Part 2: New Restaurants, Bars & Cafes In Malaysia In 2020
- Canvass: For sustainable fareCanvass: For sustainable fare
- Frank's Bar: For cigars and cocktailsFrank's Bar: For cigars and cocktails
- Natalina - Italian Kitchen: For time-tested Italian recipesNatalina - Italian Kitchen: For time-tested Italian recipes
- Sprout Fusion: For plant-based dishes and drinksSprout Fusion: For plant-based dishes and drinks
- VCR Stacks: For foolproof sourdough sandwichesVCR Stacks: For foolproof sourdough sandwiches
- Vernakular: For cake, coffee and retail therapyVernakular: For cake, coffee and retail therapy
These new F&B spots run the gamut, from a Sinatra-inspired speakeasy to several sustainable eateries
**This feature is a follow-up to part 1 of our new restaurants round-up
Canvass: For sustainable fare
Chef de cuisine Nikolaj Lenz (Photo: Canvass)
Head bartender M.I.Rony (Photo: Canvass)
Believing that it is possible to feed the gaping maw of capitalism while doing right by the planet, Canvass claims to champion "sustainable hedonism"—a cheeky bulletin that inspired us to pop by the premises. The restaurant, which has moved into Mari Ristorante & Bar's spot in Old Malaya, has done little redecorating, focusing instead on running a tight ship and realising a strong menu.
While our meal was punctuated by an equal mix of hits (fiske frikadeller or fish cakes reminiscent of French quenelles) and misses (dry and dense whole wheat sourdough chicken ravioli), we doff our hat to chef de cuisine Nikolaj Lenz and head bartender MI Ronny for embracing the challenge of creating zero waste fare (sweet potato scraps are spun into syrups to sweeten certain cocktails). More experimentation and self-correction will take this restaurant places.
Frank's Bar: For cigars and cocktails
"Alcohol may be man's worst enemy, but the bible says to love your enemy."
The above quote by Frank Sinatra, which he likely delivered with a mischievous twinkle in his bright blue eyes, sets the stage for the revelry that unfolds at Frank's Bar. Like the bulk of KL's speakeasies that are only shrouded in mystery for their first few weeks, Frank's is quite easily found—via three different entrances, no less. For the most 'scenic route', ask the staff to point you in the direction of the 'floating fedora'.
Surpassing our expectations in every single way, the cigar and cocktail bar served as a form of escapism from the drudgery of the past months. A 'quick drink' somehow turned into a mission to sample every single cocktail before another impending lockdown (touch wood!). Standout cocktails include the Drowned in Sound (head bartender Giovanni Andrea Magliaro's project with sonic-aged spirits is the neatest thing we've encountered this year) and the Artist's Mind, a whimsical whiskey-based cocktail illustrating the transience of thought.
No prizes for guessing which musician croons in the backdrop.
Natalina - Italian Kitchen: For time-tested Italian recipes
While Frank's universe rotates around spirits, Natalina is firmly grounded in good old-fashioned Italian recipes; we suggest lining your stomach at the latter before imbibing at the former. Quite the looker with black and white photography on the walls, faux foliage hanging from the beams, and rounded booths for intimate conversations, Natalina is named after the most important woman in Frank Sinatra's life: his mother. So who better to formulate Natalina's menu than a mother-and-son duo? Diego Reali, Natalina's stern-looking but sweet-mannered executive chef, was lent a hand by his madre Stefania Cristofari in the restaurant's recipe creations.
Most meals here begin with complimentary focaccia sticks—our only complaint is that there were far too few—and end with traditional tiramisu. The pizza oven had yet to be installed at our time of visit, but we were happy to settle for the deeply delicious seafood bisque and truffle-laced parcels of spinach and ricotta ravioli.
Sprout Fusion: For plant-based dishes and drinks
A vegan herself, founder Daniela Abad Ng visualised Sprout Fusion as a hangout spot for bohemian types.
TATLER TIP: Seek out Sprout Fusion on the bridge connecting Bangsar Village I and II.
If the neon signage in the selfie section doesn't stop you in your tracks, perhaps the baked goods display and the familiar hiss of the espresso machine will. The availability of dairy-free milk is particularly pleasing for the lactose intolerant—try Snappea's plant-based pea milk for a pleasant surprise.
As far as Sprout's food goes, it's nice to see something other than the usual Caesar Salad and avocado toast. We easily polished off the Jicama Tu Cama salad dressed with guava paste and a sprinkling of granola before turning our attentions to the Bae-ritto with meat-like marinated jackfruit.
Treats from the sweets department include Churros, Coconut Flan, and a zesty Chia Berry Yogurt containing fresh coconut milk and a vegan yogurt culture.
Neon signage at Sprout Fusion (Photo: Katelyn Tan)
Iced coffee and Limonada de Coco (Photo: Katelyn Tan)
Jicama Tu Cama (Photo: Katelyn Tan)
Vegan Chia Berry Yogurt (Photo: Katelyn Tan)
VCR Stacks: For foolproof sourdough sandwiches
While rice bowls and noodle dishes naturally take precedence over sandwiches in Malaysia, younger generations who studied abroad crave the cheap and hearty bread-based meals that kept them going through college. Cue VCR Stacks, which has set up in The Fat Fish's old spot in Mont Kiara Shoplex; some in the neighbourhood are now swapping their usual sashimi for sourdough sandwiches.
Peaceful enough that people lug their laptops here to work, VCR Stacks serves both savoury and sweet sandwiches, but be prepared to wait a while; after all, sandwich-making is an art and what you get here—from the 4 Cheese Toastie with a healthy smear of slightly acidic mustard to the rich yet refreshing Ricotta Strawberry Tartine showered with toasted hazelnuts—is worthwhile.
Sweet treats behind the counter range from Crack Pie à la Christina Tosi to thick slabs of pound cake. We'll be back for the coffee kombucha and craft beers in the café's second stage.
Vernakular: For cake, coffee and retail therapy
Natural sunlight streaming into Vernakular (Photo: Vernakular)
Coffee and cake pairing (Photo: Vernakular)
Carrot Cake and S'mores Brownies by That Last Bite (Photo: Vernakular)
Love timepieces but can't afford to part with millions of dollars? Us too, hence our elation upon discovering Vernakular, a lifestyle store made up of a watch library and a coffee bar. Arranged in alphabetical order are alternative watch brands such as Bravur, Corniche, Ice-Watch, Greyhours, Marathon, Nixon, Timex, Techne Instruments, William L 1985 and Olivia Burton. Speak to a knowledgeable sales representative to get the full story behind a brand or a model.
Marrying retail with F&B clearly works a charm; the coffee bar's presence plays a big part at increasing foot traffic at Vernakular. Get cosy with a copy of Musotrees magazine while snacking on S'mores Brownies, Carrot Cake, Congo Bars or Salted Chocolate Chip Cookies.
TATLER TIP: Only the observant will appreciate Vernakular’s subtle art installation, an ode to the art of horology.