For the first time this year, Asia had their own spin-off of Drinks International’s World’s 50 Best Bars with their own list of the top 50 bars in the Asia region. Among the heavy representation from Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan and Thailand, Malaysia made a single appearance on the list.
Rounding off the top 10 was none other than Omakase + Appreciate, the paragon of KL’s cocktail scene.
“It’s really awesome to be the 10th best bar in Asia, since it’s also the first time [this has been] done in Asia”, says Shawn Chong, co-owner of Omakase. “To be above the more established bars and cocktail cultures (like Japan and Hong Kong), and to be the 10th is pretty awesome.”
And what does a win like this mean for KL’s leading speakeasy bar? Co-owner Karl Too weighs in, “Winning means we're willing to go longer, work harder, and contribute more back to the industry. It shows we are absolutely capable of proving that cocktail quality in Malaysia is as good as in other cocktail capitals such as Singapore, Thailand, Japan and even London.”
The top 50 are determined through a voting process by a selection of industry experts and journalists who are familiar with the regional bar scene. This international exposure (in addition to their proven skills behind the bar) is what Shawn believes helped to get Omakase onto the list, saying “…we’ve had guest bartending shifts, we’ve connected with people from all over the world, my international exposure through Diageo’s World Class, and Karl’s network with the outside world, and just the sheer passion of what we do. Any friend who has heard of us has recommended us. All these little things have helped us become what we have become.” (Just to illustrate how far their name as spread, in 2015 Omakase got a feature in The Guardian’s travel section, where the writer praised it as “the kind of bar I instantly feel at home in”.)
Never one to rest on their laurels, Shawn and Karl have opened another speakeasy bar, Sparrow, in PJ – it’s a new concept, but still utilising the same finesse that Omakase is famous for.
Hopes are high for next year’s list – an equal or better rank would be the goal. Karl briefly describes their plans as “Constantly improve our cocktails and hospitality quality. I believe that’s the most ‘sustainable’ plan to attain a better ranking.”