Secret bar Omakase + Appreciate, KL
Speakeasy bars tread a thin line between a trendy phase and a veritable institution. It's never been a huge favourite of mine when it first started since most were establishments of thinly realised cocktail concepts. In the last few years however they've blossomed into some of the most sought after bars throughout Asia. In almost every city in South-East Asia a speakeasy bar is where you'd most likely find a great mixologist with more than a few great ideas, reinventing tastes and capturing culture in a glass. Some bars don't pass the popularity vote enough to endure and some become Asia's top 50 bars. Omakase + Appreciate is the latter claiming 10th spot in 2016.
The tiny bar is little more than a room decked out with an inviting shelf of alcohol, a comfortable stretch of a bar and five other tiny tables. It's a little hard to find since the address will only get you to the building, where a friendly security guard will point you to where you need to go if you're lost. There is no sign down to the basement of the building where the bar hides behind a dirty door with a "No Entry" sign. The thrill of such a secret, unassuming location is part of its charm. Also because there are two doors when you get down to the dingy basement and the wrong one will lead you into a less than inviting utility room.
I simply love the ambience of this bar. It's neither loud nor obnoxious, which is sometimes the calling card of a speakeasy. Here, the music is understated so it's pleasant enough to have a conversation through the night. The space is small enough that you simply can't fit an entire party group that creates a ruckus. It's perfectly intimate and a great place to enjoy the company of a few friends and some fascinating cocktails.
Bartender and owner Shawn Chong is the creator of concoctions such as the signature Jungle Bird (RM40 / USD9.40) with key flavours of aged rum, pineapple and lime. For a cool cocktail that price is simply unbeatable in comparison to drinks around the world, though for KLites it's probably fairly steep. The menu changes monthly so there's always something new for everybody, but if you're there for something familiar their list of available spirits is considerable; I'd never even heard of Boodles Gin till I saw it on the menu. I appreciate a cocktail every now and then and I'm no connoisseur, but I absolutely loved the crisp, sweet freshness of the Jungle Bird that wasn't overpowered by the strength of alcohol. Whether you're there to kick off a Saturday night or simply ending one on a low note, it's a fab place to keep in mind whenever you're in KL. I'm glad Shawn dragged my ass out of Bangsar, into the gridlock of the KL city traffic, and down to Omakase.
Omakase + Appreciate
Ampang Bangunan Ming Annexe, Jalan Ampang, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia