2015: The Bar Kinugawa @ Empire Damansara
October 16, 2015
Over the past 12 months, The Bar has steadily earned a reputation as one of the Klang Valley's top destinations for cocktails. It's still likely the only Japanese-helmed establishment of its kind in Malaysia; customers can enjoy a front-row seat at the polished wooden counter & watch master bartender Sam Kinugawa & his protege Tom calmly & compellingly craft their cocktails - an intimate, unique & zen-like experience that evokes how a sushi chef can be observed creating his masterpieces.
The cocktails are as elegant as the setting (which is sparklingly spotless) - if the Martini (RM48+) is the benchmark by which bars are judged, then this bar won't be found wanting. Sam has doing this for decades, & his confidence & capabilities shine with the use of top-flight components, poured, stirred & strained to spark alcohol alchemy. Flavours are harmoniously balanced & temperatures are masterfully controlled, with each beverage bolstered by a sensuous smoothness with sometimes surprising dimensions & nuances. This isn't a showy bar; it succeeds in impressing in its own restrained, understated fashion.
A painstaking precision flows through The Bar's entire process, from the choice of crystal glasses (meticulously cleaned) to the ice (it takes three days to produce, clear & unclouded by bubbles) to the purity of the house-made soda water to the final execution (note how each fruit is scrupulously sliced & squeezed). All that thought & work come together in the Sake Nashi, combining junmai sake & pear juice with lemon, olive oil & blue curacao (RM43+) for complexities of fruitiness & fermentation.
Add to that the undeniable visual glamour of many of The Bar's cocktails (check out the Francis Alberto, a radiant mix of Wild Turkey bourbon & Tanqueray gin), & it's obvious why this has become an irresistible stop for many. Everything from wines to Japanese whiskies are also available, as are cigars, so it's easy to envision spending many hours unwinding here. Note that counter seats are limited, so call to reserve; otherwise, take a table on the other side of the outlet or outside on the terrace.
Snack break! The Bar serves its own distinctive canapes, smoked for hours over wood fire - edamame, octopus, cream cheese, oysters, scallops & fish roe, showcasing sultry flavours that supply more satisfaction than expected (RM18 each).
The Bar's spree of specialities seems ceaseless, making for an engaging exploration - from a Shandy Guff with beer & Bentong ginger ale to a Bamboo with sherry & vermouth, a Talisker Single Malt highball with white pepper to crowd-pleasing potions like dragon-fruit-&-rum cocktails & classic White Russians, there absolutely is something for everyone here (well, unless you don't drink), so simply let Sam & Tom know what sort of drinks you like. Many thanks to The Bar for having us here.
112, First Floor, Empire Damansara, Damansara Perdana. Daily, 7pm-2am. Tel: 603-7611-0153
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