THE MEAT OF THINGS
Updated: Sep 30, 2020
Founder of Vantador Leon Gee reflects their rapid rise
by Prestige (Malaysia)
1 Apr 2019
Leon Gee has come a long way. From his days as a waiter and slowly worked his way around the restaurant business, from bartending to cooking. Maybe it’s the experience that he’s gained from those years that has resulted in the success that he is having today with Vantador. Nestled in the heart of Desa Sri Hartamas, Vantador is the latest brainchild of Leon. With Eatalia by Brava and Naughty Babe Dirty Duck already under his belt, his curiosity to explore is apparent, as each establishment goes in differing directions. In Vantador, it is easy to forget how it is essentially a steakhouse, with the restaurant excelling in other dishes such as that of seafood and pasta, but the main focus will always be meat. A labour of Leon’s love, the overall interior of Vantador speaks of his personality, which is to be expected considering how he had designed the interior himself. His handson approach can be interpreted through a particular wall in the restaurant which he crafted. Speaking on the rapid success of Vantador, Leon explains the factors that come to define the establishment.
How would you say Vantador has fared since its opening? The response has been overwhelming, well exceeding my expectations. I was thrilled knowing how some guests even travelled by air just to visit Vantador. We have also often received positive feedback from notable guests and travellers who turn out to be passionate about their steaks. It’s feedback like this that justifies my decision in setting up a steak boutique in KL.
Today’s consumers are spoiled for choice in terms of top-quality food in the restaurant scene in Malaysia, how does Vantador plan to stay in the game? In my opinion, top-quality food served with impeccable service paired with fine ambience is but a basic requirement of any F&B outlet. That being said, the unchanged rule is to always bring in new ideas. This for me can only be done through travelling and new experiences – a philosophy that I’ve been following wholeheartedly throughout the years. With Vantador, however, the emphasis will always be on the fundamental element that defines the establishment: meat. We want to be specialised! Apart from the wide variety of cuts served, we also strive to provide more options in terms of ageing, thickness and cooking methods. Above all, we want to be able to educate our guests on the meat that they are consuming. To achieve this, our service team consists of what I like to call Vantador Ambassadors, individuals who are passionate and enthusiastic about the food we serve. Our Vantador Ambassadors then educate our guests on the process behind the cut of the meat they are enjoying while also receiving feedback on where we can improve. This is a process that I call “experience sharing”.
The crown jewel for Vantador is the Rubia Gallega, how would you describe the taste of the meat to the uninitiated?
There are only a handful of suppliers in the market that steakhouses in Malaysia can get their supply from, thus resulting in the same range of steak offered throughout. To stand out from the crowd, I chose to offer dry-aged steaks, which bring a totally different level of flavour to guests. Another decision that I was resolute in from the beginning was to bring in the Rubia Gallega which was then unknown to the Malaysian market. The Rubia Gallega is a little tougher in texture, as we are serving an ox above the age of 8 years old. This Spanish breed thus stands out in terms of taste, as the intense beefy taste of the breed would please customers who are focused on flavour like the Spaniards always do.
Vantador consists of three floors, each with a different theme. What is the inspiration behind the design? Along with travelling, I also have a love for antiquing. I have collected various antiques over the years during my travels. When it came to designing Vantador, I thought that these antiques might spark joy for customers who have the same appreciations as me. In other words, I guess I’m just the opposite of Marie Kondo with how she gets rid of junk while I collect them. Ultimately, I aim to offer guests different spaces for dining with the three floors of Vantador, creating a unique dining experience. The ground floor showcases the asado grill and the dry ager, which basically defines our specialty. The first floor is a bar and lounge set-up that promotes casual dining with fine food. The second floor is where two of our private rooms are located. A dining floor designed by combining classic and chic looks, I must say it was a challenge for me to play between these two elements, but I’m blessed with a team of people who worked with me in realising my conceptual idea.
What does the future hold for Vantador?
Along with two of our brands: Eatalia by Brava and Naughty Babe Dirty Duck, I aim to expand while also continuing my journey of creating new brands and new concepts – something I also have great passion in doing. WITH VANTADOR, HOWEVER, THE EMPHASIS WILL ALWAYS BE ON THE FUNDAMENTAL ELEMENT THAT DEFINES THE ESTABLISHMENT: MEAT. WE WANT TO BE SPECIALISED!