A bar with an easily misread name — particularly after a drink or three — is sure to catch the eye. I won’t tell you what I first read but I can say that even in Cantonese, it’s a tad cheeky. “Fu luk” means “pants down”, alluding to the spirit of abandon Fu Luck Bar aims to inspire, while its Mandarin definition is “prosperity and happiness”.
To give it props, the bar, located at the dine-and-drink strip that is the Electric Boulevard of TREC Kuala Lumpur, does check these boxes. It takes the 1980s as seriously as one can and with the theme “oriental nostalgia”, curates what it describes as “an Instagram-worthy galleria of nostalgic pop culture moments”.
Décor-wise, that translates into quirky ceiling decals of vintage green plastic toy soldiers and paper dolls with fold-on clothes; two hand-painted wooden tables beside a round marble-topped one; and on the brick wall to the left, a reinterpreted Rubik’s cube with pop-up projections and the iconic No Transmission image that marked late-night television before cable and satellite TV. Subtle lighting comes from architectural chandeliers that quirkily interpret abacuses. My favourite, however, is a larger-than-life White Rabbit candy installation near the entrance.
The yesteryear theme is immersive without being overwhelming and the availability of WiFi, for instance, prevents this from being too authentic a throwback. Seated around the restaurant at dinnertime on a Tuesday are diners who seem of appropriate age to truly appreciate the revived era, likely young children or teenagers at the time.
We go with the waitress’ recommendations of My Fair Lady (RM32) and Fu Luck Ice Kacang (RM35) for aperitifs. The former is a cocktail of Tanqueray Gin, elderflower syrup, egg white, and yuzu and lemon juice. Served with a syringe of violette liqueur, the bouquet is pleasantly floral and fruity while delicate and sweet on the palate with a lovely round body in the mouth. Here’s a good start to the evening.
The Fu Luck Ice Kacang pairs Bacardi Carta Blanca and Malibu Rum with Midori liqueur, melon syrup, pineapple and lime juice, honeydew, pineapple and shaved coconut. This assembly is topped by sliced strawberries, nata de coco, corn kernels and blueberries, eliciting slight bewilderment at the choice of ingredients. It has a good alcoholic punch, a light coconut aftertaste and plenty of texture but I’m not sure if it warrants a repeat order.
Pudu Chan Fatt Wanton Mee, the famous 62-year-old heritage brand, serves its renowned noodles here but we are hankering after lighter dishes. We order a cross-section of the dim sum tapas, bao sliders and sharing snacks. The Signature “Smoking” Shanghainese Xiao Long Bao (RM12.90 for three) is served at the perfect temperature, the delicate skin giving way to flavourful broth enhanced by slivers of ginger in soy sauce on the side. The Steamed Pork Dumplings with Caviar (RM12.90 for three) are a meaty mouthful, dense and succulent with that flawless balance of bite and juice. These would be wonderful if you’re after something a little more substantial to hold down the drinks.
The Steamed Mantou with Crispy Prawns and Wasabi Mayo (RM14.90 for two) is less impressive. The mantou was pan fried to crispness where it meets the filling but the prawn was engulfed by the bun and elusive in the subsequent mouthful. The culprit might have been the tomato slice, which added little to texture or taste. The Spam Fries with Wasabi Mayo (RM14.90) fares far better. The spam fingers are just the right size and each had a crunchy wonton skin tied around its middle with a ribbon of seaweed. As for the wasabi mayo that accompanied both of these, the lack of intensity is surprising given the vividness of its hue. “My auto-correct changed ‘wasabi’ to ‘was a bit’,” I tell my colleague. “It’s not wrong,” she replies.
Last but not least is the Deep Fried Sotong Coated with Salted Egg Yolk (RM14.90). It is exceptionally crunchy with a healthy kick of spiciness but the salted egg was not well tossed, resulting in uneven distribution. The ratio of flour to squid wasn’t consistent either but when they got it right, the contrast between chewy squid and crisp fritters is delightful.
As our original order of three dishes had grown to five, we needed drinks to match. The Old Master’s Brew (RM32), a composition of Tanqueray Gin, Dark Crème de Cacao, pineapple juice, coconut cream and green tea powder comes across as somewhat flat with the merest memory of coconut in flavour and scent. Its redemption lay in the handful of iced gem biscuits served in a banana leaf cone attached to the glass with a paper clip. The Hocus Pocus (RM32), on the other hand, was an uplifting blend of jasmine tea-infused Ketel One Vodka, mint syrup, passionfruit syrup, lime and yuzu and lemon juice. It is minty, citrusy and green, its freshness cutting through the meatier dishes.
Kudos has to be given to the classics. The Knicker Bocker — Ron Zacapa 23 Rum, Cointreau, maraschino liqueur and lemon juice with two raspberries on a skewer — brought big flavour and beautiful balance. And for the grand finale, the Vieux Carre, a mix of Hennessy, rye whisky, sweet vermouth, DOM Bènèdictine, Peychaud’s bitters, angostura bitters, cherry and lemon. This deserved applause, the sweetness of dark fruit and spice offsetting the gravitas of the aftertaste. It slips down effortlessly and showcases a full spectrum of flavours, opening up the palate.
I imagine the crowd swells later in the week and the affordable prices easily bookmark Fu Luck Bar as a venue to swing by for dinner and drinks. Early this workday evening, we are enjoying the easy music and the decor that inspires walks down memory lane for those who remember the era and incredulity at what constituted as entertainment back then by those born later.
Fu Luck Bar, E-G-04, Electric Boulevard, TREC KL, Jalan Tun Razak, KL. 03 2110 6938. Mon-Thu, Noon-3am; Fri, Noon-4am; Sat, 5pm-4am; Sun, 5pm-3am. This article first appeared on Apr 30, 2018 in The Edge Malaysia.