Fresh and healthy seafood restaurant at Pavilion Bukit Jalil
Seafood has never been my first meal choice. Maybe not even second, or third. The only time I look for it is when I’m eating sushi, and even then my palate is limited to various fish, shrimp or crab.
So imagine my surprise on a trip to Bukit Jalil Pavilion to try a 4-month-old healthy fresh seafood restaurant, Nelayankuchanged my perspective.
The place is brightly lit and mostly bright white, giving the impression that you are entering a sterile, health-oriented environment.
While these aren’t necessarily descriptors you would assign to seafood, they are very much in line with what Nelayanku wants to achieve. It aims to provide customers with an accessible place to enjoy fresh, healthy and natural seafood dishes without paying extra.
There are also blue bubble accents used to highlight its sea-themed design, as well as wave-like decals on its glass walls and a huge 3D Finding Nemo mural that was hand-painted for RM50K .
It was a quieter night when we visited, so we were seated quickly and given the menu, which was quite extensive in terms of fish dishes.
We went there with the recommendations of the Nelayanku team, and while waiting for our dishes, we met Raymond Tea, the restaurant’s founder.
He took to aquaculture like a fish to water
This isn’t Raymond’s first rodeo, it turned out. He has worked in the aquaculture industry since 2001 and founded Aqua Ceria Group, an aquaculture industry group of companies, and DTS Home Mart, an online seafood marketplace that supplies hotels. and 5-star restaurants, including Nelayanku now, along the way. .
Altogether, under its wing (or should we say end?) are fish farms, animal feed supply, seafood processing and sourcing, seafood trade and export la mer, the online retail sale of fresh, frozen and ready-to-cook/eat/heat seafood products.
His lifelong love and passion for the aquaculture and seafood industry seem futile as he grew up in a fishing village.
There he often savored fresh seafood. It was fished by his grandfather, who was at sea from dawn to dusk, and cooked into soup by his grandmother. Whenever he was in the kitchen, young Raymond observed his grandmother’s skills.
Those memories live on in him, now shared with the rest of us in every bowl of fish soup served by Nelayanku.
The restaurant prides itself on its pure, natural and healthy fish bone broth, without MSG, simmered for 8 hours. Almost every soup or sauce dish on the menu is built on this foundation.
From there, the team got creative with the golden soup (pumpkin mixed into the classic soup base), curry and asam pedas broths, to name a few.
We tried the Fisherman Golden Soup, curry and asam pedas dishes for main, and every bite was tasty. The fish meat that simmered in each broth was tender and as juicy as fish meat can get, but had no “fishy” smell or aftertaste at all.
Fun fact: The giant grouper used in some dishes was the 2018 champion when the team submitted it to an annual local competition called Fish King – Giant Grouper Tasting Contest (translated from Mandarin). There, a fish has its external measurements taken, then is brought into the kitchen to be slaughtered for a nutritional breakdown test. It is then boiled without any other additives for the judges to taste. If he satisfies in all categories, there is a good chance of winning.
For accompaniments, we tried the three versions of Fish Skewers (beware, the hot and spicy one is really spicy), Myfisherman Wing (think chicken wings but with fish pectoral fin meat), Fish Otak- Otak (cubed) and Golden Right Leg (breaded and fried shrimp shells with legs).
While Nelayanku’s main courses are more familiar comfort food, some of these side dishes underscore the restaurant’s dedication to incorporating seafood into recipes where it is rarely seen.
Beyond that, they are also committed to maximizing every part of the fish possible.
Everything is fish that comes to its net
Fish meat goes into a variety of dishes, dried swim bladders are the delicacy of fish maw, fish heads are used in curries, steamed or put into soup, and bones are key of their classic fish bone broth base. .
The scales are also essentially made edible here. To be more specific, fish scales are processed to extract their collagen, which is then used to make jellies in different flavors. When we tried them, we were surprised that there was no trace of fish.
Unlike agar-agar or gelatin, these literally melt at room temperature. Thus, they must be kept frozen until consumption to retain their initial firmness.
“We tried to make products from fish scales five years ago. We boiled it, boiled it twice, simmered it overnight, all failed, failed, failed. They were fishy and didn’t have a nice texture,” Raymond recalls.
It wasn’t until last year that they finally got the desired result that we tasted that night, but they will continue to improve on its nutritional value, flavors and more.
A question in the back of my mind as we dined and chatted was, why do they go the extra mile to serve this variety of seafood dishes?
On the one hand, aquaculture is not easy. While most factors can be controlled with SOPs, rearing live organisms always comes with sudden challenges that could disrupt an entire supply.
Even after a successful batch, there is no guarantee that it will sell well. “When the market is good, there is no problem [for selling]. Sometimes there is even a shortage of fish, and the price will go up,” Raymond told us.
“But when there is an oversupply of fish, the price goes down, sometimes even below your cost of production.”
These market inconsistencies prompted Raymond to create Nelayanku, in order to regain some semblance of control over the supply chain. He shared that their catchphrase was like “we don’t sell fish like fish anymore, we sell fish like food”.
By establishing his own supply and demand network, he envisions a day when he will no longer be dependent on middlemen, which will benefit his business (contained costs, for example), his customers (seafood consistent quality) and their associated fishers (guaranteeing to sell at fair prices for better livelihoods).
Simply put, Raymond is in a position where he knows the ups and downs of the industry like the back of his hand. Doing his best to ensure that the potential of the products is maximized is therefore the right way to really appreciate the amount of effort that the stakeholders, including himself, have put into ensuring the production of seafood products. quality.
You have to bait the hook to catch the fish
By the end of our 2 hour tour, I was convinced that Raymond’s passion was evident in every decision he made.
Although Nelayanku brings another source of income to the entrepreneur, his dedication and goals go far beyond that, so much so that it is almost wrong to call Nelayanku just another seafood restaurant.
Raymond and his team embody the fighting spirit of fishermen who go out to sea every day without knowing where the fish is, or the assurance of a good catch. Yet anglers remain driven by the sheer determination to do their best.
Likewise, Nelayanku is trying to turn a niche into something more widely accepted in Malaysia’s urban F&B scene. Some of their products even attempt to challenge the boundaries of what we normally think of as edible.
Considering the years of R&D the team has put into making them not only palatable, but also delicious, it’s clear that the phrase “give up” is not in their dictionary. Instead, they work to educate customers.
“Life is like the ocean”, quotes the restaurant’s menu, and if we ever needed a moment of respite from the vagaries of life, Nelayanku is an anchor in the middle of the city, ready to welcome us with warm and comforting fish. bone broth.
- Learn more about Nelayanku here.
- Learn more about Malaysian F&B startups here.