Remember a time when Japanese bars were all the fad, serving up exotic Japanese whiskies side by side with the more traditional sake?
Few of them lived past the novelty but one that has and continues to stand strong is Ikki, the quiet enclave tucked discreetly above Hacha Mecha at TREC KL’s Electric Boulevard.
Heavy darkwood furniture set the mood of it as a gentleman’s bar, a notion cemented by plush leather sofas and heavy drapes, all tinged with the lingering tails of cigar smoke and whisky. While said whiskies are the order of the day here, the ladies will find themselves just as at home with an equally imaginative list of cocktails, each also closely tied to the Japanese theme of the place.
The brains behind them is bartender and manager Osmund Bernard, a Sabahan who found his way to KL led by his love for Japanese flavours and flair in mixology. In his 7 years since picking up the craft seriously and cutting his teeth across bars like Souled Out Ampang, WIP Bangsar, Skylounge in Ascott KL and more, he’s also raked up equally as many awards in bartending competitions across the region.
His most recent win at the Diageo Worldclass Bartender of the Year SEA 2016 (following in the footsteps of Shawn Chong of Omakase + Appreciate last year) left us tingling with excitement before having even tried a single cocktail. One sip in and it was apparent how and why Ikki does not need a clear signboard nor grand entrance to pull in the crowd.
A Letter from Mr Ikki
Who best to properly introduce you to the place than Mr Ikki himself? He may not be real but his drink equivalent paints him a strong, bold and no-nonsense persona by means of Hennessy VSOP, Glenmorangie Original, Antica Formula and Kahlua in a heavy golden goblet. The punchy full-bodied concoction tails off to a sweet well-rounded end with chocolate bitter, premonitory of the night you're about to have after a couple more of it.
For something fresher, lighter and brighter all around, the Purple Rain opens up the palate with chamomile tea, thyme leaf, elderflower syrup, Tanqueray No.10 gin and lemon orange bitters. Its delightful sweet and sour profile makes it the perfect accompaniment to Ikki's many bar bites while the bittersweet ending helps it hold its own against some of the flavours of the stronger dishes.
If you love whisky sours, this bourbon sour is a stronger and more fragrant alternative. Egg white, Angostura bitters and a delicious lemon lime and orange mix are strengthened with a good dose of Maker's Mark bourbon for a satisfyingly creamy drink that coats the mouth with a pleasant sourness before the flavours are lifted by a bourbon spice syrup infused with cinnamon, cardamon and star anise.
Chotto Matte Kudasai
Every bar has its signature and for Ikki, it is this unassuming tall glass of fun. Don't let its unthreatening first impression fool you -- it is the same drink that has won Osmund the bulk of his awards with its clever use Tanqueray No.10 gin, Galliano herbal liqueur, vanilla syrup and fresh watermelon juice, brought up a notch further in vibrance with lime and thyme. Its fruity, fresh first sip slowly rounds off to a warm, citrusy tail, a transition that will have you telling everything else to "hold on a moment", as its name in Japanese suggests.
A nice flexibility to Ikki is its allowance for food orders from Hacha Mecha below so you can complement the cocktails with equally modern Japanese fare. We'd totally suggest the foie gras wagyu sliders if you're looking for a bite. The seafood options are also great -- we're still dreaming about the salted egg yolk calamari.
Pop by for a taste of the above at E-1-08 Tingkat 1, Electric Boulevard TREC, Jalan Tun Razak 50400 Kuala Lumpur, or log on to the official Facebook page here for more information.
Another bar with lots of Oriental inspiration both in ambience and drink profile: Opium in Changkat Bukit Bintang.