Words: Shaun Humphries Photos: Monica Tindall
Take three, 20-something friends, enrol them at a university near London and make them all study economics and business – what do you get? A financial services firm? Nope. Maybe an internet start-up? Wrong again.
For childhood buds and now business partners, Jun Wei, Shen and Hugo, the answer is Modern Society – Damansara’s newest cocktail bar and kitchen. According to Shen, it was a career decision that was reached after many late nights ‘researching’ at London’s finest drinking and eating establishments.
“It was our toughest assignment, but it had to be done,” joked Shen during our recent Wednesday night visit. “After experiencing so many great spots in London, we all thought it made sense to bring a piece of that back to Malaysia.”
Walking into Modern Society, I immediately felt the vibe the guys were after. An incredibly high ceiling, a marble bar shipped in from Greece and a funky light display that changes with the music, the tone was innovative, laid back and comfortable.
Split into two distinct areas, The Gallery on the first floor and The Loft on the second floor (with its own mini-bar and view of the entire restaurant), the space feels both public and private at the same time, which is perfect for both a date night or an office party.
When it came to creating Modern Society’s cocktail and food menus, Hugo acknowledged it was all about innovation and “crave-ability.”
“Especially with our drinks, we didn’t want people to just drink a cocktail and forget about it. We want them to crave it and order it the next time they visit,” said Hugo. “Our food is the same. We want to bring people new flavours through different and unexpected combinations.”
Because cocktails are their main attraction (they’ve got a 15-page drink menu!), that’s exactly where we started.
Cocktail Bar at Modern Society
First out of bartender James’s very capable hands was a Shenanigans (RM39), which is infused with beetroot, whisky, Parfait d’Amour, pineapple honey chilli syrup and lemon. Named after owner Shen and created after one long and fun night of trial and error, this drink has a unique flavour and colour – thanks to the beets. Smokey, spicy and savoury, I’ve never tasted anything quite like it and it made me happier after each sip.
Next up was The Scientist (RM60), which is a magnificent potion that consists of manuka honey, rose tea, gin, orange and lemon peel, elderflower and cinnamon. Served hot, the concoction is created in a glass container (taken straight from science class) by adding a flame from below and the fruit, flowers and spices from above. The result is a wonderfully sweet-smelling mixture that warmed my throat and provided my taste buds with an enjoyable mix of the honey, cinnamon and just a hint of gin.
Our third creation was Liquid Poetry (RM38), which is made with Malibu rum, elderflower liqueur, gin and port, and is chalked full of boozy goodness. Be careful with this one. It felt like I only took two sips – and then it was gone and I was looking for more. Amazingly, with all that alcohol it wasn’t overly boozy, just delicious.
Our final cocktail was a Rum Runner (RM38), which is a house mix of four rums, nutmeg, lime sherbet and juice. Compared to our other cocktails, this drink was relatively straight forward, however, it is dangerously tasty as the rum and the nutmeg create a uniquely sweet flavour that finishes strong.
As we greedily gulped down all the crave-able drinks, we also mixed in some starters to keep us honest.
Appetisers at Modern Society
The simple and addicting Popiah Skin and Seaweed (RM9.90) served with a house hot sauce was the first dish set in front of us. Anything salty and crunchy doesn’t stand a chance when served with cocktails – and this item was no different as it disappeared in record time.
The aptly named Modern Scotch Egg (RM10.90) made with salmon belly, fish roe, beef bacon, chipotle aioli and tomato salsa was created during Shen’s internship in Scotland. After eating endless amounts of regular Scotch eggs, he figured there must be a way to make it more interesting, which is where the salmon, bacon and salsa come in. Assuming it was also created after a night of ‘research’ at the bar, this dish of random ingredients made perfect sense to me as soon as I bit down.
Our final appetiser was the Butternut Squash (RM29.90) consisting of herb marinated oven-roasted squash, beef bolognese, béchamel sauce and bread. A dish that is great for sharing, this creation is savoury, creamy and very satisfying.
Mains at Modern Society
With the starters gone and the cocktails quickly disappearing, it was time for a few mains. First out of the kitchen was Salmon Wellington (RM38.90), which is a generous portion of salmon and Asian-influenced stuffing wrapped in a puff pastry and served alongside homemade béarnaise sauce, roasted potato wedges and grilled vegetables. With everything delicious going on in this one, I never noticed the regular Wellington beef was replaced with the salmon until it was gone.
Even though it only opened in early May, Modern Society’s signature food item has already been named. The Chicken Ramen Burger (RM26.90), which consists of a Miso chicken patty, cheddar cheese, caramelised onions, chipotle mayo and crispy, thin-cut French fries, is an impressive sight to behold. Over half-a-foot high and calling my name as soon as it left the kitchen, this one is impossible to eat without a fork and makes you feel guilty about the calories after each bite. But who cares? It was delicious.
Making sure to highlight some rice, our final dish was the Peruvian Rice Stew (RM25.90), featuring soft beef rump cubes, multi-grain rice, cheesy egg and gravy. Again, this one wasn’t what I expected with the rich and hearty beef and egg filling my belly and showing the versatility of rice.
Dessert at Modern Society
Before we called it a night, there was still time for Panna Cotta (RM19.90), which was vanilla infused and cream based served with slow braised strawberry and mint coulis. Slightly sweet, creamy and light, it was a great way to end the night.
As we said goodbye to the guys and wished them well, it was inspiring to see the excitement in their eyes as they embark on their Modern Society adventure.
Modern Society is open Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. until 3 a.m., and Sunday to Thursday from 10 a.m. until late. Great happy hour prices are available every day from 4 to 8 p.m.
Reasons to visit: A relaxed and creative atmosphere that will leave you craving their inventive cocktails and enjoying their unique combinations of food. The entire staff is warm, engaging and friendly, which adds to the welcoming vibe and will only lead to the start of a great new society. Cocktail-wise, don’t miss the Shenanigans, the Rum Rummer or The Scientist!