Andrew Wong, co-founder of OpenHouse and Dusun, talks about his passion for Malaysian cuisine

The creative director of Bizarre and associates and co-founder of trendy Malaysian restaurants Open day and the new Dusun at BSC talks about his favorite sources of inspiration, his passion for Malaysian food and produce, and how he would really like to spend his day off.

Option : Congratulations on the new Dusun Restaurant at BSC. Tell us what diners can expect from the experience.
Andrew Wang:
We take familiar comfort foods such as pastas, pizzas and sandwiches and give them a local twist, using some of the amazing jungle ingredients we used to use at OpenHouse at KLCC before. We also focus the menu on traditional kampung cooking styles, using APIs (Fire), as quickly as possible (smoke) and bakar (grill).

The decoration is particularly amazing. Tell us what the vision and design process looked like.
Quirk & Associates is our sister company and they were responsible for the design of Dusun. brian [Quirk, design director] and I had traveled to Tulum, Mexico for a birthday and we were inspired by its similarity to Bali and Mykonos in terms of beach clubs and bohemian tropical chic feel.

Dusun is also a restaurant with a social agenda, we believe. Tell us more.
What inspired Brian and me is that we also try to give back through this restaurant. We have a long-term sustainability program in place with the Malaysian Nature Society, as a way to offset our wood burning and reduce the use of plastics where possible. We have also established long-term social partnerships with a few foundations and charities. For example, a portion of the proceeds from the sale of homemade bottled water is donated to a designated cause. We also want to be a more respectful type of operations and aware of the mental health of our employees. I want to clarify that we are not yet a “green” restaurant, as it is difficult to completely phase out chemicals and plastics in our industry. There are a lot of changes to be made and we won’t get there right away, but this is the first of many steps.

What are the main differentiating factors between your two restaurants?
OpenHouse draws its menu ideas from heritage recipes, especially nearly extinct dishes, and our revival. Dusun, meanwhile, is more playful on its menu. But we aim to maintain the traditional kampung cooking methods by using braising and smoking to prepare the dishes.

Why the name Dusun?
“Dusun” means “orchard” in Malay and that makes sense to us, as we see this as the fruitful garden after OpenHouse first rediscovered all of these amazing wild produce for our original menu.

The response to Dusun has been phenomenal with reservations shutting down your website and now only operating on a first come, first served policy. What do you think of all this?
After two years of pandemic-induced stupor and home deliveries, there is an element of people wanting to reconnect over a meal. It is natural human behavior. I know Covid-19 is not yet completely eradicated and we still need to follow the required SOPs, but yes people want to get back to some normalcy in life…whatever the new normal is.

What inspires you?
Travel! It’s my only source of a good jolt while stirring the creative juices. Unfortunately, it’s been two years since I’ve done a real trip. I hope that will change very soon for me.

But now that the world is truly opening up, what will your first port of call likely be?
I would like to go back to a snowy mountain and throw myself on its face while I am on my snowboard. So, I should say Whistler, Canada. It’s the only time I don’t think about work, because I’m completely focused trying not to land on my butt! Plus, the all-white landscape and sensory deprivation combine to work like a filter for me, removing all colors, shapes, and smells. It’s like a detox. And then, with a clear head, I am able to absorb new things.

What are you reading right now?
I read again Snowfall by Neal Stephenson, which I read about 12 years ago. This is the metaverse. And guess what’s the buzzword of the day now?

What are you listening to right now?
Relaxing predominantly electronic music, ideal for unwinding after a long day at work or simply for relaxing.

The F&B industry is notoriously stressful. What are some of your favorite ways to cope and relax?
Besides listening to music with my noise-canceling headphones, I love evenings with friends, where I can just let go and be myself. Also, long hot showers. It’s a great panacea after a hectic day at work.

Where or what do you like to eat outside working hours?
I really like simple food – and also sinful food. There are times when I have a day off and nothing is more satisfying than going to A&W and ordering a Coney Dog. I guess it’s a childhood thing, when it was such a treat to have one as a schoolboy.

Describe your idea of ​​a perfect weekend.
Hiding in Whistler’s apartment. It would be snowing outside while the fireplace crackled inside and I would be in bed with a big bag of crisps in my hand watching horrible morning talk shows.

This article was first published on April 11, 2022 in The Edge Malaysia.