THE LITTLE RESTAURANT THAT COULD | Solitaire Magazine

THE LITTLE RESTAURANT THAT COULD

Kausmo, a small 16-seater restaurant, has big dreams when it comes to challenging food wastage

Up on the third level of Shaw Centre, a food revolution is brewing at Kausmo, a restaurant that aims to spark conversation about thoughtful and conscientious ways of living. The star of the show at this dining destination, which is the brainchild of co-founders Lisa Tang and Kuah Chew Shian, and in partnership with the Les Amis Group, are “aesthetically-filtered” produce like overstocked, over-ripened, and oddly-shaped fruits and vegetables.

Kuah Chew Shian and Lisa Tang

While this type of produce might never make the cut at supermarket shelves due to imperfections, the young duo sees through the bumps and bruises. With their culinary know-how, they transform what most people view as rejects into creative dishes with honest, enjoyable flavours.

Tell us more about Kausmo’s early journey.
Chew Sian: When Lisa was working in Primo Restaurant in Maine, USA, the full circle concept of appreciating one’s produce, producers, and land shaped the way she saw food and she started to question what we could do more of in Singapore. Lisa’s experience in Maine prompted our curiosity to find out more about the current food waste situation in Singapore and the scale of it.

After finding out about the various categories of aesthetically-filtered produce, we decided to open a restaurant to start conversations about challenging food norms and waste, and lead by example through small acts of thoughtfulness.

What are the challenges you face in running a restaurant with this concept?
To utilize aesthetically-filtered fruits and vegetables, we constantly face two big challenges. These are:

  1. What is available is changing on a near weekly basis, and therefore we need to adapt our menu to what is available.
  2. Being a small 16-seater restaurant, the amount of ingredients we purchase are considered very little to the importers, and therefore, we do not qualify for free delivery. As such, the hidden cost is in organizing the logistics of things and managing transportation costs.

Kausmo’s pickling area

Brown Butter Mushroom Pate on Almond Crisp, Citrus Seabass Belly & Peppery Rami Nettle, Smoked Tomato Chutney on Thyme-Manchego Tuile

As a concept that’s in partnership with the Les Amis Group, does the group play more of a financial backer role or does it have a say when it comes to the menu creation as well?
While there is an element of financial backing, the Les Amis Group also has an experienced and dedicated team that provides us with support in certain business functions such as accounts and marketing and communications.

That said, we are happy that there is a lot of empowerment when it comes to menu creation. We have free reign on choosing the suppliers we work with as well.

When it came to developing the dishes that would be mainstays on your menu, how does one start?
The only mainstay on the menu is the Wild Fish Congee with native greens, because we wanted to bring a sense of homely comfort to a restaurant dining experience. What better than a hearty bowl of congee that also taps on our heritage!

Even though Lisa has western culinary fundamentals, she has always been keen on better understanding and appreciating her Teochew culinary heritage. Ethically caught wild fish from our tropical waters are used in this dish, and changes based on availability. Native greens like Java Ginseng is also tossed with some preserved plums to add a refreshing vibrancy to the dish.

Wild Fish Congee, Java Ginseng & Coriander tossed with Preserved Plum Dressing

What has working with less-than-perfect produce taught you as chefs and restaurateurs?
We’ve definitely grown so much in our appreciation for our food and Mother Nature. “Less than perfect” is perceived so differently in different eyes and perspectives. We’ve learnt to be less influenced by others’ standards of perfection and more in tune with our senses and creativity to bring out the best in the produce we’re working with.

It has been a few months since Kausmo opened. How has the reception been from Singaporean diners? What are you looking to improve further?
We are almost at our first quarter milestone and our concept has been generally well-received by Singaporean diners. Some of our customers have since decided to embrace little imperfections when shopping for their produce. On top of that, many of our diners are keen to learn more about the various edible weeds, flowers, and plants that thrive in our climate. We are very heartened and encouraged by this!

As we emerge into our second quarter, we hope that more people would be intrigued to try our restaurant. Through our food and stories, we hope to give them some ideas on how they can incorporate thoughtfulness into their lives.

Chipotle-Berry Glazed Wagyu Chuck Tender, Vegetable Jus & Spiced Malabar Spinach

How do you see the Kausmo concept evolving in the near future?
At the moment, as we are still in our infancy stage, we will continue to tackle our weekly challenge of utilising what’s available.

Our hope is that over time, more will come to appreciate the beauty in these imperfect produce and try out different ways to utilise them in its entirety. By changing their perception, we hope that it could lead to less stringent filtering criteria for fruits and vegetables.

We also hope to share and cultivate an appreciation of produce that grows well in our region, so that we may see more people choosing them over what is imported from other countries.

In the longer run, we might venture into other businesses, as thoughtfulness can exist in many other forms besides food.

 

Visit Kausmo at #03-07, Shaw Centre, 1 Scotts Road, Singapore. For more information, visit kausmo.com