.
  • RAD Bartender Course catered to anyone who wants to learn the basics of bartending.
  • Cocktail Workshops are hassle-free workshops for consumers, usually themed.

03



Why is it important for you to organize such courses and trainings not only for people in the industry but to the public consumers?

Simple. Responding to demand. The reason RAD Impressions came to life is because there has been consumers who were curious to learn and to know more. Consumers want to be educated, just as much as the industry if they have the interest. And at the same time, as the industry matures, so do the consumers.



file 6

FUTURE + AMBITION



01



What is your future plan for Omakase + Appreciate and Rad Impression?

For O+A, it’s just to keep on mixing great drinks for our guests.

As for RAD Impressions, it would to be to continue developing new avenues for people to learn about beverage.

02



What’s your ambition in the future of Malaysia’s cocktail industry?

My ambition is just for Malaysia to have consistent cocktails at most establishments, at least in the main cities. And this can be done with education.

FIN





THE BARTENDER SHAWN CHONG



Image
01

Do tell us about your journey and story behind your bartending career; the early days, how you ventured into bartending, competitions, owning bars, and what you do now. 

I started off in the hospitality industry with my first job at Hilton Kuala Lumpur. Began with the poolside and fine dining restaurants and eventually moved to the bar. It is with Hilton that I joined competitions and that was the start of my bartending career so-to-speak. I’ve been competing from 2009 to 2015. I opened Omakase + Appreciate in 2013 which was the first speakeasy cocktail bar in KL. That’s still running and last year, I setup a new company called RAD Impressions that focuses on cocktail and spirit education.




Cocktail is a craft. It allows bartenders like myself to express ourselves creatively in a glass.” 

Shawn Chong



OMAKSE + APPRECIATE


ADDRESS
Ampang Bangunan Ming Annexe, Jalan Ampang, Kuala Lumpur

02

How did your view of bartending change when you became a bar owner and businessman as to working as an employed bartender back then?

Major difference. When you’re an employed bartender, the focus is very much to ensure the operations is managed well. As a bar owner and a businessman however, you are forced to think about all aspects of the business that revolves around the bar. From admin work to operations and even maintenance, everything you have to take care of yourself as there is no support team/department. Most importantly, business is business and managing numbers is the one thing that is considered at every point of the business.



03

What does ‘cocktail’ means to you, and what does it personally represents you as a bartender?

Cocktail is a craft. It allows bartenders like myself to express ourselves creatively in a glass. But more than anything, a cocktail is just a choice of drink that people have when they go out to have a good time. It’s a tool to create happiness for other people.


04

In your personal opinion and experience, what is the most important thing in preparing an excellent glass of cocktail?

Balance is important. But listening to a guest request and meeting that requirement is as important. Cocktails do not need to be complicated to achieve that.





COCKTAIL MAKING PROCESS



Image
01

How do you normally come up with a cocktail recipe when dealing with a new ingredient? What is the process like?

I usually start with a flavour or ingredient I wish to champion and then I select a classic cocktail recipe that could possibly work well to incorporate the ingredient.


02

How adventurous are you in terms of trying out new ingredients? What is the most unique ingredient you have used before to make a cocktail? What cocktail did you make with it?

Being adventurous has its moments. Maybe when I’m inspired by a fruit I have never seen before. I have used savoury ingredients like tom yam paste and soy sauce before which I usually incorporate into a Bloody Mary inspired cocktail.





Matcha + Cocktail



Image
01

Matcha is still considered new in the bar industry. How did you get the idea of using Matcha for your cocktail in the first place?

I have always like using tea in cocktails and always find ways to incorporate different types in my drinks. And since Matcha is a popular tea flavour in Japanese desserts, it was a natural inspiration.


02

What kind of flavour or ingredients best compliment Matcha for cocktails?

I’m not sure exactly what flavours as I have yet to experiment extensively with Matcha. However, dessert flavours are safe flavour pairings with Matcha.



03

How is Niko Neko Matcha different from the Matcha you have used before?

Niko Neko is very high quality, that is for sure. Niko Neko offers aromas and fragrance that I have not come across in other Matcha teas. The YURI / Matcha is floral and fresh, in my opinion.


04

Tell us more on the Matcha cocktails you’ve made with Niko Neko Matcha, and how did you come up with those.

Currently there is one that I am featuring in O+A called Ma Neko Spritz which is a mix of YURI / Matcha, gin, elderflower, lemon and soda. (December 2017)





The Education + Cocktail



Image
01

You were once a lecturer in Sunway University. Did your experience as a lecturer open a new perspective in bartending?

Yes, it is with this experience that I thought I could run my own education center. Paired with my expertise in cocktails and spirits, I decided to be more specific in my teachings and that was how RAD Impressions was born.


02

You do conduct bartender courses under RAD Academy; your venture in the education side of bartending.  Tell us more about RAD Academy.

Yes, I conduct a bar course that was developed by myself. RAD Academy is an education center focusing on cocktail and spirit education. It will soon open up to the beverage a whole. Currently there are 3 courses being run:

  • The Whisky Academy by William Grant & Sons is a whisky certification program.
  • RAD Bartender Course catered to anyone who wants to learn the basics of bartending.
  • Cocktail Workshops are hassle-free workshops for consumers, usually themed.


03

Why is it important for you to organize such courses and trainings not only for people in the industry but to the public consumers?

Simple. Responding to demand. The reason RAD Impressions came to life is because there has been consumers who were curious to learn and to know more. Consumers want to be educated, just as much as the industry if they have the interest. And at the same time, as the industry matures, so do the consumers.




Future + Ambition



Image
01

What is your future plan for Omakase + Appreciate and Rad Impression?

For O+A, it’s just to keep on mixing great drinks for our guests.

As for RAD Impressions, it would to be to continue developing new avenues for people to learn about beverage.



02

What’s your ambition in the future of Malaysia’s cocktail industry?

My ambition is just for Malaysia to have consistent cocktails at most establishments, at least in the main cities. And this can be done with education.


FIN

"Cocktail is a craft. It allows bartenders like myself to express ourselves creatively in a glass." 

Shawn Chong