Old-world vibe back in Chinatown

The bar worktop becomes more of a communal table between the bartender and patrons, removing the boundary that a high bar counter top creates. (Below) Pisang is a combination of baijiu, dark rum banana puree and smoked cinnamon stick. — Photos: Jason CheAh/The Star

Keen on cocktails, dim sum and DJs? Swing by for your fix of oriental charm in the heart of the city at Baijiu KL, another recent addition to rejuvenated Chinatown Kuala Lumpur.

Essentially named after baijiu (Chinese white liquor usually distilled from fermented sorghum, although other grains may be used), it is located in a heritage shophouse off Petaling Street in the increasingly popular Kwai Chai Hong.

This small dim sum bar is bringing an old-world vibe back to Chinatown with a mix of modern oriental flavours, a signature blend of Chinese culture and cuisine combined with a modern-day bar.

“Baijiu provided Soma Architecture and Design the opportunity to create a dim sum bar in the heart of Chinatown that acknowledges the rich heritage of traditional Chinese architecture as well as designed and detailed to accommodate the demands of modern-day bars,” explained Richard Holland, who owns this intimate cocktail bar which opened in late 2021.

Unlike other bars in the area that have opted for an “east meets west” ideology that allows for a pseudo-oriental environment, the architects here preferred to design a more authentic experience by merging the old with the new.

Inspired by the old tea houses of China, traditional design elements are worked in a contemporary manner to create a vintage feel.

“Paying respect to the original architecture of the shophouse, the existing walls were left intact and a new steel structure was developed within the envelope of the building to strengthen the floor above and to allow bracing for new walls, screens and support other infrastructure such as lighting and air-conditioning,” said Holland.

As you enter the bar from Lorong Panggung, the bright yellow front door frames the linear architecture of the bar counter and facing banquette.

The existing facade windows allow glimpses into the design from the street and the opportunity for patrons to utilise the window ledges and converse from both inside and out.

The ideology of the design is clear as you are immediately aware of the fusion of modern design concepts with traditional motifs, dark wood lattice screens, oriental lanterns and decorative panels.Pisang is a combination of baijiu, Dark Rum Banana Puree, smoked cinnamon stick and more.Pisang is a combination of baijiu, Dark Rum Banana Puree, smoked cinnamon stick and more.

The outlet is divided into sections separated by the screens allowing for visual connection but at the same time, defining areas of semi-privacy.

The small intimate nature of the bar provides a casual drinking experience where even the height of the bar counter is designed for openness between bartenders and patrons.

In this instance, the bar worktop becomes more of a communal table.

Patrons sitting along the banquette are then included in the theatrics of the bar, feeling included in the outlet’s activity, whether it’s good conversation with the bartenders or just lounging around and observing the masterful mixology.

The back bar’s metalwork design is inspired by traditional Chinese display cabinets to provide a simple yet striking design when you first enter.

Oriental door handles repeatedly used across the bar face are reminiscent of old Chinese medicine shops that were an integral part of Chinatown’s history.

From the stairs on the left of the entrance, walk upstairs to more of the same, in a larger lounge setting with an old-school Chinese vibe, and a balcony terrace overlooking the centre of the Kwai Chai Hong Square.

Just at the end of last year, DJ nights began upstairs on Fridays and Saturdays, featuring some of the cream of the house set including Victor Trixter, Meliha and Biscuit.

This weekend, Gracie and Zaskar provide the music.

The drinks menu is largely baijiu-based, along with other standard bar and cocktail fare.

Baijiu itself is very much on offer – via glass or bottle.

Baijiu-based Oriental Cocktails also pepper the menu, such as Pisang comprising − among others − baijiu, dark rum banana puree and smoked cinnamon stick, or the pink Bling Bling with dragon fruit, goji berries and vodka.

Other cocktails include Lotus Pink and The Spice of Life infused with five Chinese spices.

You can try their baijiu shooters which come with a choice of tequila, white rum, vodka or gin and are infused with anything from rosemary, longan syrup to tiekuanyin, peppercorn foam or soursop juice.

The food menu may look simple but it is elegant – a choice of various dim sum, including siew mai prawn and chicken, beancurd roll and BBQ chicken bun.

The end result is an elegantly designed bar where patrons can immerse in a landscape of authentic Chinese architecture and enjoy delicious dim sum and creative cocktails made with the world’s most consumed alcohol – baijiu.


Lot 4, Lorong Panggung, off Jalan Petaling, Kuala Lumpur

Opening hours: 5pm – 2am (Tuesdays to Mondays). Tel: +6018-367 9387. Reservations: https://letsumai.com/widget/baijiu

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