When you’re on a night out, food is invariably at the forefront of your mind to soak up your cocktail sins. It’s also preferable that delicious bites are accompanied by said beverages.
Hidden behind a large wooden door, tucked away in a corner on the eighth floor of Pavilion Elite, is Saro, a new lounge and restaurant that does both. At a press preview, founder Kesavan Purusotman reveals that he has a personal connection with the name Saro — which means “I will” in Italian — as it is also his mother’s name.
Wood furnishings and elegant leather seats fill the room, giving it a relaxed, speakeasy-esque vibe. The bar itself is decked with all the boozy must-haves, and is framed by gray brick sidewalls and a black marble countertop. The statement piece is a high-tech light feature on the ceiling, which has many configurations — the space can go from dimly lit romance to flashy dance party within seconds. A private room at the back, equipped with karaoke facilities, is available for bookings.
Chefs Nopporn Nutto and Mohd Faizal Mohd Zafar have a menu that’s dominated by Thai flavours, and allows guests to choose between small plates and mains that are perfect for sharing. We started with delicious little bites, including mini burgers, beef burritos and signature shells with an array of toppings. Then came the mains, which were hit-and-miss — the pesto pasta had more oil than pesto, which coated my tongue in an unfortunate way. The true star, and saviour, was their fusion beef on skewers and garlic fried rice. The meat was tender, the rice was garlic perfection, and on the side was a spicy herb sauce that tied the two seamlessly together.
At the bar, operations manager Jonathan Zarsadias has curated a menu of cocktails inspired by Asian flavours. Gin lovers will be especially fond of the Signature Monkey 47 made with Sloe Gin, Fevertree tonic and a sprig of rosemary. My personal favourite was the Saro Sour — a perfect balance of familiar aromas and refreshing flavour. The Saro Sour pairs blended whisky, lemon juice, egg white and torched herbs, including star anise and cinnamon. Another must-try is Frank Zacapa, which combines cognac, white rum, coconut liqueur, orange zest and coffee beans into a tropical concoction of flavours.
If you’re hankering for something Spanish, Pinchos Tapas Bar in Jalan Changkat is the place to be. Pinchos is cosy with its dim lighting and long bar that stretches along the room. It’s an escape from the bustle of clubbers outside, creating a more refined dining and drinking experience. Seat yourself on high bar stools or at the lower tables in the back, and let yourself be taken in by the warm colours and good vibe.
Pinchos, meaning spike, celebrates its 10th year on this iconic KL party street with an authentic Spanish menu. Its Back to the Classics cocktail and tasting menu event was held to honour its popular tapas and familiar cocktails with a twist. What makes Pinchos special are the loyal regulars who adore the menu so much that they have not allowed head chef and co-owner, Robert Solanes, to change it.
Head bartender Rony, also known as the liquid chef, aims to please all palates by creating cocktails based on each customer’s likes and dislikes. “I try to make drinks based on my customers’ tastes because everyone likes different flavours,” he said as he shook up my first drink, a Gin Mare, which was perfectly paired with Spanish smoked salmon with goat cheese.
The Iberico ham is a melt-in-your-mouth delicacy that Pinchos serves up regularly. Iberico pork ribs is another tender salty bite that comes with cubed potatoes. It is served with a tasteful whiskey sour, with the addition of a burnt orange slice. Rony went out of his way to find a gin and tonic that would suit my taste buds. He settled on Ferdinand’s Saar Dry Gin, Ferdinand’s winerose-lavender bitters and Fentimans light tonic water, which has converted this whiskey drinker into a gin lover as well.
The Spanish melon with serrano ham was a symphony of salty and sweet. The endive with creamy blue cheese was luscious and had a crunchy bite.
However, the highlight of the evening was most definitely dessert — a simple yet decadent chocolate mousse, paired beautifully with Spanish olive oil and the perfect bite of sea salt. It came with an espresso martini whose only rival for best drink was Pinchos’ Old Fashioned, which had the transformative addition of cinnamon. The evening simply got better with each sip and bite.
Saro Lounge. Level 8, Pavilion Elite, Jalan Bukit Bintang, KL. 016 266 3627. Sun-Mon, 4pm-1am; Tue-Sat, 4pm-3am.
Pinchos Tapas Bar, 18 Changkat Bukit Bintang, KL. 03 2145 8482. Kitchen: Tue-Thur & Sun, 6pm-12.30am; Fri & Sat, 6pm-1.30am. Bar: Tue-Thur & Sun, 5pm-2am.
This article first appeared on May 7, 2018 in The Edge Malaysia.