Good news for fans of Niko Neko: the brand has opened a second temple dedicated to all things matcha at a larger location in Chinatown. Originating as an online business supplying ceremonial and premium quality matcha to cafés, bakeries and coffee shops around the country, it launched its first concept store in Bangsar in late 2018 to rave reviews of its drinks and desserts.
Regulars familiar with the ubiquitous queue at the original store will enjoy Niko Neko 2.0 for its long and spacious interiors. The design remains the same, with an all-white palette and minimal – to the point of spartan – furnishings. The immaculate décor reflects its purist philosophy when it comes to matcha and turns all attention to the star of the show.
Antique traditional matcha bowls crown white pedestals by the entrance, taken from the personal family collection of co-founder Syun Hattori. A sectioned corner to the right houses shelves of green tea and matcha powder, tea-making utensils, brand paraphernalia the likes of its famous cat-logo badge pins, as well as beautiful ceramicware. A team of baristas await orders at a central counter. Customers can carry their purchases over to the running benches and black furniture able to seat 30 people (45 in a pre-Covid-19 era) arranged around the perimeter. A private room in the far back will host tasting sessions for the brand’s business-to-business (B2B) clients.
“Customers at our Bangsar store have been very loyal, but we were starting to receive complaints that the space was too small to cater to the crowds that came in,” says Syun. “We also wanted to tap into the tourist market, so opening at a tourist destination like Chinatown was a natural decision. Of course, Covid-19 altered our plans somewhat but we’re looking forward to welcoming new and familiar faces at Niko Neko 2.0 in the months to come.”
He emphasizes that the venue is not merely a café, but a concept store as the brand builds upon its footing in the lifestyle business. “We will be branching out into merchandise, starting with a small range of ceramic dishware such as stone-white plates; products that celebrate the Niko Neko aesthetic and lifestyle,” he continues. “Through our upcoming new menus and experiences such as tasting sessions, this hub will be an extension of the matcha education and appreciation we started at Bangsar. We will also soon be introducing two new varieties of matcha from different parts of Japan as each region offers distinctive tastes and profiles.”
The existing collection of matcha comprises Kiku, Yuri and Ren, all of which can be enjoyed pure or in lattes or mocktails. They also feature in the selection of desserts, rotated weekly and made in collaboration with cafés around KL. The current spread comprises cream-filled choux pastries and a matcha mango roulade by Palette Pattisier, as well as burnt cheesecakes by The Tokyo Restaurant.
Niko Neko in Bangsar is currently closed for renovations, but customers can scratch that matcha itch at Niko Neko 2.0, conveniently located across the Pasar Seni MRT station. Be sure to arrive early though; the long queues suggest this spot is going to be just as popular as its predecessor.
Niko Neko 2.0, 181 Jalan Tun H S Lee, Chinatown, KL. Tues to Sun, 11am to 6.30pm.