Saké, whisky, Japanese-inspired cocktails and more, get familiar with these bars for the Japanese drinking experience.
RECOMMENDED: Best yakitori bars in KL
The Bar Kinugawa is a hidden gem and one of Empire Damansara’s best kept secrets. The Bar – no, really, that’s the name of the bar – offers patrons an authentic Japanese drinking experience. Don’t expect intricate decor or flashy contemporary drinks; as its minimalist name indicates, simple yet classic is the rule here. Step up on the raised platform to sit at the bar, where your slightly elevated position allows you to watch your drink being prepared. The bartender will then place the various bottles of liquor he has used on the countertop after completing your drink; it’s a practice of ingredient transparency.
Drink this: Moscow Mule: Vodka, homemade ginger ale and lime
Tatsu is unmistakably Japanese – think carafes and saké cups as decorations on the walls, and dark timber woods set against a Zen-like blue and white palette. But you get the real experience through the drinks lists, which consist of hot and cold sakés as well as shochu. Among the sakés available here is the Saito Dry Saké, it’s clean and dry, which allows you to get used to the flavours and textures – perfect for beginners. If you’re a little more experienced, the Saito Junmai Saké has a richer mouthfeel with fruity aromas of green apple and leaves a long acidic finish. Bar snacks are available to accompany your drink, think ninniku (garlic) tempura, yakitori, fried cheese and grilled aged gyoza.
Drink this: Saito Dry
Torii is a bar for serious whisky connoisseurs; they have one of the most extensive selections we’ve seen in KL, focusing mainly on premium Japanese whiskies ranging from Hakushu 12 years and Yamazaki 12 years to Nikka From the Barrel. There are also Scotch single malts, categorised according to region. If you’re in the mood to splurge, check out the list of rare collections. Go for the Islay whiskies if you like them peaty, or the Highlands if you prefer something more floral. Though there’s a limited selection of sakés and shochus, we say try the inventive Asian-inspired cocktails.
Drink this: The Torii: Japanese whisky, gomme syrup, yuzu juice and soda
Nomi Tomo translates to ‘Drinking Buddies’ in Japanese and the four partners of this saké bar are just that. The bar currently offers saké by the bottle with prices ranging from RM130 up to RM1,300, though carafe portions will be available soon. For beginners, try the Denshin Yuki Junmai Ginjo that’s light and slightly dry. When you’re ready to move on, you’ll like Kuu Junmai Daiginjo with its fruity notes and a smooth finish. For something in the high-end range, Nomi Tomo recommends Dassai 23 Junmai Daiginjo, which has clean, fruity flavours and a sweet finish. Don’t worry if you can’t finish your bottle; you can take it home with you.
Drink this: Denshin Yuki Junmai Ginjo
Occupying 3,000 sq ft at TREC, IKKI specialises in cocktails, whiskies, tapas and bar food. Congregate at the gorgeous bar, the speakeasy’s centrepiece that carries over 200 kinds of liquor with a bigger collection on whisky, focusing on the Japanese kind. Saké cocktails excel here – we suggest sipping slowly as they’re generous with the alcohol. If you’re keen on trying something off-menu, the bartenders will gladly mix something up for you.
Drink this: The Japanese Word: Saké, gin, mix citrus, Maraschino liqueur, absinthe and green chartreuse