YiLuDou x T-lex Coffee Studio
Avid coffee drinkers wishing to level up their caffeinated knowledge may be put off by all the proselytising at times — you want a quiet moment to savour the winey undertones of a RM35 Colombia Cereza pour over, not an accompanying sermon or lyrical essay about provenance and roasting profile. Newcomer YiLuDou in Cheras, spaced intimately like a 10-seater omakase but without the rarefied austerity, turns your visit into an opportunity to meditate as you nurse a fastidiously prepared cuppa.
The Japanese reference is not unwarranted, as this neighbourhood favourite devoutly mimics one of the machiyas, or traditional wooden houses, dotting the ancient part of Kyoto. Since YiLuDou only specialises in filtered options, the missing hum of a whirring coffee machine leaves you and your current reading undisturbed. A slice of slow living suspended in time is what co-founders and baristas Lex Low and Lois (owner of Ah Gong House café and roastery just around the corner) envisioned for their calming oasis after all. Apparatus like Kono drippers and Minos kettles, aptly sold alongside camping gear (Low is wild about nature), dream up an enticing invitation of taking our coffee appreciation outdoors.
Dessert, however, is not on the menu (for that, head to Ah Gong House for cookies or a pillowy gula melaka chiffon cake with berries). If you believe the rituals of coffee are as potent as the brew itself, signing up for one of Low’s workshops, where you learn to steep with punctilious control or uncover the secrets behind the velvety foam crowning an ice drip, seems like a cool proposition. YiLuDou, nestled in a residential area, will not draw the random patron but presents itself as a refuge and reward for those who find it.
29 Jalan Goh Boon Hong, Taman Taynton View. Thurs, noon-6pm; Fri, 3-6pm; Sat, noon-4pm; Sun, noon-6pm. See more here.
When café owner and pilot Zellent Low is not landing planes on a runway, he is helping to create one. Fashionistas and models have sauntered down this all-white eatery, where serene expanses of blank walls as well as shapely furniture provide the ultimate blank canvas for events and customers to relax without distraction. Bringing depth and dimension to a stark space, seats sculpted like giant pebbles — also art pieces made from concrete and metal mesh you can purchase — are scattered near a floor-to-ceiling window. Why lift a paint brush when direct pools of light cast a natural glow to illuminate your food for your feed on social media?
A monochromatic palette does not always mean cold and clinical, as rows of eminently giftable macarons in riotous colours, baked goods and offerings from US-based The Cheesecake Factory add warmth to a spartan coffee counter. In the cosmology of cafés, there is no dessert more universal than the cheesecake but the mango key lime version, topped with a cheerful swirl of mousse and bolstered by a vanilla coconut macaroon crust, delivers ample pleasure when paired with a drink that befits SWÔL’s theme: white espresso. Concocted from double-shot espresso and milk that has been infused with two secret ingredients redolent of caramel (they are still a mystery, we tried), the full-bodied brew plays up the bitterness by eliminating the acidity. Whether it warrants trumpets or rebukes is up for debate.
The good news is, plans to introduce hot food and collaborate with key F&B leaders are in the pipeline as SWÔL catches on as a gathering place. It also aspires to be a multidisciplinary gallery and dining hub of sorts, echoing — perhaps unintentionally — the creative spirit of the premises’ former occupant, Richard Koh Fine Art. One does not need to be splashy to be striking, and Low’s fledgling venture measures up.
34-1 Jalan Telawi 2, Bangsar. Mon-Thurs, 8am-8pm; Fri-Sun, 8am-10pm. See more here.
hétam harbours a dark story that wants to be made known. Its name, derived from the Malay word hitam, hints at the signature beverages, namely coffee, chocolate and tea served in their roasted, tanned glory. Away from Telawi’s snarled-up traffic, the al fresco café, of which Niko Neko co-founder Izzat Iskandar is a shareholder, has been operating since July last year out of a corner-lot home that was converted into an office.
“It was all semak,” manager Anhar recalls memories of the unkempt lawn before it was rejuvenated as a coffee joint dandified with wooden benches, ornamental rocks and pebbled floor that encapsulate fleeting fantasies of a Japanese garden. Opening the space up to customers was never really the intention of this coffee bean purveyor, but the owners wanted a cosy corner to meet with their clients and help KLites preserve a sense of routine as they weathered the pandemic gloom. The therapeutic and friendly exchange that accompanied every transaction fuelled a loyal customer base as more people popped by for a morning jolt before joining the grind (Pro tip: Espresso-based coffees are now RM6 for walk-ins from 9 to 11am).
The shaded table in the rear, bathed in pale sunlight that filters through the canopy of bamboo trees, has the choicest seat to escape into the pages of a fictional world, or from a phone-totting crowd tweaking every straw or spoon into photogenic positions. The Brazil Cerrado latte is a reliable companion to the store’s small selection of cocoa-filled pastries such as the Mickey Mousse and Box Bunny, but reconsider the pandan-flavoured iteration if you are not fond of Monin syrups.
145 Jalan Maarof, Bangsar. Mon-Thurs, 9am-5pm; Sat-Sun, 9am-6pm. More info here.
This article first appeared on Nov 7, 2022 in The Edge Malaysia.