PETALING Street, in the heart of Kuala Lumpur’s original Chinatown, is filled with architectural wonders and rich history.The area has gone through noticeable urban renewal – evolving from a centre known for production of tapioca flour in the 1870s to vibrant night markets – and now refurbished streets housing hidden restaurants on the upper floor of old shophouses.
If you park at one of the open-air carparks in the area and ask the attendant how to find Jao Tim, you may be directed to one of the hotels there, which is exactly what happened to me.
“Jao tim” in Cantonese literally means “hotel” hence the confusion with the directions.
Eventually, we found this hidden gem with the gold emblazoned words on the first floor exterior wall nestled among convenience shops in Jalan Sultan, just behind Petaling Street.
The double gold doors lead to a staircase up to Jao Tim where you are transported to a lofty space reminiscent of old New York in the 1930s with its bare walls as well art deco-style brown and gold interior.
The owner, Jon Teo, whose background is in industrial design, said Jao Tim was actually a hotel here back in 1910.
They even maintained the “concierge” feature in the architecture, and just launched a new bar called Concierge KL.
The large windows at the front of the lounge look out onto the busy street.
During the day, there is abundant natural light pouring in, while at night it transforms into a sultry, vintage jazz lounge and event space, which opened in September 2017.
After returning from Australia, Teo, who is also a photographer, ventured into design work for food and beverage and retail spaces for 17 years before starting Jao Tim.
“I love jazz so I wanted my own space to include my love for art and music.
“We started out a daily cafe business and rented out the space for events such as product launches and weddings,” he said.
Initially, there was no cocktail bar planned for Jao Tim, but once the Covid-19 pandemic and movement restrictions ended, Teo decided to set up Concierge KL.
“Jazz and cocktails go well together, reminiscent of the Prohibition era in the 1930s,” he said.
There are music performances every day, or 30 shows a month of all types of genres but mostly jazz, including whimsical comedy nights with music.
Intimate Table Lamp concerts, full band on weekends, and even an 18-piece jazz orchestra are in the lineup to provide local up-and-coming musicians space to perform.
Teo poured his heart into researching the history of Petaling Street and buildings there.
He shared that 1910 to 1935 was an art deco era, and he has incorporated the elements into the interior design and architecture of the lounge.
“Art deco means space, high ceilings and no clutter; back then during the two world wars when people were in poverty, art deco design was used to alleviate feelings and provide a sense of luxury with the use of materials like dark wood, brass and gold within spaces.”
The bar design depicts all these elements with the sleekness of the curved, seamless bevel edges creating an infinite flow.
Teo’s design expertise goes well beyond the bar; he has also come up with 3D-printed coasters, place mats and a sculpture for the bar.
“We want to show that we evolve and are seasonal,” Teo said.
The emerald green lamp shades casting a warm light over the bar creates a vintage, romantic ambience to enjoy signature cocktails.
They take it up a notch with creations like Banana Butter Cake, Almond Jack and Ume Martinez.
Burnt butter whisky, banana liquor, white vermouth and chocolate bitters are shaken together to create a silky and decadent concoction topped with a caramelised slice of banana burnt with coffee brown sugar.
If you like almonds and its aroma, the Almond Jack has jackfruit-infused gin, white amaretto, grapefruit juice and lime, giving this one a refreshing, tropical vibe.
The Ume Martinez is a take on the classic Martinez cocktail, where instead of Old Tom Gin, it has Japanese Roku, thanks to a collaboration with the brand for World Martini Day in July.
Roku, Punt e Mes Italian vermouth, smoked tea plum wine, maraschino liqueur and Boler’s bitters give this a smoky and herbaceous feel on the palate.
JAO TIM, 61, Jalan Sultan, Kuala Lumpur. Business hours: 3pm to midnight (Tuesday to Friday), 1pm to midnight (Saturday), 1pm to 11pm (Sunday); Closed on Monday. Tel: 03-2022 3897.
This is the writer’s personal observation and not an endorsement by StarMetro.