Founded by Shawn Chong and Karl, Omakase + Appreciate is one of the oldest speakeasies in Kuala Lumpur – and a proper one too, if you know what we mean – and one of the independent cocktail bars that pioneered the contemporary cocktail scene in Malaysia. On top of making their debut at No. 10 on the Asia’s 50 Best Bars in 2016, the bar was Most Creative Cocktail Bar at The Bar Awards for two consecutive years in 2017 and 2018, and Chong was also Bartender of the Year at the 2018 edition.
Tucked away in the basement of Ming Annexe and hidden behind a door that says “Dilarang Masuk” (“No Entry” in Malay), Omakase + Appreciate might be small in size but boasts ample seating at the L-shaped bar and a few tables low tables. The mish mash of non-matching furniture is charming, and regardless of how crowded the bar gets – even to the point of standing room only – there is a truly welcoming vibe here. There’s no fixed playlist or musical genre either through the speakers either; it’s a bit like going to a friend’s house and listening to whatever they put on.
Omakase, meaning “I’ll leave it to you”, stems from the Japanese phrase makaseru (to entrust), and in dining, it usually means that the chef in question will prepare something with the best ingredients that he knows his diners will enjoy. Omakase + Appreciate applies the same principle to its cocktail menu.
While they do have a fixed list of 36 different classic cocktails and specials of the week, ordering off-menu here is more exciting. In fact, we’d go as far to say that a trip to Omakase + Appreciate wouldn’t be complete without having at least one drink specially made for you. Prices vary depending on the spirit of your choice. My custom cocktail cost RM50 and boasts a sweet-savoury profile with Remy Martin VSOP, olive liqueur, lime juice and passionfruit syrup – totally worth it. All you need to do? Tell the bartender the kind of flavours you want – sweet and fruity, spirit-forward and strong, tea-based and hot – and they’ll whip something up.
We started with the classics and ended up with some of the lighter side of the ABV spectrum. Their Tom Collins (RM40) made a delightful after-dinner drink. Slightly acidic and fizzy, it helped with the food coma. Want something fruity? Go for the perfectly balanced Cosmopolitan (RM40), where the bitter acidity of the lemon juice plays off the tartness of cranberry juice.
Omakase + Appreciate might not have a kitchen but it doesn’t mean you’ll go hungry. After you’ve ordered a drink, you’ll be served a complimentary bowl of chips, which could be murukku (a south Indian deep fried snack made with rice flour and urad dal flour) one night or spicy tapioca chips another night. You can also order light bites like hot dogs or kyuri noodles (spiralised cucumber with their special sauce).