From the team that brought us Chocha Foodstore and JOLOKO, Rick Joore, Kit Yin Chan, Shin Chang and Penny Ng have teamed up to reanimate the childhood memory of visiting an ice cream parlour. Their latest venture is all in the details, from the interior, music and colour play down to even the texture of the bench, everything is designed to bring you the ultimate experience.
“It was just something for all of us to look forward to doing, in terms of creativity during the pandemic. It was quite nice to have an opportunity to work on something again together. It was also thinking about a nice concept that could cheer people up at a time like this.” Here, Kit (Marketing Director) and Shin (architect, co-founder of MentahMatter Designs) share about their latest venture and how Licky Chan is not your typical ice cream place.
What is the story behind Licky Chan?
This project is quite dear to me and to all of us – Rick, Shin, Penny, our chefs and the operations team.
Initially, we had a completely different concept in mind for the space because of the pandemic. Chef Brian brought the idea to us about opening a tattoo studio and we had a lightbulb moment where we thought, “Hell yeah, tattoos and ice cream!”
And the name. So, my partner’s name is Rick, my surname is Chan. It’s been a running joke that he will take my family name and my parents call him Ricky Chan. A friend of ours was teaching him how to write his name in Chinese and you know how the Chinese pronounce Rick as “Lick”, that’s how it came about!
Idea and concept
We want to break the conventions of a typical visit to an ice cream parlour. At Licky Chan, you can get your ice cream, a glass of wine if you want, and get a tattoo by-the-way. We want everyone to get excited to explore the space, very much the same joy as you would experience as a child
Suppliers & Partners to highlight
Nomad Farm in Pahang for their milk and skyr, one of the few in Malaysia who rear grass-fed cows. Milk is squeezed fresh and sent straight to Licky Chan’s kitchen.
Fictionist Studio for conceptualising the design and brand identity of Licky Chan
What is the experience you want guests to have when they step inside?
Reimagine a visit to the ice cream parlour
The vision for this space is playing with geometry and bold colours. Inspired by renowned Mexican architect, Luis Barragán, his work emphasises on colour, light, shadow, geometric form and texture. This is what inspired me, and out of a respect for his work.
Step inside and experience the old shophouse’s original structure which we maintained, and constructed different playground-like spaces – like the bench area where anyone can draw on, the colourful ball pit, and the outdoor brick area is all about playing with elevation with a playground element. We just want everyone who comes in here to play around and feel like they’re a kid. The music is a tribute to the late 80s and 90s specially curated for the babies born of the same year (we are) with a modern element injected into it.
We want to surprise and provoke through flavour and design.
Is there any difference in opening a business post-pandemic lockdowns (or during) and what made you guys decide to open at this time?
*Licky Chan was opened in the midst of a partial pandemic lockdown
We’d rented this space since 2020 and we needed to do something with it in due time. Our chef, Brian, approached us and said he wanted to open a tattoo studio and we thought hey, what would be really nice to go with tattoos? Ice cream! That’s basically how the concept, R&D, and rendering of the space started about six months ago (last quarter of 2020)
I think sometimes we just can’t hold things back. A lot of us are transitioning or adapting to change and in terms of the difficulties during the pandemic, there were just so many different kinds of delays that couldn’t be anticipated. So, why not just move ahead?
What have you learned about the ice cream business?
This concept is completely new for all of us. None of us has experience making or selling ice cream. We found out we were lactose-intolerant, which is why we made a lot of vegan and lactose-free options.
The most challenging recipe was the Pina Colada with Bacardi soft serve because a lot of the ingredients that we use are fresh daily. In the beginning, the mixture kept going wrong, the coconut tasted off. Kavee, who used to be our head bartender at JOLOKO, worked it out by himself after several weeks on it.
We have 18 rotating flavours to date. We realized that a couple of flavours, through trial and error, change when you store it at different temperatures especially when you use fresh ingredients. It was really interesting, the R&D process. Minor things that you don’t think about completely shifts the flavour profile. Like curry leaves and avocado.
Our cones and fortune cookies are hand rolled here everyday and boy, they are hot! It took us a while to figure out how to seal the bottom so that the ice cream doesn’t leak out and we ended up going with marshmallows. We wanted to create an interesting cone, with poppy seeds and it tasted toasty too. It’s vegan-friendly, does not contain nuts, celiac-friendly as well.
Our ice creams are nicknamed ‘cone-tails’ to represent the way we dreamt up flavours from a bartender’s perspective.
Any operational challenges running a restaurant in an old building?
The power isn’t so great here, very much like any other old shophouses. We had a power trip a couple of days ago, so we had to close. The very first day we opened for business, the chiller door fell open (it was from a previous ice cream shop that closed down and we managed to get their equipment from them), very much like how an F&B business runs, there were just a lot of things that we didn’t anticipate until we start operations. And now, things are getting better.
What is your favourite thing about Licky Chan?
Shin: Eating ice cream! And how people interact with the space.
Kit: Eating ice cream and being able to drink wine at the same time. We are extremely happy with the work everyone’s put into it and just seeing it come to life. Everyone having a good time is good for us!
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Image credit: Licky Chan. This interview has been edited for clarity and length. Interview and written by Theri B. Edited by Lim Aileen.