The stretch of Jalan SS20/11 in Damansara Kim, Petaling Jaya, is filled with numerous eateries, including Table & Apron, Kompassion, Universal Bakehouse (whose pillowy donuts and sourdough loaves are a must-try) and the artisanal gelato parlour Piccoli Lotti. So, finding the bar Dissolved Solids just above MyNews on this street truly completes the perfect afternoon — imagine finishing a sumptuous meal, walking a few steps for a sweet treat (ice cream or pastry, it is dealer’s choice), followed by a carefully crafted cocktail or two.
At Dissolved Solids, alcoholic beverages are only part of an extensive menu of “all sorts in liquid form”. Open from 3pm daily, it has a dedicated coffee menu offering a selection of espresso and filter-based coffee, ideal for caffeine connoisseurs to browse. A tea lover, I deferred to my companion’s judgement, and she noted that their flat white was adequate. What excited us more was the unique mug and saucer that it came in, which we later learnt was shaped by one of the bartenders’ grandfather who — while an architect by trade — makes clayware as a hobby. Teetotallers are not left out, as there is a meaty menu of non-alcoholic beverages that have just as much care and thought behind their flavours as the cocktails.
Dissolved Solids has a stripped-back aesthetic, with tiled floors, cement counters, exposed ceiling beams and open wood shelves. It is split into two sections, with a horseshoe-shaped bar — part of the counter is occupied by coffee-making equipment and the curved section is for guests to sit — at its centre. Half of the space feels like a minimalist coffee shop with muted-orange walls and simple seating made cheerful with the rays of sunlight filtering in from the large windows that face the main road. The other part, towards the back of the space, has blue walls, with another U-shaped bar on one side and rattan tables and stools on the other.
Naturally, we sat at the blue-walled bar, keen to watch the mixologists at work. In the daytime, this section feels a little raw, with too much harsh sunlight coming in from the little open-air smoking-friendly seating. But when the sun goes down and more customers trickle in, the atmosphere changes and adopts a secretive speakeasy vibe. The dim lighting and quietly murmuring voices, interspersed by ice tossed about in cocktail shakers, all lend to a relaxed and easy-going evening out.
Browsing the alcoholic menu on my phone — as with most places now, a quick scan of a QR code opens the requisite Google Drive — we are intrigued by the spirited combination of photography and surrealist illustrations that accompany each drink. To begin are a selection of coffee cocktails and we pick two from the list.
Feng Shui (RM27) — a mix of cointreau, amaretto, espresso, dried mandarin orange peel and kaffir lime leaf — tastes festive with a smoky quality reminiscent of bak kwa and firecrackers, as well as floral and orangey notes. The kaffir lends a more herbaceous fragrance and finish. We had to try the first drink on the menu, Too Gouda To Be True (RM33), purely because of its incredibly odd list of ingredients: espresso liqueur, gouda cheese, vanilla pods and white peach. The drink is served with a pile of shaved cheese on top of a large ice cube, and we were instructed to take a sip and then a spoon of cheese for a sweet and salty experience. Unfortunately, the drink lived up to its name in a bad way. The cocktail was overly sweet and the mild gouda did not do much to temper it. While, in theory, the salty-sweet balance sounded good, the drink did not deliver.
Flipping to the Vermouth cocktail selection on the menu, we opted for the refreshing Yellow Oval Crisp (RM29). Made of white vermouth, limoncello, lemon balm and dehydrated lemon, this easy-to-sip beverage is served in a tall glass, with a lemon wedge resting on a long ice cube. This drink would certainly be a balm on an overly warm day. Dissolved Solid’s play on a classic whisky sour, named the Junos Sour (RM39), replaces lemon with yuzu. Made fragrant by the citrus garnish and pleasing to the eye, thanks to the neat foam art with bitters, this drink was certainly a favourite of the night because it was the perfect balance of sweet and sour.
From the vantage point of our seats, we watched as the mixologists carved ice and shook up concoctions. Behind them were rows and rows of black-bordered transparent mini drawers —normally used for storing tools, nuts and screws — filled with all manner of dried ingredients and garnishes. This added to the bar’s stripped-back and simple feel. What also intrigued me were the transparent glass bottles on the top shelves that looked like alcoholic infusions. Some of the labels we could make out were different citrus spirits and one mysteriously read “smoked grandma”.
It is important to ask for the “soup of the day”, Dissolved Solids’ playful way of experimenting with off-menu drinks. On our visit, the soup was an alcoholic spin on a traditional Malaysian favourite, teh tarik. Served in the typical ceramic kopitiam cup-and-saucer set, complete with blurred blue flower print, this gin-based hot drink was topped with a coffee liqueur espuma, the perfect way to mimic the foam on the classic pulled tea.
While the bar has no snacks or bites — save for alcoholic gummies with flavours such as a peaty Laphroaig and a lightly sweet martini vermouth — guests are welcome to bring food in or have meals delivered. We spotted an order from McDonald’s by another guest as we chowed down on cinnamon donuts from Universal Bakehouse.
To conclude our visit, we asked the bartender to surprise us, and the two high-proof concoctions, priced at RM46 each, were crafted to entice our palates before we headed out for dinner. The first was mezcal-based, with a smoky pineapple flavour, which made me crave pork, in the form of ribs or siew yoke. The second was said to include brandy ume and a spritz of aromatic bitters. This drink was almost savoury, with a hint of lemon, leaving us with a hankering for Japanese food. While the mixologist was cagey about his process of creating these drinks, he definitely achieved what he set out to do because we were hungry.
As we sipped our drinks and gave in to the mellow vibe of the space, we agreed another visit, or two, was in order to further explore the menu. Naturally, we must recreate my vision of the perfect afternoon in Damansara Kim: yummy food, indulgent desserts and thoughtfully created cocktails.
Dissolved Solids, 43-1, Jalan SS 20/11, Damansara Kim, PJ. Daily, 3-11pm. For reservations, call 016 317 4618.
This article first appeared on Aug 15, 2022 in The Edge Malaysia.