KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 13 — Couples often argue about what to do when they go out on a date. Do they watch Fast & Furious 7 or Fantastic Four? Join a game of futsal or a salsa class? For café-hopping duo Sujian Khor and Chris Yap, the only question would be which coffee shop to visit next.
Starting this Saturday though, the pair may not have as much time to café-hop as they will be opening their own shop, whimsically named Wild Sheep Chase. Fans of novelist Haruki Murakami may recognise the name as the title of one his book but close friends of the couple know that Yap affectionately calls Khor his “Sayang” (which in Mandarin sounds like “Silly Sheep”).
I have to admit that I too have often heard this term of endearment passing between the two of them. No, I’m not a stalker; as a fellow café-hopper, I have bumped into Khor and Yap at various coffee shops in town over the years — the now-defunct Third-wave-coffee pioneer RAW Coffee, the siphon specialist Await Café, polished Singaporean transplant Pulp by Papa Palheta — and geeked out on beans and brews with them both.
These are folks who love coffee as much as I do; possibly more, as Yap has experienced KL’s specialty coffee scene in its infancy, back when the only place in town you could get a single origin brew was at Café Olé in Changkat Bukit Bintang.
“It was at Café Olé that I first drank specialty coffee in the Klang Valley,” recalls Yap. “This was about 10 years ago: I had just returned from Australia and was sceptical. I remember ordering a Heineken because I didn’t believe they could make a decent brew!”
Yap eventually returned for subsequent visits and was taken aback by the quality of the coffee. “The owner and I became friends. He was so serious about coffee he had two grinders, one for a light roast and one for dark.”
Trips to Taiwan and Japan ensued to explore the more established specialty coffee and café scene there. Khor says, “We were very inspired by the quality of everything; not just the coffee but also the service. Unlike Aussie or Kiwi hipster cafés, Taiwanese and Japanese cafés have table service. The baristas and servers are polite, informed and warm.”
Inspired by their experiences, Khor and Yap had wanted to open their own café for years. Given the explosion of Third-wave-coffee cafés in Malaysia recently, they decided they needed to stand out.
“We realised we could bring the favourite parts of our café experiences to KL,” says Khor. “Instead of only offering coffee, we would bring desserts to the forefront and make coffee more of an accompaniment. Also, rather than serve cold desserts such as the ubiquitous cheesecake, we want to serve warm desserts, prepared à la minute.”
Wild Sheep Chase’s made-to-order desserts include a molten lava cake (made decadent with a trinity of milk, white and dark chocolate) and fluffy waffles, served with osmanthus-maple syrup and cream whipped with freshly-ground Earl Grey tea leaves.
What they will be known for, though, has to be their signature soufflé made with kampung eggs and vanilla (from real pods, not essence), and served with orange-infused syrup and home-made grapefruit sorbet.
“We’ve adapted the recipe for the soufflé from one by the famous Caldo Café in Taipei,” explains Yap. “In fact, we invited their deputy manager, Huang Hsiu-Ying, down to KL for a few months to help us set up the kitchen.”
Khor adds, “We are first-time café owners and really appreciated her experience in sorting out our operational processes and training our staff. She had fun playing with local ingredients, such as gula Melaka, which we added a hint of in our waffles.”
The beverages at Wild Sheep Chase also bear mentioning. Their creamy Earl Grey milk tea sprinkled with lemon peel is light and floral. Their milk coffee lights up my day: I’ve been looking for decent coffee without any superfluous latte art for ages and finally found it here.
There’s a scene from the film Taipei Exchanges, about a dreamer opening a café out of sheer love of the café experience which describes my joy perfectly: She explains her reason for not adding latte art to her coffee — she wants customers to interpret each individual cup any way they like. Every cup is unique, just like the people she serves.
Which brings us back to Khor and Yap’s Wild Sheep Chase: this isn’t your run-of-the-mill indie café serving specialty coffee. Nor are they a French fine dining restaurant (though one might argue their soufflés are comparable if not better than some in town).
By aspiring to be neither and staying humble, these two dreamers have created a space where one can relax and enjoy some delicate (but not overly precious) desserts. Warm and genuine smiles all around.
Now that’s a dream worth chasing.
Wild Sheep Chase
6-1, Jalan 1/109E, Desa Business Park, Taman Desa, Kuala Lumpur
Open Tues-Sun 12pm-8pm, starting Saturday, August 15