The stretch from Jalan SS20/11 to Damansara Kim, Petaling Jaya, is packed with plenty of eateries, including Table & Apron, Kompassion, Universal Bakehouse (whose fluffy donuts and sourdough breads are a must), and artisanal ice cream parlor Piccoli Lotti. So find the bar Dissolved solids just above MyNews on this street really completes the perfect afternoon – imagine finishing a sumptuous meal, walking a few steps for a sweet treat (ice cream or pastry, it’s the dealer’s choice), followed by a carefully prepared cocktail or two.
At Dissolved Solids, alcoholic beverages are just part of an extensive menu of “all kinds in liquid form.” Open daily from 3 p.m., it offers a dedicated coffee menu offering a selection of espresso and filter coffee, ideal for caffeine connoisseurs. Tea lover, I relied on the judgment of my companion, and she found that their white dish was adequate. What excites us the most is the unique cup and saucer it contains, which we later learned were fashioned by one of the bartenders’ grandfathers who, while being an architect by trade, makes clay as a hobby. Teeters are not left out either, as there’s a meaty menu of non-alcoholic drinks that have as much care and thought behind their flavors as cocktails.
Dissolved Solids has a stripped-down aesthetic, with tiled floors, cement countertops, exposed ceiling beams, and open wood shelving. It’s split into two sections, with a horseshoe-shaped bar — part of the counter is taken up by coffee-making equipment, and the curved section allows guests to sit — at its center. Half the space looks like a minimalist cafe with muted orange walls and simple seating made cheerful by the 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, eager to watch the mixologists at work. During the day, this section seems a bit raw, with too much sunlight coming from the small outdoor smoking area. But when the sun goes down and more and more customers arrive, the atmosphere changes and adopts a secret speakeasy vibe. The dim lighting and quiet whispers, interspersed with swirled ice cubes in cocktail shakers, all lend themselves to a relaxed and laid back evening.
Scrolling through the boozy menu on my phone — like most places now, a quick scan of a QR code opens the requisite Google Drive — we’re intrigued by the spirited combination of surreal photography and artwork that accompanies each drink. To start, a selection of cocktails in the cafe and we choose two from the list.
Feng Shui (RM27) – a blend of cointreau, amaretto, espresso, dried mandarin peel and kaffir lime leaf – tastes festive with a smoky quality reminiscent of bak kwa and firecrackers, as well as floral and orange notes. The kaffir gives a more herbaceous scent 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 beans and white peach. The drink is served with a heap of grated cheese on a large ice cube, and we were asked to take a sip and then a spoonful of cheese for a sweet and salty experience. Unfortunately, the drink is aptly named in the wrong way. The cocktail was too sweet and the mild gouda did little to temper it. While in theory the sweet-salty balance sounded good, the drink didn’t live up to its promise.
Moving on to the Vermouth cocktail selection on the menu, we opted for the refreshing Yellow Oval Crisp (RM29). Made with white vermouth, limoncello, lemon balm and dehydrated lemon, this easy-to-sip drink is served in a tall glass, with a lemon wedge on a long ice cube. This drink would certainly be a balm on a too hot day. Dissolved Solid’s play on a classic whiskey sour, named Junos Sour (RM39), replaces lemon with yuzu. Made fragrant by the citrus garnish and pleasing to the eye, thanks to the art of careful foaming with bitters, this drink was definitely a favorite of the night as it was the perfect balance of sour- soft.
From the vantage point of our seats, we watched the mixologists sculpt the ice cream and shake up the concoctions. Behind them were rows and rows of transparent, black-edged mini drawers – normally used to store tools, nuts and screws – filled with all sorts of dried ingredients and toppings. This added to the bar’s stripped down and simple feel. What also intrigued me were the clear 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 “grandma smoked”.
It’s important to ask for the “soup of the day,” Dissolved Solids’ playful way to experiment with off-menu drinks. When we visited, the soup was an alcoholic version of a traditional Malaysian dish, teh tarik. Served in the typical ceramic kopitiam cup and saucer set, with a print of fuzzy blue flowers, this hot gin drink was topped with a coffee liqueur espuma, the perfect way to mimic tea froth classic shot.
While the bar doesn’t have any snacks or bites — except for booze gummies with flavors such as a peated Laphroaig and a lightly sweet vermouth martini — patrons are welcome to bring food or make themselves deliver meals. We spotted an order from McDonald’s by another guest as we gulped down cinnamon donuts from Universal Bakehouse.
To wrap up our visit, we asked the bartender to surprise us, and the two high-strength concoctions, priced at RM46 each, were crafted to tempt our palates before heading out to dinner. The first was mezcal-based, with a smoked pineapple flavor, which made me crave pork, in the form of ribs or siew yoke. The second was said to include brandy uh and a spritz of aromatic bitters. This drink was almost savory, with a hint of lemon, leaving us with a craving for Japanese food. While the mixologist was suspicious of his process for creating these drinks, he definitely realized what he was planning on doing because we were hungry.
As we sipped our drinks and indulged in the mellow ambience of the space, we agreed that another visit, or two, was destined to further explore the menu. Naturally, we have to recreate my vision of the perfect afternoon at Damansara Kim: delicious food, indulgent desserts and carefully crafted cocktails.
Dissolved Solids, 43-1, Jalan SS 11/20, Damansara Kim, PJ. Every day, 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. For reservations call 016 317 4618.
This article was first published on August 15, 2022 in The Edge Malaysia.