Reka Bar Has An Ingenious Way Of Making You Want To Drink Every Cocktail On Their Menu

Up a nondescript stairwell in Bukit Damansara, along Jalan Setia Bakti, is a doorway bathed in ultramarine blue light. Behind it is Reka Bar (or Reka:Bar) – a cocktail bar that has already done much to solidify its position as the most exciting new bar to open in the Malaysian capital, with an arsenal of impressively polished drinks.

Reka’s authoritative debut, which got off to a formidable start when the bar opened in late November, is largely down to the combined talents of its phenomenal team of bartenders. Joel Poon, formerly head bartender at The Other Room in Singapore and now recently returned from Dubai, has been joined behind Reka’s counter by Giovanni Andrea Magliaro (previously of Mr Fogg’s Tavern & Gin Parlour in London) and Harry Rusho (of PS150).

Together – in the research and development section of the bar, which looks like a cross between a mad scientist’s lab and an apothecary – Poon, Magliaro, and Rusho have created, distilled, dehydrated, brewed, infused, and crafted a series of exceptional drinks for Reka. No small amount of work has gone into its two menus: The Domino Effect, a signature menu consisting of 12 drinks that share flavour elements with their closest neighbours, and a Spotlight menu, which riffs on a specific theme.

Part of the appeal of Reka Bar is its gamified layout of The Domino Effect menu, where drinks are displayed in a wheel that illustrates the full ‘chain reaction of flavour’ and the way one cocktail connects to the next. It’s impossible to resist guzzling at least half the wheel, discovering how a (C)loud & Clear bolstered with Michter’s American whisky, oolong milk tea, salted caramel, and a matcha meringue links up with a gingery Naughty Congee cushioned by fermented amazake.

Naughty Congee

The Jalur Gemilang, Malaysia’s national flag, is the source of inspiration for Reka’s first Spotlight menu, entitled ‘Primary Colours: A Celebration of Malaysia’, which does exactly that by encapsulating local ingredients and experiences in four drinks. Drink Your Toast, for instance – the bar’s only warm cocktail – plays on the idea of a kopitiam breakfast, pairing a teh tarik-esque mixture of goat milk and brown butter Bols genever with toasted white bread, sweetened with lapsang souchong spread.

Drink Your Toast

In less skilled or experienced hands, Reka’s drinks might risk being more about than concept than the execution, falling at the hurdle of attempting to be too complex or elaborate for the bar’s own good. But not here: each of Reka’s cocktails are a revelation in and of themselves, whether they’re a potent local reworking of a Bloody Mary (this time with papaya and calamansi juice) or a golden, tempoyak-laced tribute to Malaysia’s rich natural resources. ‘Innovative’ and ‘genius’ are words that are often overused, and without much justification – but in the case of Reka Bar, its team is fully deserving of such praise.


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