THE Kwai Chai Hong square in Kuala Lumpur Chinatown, at the end of Petaling Street, has seen a revival in recent years.
Kapitan Haus is one of the newer cocktail bars and has been up and running for around a year and a half.
According to the menu, which in itself reads like a mini storybook, Kapitan Haus attempts to embody the rich heritage of this significant but under-valued part of the city’s history when it was a sleepy place sparked to life by Chinese miners and subsequent traders.
They pay homage to the Kapitan of the past who were largely credited for the development of Kuala Lumpur.
Haus – meaning ‘thirsty’ in Malay, is a metaphor which not only describes the relentless thirst by the Kapitan to develop the city, but also their desire for an occasional drink or two.
Haus could also be street slang for ‘house’.
They have kept the original foundations of an over 100-year-old lot, and built on it to make it a functional bar and dining space, especially suited for their locally inspired and modern cocktail menu.
From the Jalan Petaling side, the entrance isn’t exactly prominent even above its sister bar restaurant – Da Bao.
You enter Da Bao and head straight on to the stairwell at the other end.
Or you can go up via the Kwai Chai Hong area over on Jalan Panggung, where the signage of Kapitan Haus is clearer − colourful neon lights and all.
Just enter Da Bao from there and then go up the stairs.
When you enter, you are met with an interior with more neon lights where you can savour their offerings – refreshing, tangy and spirit-forward cocktails selected from the storybook menu.
There is Kopi Kaw and at Kapitan Haus you get it as a twist on the classic Negroni, with bitter notes from pandan-infused Cunar, sweet and coffee notes from coffee-infused rosso vermouth, and brown butter-washed gin.
It is served with a dehydrated orange for the aroma, and a coconut cookie in a traditional cup and saucer.
One of their bestsellers is Fresh Release, a gin and tonic taken up a notch by incorporating honeydew-infused gin, dry vermouth, cucumber and chrysanthemum.
The Pisang Kuno is a personal favourite, with a toasty tropical sweetness to its banana and sesame-infused whiskey, gula melaka and Angostura aromatic and orange bitters.
The Pork Bao is a spirit-forward cocktail that takes as its inspiration the signature dish of Kapitan Haus’ sister resto-bar downstairs.
Pork fat is used to wash the whisky for the umami mouthfeel, and rosso vermouth is infused with peanuts with added Peychaud’s, orange bitters and coriander.
Then there is their cocktail version of the classic dessert Bubur Cha Cha, incorporating Cachaca (liquor distilled from sugarcane juice), a peach and herbal liqueur, and sweet potato which is then clarified with coconut milk.
Other specialised cocktails on the menu include Tong Sui (which literally translates to “sugar water”), a jujube-infused gin with pear, longan, lemon and garnished with snow fungus, Liang Cha, Petaling Street Sour, Yum Cha, Cool Beet, and Jacky Kantan.
For the more traditional (or less adventurous drinker) there are the usual offerings of beer on tap or bottles, wines, spirits, shots, liquers, mocktails, soft drinks and teas on the menu.
Food is mostly available from Da Bao downstairs, although the bar does have a small selection of Taiwan or Szechuan-style fried chicken snacks.
Weekdays are usually more chill at Kapitan Haus; it picks up during weekends with DJ appearances.
At present there is house music on Fridays and monthly drum and bass nights from long-standing party makers House of Chemistry and Loops Collective to whet your appetites.
KAPITAN HAUS, No.145, Jalan Petaling, Kuala Lumpur. (Tel: WhatsApp to 012-602 2680).
Business hours: open daily from 3pm onwards.
This is the writer’s personal observation and not an endorsement by StarMetro.