Locating the inconspicuous Hani Eatery required a bit of sleuthing skill, especially since there were no signboards pointing out the place. Situated away from Jalan Telawi, where the usual trendy cafés often sprout, it lies instead among the melting pot of kopitiams and nasi campur stalls in the quieter area of Lucky Garden, Bangsar. GPS directions lead you to a fruit store while a flight of stairs beside it, indicated by a flashy red sign that reads “Jeannie”, a hair salon, will bring you up to Hani.
This new café is distinguished by its unfinished walls, unevenly knocked down to expose rough edges of brick and mortar. They give the space character while creating a seamless flow between the dining sections, which include a photogenic corner with foldable camping chairs and a skylit space beside a wall, dimpled for visual texture. A tip: sitting at the bar gives you a front-row view of the baristas’ quick hands while mirrored panels on the ceiling offer an aerial perspective.
With just four items from the kitchen, the menu is far from extensive. But Hani’s Japanese-Korean-inspired offerings are prepared well with just the right portions to satiate an empty stomach. The rice in the Gochujang Karaage Don was topped with tender, deep fried chicken with a drizzle of savoury gochujang sauce and a perfect hanjuku egg along with some salsa, pickled radish and salad. The other options, including a vegetarian bowl, seemed pretty balanced as well, with a good protein to carb and vegetable ratio.
The person at the counter recommended one of Hani’s signature refreshers to go with the meal. It was truly appreciated as the Momo-Ira, an icy concoction of green tea, grapefruit, white peach and calamansi not only paired well with everything we ordered but was much needed after navigating traffic on a scorching day.
The dessert menu comprises cakes, tarts and cookies, many of which make use of Niko Neko’s well-known matcha powders. The Yuri Matcha Roll Cake with Jasmine Cream was a delight, especially with a good cup of coffee. The strawberry jam in the warmed-up Scones Tart oozed and flowed when it was cut, but it tasted a tad sweeter than expected.
Hani only accepts cashless payment and it is highly advised to call ahead to check for seating availability if you are planning to visit during peak hours as reservations are not permitted at present.
20A, Lorong Ara Kiri 2, Bangsar, KL. Daily, 8am to 6pm. 010 2994 883.
Tucked away in an unassuming corner at Concerto North Kiara, Patricia KL is a small coffee shop with a big view. Upon entering, the eyes are immediately drawn to the outdoor garden, separated by floor-to-ceiling sliding doors that assist in brightening and opening up the space. There are only four tables, two outside and two inside, hosting no more than eight patrons at a time. But the generous spacing affords a sense of ease during these worrisome Covid days.
The menu is very small, with only a handful of cakes, customisable plant-based yoghurt bowls and the primary café beverages available at the moment. Plans for hot food are in the pipeline, but until then it is perhaps more suitable to drop by for tea or a light breakfast. After ordering from the counter (cash only), choose to dine al fresco if the weather permits. The gentle breeze that sweeps through the garden, rustling the towering bamboo trees, is most calming. It almost feels like you are cocooned in a secluded sanctuary, where deep, slow breaths are automatically taken to match its quiet pace. However, if you have some work to catch up on, plug points are available indoors.
The lemon poppyseed loaf slice and latte came swiftly as there was no one else in the café when we visited. The cake was light with a bright, citrusy glaze that added a good amount of zing. The first sip of coffee was rejuvenating and having it in such an environment made it even better.
The owner (whose name is, in fact, not Patricia) revealed that the café was christened after a favourite coffee place in Melbourne, where she studied interior design. She suggests coming at night as the garden appears more peaceful when the lights are on, evoking the vibes of the famed Dou Dou Bake in PJ, minus the insanely long queues.
Clubhouse at Concerto North Kiara, Dutamas, KL. Tuesday to Sunday, 11am to 8pm.
Nowadays, it seems like the combination of concrete and wood, coupled with a plethora of plants, is the décor of choice for new café owners who enjoy minimalistic and industrial design. After all, the equation works, as evidenced by the Instagram pages of weekend café hoppers. But the folks behind one of Taman Tun Dr Ismail’s latest joints, Neutrals, who are taking advantage of the hype around the style, are not new to the scene.
Neutrals is a collaboration between coffee roaster The Roast Things and Sunbather Coffee, a yoshoku-led café serving Japanese interpretations of Western cuisine. Two things can be expected from this partnership: good coffee and a mean sando-style sandwich. And after visiting on a slow Friday morning, my anticipation was not for naught.
Its massive Scotch Egg Sando and Fish Katsu Sando are by far the most popular picks, but as it was still rather early in the morning, the lighter but no less enormous Spiced Mushroom Sando seemed more appealing. It consisted of tamagoyaki, cabbage, torched cheese and a mushroom and carrot fritter sandwiched between house-made rye bread. There is no delicate way to eat this really, but one (huge) bite easily pushes thoughts of table manners aside. The sando paired incredibly well with their matcha latte, which boasted distinct seaweed notes with a light umami flavour profile.
While there are other offerings to keep you full — such as bento meals and quiches — do remember to save some stomach space for the scones. Six flavours are available, from Lavender Yuzu to Buckwheat Treacle, served with your choice of jams and preserves as well as clotted cream. There are tamer selections too: the classic Buttermilk scone with Strawberry Shiso proved to be a winning combo. It reminded me of the ones by The Lord’s Café in Cameron Highlands, which are arguably the best. Enjoying this with a flat white, a smooth cuppa with milky chocolate notes and a hint of acidity, was the right call.
My only regret was not getting a dozen for the road or trying their quirky scone sando (scones with fillings), but that just means Neutrals warrants a second visit. Maybe a third to pick up provisions from the counter or a fourth for those gorgeous staghorn ferns on sale.
30A, Persiaran Zaaba, TTDI, KL Daily, 8am to 10pm. Closed on Wednesdays.
This article first appeared on Oct 25, 2021 in The Edge Malaysia.