SETIA ALAM, June 29 — At Mich’sology, expect colourful poke bowls made with brown rice and rainbow hued toppings such as salmon or tuna sashimi, sweet corn, fresh tomatoes, edamame and a generous sprinkling of ebiko (shrimp roe) and sesame seeds.
Then there is the Sushi Platter, which in reality is an assortment of Japanese style ingredients such as unagi (freshwater eel) and chuka wakame (seasoned seaweed) atop thick slabs of custardy tamago (Japanese rolled omelette).
This dish in particular has helped set the shop apart from other poke bowl eateries, which are hardly rare these days; it’s an order designed to strengthen the brand recall for customers when they think of Mich’sology.
The shop’s catchy name comes from owner Michelle Lee, who wanted her concept of healthy eating and personal brand to be communicated clearly to her target market. Solidifying the brand presence on social media was crucial especially in the early days.
She explains, “Mich’sology is a short form of ‘A healthy theory by Michelle’. I believe in food that is natural and brings wholesomeness to everyone, delivering a healthier and happier lifestyle for them.”
The young entrepreneur, who turns 26 this year, studied Digital Marketing at University of Birmingham in the UK so she is particularly savvy about branding. Her poke bowl shops have a youthful, lively energy; their vibrant pink interiors attuned to the personality of her trendy audience.
Entrepreneurship has always been a calling for Lee. She recalls, “When I came back from the UK, I was reluctant to look for a job because of the pros and cons of working for other people. My ambition has been the same since I was 20, which is to own my own business.”
Clarity about one’s life goals is a boon but figuring what sort of business to build is an entirely different conundrum. Lee admits she took time to investigate her options.
“Back then I was a BodyPump instructor and I thought I should go for a health-centric food and beverage (F&B) concept,” she says. “I’d always been a café hopper and poke bowls had become one of my favourite meals when I was in the UK, so I decided on a poke bowl café business.”
Mich’sology features a lot of Japanese seafood ingredients in their menu. Besides the ever-popular salmon and tuna sashimi, Lee also imports uni (sea urchin) and ikura (salmon roe).
She explains, “Salmon is the main ingredient that you can’t miss in a poke bowl! We make sure all our salmon is freshly imported from Norway and it's a sashimi grade salmon. A truly sashimi grade salmon has a huge difference from a frozen grade salmon.”
Other ingredients were added to the menu due to customer demand. Lee shares, “We slowly brought in unagi, uni and ikura from Japan. But we are different as Mich’sology serves all ingredients without any marination as we want our customers to enjoy the freshness of the ingredients that we imported.”
Getting started, however, had its own steep learning curve. Lee recalls, “I began with zero knowledge of F&B. It was really a tough time for me: I surveyed around, sought advice and slowly hired workers by myself, and worked together with them to build the branding and community.”
The first Mich’sology shop opened in Setia Alam’s Ardence Labs in early 2018. Lee shares, “When I saw their mocked concepts of having containers as pop-ups, it caught my attention and came just in time when I was struggling to look for a good area for my shop.”
Realising that Setia Alam is quite a distance for customers based in the city centre, Lee decided to open a second branch closer to town. Customer response was encouraging enough that it only took her six months after opening her first shop to launch Mich’sology Damansara Uptown in PJ.
Perhaps it’s a case of striking while the iron is hot. And nothing is hotter than Mich’sology’s Fuel Bowl, which since their launch three years ago has become their signature rice bowl.
Lee is perhaps the biggest fan of the Fuel Bowl, given that it’s her first poke rice bowl creation — “I curated it myself with our signature ‘Mich’sology Sauce’! — which consists of brown rice, salmon sashimi cubes, crab sticks, tamago, sweet corn, tomatoes, fried shallots, Parmesan cheese, ebiko and seaweed.
She adds, “The way to eat it is to mix everything together and dig in. It gives you a taste of a real poke bowl, and of Japanese Fusion and Hawaiian kind of vibes!”
Other customer favourites include the Onsen Egg Rice Bowl with Smoked Salmon and Hi Unagi! (which features white rice rather than Mich’sology’s standard brown rice, and pairs a succulent unagi fillet with edamame and tamago).
There are vegetarian friendly rice bowls, such as what Mich’sology offered at a Sentul community event in 2019: black sesame seeds sharing the limelight with chia seeds; mangoes being paired with cheese and fried shallots.
As with many F&B businesses, Mich’sology had to scramble during the lockdown. Lee says, “This lockdown has had a huge impact as we observed that customers have more time to cook at home. Therefore takeaways and deliveries are not equally busy each day.”
To counter this drop in sales, Mich’sology started Mich’sology Groceries during the first lockdown last year. Lee explains, “We sell fresh imported and local ingredients, and deliver to our customers’ doorsteps immediately once they place their orders.”
So Mich’sology regulars who aren’t able to dine in at their shops can enjoy ebiko on their homemade sushi rolls or try assembling a Japanese style Tamago Thick Toast by ordering the rolled omelettes.
These are tough times and it is paramount to stay safe and healthy, which means staying at home as much as we can. Yet we can still have a healthy sit-down meal at home, with takeaway or delivery rice bowls.
So what’s fuelling your bowl? That slab of unagi sure looks good to me...
Mich'sology Ardence Labs: LAB 13-A, Ardence Labs, Persiaran Setia Alam, Shah Alam
Mich'sology Uptown: No. 16, Jalan SS 21/35, Damansara Utama, PJ
Tel: 016-660 6573