Canvass Bistro & Cocktail Bar, Jalan Bedara
Words: Matt Brown
Photos: Rich Callahan
Greenery abounds at the new location of Canvass Bistro and Cocktail Bar on Jalan Bedara. It features a gorgeous canopy of trees on the street, a blooming garden beside the outdoor seating and multiple happy plants and herbs growing everywhere else. The natural elements complement not only the raw materials used in fitting out this space but also align perfectly with the ethos of Canvass Bistro & Cocktail Bar, which is wonderfully described as Sustainable Hedonism.
Canvass Bistro & Cocktail Bar
Partners in Canvass Bistro & Cocktail Bar, chef Nikolaj Lenz, and mixologist M.I. Rony have pursued a venture where the most environmentally friendly option is the only option while still making it all a whole lot of tasty fun. From the locally sourced wooden surfaces to the growing of micro-herbs featured in many dishes, every thought has been paid to how best the earth can be served, as well as every patron.
The highly innovative and progressive menu at Canvass Bistro & Cocktail Bar allows for great experimentation and discovery in its dining options. Because so many ingredients are sourced locally and seasonally, you will find that every month or so a great deal of items on the menu may change, which provides ample reasons to keep returning and continuing on your own hedonistic journey of sustainability. Sometimes a dish may be available because of an abundance of an ingredient or because something is fermented and ready for use. This dynamism and Nik’s vision for a highly immersive experience with some of his upcoming innovations is worth keeping an eye on.
Dining at Canvass Bistro & Cocktail Bar
All palates will delight in the range of food available on the menu, which can be enjoyed on a date or out with a larger group of friends wanting to sample more of the choices. Vegetarians, vegans and meat lovers will all be catered for at Canvass Bistro & Cocktail Bar.
An excellent start for any meal at Canvass is the 3-Hommous dish (RM30), where chickpea, cashew nuts, black beans, and black garlic dips are served with crunchy seed crackers, all nicely earthy and well-textured.
The Heirloom Tomato Salad (RM28) is a glorious medley of colour and freshness, including organic feta cheese and a flavourful biodiverse pesto. Not to give the end away at the beginning, but there was something about the simplicity and freshness of this dish that surprisingly made it my favourite, despite everything else being incredibly well made and delicious. Sometimes fresh and simple ingredients are all you really want.
Local Banana Prawn Carpaccio (RM38) is a meaty dish offering large slices of prawn in a slightly tangy sauce surrounded by a halo of the restaurant’s own micro herbs. The aged and cured local John Snapper (RM36) comes sliced thinly, sashimi style, with tasty yellow and red chilli leche de tigre (tiger’s milk – the traditional marinade used in ceviche) and some crispy quinoa.
A stand-out item from the seafood choices on the current menu is the Seared Hokkaido Scallops (RM39), which share the plate with some deliciously crisp fried, fermented cauliflower florets and come in a ‘mother sauce’ of French cuisine; a creamy velouté. Add the house-fermented black garlic puree in the dish for a highly flavourful yet still quite light combination of tastes to savour.
Seared flank steak shipped over from New Zealand (RM82) arrives in strips sitting in beef jus, with a dollop of Japanese kosho-inspired hot sauce on the plate for adding some spice. As with all innovations coming from the kitchen at Canvass Bistro & Cocktail Bar, rather than being a traditional kosho with yuzu zest, Japanese chilli and sea salt, this koshi is created with chillies, lemon and tropical fruit. The Hereford Beef Cheek (RM79) is perfectly braised and beautifully presented on mashed potatoes with a classic demi-glace brown sauce and covered with beef floss and ribbons of bright pickled beetroot.
The Chef’s Table at Canvass
A vision coming to fruition in the new surroundings is Nik’s Chef’s Table experience, where guests can book a menu to sample the latest creations and phenomenal uses of a range of ingredients. The chance to learn more about the food being served and the processes, experiments and ethics behind it all is quite a unique experience and one worth taking up at Canvass Bistro & Cocktail Bar. The highly biodiverse menu means that over the course of dishes, rather than eating the average 20-25 ingredients, diners will taste a minimum of 60, a true culinary journey upon which to embark.
A couple of items from the current Chef’s Table menu that we were fortunate to sample were the Chicken Mousse in Keduk Leaves (RM27 a la carte), which came with a house-fermented ‘hot sauce’ that was delightfully tasty and a well-balanced blend of tomato sauce and roasted capsicum. The Mushroom Risotto was incredibly hearty and came with pureed cauliflower and soy milk topped with gorgeous hibiscus leaves.
A brilliantly coloured ‘pre-dessert’ item was the Beetroot and Turmeric Mousse, where both syrups are created in-house. We even got to sample from a bottle of one-year-old fermented turmeric syrup, which was fizzy and delicious and, I’m pretty sure, added five more years to my lifespan. This colourful dish has fresh mangoes, white chocolate cocoa butter and cream and punches above its weight and size in the taste department.
The Chef’s Table menu responds to the seasons and market availability, as well as the dietary requirements of its guests. The highly innovative menu will alter every five or so weeks, so once again, your reasons for returning to Canvass are easy. With a minimum of 7 dishes, the price for this experience is RM250+ per person.
Not only is about a third of the Canvass space still under careful construction, but the cocktail menu is also a playground of experimentation and creation. We sampled five of the cocktails on the menu, which will no doubt be vast and appeal to all drinkers thanks to the knowledge and talent of M.I. Rony. Due to the newness of some of the drinks, a few don’t yet have a name (and despite my MANY suggestions during our meal, continue to be nameless), so some of the drinks listed below are nameless but still fantastic.
At this point in the meal, you will realise how revered turmeric is at Canvass. If not offered in multiple forms during your meal, it will appear all over the cocktail menu and is one of those ingredients where you can’t imagine how you ever went without it once sampled. Dr’s Order (RM40) is a low-ABV offering that uses fermented turmeric syrup, pickled beetroot liquid, lemon juice and vodka to great effect.
Also at the highly refreshing end of the drink scale is Paloma the Canvass Way (RM45), with grapefruit oleo, mezcal, agave nectar and soda in all its fizzy goodness. The Ink Gin and Tonic (RM40) utilises colour-changing Australian Ink gin with the 100% organic botanicals of Royal Botanic Tonic in a classic and enjoyable drink.
Waiting to be named but ready to be consumed is the fermented passionfruit and apple, ginger puree, turnip syrup and whiskey (RM42) that almost feels like it was created to give adults more vegetables in their diet without their knowledge. An Aperol, rum, homemade bitters, fermented Szechuan pepper and cinnamon syrup concoction, includes pickled cranberries in the glass and is another flash of colour to add to the rainbow on your table.
Reasons to visit Canvass Bistro & Cocktail Bar: everyone here wants to ensure that you have a satisfying time, whether eating or drinking or both, and the surroundings make it easy to achieve. As more of the new location opens up in the coming months, it will be buzzing with numerous options for meals and drinks out, and with their sustainable hedonism permeating every fabric of the business, it’s a worthwhile experience to have. Resident red-meat eater Rich devoured the tender Beef Cheek. Monica consumed everything she could that was fermented, while aspiring cocktail-namer Matt refused to share the Heirloom Tomatoes. The team at Canvass Bistro & Cocktail Bar has a big focus on and takes great pride in their no food waste ethos, trust me, you won’t be leaving anything on your plate anyway.
Canvass Bistro & Cocktail Bar
38, Jalan Bedara, Bukit Bintang
50200, Kuala Lumpur
Canvass Bistro & Cocktail Bar Opening Hours
Wednesday – 4:00pm – 2:00am
Thursday – Sunday – 5:00pm – 2:00am
Closed Monday and Tuesday