HOWARD AND HUI NAN
EMPIRE EATS GROUP & LIBERTY SPIRITS ASIA
Lim Hui Nan was a young lawyer and a regular at Howard Lo’s first Standing Sushi Bar branch when sparks first flew back in 2009. They started dating shortly after that eventful first drink at Roomful of Blues and eventually tied the knot in 2012. By then, he had expended his business with a few more concepts under the Empire Eats group he founded. The group now owns and operates a portfolio of six food and beverage brands, including maverick Japanese-american gastrobar Tanuki Raw, intimate cocktail bar The Secret Mermaid and the latest, Sumo Bar Happy, a modern ramen and “tachinomi” one-cup standing sake bar. Hui Nan left her legal practice and joined the business full-time in 2014, around the same time they had their first child.
HAS A MUTUAL LOVE OF GASTRONOMY BROUGHT YOU CLOSER?
She said: It was our mutual love for a good, neat dram of Scotch that brought us closer and cemented the relationship for me. I discovered my weakness for whiskies from the closed Islay distillery of Port Ellen (which is reopening soon!) and Howard’s love for sherry cask expressions. He said: We soon forayed into American bourbons and different types of American spirits when we started making yearly trips to the States to visit my family, and discovered the joys of a well-made classic cocktail. On our trip to Portland, Nan surprised me with a tour of some of the craft distilleries that inspired me to start Liberty Spirits Asia in 2013 and import American craft spirits to Asia.
It’s like applying intense pressure to the marriage— just like coal, where squeezing it hard enough turns it into a diamond