Food & Drink



Taman Tun: Together in food

Behind the myriad cafes, restaurants and pubs in TTDI lies a community that truly cares about the food they eat, and the food they serve

by / Published: 15 Sep 2014

Taman Tun: Together in food
Words Rachel Fong
Photos Andrew Chan


It is now dotted with eateries and watering holes by both the big boys and the budding entrepreneurs, but just a few decades ago, the commercial and residential hub known as Taman Tun Dr Ismail, or Taman Tun for short, was but a piece of rubber estate.

Like many towns in the Klang Valley, it continues to flourish and evolve. During our interviews with the faces behind the venues, we soon discovered the one thing that really sets Taman Tun apart: community.
From the fast-paced world of IT to the even more highstrung realm of F&B service — that has been Rishi Vetti’s trajectory. Upon deciding that this is his true passion, the founder of dog-friendly pub The Pound quit his day job and threw himself wholeheartedly into setting up his first F&B outlet without any background in culinary arts.
It was akin to diving into ice cold water without taking swimming lessons. That was 2013. Flash forward to nearly a year and a half later, and The Pound is not only above sea level, but coasting stably along as well.
Part of it can most certainly be attributed to Rishi, who describes himself as “straight up, approachable, easygoing and always looking on the bright side of things.”
This pluckiness has led to the successful inception of a venue that encourages guests to visit with their canine companions, and has a menu that consistently receives glowing reviews.
“I’ve had expatriates who have been here for ten to 15 years, and they would tell me my burgers are  among the top ten or even top five in the country, and you know that’s obviously a very great  compliment to me,” he says, chattering away excitedly. 
Why the name Table Talk? When co-founders Carine Fong, Kam Tsang Ming and Raymond Tan met, they shared an ideal.
Being inhabitants of Taman Tun, they detected a gap in the local F&B scene for a cosy dining spot where families and friends could enjoy good food and actually talk to each other at the tables, instead of fiddling with their smartphone apps like so many are wont to do these days. Thus, Table Talk was born.
The fact that each of the founders comes from wholly different backgrounds makes their meeting and shared vision even more serendipitous. Carine Fong, a Malaysian, had flown to Switzerland 20 years ago to pursue a degree in hospitality.
Her time there proved more fruitful than initially expected, for she soon met her future husband and business partner, Hong Kong native Kam Tsang Ming, who was working in a Chinese kitchen there.
Nine years ago, Carine and Kam made the decision to carve out a life in Malaysia, and opened their first restaurant in Taman Tun together.
After the initial stumble, Table Talk finally found a clear direction. “Kam is good at fusing Western and Eastern, and his signature became pasta made with Asian elements,” says Carine.
The menu has gotten a revamp just in time for September, and with it comes more of what Kam is good at. Diners, new and old, can now sink their teeth into the tom yum pasta, or the chicken chop spaghetti.
There are plenty of Penangites who take their trade to the bustling city in hopes of making a pretty penny off worldrenowned, authentic Penang food. While Pickle and Fig’s boyish-faced cofounders Pang Jia Woei and Ken H’ng indeed hail from the Northern state, they did not bring with them recipes of the soupy noodles or street food variety, but rather a healthy, clean-eating approach.
Smoothies were what the boys had in mind at first. They had a plan to set up a kiosk selling them in a shopping complex, but without an influential name and plush funds behind them, the odds were stacked against them.
Back to the drawing board it was.
Finally they decided to add more variety to their menu in the forms of paninis, sandwiches and coffee, and made Taman Tun their home.
At the beginning, it was just Starbucks and us, and only after that did you see the other cafes. I think the demand is more than the supply, which is why you now see so many cafes mushrooming here,” Pang says.
We make sure our coffee is good, but our first priority is the food. We tend to market our paninis and smoothies more,” explains Ken.
This is, after all, what keeps Pickle and Fig head and shoulders above the competition. Some of their signature smoothies are the Goji-me, Avocado Dates, and Banana Licks, which merges Horlicks with bananas.
Azlan and Dianne, who serve as head barista and head chef of The Grumpy Cyclist, are a highly engaging pair to hold a conversation with.
In their own words, they are constantly “dying for someone to talk to us!” Perhaps it is this candour and approachability that have helped The Grumpy Cyclist to become one of the leading cafes in Taman Tun, after a little less than two years.
One of the most common running jokes with The Grumpy Cyclist is that, in spite of its name, the people behind it are anything but grouches.
“We love people in general, communicating and exploring,” says Azlan, which is why it’s not an uncommon sight to see the staff mingling with their customers.
“We can just sit down with them and start talking to them about random things, about life.” It’s all part of the shared, unofficial vision held by the souls that keep The Grumpy Cyclist moving — a hub, where the barriers are deconstructed as much as possible, and people can come together and be a part of something.
The original Grumpy Cyclist is none other than one of the café’s founders, Alex Iskandar Liew. Being in his late forties, his seniority affords him an air of cynicism towards life in general; a sort of jadedness.
Also, as much as he loves cycling, Malaysian traffic isn’t quite developed for it yet, causing Alex to have to endure limited routes or, worse, precarious ones.
Under the hot rays of the local sun, with cars and motorcycles cutting relentlessly into the improvised cycling lane and giving you a scare, it’s easy to see why cycling in public wouldn’t equip you with the friendliest of dispositions. That was before though.
“He’s getting younger and younger every day,” declares Azlan. We venture that it must be the joy of running something he truly has a passion for, and they do not disagree.
Want to know more about TTDI’s food scene? Read the full feature in Expatriate Lifestyle September 2014. Available at selected newsstands and major bookstores today! 
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