RockSugar Executive Chef Mohan Ismail Discusses the Ins and Outs of Southeast Asian Fusion
Written by: Susan Krupa Travel Across Southeast Asia With RockSugar’s Pan Asian Kitchen
Photographed by: Patrick Martin
The concept of fusion cuisine has spawned dishes like the cronut, wasabi mashed potatoes and burgers with kimchi. Separate cuisines blend together to create a new dish that is reminiscent of the original cultures while still incorporating something unexpected and new. Virtually any two cuisines can be combined in this way with a bit of creativity; in fact, California cuisine can be considered a fusion cuisine style in its own right.
RockSugar in Century City bills itself as a Pan-Asian Kitchen, but rather than fusing the cuisines of the different regions, each dish remains true to its origin. The result is a menu where you can start with Vietnamese summer rolls, followed up with a main course of chicken tikka masala, and finish with Bangkok Coconut Cream Pie.
RockSugar’s kitchen is led by Executive Chef Mohan Ismail. He was raised in Singapore, a city brewing with innovative cuisine from across the continent. As a result, RockSugar’s interpretation of fusion does not blend any two cuisines, but places them comfortably on the menu together in an epicurean Asian United Nations.
Interview with Mohan Ismail, Executive Chef and MJ Salcido, PR Director
Q: How did you approach this shoot from a creative point of view? What elements did you want to feature?
Mohan Ismail: I wanted to showcase what an incredible Southeast Asian meal would look like, so it was inspired by a wedding banquet-style theme. I wanted to incorporate a rustic appeal that reflected a natural and family-style atmosphere.
Q: What inspires you when creating the RockSugar menu?
MI: I was born and raised in Singapore and travel frequently throughout Southeast Asia. Both areas—my childhood in Singapore and my travels—serve as my inspiration for creating and incorporating dishes into the menu. I wanted to create a friendly, flavorful and comfort food menu that highlights the best of Southeast Asia.
Q: What about this table setting stands out to you personally?
MI: I wanted to evoke a warm, somewhat vintage and rustic ambiance leveraging the restaurant’s beautiful surroundings for this set-up. From the warmth given by the private dining room’s wooden paneled walls to the floral arrangements using my favorite flowers (orchids), the spread projects a welcoming atmosphere that is unique to our restaurant.
Q: Why is RockSugar a fusion restaurant unlike any other?
MJ Salcido: RockSugar is the only restaurant of its kind. Not only does it serve truly authentic Southeast Asian cuisine, meaning each dish on RockSugar’s extensive menu is authentic to its country of origin, but its incredible design and accessible location makes the whole dining experience unique to the restaurant. There isn’t a place in LA that has the same dining experience as RockSugar.
Q: Describe Pan-Asian fusion.
MS: Pan Asian Fusion is a melting pot of all Southeast Asian cuisine. We serve dishes from Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam and a few meals with Indian influences as well.
Q: How would you describe the overall decor at RockSugar?
MS: RockSugar Pan Asian Kitchen’s striking design and decor were inspired by an exotic resort in the Maldives. The restaurant features two distinctive main dining rooms, an expansive bar area, multiple terraces and a private dining room with its own terrace and fire pit. Its spacious, 7, 500-square foot interior is distinguished by soaring ceilings, hand-carved timber beams, limestone flooring and ornate Asian art—all combined with the warm colors of saffron and plum inspired by the robes of Buddhist monks. Wall fountains in the courtyard and two large water walls line the 1, 850-square-foot patio as well.
Q:Does Rock Sugar Do Events?
MS: The restaurant can accommodate groups of 12 to 485 guests, making RockSugar the perfect space for a wide variety of events from intimate birthday celebrations to large corporate luncheons.
Q: How is an event at RockSugar going to be different than somewhere else?
MS: Each event at RockSugar Pan-Asian Kitchen is a unique experience and can be customized to guest’s specifications. The restaurant’s special events department can create the perfect menu, assist with special requests, flowers, decor and entertainment as required. An event at RockSugar Pan Asian kitchen is sure to transport guests to a far off land.
Q: What would you say is the most popular dish on the menu?
IM: The chicken samosa, the lacquered BBQ ribs, the Shaking Beef, the roasted black cod, the Malaysian beef … I could go on and on.
Q: What’s your favorite dish?
IM: This is a tough one to answer. It’s sort of like asking who your favorite child is. They are all my favorites.
Q: What do you love most about RockSugar?
IM: RockSugar is a welcoming, warm and fun place to dine with friends and family. It has delicious and authentic Southeast Asian food. The service is wonderful and the overall ambience, which reflects Southeast Asian culture, can’t be beat. It is perfect for a meal centered around loved ones and great food.
Plan a Perfect Party: Each event at RockSugar Pan Asian Kitchen is a customized experience. The restaurant creates the perfect menu and assists with flowers, decor and entertainment. An event at RockSugar Pan Asian kitchen is sure to transport guests to a far off land.
Cocktails Rock: RockSugar worked with Arnold Myint from Food Network Star and Top Chef to create innovative cocktails like the Lilikoi Margarita.
RockSugar Pan Asian Kitchen
10250 Santa Monica Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90067
R O C K I N /// Fusion at RockSugar Pan Asian Kitchen: An Inside Look with Exec Chef Mohan Ismail.