Javier Perez and Sharon Lee of Kilo are building an empire out of secret-hideout-style places and small plates. 

Theyre Building An Empire By Keeping Things Bite Sized

When the duo opened Raw Kitchen Bar in 2008 in the old Bukit Timah Fire Station, it was nothing like the fine-dining establishments of the day. The interiors were homely, the vibe low key, and you could see Perez cooking in the kitchen. 

Six years on, the couple head a mini food empire. In 2011, they closed Raw, took over the second floor of a building overlooking the Kallang River, and rebranded themselves Kilo. Kilo at Pact, Kilo Lounge (an addition to the Kallang branch), and Kilo Bali in Seminyak have since followed. Creative, individualistic and unexpected, each of them feels worlds away from Asia’s mainstream eateries.

Kilo Kallang is like a little secret, even four years after it opened. The lift opens to an intimate space, subtly lit by candles and peppered with personal touches like hanging plants – as if you’re at a dinner party at a friend’s boho-hip loft. Even Kilo at Pact, located in buzzy Orchard Central, feels like a hideaway. Preze explains: “We want our restaurants to be places where people go because that’s where they feel good. We see ourselves as being in the business of creating memories.”

Their customers aren’t on the hunt for the new, but the comfort of returning to have their favourite wasabi tuna tartare (below) and zucchini pancakes. “In the beginning, it was all about creating tasty, fresh dishes and seeing people smile,” says Perez. “Today, 85 per cent of our menu hasn’t changed.”

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And that’s because Perez, originally from Puerto Rico, and Lee, a Singaporean who grew up in Canada, the Philippines and California, want Kilo to be about the people. “Kilo refers to the maritime signal flag that means ‘I wish to communicate with you’,” says Perez. “We want to speak to our guests through design, art, music, drinks, food and, most of all, shared experiences.”

The duo has designed every detail, from portion sizes to the time between servings, so that guests interact. The idea is for each table to share dishes, which are priced reasonably so guests are comfortable ordering several.

The next step is to expand Kilo’s impact beyond dining. Plans include Kilo Dialogues, a series of TED-like talks with personalities ranging from scientists to musicians, and Under Pressure, which gives non-professionals a chance to pitch a menu and develop it for a ticketed dinner with the full support of the Kilo kitchen. “It’s not about riding a trend. We’re firm believers in pace and we view this as a craft. We aim for everything we do to be relevant a decade from now.”

Kilo is at 66 Kampong Bugis (6467-3987). Kilo @ Pact is at #02-14/23 Orchard Central (6884-7560).

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Like this? Read about how Velda Tan and her partner Frederick Yap are changing the lobster game with Pince & Pints

An adapted version of this article appeared in the Female April 2015 issue.