It was one random day when owners Rick and Kit were walking their dogs in downtown Kuala Lumpur. Stumbling past the bright yellow coloured heritage house, an ‘ah-hah’ moment hit them, and they scrambled quickly to find a way to lease the premise.
What do you get when you find a quaint bright yellow heritage house? Joloko.
Fast forward a few months later, and meet Joloko.
The name Joloko might not make sense to you…but it is inspired by Kit’s passion and love for the humble chili. She began growing a variety of chilis in her balcony garden, which included a variety called Jolokia – also known as ghost pepper because…well it’s damn spicy.
Joloko is a labour of love by 4 business partners, who all bring different skills and experiences to the table, and people here in KL are loving it. Shin and Penny are the owners and team behind Chocha and Botak, two lovely establishments in Chinatown. Rick has been in the hospitality line for years, and Kit loves her chilis and food. So, it’s a fantastic combo and a no-brainer for this team.
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The Joloko Experience
It’s early in the evening. The sun begins it descend into the golden hour, and I arrive on Jalan Kamunting. Behind the cluster of trees and plants is a bright yellow heritage house. From the street, it might seem like just another building. But venture inside and you’ll find the quaint Caribbean inspired restaurant named Joloko.
As you enter the restaurant, splashes of wall art fill the scene, all created by tattooist Apoh Apoh. With great tunes and beautiful golden light shining through, I’m ready for my first after-work cocktail.
Now I prefer spirit-centric cocktails, so the bartender cuts right to the chase and recommends the Voodoo Old Fashioned… made using spiced rum and Joloko’s very own house-made pecan liquer. It’s totally got a kick, but makes for the perfect way to start the evening.
Renovations began in April 2018, and it took the team just a few months to get the restaurant up and running. Preserving the color and brightness of the house was so important to the team, and that is very much reflected in the style and design of the restaurant.
The Food Menu at Joloko
In the kitchen is Chef Tim Jay hailing from Chicago. He’s spent over three decades cooking professionally around the world, including a stint in the Middle East where he led the opening of various Cheesecake Factory Restaurants in Kuwait and Qatar, and also was the F&B Director for Novotel in Dubai. The food is inspired by the Caribbean, but doesn’t follow any particular traditional recipes. Rather they are taking influence by the aura, the style, and feeling of being in the Caribbean. When you step into Joloko, for a moment it feels like you’ve just left KL.
Every table is set with a sheet of banana leaf as its placemat. On every setting is the shell of the jicara fruit, which traditionally is used to enjoy your mezcal. The overall setting is simple yet inviting. The menu is not ginormous, but includes a good variety of food and is all created for sharing.
To start us off, we dip into the spinach yoghurt dip, which is the perfect way to start the evening. And it’s secret ingredient? The mescal-soaked raisins – holy yum! And the evening is just getting started.
The guava glazed prawn tostadas is delicious and is a perfect starter to share. The prawn is succulent and sits on a crispy tortilla with fava bean puree and pickled cabbage.
And one of the stars in my eyes was the organic grass-fed oyster blade, which was perfectly grilled to medium. Now I might be a bit bias as I do love my meat… but truly the oyster blade was delicious. It came with a roasted tomato vinaigrette and was great for sharing.
Paired with the main we had a snake bean salad with freekeh and tahini, which was delicious and refreshing with the oyster blade. We also had the Creole spiced eggplant fritters which had the perfect crunch on the outside and was delicate on the inside. And finally, we also had the carnitas, which was tender and its sauce so creamy. It was perfectly paired with the crispy tortilla that it came with.
And just when we thought dinner was over… we all moved to the bar area for dessert and a few rounds of mezcal. A total highlight for dessert was the tequila bites – these goodies have been soaked in tequila and are delicious. Another not to miss is the cheesecake – after all, Chef Tim has spent his fair share of years working with the Cheesecake Factory, so he knows how to make a damn good cheesecake.
Drink, drink, and drink some more
If you love mezcal, then you’re in luck because Joloko has the largest selection of mezcal in town. And the menu does rotate, with a constantly changing supply of mezcal so there’s always something new and exciting.
Rick is crazy about his mezcal and can talk about it in his sleep. What makes Mezcal unique is that it is not aged in a barrel, but rather it’s aged in the ground. Mezcal is made using agave, and you need about 12kgs of agave to make about 1 litre of mezcal. The process of fermented mezcal is all natural, which is fitting in Joloko’s menu.
Rick then introduces us to the Pechuga, which is a special type of Mezcal and is usually traditionally drunk on special occasions. Pechuga varies depending on the distillery and is usually created using old-family recipes. Basically, the mezcal is redistilled using an added ingredient including fruit…or in some cases an animal such as chicken. Curiosity could not hold us back no more and Rick poured us a shot of pechuga infused with chicken and we all cheers’d. Interestingly, it was quite a delicious mezcal.
Annnnd if mezcal is not your thing, there’s a great selection of natural and organic wines to tickle your fancy. The wine list is not typical. It’s filled with a variety of lesser known grape varieties, which makes it all the more special. The team has focused on natural and organic wines from around the world, introducing interesting varieties that pair well with their food.
A highlight includes the orange wine, which basically is made using white grapes fermented with their skin…it’s white wine grapes, done in a red wine style and the result in a beautiful orange coloured glass of wine. This particular glass of orange wine is from Adelaide Hills in Australia, and is made using 5 different grape varities, making it more gentle and easier on the palate.
There is also a good range of German and Austrian whites, which Rick explains goes well with the spicy food in their menu, as the wines are very aromatic.
My favorite though was the glass of Merlot – it’s called Lucy M and made in Adelaide Hills and is 100% merlot…but damn was it different. The owner of Lucy M is a bit rock and roll, so he likes to do things a little bit differently…and the result is a delicious glass of red paired really well with our mains.
I’m hungry for Joloko as I’m writing this, so it is pretty safe to say heck yes it’s definitely a place to visit in Kuala Lumpur.
The team at Joloko are extremely passionate about their offering, and it really shows in the quality of the food and beverage offerings. The atmosphere is fantastic, with great vibes for after-work drinks and dinner.
Currently Joloko is open every day except Mondays from 5pm onwards till late. They plan to open for lunch soon, so watch this space!
Operating Hours: 5pm – late daily; closed Mondays
Address: 43, Jalan Kamunting, Chow Kit, Kuala Lumpur
No compensation was received for this review, however we were guests of Joloko. All opinions remains my own and I only promote products/services that I love.
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