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Omakase + Appreciate

Ampang Bangunan Ming Annexe, Jalan Ampang, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

By Hamish Smith

‘DILARANG MASUK’ SAYS the sign on the door that looks as if it might lead into the boiler room of an industrial plant. Just in case you didn’t get the message, ‘no entry’ is repeated in three other languages. This is Omakase + Appreciate – a don’t-even-think-about-finding-us bar, in the basement of an office block. It’s a speakeasy, Kuala Lumpur style.

But as we know, there is no better way of piquing the interest of the cocktail classes than a shitty entrance to an implausibly hidden bar. Once in though, it’s all smiles from owners and local bartending heavyweights (by reputation rather than physical stature) Karl Too and Shawn Chung.

Omakase is a Japanese dining experience in which the chef selects the dishes, and that’s the format here – let the boys whizz you up something bespoke that you’re bound to appreciate. If the Omakase side of the name represents an eastern leaning, the appreciation of guests is the western orientation.

While the boys riff most of the time, they’re happy to play out some familiar classics too – but don’t expect there to be a standard recipe. Just like at hairdressers, customers have their favourites. Bar calls such as “I want a Margarita made by Shawn” or “a Cosmopolitan made by Karl”, are usual – and not because Shawn cocks up his Cosmos, and Karl murders his Margaritas. Because they’re drinks that are proudly different.

It’s this free-styling, adapting to the seasons and to the whim of the customer that means this place never stands still. At number 10 in Asia’s 50 Best Bars, it is standout bar – but only if you can find it.