Reinventing Japanese food with Chef Jeff Ramsey of Babe
Mention Japanese food and one thinks immediately of the staple sushi on a conveyor belt and sashimi on an ice-boat. That is exactly the impression Michelin-star Chef Jeff Ramsey is trying to get rid of with his new restaurant Babe here in Kuala Lumpur when it officially opens on 20 November.
Babe serves up Japanese cuisine but with a twist. Instead of sushi and sashimi, expect ‘japas', a clever idea of Japanese tapas conceived by Ramsey that serves small-plate Japanese dishes izakaya-style but brought up a notch in terms of the quality of the ingredients, execution and of course, the fun element.
“There’s a trend amongst, even Michelin star chefs, to do away with the formalities and be able to offer the wider public a chance to have nice food in a casual environment,” explains Ramsey of the approach. “We’re not casual like a café – we’re slightly upmarket and we give a lot of respect to the ingredients. We’re calling it fun dining, not fine dining.“
We got him to tell us more about the new place that will take up residence at the pool deck of BE Urban.
A restaurant that’s fun
If Ramsey’s own personality is anything to go by, Babe looks set to be a very playful and cheeky establishment that serves up innovative Japanese dishes with a big side of fun. This was after all, a restaurant whose chef came for this interview donning plastic red-rimmed sunglasses and an electric guitar slung across his front, ready to rock.
“I’m a big magic fan. I’m an amateur magician. I am very playful and a lot of that is translated into my food. I want a lot of interaction at the table. We also will be changing the menu to our heart’s content, so there’s always something new.”
A restaurant that’s innovative
Deconstructed food is the hearbeat of the menu, like the Caesar salad that is actually pureed romaine lettuce frozen into a semisphere. Another dish that will start conversations is the 'manga' crab (pictured above), a soft shell crab served halved on a beautiful imagery of the Japanese manga comic slash. There's also the 'tuna' sashimi that’s actually well-marinated tomato and our favourite, the coconut bacon – dehydrated coconut that has the crunch, taste and texture of real bacon.
“The ideas for the menu are tweaked, borrowed, reinvented from various inspirations during my travels but they are all my own. I do keep abreast of all the techniques that are in trend but these all came from me.”
A restaurant that’s healthy
As fun and appetising as the food looks, each dish still remains healthy, to reflect the BE Urban wellness spa that Babe is actually a part of. Vegetarian options are aplenty but they don’t dull in comparison to the non-vegetarian options in the slightest. Babe is a place that knows how to make healthy things taste good.
“The idea is to show, like the Babe logo, that there is a duality. Bad and good, good and evil. Come here and indulge, drink, that’s the poison. The next morning you come for the rejuvenation therapy and balance things out. I like the imagery of the devil versus the angel. It is fun, frivolous and sexy.”
A restaurant that’s made in KL
Babe is only the start for Ramsey. A chance encounter with Datuk Jared Lim and Datin Dian Lee led him to open up his first original restaurant here in Kuala Lumpur but he already has his eyes set on many other parts of the world.
“KL is a great food city. It’s still affordable and it’s a growing city. It is conveniently located to the rest of Asia and down to Australia as well. The idea is to make Babe a KL-brand and branch out to the rest of the world.”
Babe will be officially opening its doors to the public on 20 November 2015. Visit its official Facebook page here for more information or if you have any reservation enquiries.
Looking to explore more Japanese fare? Here are 5 Japanese places to go that serve more than just sashimi and sushi.