Saturday, 24 May 2008

Got +wondermilk?

Weeks after this came out, I was told - to my dismay - that the kids who run this shop are from rather well-to-do families, and that the service was the kind expected from such ilk. And the "two medallions" of chocolate were actually two halves of one chocolate medallion. I could say that my journalistic bent was still being developed then, but still... At least the food was good...

Somehow, credits for my Fried Chillies pieces, written under the alias "Alan W", were lost during their web site makeover.

+wondermilk shop + café
Wondermilk that dares to be different in the era of cookie cutter bakeries, serves up a welcome eclecticism and an arty vibe. They not only make kitschy cupcakes but hosts gigs and art exhibitions too.

first published in Fried Chillies, 24 May 2008

Sneer all you want at roadside burger stands. Every time I see one, my heart warms to see the usually young proprietors at good honest work instead of illegal racing, mugging and bumming out at shopping malls or Starbucks. Similarly uplifting are stories about young 'uns fresh out of college who are bucking trends in novel, out-of-the-box ways.

That was the one thing about +wondermilk that first struck me. The staff was barely-weened babes who look like they just tossed off their graduation robes and mortars - and yet are exhibiting signs of eccentric, creative and flighty genius. Nothing about the exterior gives any hint of what lays inside.

Fairy-tale whimsy abounds in what looks like a refurbished living room. Bare brickwork. Tables with water-pipe legs. In a corner stands a glass-panelled cabinet with a selection that can be classified as boho grunge. No ornate faux-baroque inspirations ala Casa Impian. These kids are channelling Gauguin and Gaudi into a high-end final year art and design project along the edges of Damansara Uptown.

"We're graduates of an art and design college," the waitress replied when asked. The café, which sells their trademark cuppacakes, is also a showcase of their talents as designers.

Ah. It explains everything, including the constant mini-themes around the place. Reindeer, sparrows, butterflies and the like. Even the cash register has personality; instead of the usual ENTER PRICE or HI, I'M JOE, it exhorts you to DRINK MORE MILK.

It's easy to dismiss the cuppacakes as little more than fluff; they were so small I didn't know there were different sizes. I picked out five, one for each flavour, and a coffee to wash it all down.

Royal Vanilla (rose)
There's nothing plain about the vanilla-based sponge, or the buttercream icing. The cream did not come out of a spraycan. You can feel the sugar grains, the taste and smell of butter among the flavours - evoking childhood memories of licking the mixing bowl. The flowers are masterpieces in themselves, lovingly piped into place by a fine nozzle and the steady hands of a patient, consummate artist.

Chocolove Orange (spiral)
Orange and chocolate are flavours Jamie Oliver would call "best mates". It's a combo that rarely goes wrong; the rich chocolate topping goes well with the orange-tinged cake sponge.

Cookie & Cream Dream (Oreo on top)
Ah, another Oreo-inspired winner. Bits of moist, cookie pieces are embedded into the cake, with a chocolate-flecked Oreo-like cream topping.

Hola! Piña Colada (white with lime rind)
It's supposed to be pineapple and cream, but my tastebuds registered "tropical ambrosia". Just enough pineapple to tease the palate with suggestions of a Hawaiian vacation.

Oh My Choc (two buttons on top)
Chocolate upon chocolate - upon chocolate. Two chocolate medallions wedged into a crown of what I suspect is Nutella, with a soft, moist chocolate sponge below. Just one bite during your chat session and you'll be typing OMCs instead of OMGs for the rest of the day.

With prices between RM3 to RM4 per cuppacake, you indulge, but indulge judiciously. New varieties are always being cooked up in the kitchen ("Elves at Work - No Entry", says the door). It also got me curious about their other offerings.

Their Sloppy Joes - a kind of carelessly-assembled burger - looks different, but not very special in terms of taste: minced chicken, button mushrooms in a mystery brown sauce between two halves of a bun. The Beef Rashers sandwich though was a warm, crispy toasted bread hugging flavourful beef ham and fresh crunchy lettuce.

Yes, "+wondermilk" is actually on the menu. A "secret" blend of fresh milk and a few other ingredients that doesn't trigger any emotional fireworks, but makes a tasty thirst-quencher. In keeping with the boho grunge vibe, ceramic and stainless steel have been replaced with custom-designed cardboard half-boxes, paper cups and plastic cutlery. Even their cupcake takeaway boxes bears their distinct hallmarks.

I am so hooked. I am so coming back. I am so going to go through the menu like a tornado across the American Midwest.

Before leaving, I made an inquiry.

"I'm sorry, sir," the proprietor/waitress replied. "The 'Trespassers' sign is not for sale."

Ah, well. You can't always have your cuppacake and eat it, too.

+wondermilk shop + café
41 Jalan SS 21/1A
Damansara Utama
47400 Petaling Jaya
Selangor Darul Ehsan


Mon-Sat: 9am-9pm
Sun: 2pm-6pm

+603-7725 8930

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