Jalan Sultan’s former antique shop now houses a new hidden bar Her House
Kuala Lumpur’s Chinatown buzzes with life, thanks to creative spaces like RexKL and new restaurants and bars. The last waterhole in this area that attracts attention is his house. Located along Jalan Sultan, in the same row as Jao Tim and The Deceased (unfortunately closed until further notice), what was once an antique shop has since turned into a hip but hidden bar.
Lighted signage makes it slightly easier to navigate the stairs, taking in vintage tiled walls and posters at the same time. It can get a little scary after dark, as there are plenty of dark, vacant alcoves. Still, it definitely adds to the speakeasy experience.
Nothing else indicated that we were on the right track. But venture down the next flight of stairs, through an unassuming doorway and you were there.
The neon-lit hallway – one that is heavily featured on the bar’s social media pages – seemed endless, thanks to mirrors flanking either side. After a few shots in the trippy passage, we walked through the mirrored door of her house.
Decorated with murals and furniture upholstered in cream and bottle green velvet, the cozy bar was divided into three seating areas. When we entered, to the left were high tables placed against a wall with tiles that spelled out #MyHouseRules. A disco ball spins slowly on it. Running the length of the place was a massive, multicolored mural of a snake, with abstract additions snaking down to low sofas and chairs. Against the opposite wall — covered in tattoo-worthy murals of women, flowers, and a snake — was another sofa section with stools and a multi-textured green and gold bar.
Following the neon lights at the entrance, the dark space was accented with pink and white tubes (the 2010 sci-fi film tron came to mind). Her home may be a small space, but adding mirrors to the ceiling and back wall makes it feel spacious. It was surprisingly quiet for a Friday night, but that could be attributed to the horrible rain that had hit the town earlier.
The sofa under the large fresco provides the perfect vantage point to watch your libations being made at the bar. The menu – backlit with LEDs to save you squinting or reaching for the lighting from a phone – had two pages of tipples. While the house’s classic cocktail selection was vast, the unusual flavors mentioned in Her Signature Cocktails were too intriguing to miss.
The nights start better with the Most Wanted (RM47), which includes a curious list of ingredients: pork dipped in baijiu (yes, you read that right), cognac, sherry, honey, and fresh orange and lemon juice. Served in a whimsical glass with an upward-curving spout, it was garnished with mint leaves and a long piece of bak kwa (Chinese jerk). A taste revealed the inescapable flavor of baijiu with a savory citrus finish. The sweetness came from a bite of bak kwa, which balanced out the strong taste of the liquor, making this odd combination quite well balanced.
Flirt & Romance (RM48) was a mixture of salmon fat-washed vodka, honey-soya-ginger glaze, and fresh lemon and orange juice, presented in a coupe. This blend had a sweet, smoky flavor with a hint of lemon and a creamy mouthfeel. However, it was easy to drink, revealing a different layer with every sip.
From the selection of low ABV (alcohol by volume) glasses, we chose Her Cobbler (RM40). This drink included suan mei tang – a centuries-old Chinese sour plum drink consumed to cool off on a hot day – with sherry, sugar and orange juice. Refreshing with hints of dark fruit, this tincture was perfect for wine lovers.
His house had a selection of sea bass bites as well as heartier dishes such as grilled unagi and chicken karaage – both served with rice. Usual snacks such as edamame, chicken popcorn and fries – not particularly fancy but they get the job done – are given quirky names like Eat the Green (RM10), Cube or Cutie (RM18) and Blonde Hair (RM14 ) to attract guests.
A plate of Squizy Balls (RM15), better known as takoyaki, was nice, fluffy and tasty. We ordered – and devoured them in a hurry. It was unfortunate that many skewered snacks were not available that evening, but the King of Mushroom (RM8) and Better than Belly Fats (RM8) – the latter being grilled pork belly – did well with the most of the drinks we ordered. The highlight snack was definitely the Medusa (RM15), a fried enoki mushroom spread around a serving of spicy powder. Add a pinch of salty and spicy condiment and the fried mushrooms have become addictive.
Other guests started pouring in, giving the space an atmosphere. Despite their growing presence, Her House has managed to retain a private and exclusive vibe. Thirsty again, we ordered What if… (RM49), an herbal concoction that tasted like an edgy spirit. Dressed in fragrant snow mushrooms and made with red ginseng brandy, rye whiskey, soju, winter elixir syrup and orange bitters, this drink is a nod to drinks and traditional medicines for which Chinatown was once so famous.
We recommend finishing the evening with an order of Envy Me (RM48), a mix of junmai sake, osmanthus bianco vermouth, campari, white grape syrup, lemon juice and soda. Served in a textured glass tokkuri (a thin-necked bottle with a rounded bottom used to serve sake) and a small cup, this drink has a lovely pinkish color. Reminiscent of a refreshing Chinese tea, the concoction has a slight sweetness and a subtle bitter finish. Soothing and easy to drink.
Her home certainly has an air of mystery, fueled by the edgy decor and unique cocktails. Once the door closed behind you, it was as if you were back in reality, leaving the colorful world of this hidden gem behind. The drinks and atmosphere kept us coming back. It’s safe to say that the untried items on the menu are definitely worth a return visit.
His house, 63 D, Jalan Sultan, Bangunan Ka Yin, KL. Every day, from 4 p.m. to midnight.
This article was first published on August 22, 2022 in The Edge Malaysia.