Shalini Surian, managing partner and resident trailblazer of Knowhere Eatery & Bar in Bangsar, chats with The Yum List about being a woman manning the bar.
What do you do and how did you get into the industry?
Although Knowhere is a passion project, owning and managing my own restobar was never on my list of things to do in life. After pursuing Journalism/PR, then getting my TESL qualification, I dabbled in teaching, e-commerce and even banking services and am currently pursuing my law degree on the side.
However, I’ve been in Bangsar since its heyday in the late 90’s as my aunt was one of the only female bartenders around and that gave me access to all the happening places. So, when my partners and I decided to take the plunge, the location was an obvious choice, albeit off the beaten path. We had an earnest love for unassuming yet wow-in-your-mouth type fare and libations, so that’s exactly what we offer up.
Share with us an interesting story from behind the scenes.
I had no idea how crazy “tasting” could get! When we first started, I had food until my belt literally went bust one day! On average, I did more than 38 types of spirits in any given sitting. Being a novice setting up a bar within 21 days, there was a lot to learn and do, the best part was getting to try more than 35 different types of gin, 28 types of rum, and discovering the revelations of tequila and mezcal, most of which we now carry in our bar.
What’s the best/worst part of your job?
The best is that days are brighter by meeting interesting people. There are always launches, invites, events and masterclasses to attend and constant learning. That said, too much of a good thing can get overwhelming and as rewarding as working for yourself is, it’s long days and barely any weekends, let alone public holidays as these are usually our busiest periods.
What’s your favourite meal/drink at Knowhere?
I love salty and sweet and I can never decide which way to go… Knowhere Nachos is my go-to comfort food, and even my staff know that I almost always devour the whole serving on my own. Quite a feat, since it’s meant to be a sharing portion, with a triple layer of nachos, cheese sauce, melted mozzarella, chicken, salsa served with a side of guacamole. I pair it with our PB&J which is a silky-smooth tequila based, peanut butter and jelly flavoured tipple. This meal hits the spot and satisfies all manner of sweet and savoury cravings in one sitting.
What’s one of the craziest things you’ve seen behind the scenes?
One month after opening, we had the opportunity to participate in Gin Jubilee 2018. It was a one-night event dedicated to celebrating gins from all over the world. We sold an all-time record of 478 glasses in the space of four hours with only two bartenders mixing the drinks. It was particularly insane for me because I was with the team as hype(wo)man, token collector and server! We were so worn out at the end of the night, but earning recognition as “the team that hustles hardest” made it all worth it.
The perfect day off would be…
… lounging in my pyjamas with a good book in hand or driving around town looking for some good grub/drinks.
What’s something you’d like guests to know about Knowhere?
“There’s nowhere like Knowhere” is a phrase all of us on the team live by. We never serve a drink we wouldn’t buy ourselves and take pride in quality ingredients. Our food is a Malaysian take on global comfort food, think Mediterranean-style grilled calamari with a side of sambal belacan salsa. So, if you love travelling or would like to explore international cuisine, swing on by and we’ll pair it with a cocktail or wine to suit your tastes.
What’s in store for you in the upcoming months?
So many plans, but off the top of my head, look out for:
1. Weekend Brunch! You spend on food and we give you Moscato on free-flow.
2. Seasonal Menu. We change our cocktails quarterly, so you get themes and get to explore different flavours.