Meet Robert Tju, the co-owner of Reunion Malaysian Cafe + Kitchen in Kirkland, WA. Robert and his wife, Grace, opened Reunion in 2016 and just celebrated their restaurant’s 5-year anniversary! At Reunion, Robert and Grace share the delicious Malaysian cuisine they grew up eating in Malacca, like Hainanese chicken and rice and nasi lemak, all made from scratch in house.
Get to know more about Robert and Reunion Malaysian Cafe + Kitchen in this week’s Business Spotlight Q&A! They’re also participating in Seattle Restaurant Week, so be sure to upload your receipt on Intentionalist for a chance to win gift certificates to some of your favorite local restaurants.
The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
What’s something your customers may not know about you or your business?
I think we are the only Malaysian cafe owned by Malaysians in the whole Washington state. There are a few out there, but over the years, the original owners retire and the cafe or restaurant has been sold. From what we [hear] around and from Malaysian friends, they say we are the only Malaysian-owned cafe in the whole state serving Malaysian cuisine — something that’s really close to our hearts […] We represent a very small minority. You’ve got the famous Thai, Vietnamese [cuisines]. Sometimes Malaysian cuisine can be confused with Singaporean cuisine […] There is a mix, but just like when you travel anywhere, every culture has their own specialty. And I’m from Malacca in the Malaysian peninsula, so my food comes from where I was born.
What’s your favorite part about the community your business is in and why?
In Kirkland, it’s very diverse. We are very close to the waterfront, and we get people from all walks of life. People are very well traveled in this particular part of the state. We get a lot of people when they see the sign “Malaysian cuisine,” they’ll be like, “Wow,” and they’ll actually take time to think about and Google what Malaysian food is all about because there’s only probably three or four Malaysian restaurants [in Washington]. Besides us, you’ve got Kedai Makan and Malay Satay Hut.
Why is it important to you and your business that people #SpendLikeItMatters?
When we support local businesses, we are also helping support their families and helping their kids — like us, we have kids — to grow and, of course, put food on the table. The most important thing I think is you empower others to do so. People always ask me, “Why did you start doing your own business?” I say because this is what I want to do, and you find freedom in it and you are able to express yourself freely. I always tell people, “If you ever want to get into business, do it.” Don’t even second guess it because [if] you fail, you start again until it gets better.