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Though COVID-19 forced everyone to take a good look at their future, Melanie Pong took her talents in one field and seamlessly transitioned to another
Starting off as a home-based florist, Melanie "Mel" Pong had a dynamic idea to begin a workshop and studio for her budding career in floristry. However, after the repercussions of COVID-19, her flower business wilted right before her very eyes.
With an idea in mind, and a risk to take, Mel decided to jump on her second business idea: opening a cafe. Initially wanting to create a designated wing within her florist workshop, Melanie instead took her plans for such a space and expanded it to a whole outlet.
As the idea for an eatery came to fruition, the decision as to what cuisine would be the signature was simple. Speaking with us in an interview about her restaurant, Mel got candid, "My initial plan was to go for traditional Japanese food. [But] after doing some research, I decided to go with Japanese fusion..."
While it seemed like everything was set up for pure success, there was one very personal element that Mel had to add, just to give it that touch of originality.
"My passion for flowers gave me the idea to infuse floral concept[s] into the food. Therefore, I decided to enhance my food presentation by using edible flowers, making sure [it] would be colourful to attract customers and cameras," said Mel.
As for the name, we were intrigued to find out what the 'CC' actually stood for. "CC stands for 'Calli', which was taken from my flower business 'Callifloral , [while the other] C stands for Café. Therefore, it stands for Calli Café!"
And just like that, CC by Mel was up and running by January 2021.
Luckily for us, we got to try some of CC by Mel's signature dishes, and decide whether the beautiful story that came behind its origin, matched the quality of food served to us.
Upon arrival, we were delighted to find out that this new location of CC by Mel can host up to 70 pax
Though the establishment has been up and running since 2021, the location in Bukit Jalil is considerably new at five months old.
While there was a significant increase in capacity, Mel was forthright about the continued struggle in finding space for customers. During our visit, the restaurant was fully occupied. We guess that if you want to grab a spot at one of their tables, you should make reservations ASAP.
Encapsulating a warm and zen ambience, the addition of ceiling-high windows for soft sunlight enhance the vibrant colours of the featured design portrayed in CC by Mel. The ample lighting does wonders for Instagram photos too.
Beginning with a gist of caffeine, a floating panda pastry automatically tickled us pink
Opening with their signature Latte (RM9), we were allured by the emitting aroma that was as strong as the taste of the coffee itself. Well balanced in construction and presentation, this brew is a must-try for coffee addicts.
We then proceeded with the Matcha Latte (RM13) that had an adorable floating panda meringue on top. This cold concoction packed a punch with umami, leaning to the more vegetal side of the matcha essence. It was not until we tasted the airy panda meringue did it click: the aspect of sweetness is in the little cub!
Cooky and creative, the discerning detail made this simple beverage an immediate standout.
Advancing to an ensemble of Japanese delicacies, these plates could only be described as a flowery feast
We began our tasting session with a power punch from the Unagi Donabe (RM34). The soft pieces of eel practically melted in our mouths. The methodical step of slow-cooking the unagi rice in the claypot brought out a distinct richness, elevating this classic dish to a CC by Mel staple.
Proceeding to another personal piece, Mel's Bowl (RM38) was a hearty, yet comforting bowl of salmon rice and mentaiko mayo sauce. Smooth to the texture, the torched aburi salmon was complemented by the other individualised condiments, including yuzu tare, tobiko, and ikura.
Moving to the Truffle Puddle (RM48), this cutely named dish is essentially a cream-based pappardelle pasta with black truffle, a porcini base, wild forest mushroom, and a Japanese egg yolk on top.
Whipped and luscious, the bits of grated black truffle paired harmoniously with the fresh pasta. Though it may be too dense for some, the addition of marinated tempura enoki provided crunchy relief to the dish, so as to balance the texture of the pasta.
The Yuzu Seabass (RM38) was surprising in more ways than one. The use of traditional Japanese yuzu in a classic pasta dish gave for a zesty finish that we weren't expecting, but were delighted by nonetheless. The sea bass filet was steaming hot when we cut into it, complimented by the yuzu garlic shallow buerre with lemon and lime.
One of the more refreshing items on the menu, this dish definitely stood on its own in comparison to the other Euro-Japanese productions.
Arriving together, the next couple of dishes were fluffy sandwiches with their own unique flavours.
The Ebi Matcha Sando (RM42) featured glossy chartreuse matcha hokkaido bread. The combination of breaded egg and ebi katsu tamago was scrumptious and fulfilling. Though the purple cabbage features seemed to brighten up the plate, there was a hint of spice in this sandwich that balanced out the earthy flavours of the loaf.
Living up to the hype, the Sando Sun (RM22) would be a younger sister to the former, essentially a smoked salmon sandwich with a generous spread of egg mayo avocado. Nonetheless, the flavour combinations were just as delectable as the Ebi Matcha, though just a tad bit lighter and airier if you're not looking for a full-blown meal.
Although we repeatedly changed which we'd declare best of the day, none seemed to compare once the Trio Taco (RM78) arrived
Simply put, the Trio Taco (RM78) is a signature three-piece nori taco set. Each taco consists of a different filling, one Tropica Nori (salmon), Gyu Nori (beef), and Ebi Nori (shrimp). Wrapped firmly like a tortilla, the replication of a taco is seen in the substitution of bread with fried nori.
Firm and delicious, each taco has an element of individuality. The Tropica Nori was the lightest of the three, while the Gyu Nori was succulent and tender, a great balance to the crunch element of the fried nori.
The best of the lot would have to go to the Ebi Nori, which had a hint of spice lingering throughout its layers. One bite into this taco, and mentai sauce would be oozing into your mouth.
This dish is one you cannot miss, and if you're on a budget, each taco is sold individually too.
Artistically, this next piece takes the cake for the most intricate piece we tasted.
The Ocean Capellini (RM35) infused Japanese sashimi with fresh salmon and air-flown Japanese tuna.
Springy and tantalising, the capellini was fine and wispy. The finishing touches of ikura and goma tare seemed to bounce out to our flavour palettes immediately, demonstrating the complexities, and true fusion fatigue the chefs at CC by Mel went to for this delicate pasta.
When it came to desserts, none of the selected items were disappointing, ending our taste session on a high
Simple enough, the Watermelon Cake (RM17) was a three-layered confection oscillating between watermelon and cake, topped with slices of strawberries. Alluring to the eye, the flavours were poised with sweetness in the strawberries and refreshing juice of the watermelon.
The Genmaicha Cheesecake (RM16) was quite literally a fluffy pillow on a plate. Soft to the cut, the bits of crunch beneath the dessert was a good addition of grain to the silky cheesecake.
While both former desserts were great, it seemed as though no other could hold a candle to the Choux Squad (RM22). Consisting of four choux pastries, the two flavours were earl grey and chocolate, with a layered biscuit base.
Though the chocolate puff was creamy and satisfying, the earl grey choux was the star of the plate. Quite literally, imagine a lighter earl grey tea infused into a creamy filling to be eaten like a doughnut, though the textures of the choux and earl grey cream are far too refined to compare to that of a doughnut.
I would hardly blame anyone who came to CC by Mel just to get these puffs alone.
All round, the dishes served from CC by Mel was gold star worthy, and an enjoyable lunch experience
Hardly a critique, but more so a caution, light eaters should consider sharing a meal if dining at CC by Mel, as the portions of food were awfully generous. However, we'd opt for the dictum that the dishes are suitable for heavy eaters, especially the Unagi Donabe and Truffle Puddle.
While we did not taste everything on the menu, there are many burger options and vegetarian platters, including plant-based fusion bowls.
With many more milestones to hit, and so much more possibilities beyond them, check out CC by Mel for an ideal brunch spot the next time you're in Bukit Jalil.