“Taste the passion in all we do.”
“Our primary focus is on the taste. Everything else can wait.”
Our food is about simply presented
wholesome, really flavourful food in a slightly
quirky, family friendly environment.
Our approach to food is that of a parent
cooking with heart, familiar flavours and
generous portions but also with the same
Scroll down for the full response for our Inside Scoop with Burpple
1. Tell us about yourself and why you started Pasta J.
I have been cooking since I was a teenager, first adding lots of condiments in my instant noodles and instant porridge, making them really spicy, salty and tasty! I then started cooking for my girlfriend, now my wife, and tried my hand at more and more dishes. All simple dishes really but I did everything I could to amp up the flavour.
I did a few other things before opening Pasta J, some quite successfully but I gave them up mainly because I got bored with them.
Along the way, I had thought of opening my own restaurant, but I wasn’t serious about it. I eventually was convinced to start Pasta J because of the good feedback for my food from friends and family. I was already 40 years old and I thought that it was now or never to do something.
2. How did you approach building this menu?
At first, it was just a collection of my most popular home-cooked dishes but I had to develop many more to fill in the gaps for a complete menu. I left out dishes that I don’t enjoy, such as salads, as they don’t move me. I’m not one for fancy plating. Instead, I like food that takes a lot of effort to prepare. This is a good way to show your love for someone and the passion that you have. We don’t serve sauces that are prepared upon order. Instead, we spend hours and hours preparing our sauces beforehand for best flavour. I think it tastes better than those that take just minutes to prepare.
3. Your pesto is a big hit. What’s the story behind it?
Well, I had some free time one day and decided to make pesto. I gave it out quite freely and all who tasted it loved it. Someone asked me to sell it, so I did. On the first day of sales, a Ligurian Italian lady told me it was the best pesto she ever had. I was so nervous, I thought she said it was the worst! This was quite significant to me. From what I know of Italian preferences, no one cooks better than their madre or nonna (mother or grandmother); and pesto is their invention! Also, we sold out in less than two hours.
4. What kind of atmosphere did you want to create here?
We want customers to keep an open mind when they come here. We are not your typical Western food establishment. We don’t have salads (they’re overpriced anyway and there is no challenge — how do you cook a salad?), we add cheese only to certain pastas that require it, and we don’t serve the typical pastas, so definitely no Aglio Olio.
We look and dress casual because we want to be unpretentious and we want our guests to be comfortable, but we are more serious than most people about our food. And though we’re dog friendly, for a hygienic environment, we do insist that owners try their best to prevent their dogs from pooping, peeing or disturbing others.
Lest we sound unwelcoming, I have two dogs myself and we tend to serve dogs before humans. We give dogs a bowl of iced water the moment they arrive and I even make my own dehydrated dog treats to give out free, along with free kibbles.
I also want to create an environment of things I like like humour and good music. We have many funny signs all over the restaurant (anything offensive is actually left behind by sneaky customers) and we try to play good music always. On this note, we will be working on an Open Mic Night for music and comedy. Stay tuned!
5. You’re serious about doing things right, like cooking your mushrooms for hours to ensure all the water is cooked out. Tell us why you do this!
Quite simply because I have no choice! Many ingredients taste better when caramelised and most foods taste better when their water content is reduced. Mushrooms in particular have a raw taste that is not ideal. Our Twice Sauteed Shrooms are stir-fried for nearly two hours! In the process, they lose about 70% of their mass and become toasty, nutty, sweeter and chewy. And let’s not forget the many other ingredients we pay such great detail to attention, such as the onions for the Caramel Carnivore. We stir-fry them for three and a half hours. We even pluck the leaves of the basil for our pesto one by one to remove even the tiniest stems. In case you’re wondering, yes, I do have a bit of OCD.
6. If you had to choose just one dish to sell at Pasta J, which would it be and why?
Right now it would be the Break-Up Steak. I won’t be falsely modest here but we do have many, many great dishes. Despite being called Pasta J, our steaks are the most popular and well-reviewed.
The Break-Up Steak is just so tasty and juicy and…………tasty!
7. What’s one thing you wish people knew about your food / restaurant?
That we are not a typical pasta or western food place. We do things differently and are very focused on flavour. We really put in unbelievable amounts of effort in our quest to serve great flavours.
8. Tell us about your craft beers and kegerators.
Well, the OCD in me has me sampling hundreds of beers and rejecting about 95 percent of them. That means we sell only about 5 percent of what we have sampled. We carry beers that fit different preferences and styles.
9. What are the greatest challenges you face in running your own restaurant?
Manpower. It is really sad that far too few young (and older) people these days want to work really hard despite claiming that they have passion for food. Perhaps they’ve been told that if they’re smart, they can hire others to do the heavy lifting for them.
This is so wrong. Humans are not machines with a totally rational response to everything. We are emotional beings operating on vague concepts that include the value of a hard day’s work or heart and soul and effort. We are less when we are lazy, we are less when we don’t strive. No amount of intelligence or cleverness can compensate that.
Maybe people will only work hard in famous restaurants, with short hours, high pay, great benefits, show kitchens (so people know they’re the chef), air-con kitchens, chef whites etc. For these people, I would encourage them to read this article: http://schwarestaurant.com/pdfs/schwa_press_GQ.pdf.
The chef/owner being paid USD6/hour? The cooks USD 4/hour but working super long hours (sleeping three hours a day) in an environment where even the guests sweat? Will that ever happen here?
You see, passion is not something you can turn on and off. Turn on only when the conditions are good and off when they’re not. Passion is when despite lousy pay, lousy kitchen, lousy work hours etc, you still give your heart and soul.
10. What’s your ultimate goal for Pasta J?
If you mean generally, then it is the same goal as I have now — that Pasta J keeps evolving. I have no training or experience prior to Pasta J. There is a lot for me to learn.
Specifically, I want to start producing our own ingredients, such as growing herbs and raising livestock (and maybe livestock feed). At the same time, we also want to make our brand more accessible, so perhaps I will work on quick service restaurant outlets for a pared down dining experience.
Eventually, I want to franchise the brand, hopefully to franchisees who will be incentivised to look after the business.
We also want to sell our soups and sauces on a greater scale. We are already doing that with success but the potential for scaling up is enormous!
On the beverage side, we’re looking to bring in our own craft beers and eventually produce our own beers.
Catering and B2B sauce supply is also being considered. The F&B industry is so varied with so many business models. What we hope to bring to all of it is our high standards.
However, none of this is possible if we don’t have the right people, but those are unfortunately few and far between. So if you are prepared to put in your heart and soul for the long haul, we might be able to do great things together.
What say you?
Must try from our menu:
From the same beef as our beloved Super Striploin but a Ribeye cut instead and 50g more.
Plus it is even Yummier.
Mash contains cream.
Recommended to be served medium rare
Brined for days with our special mixture of salt, vinegar and seasonings, the middle part of our salmon is slightly undercooked and it may be the yummiest you ever had! The pasta is carbonara style but without the cheese and bacon.
Delicious bacon (the more sinful streaky kind) paired with fresh, sweet clams and crunchy prawns in an aromatic EVOO and garlic sauce.
Truly unique flavours that come as a happy surprise because there is no discernible sauce!
Fresh white button mushrooms, caramelised garlic and onions, make this mushroom soup likely the best and most flavourful around.
Made with pressure- cooked big pork bone stock.
Contains cream and flour. Served in a mug
Made from mainly green chilli padi and paired so well with unctuous ethical veal shank, this is the most deeply flavored flow green curry you’ve ever try.
And many more.
Come taste our richer,
stronger specialty coffees;
the better way