[编辑 Editor 吕大人 英译 Translator 刘大人 摄影 Photographer 黄大人 资料 Sub-editor 郑大人]
Tucked away on Johor Bahru’s famous press street, there’s no proper sign out front and hardly given away by anything that spells speakeasy. From the outside, this supposedly glorious den looks like nothing more than a rundown shophouse. Gold curtains cover the window, while the only clue something exciting is going on that we don’t yet know about is a discreet “75A” sign above a nondescript metal door. Blink, and you’ll miss it unless you know a new “rabbit hole” is there you’d walk straight past in complete oblivion to the happenings directly above your head.
While JB has witnessed a proliferation of exclusive bars and clubs that demand us be on the list, this clandestine spot offers a fun and somewhat low-key alternative to the velvet ropes and only requires a bit of curiosity and resourcefulness to get in.
As the old adage goes, where there’s a will there’s a way, as we press the door bell with bated breath…
Haiiro 日文中译为灰色，Usagi 则为兔子，眼前这家可容40人、以日本精致鸡尾酒馆为灵感的 Haiiro Usagi，於6月14日悄然落户报馆街。复古的雕花椅与拥有过人姿色的花案，搭以灰壁，第一面的火光电石，那感觉就好似与世上某个在你脑海里曾爱慕着的人相遇般，然而内心的忐忑告诉着你，原来你们不曾打过照面。
Some serious speakeasy hallmarks are present at Haiiro Usagi (which means grey rabbit in Japanese), with a barely marked entrance, thick curtains at the top of the stairs covering any view inside and lounge music creating the perfect setting to unwind and soak up the suitably dark and moody atmosphere. But otherwise, this discreet bar throws out the speakeasy rule book by introducing an unlikely but uber cool décor reminiscent of a secret “prohibited” chamber from the Forbidden City, complete with grey walls and flashes of Chinese and Japanese elements.
The layout of the bar, over some smallish spaces in converted this shop lot, gives the opportunity for genuine seclusion which is exactly what we’re looking for. Some smart and staggeringly design mean that although there’s room for just 40 pax, Haiiro Usagi never feels claustrophobic.
调酒师 Joe Naik，是这儿的主人，从瑞士、上海、新加坡绕了大半个地球后，仍心系新山。暗室里仍能从晃杯声中感受那股专注的律动，即是出自他手。让更多好此杯中物者拥有更细腻的鉴赏力的确是当初催生 Haiiro Usagi 的种子，酒性各异所调配出的最终滋味，绝非只为让你一饮而尽(需先声明的是，这乃为一家纯粹只呈献特色鸡尾酒的酒馆)，「鸡尾酒不一定得有厚重的酒味，不易醉却也别一到手就急着干杯。」不妨让之成为打开话匣子的功臣，在酒精的伴随下，话语们的间距自会靠拢。
Serving our usual alcoholic stalwarts alongside some original and quite delicious house inventions, Haiiro Usagi is primarily the brainchild of Joe Naik, who opened the place in July 2017. After a long journey of self-discovery that took him to Switzerland, Shanghai and Singapore, his long streak for pop culture and mixology love finally brought him home to turn this long, narrow space hidden just above a local book and newspaper distributor into something special. Don’t let other mixology mumbo jumbo, nor his tender age fool you, for Joe is here to stay and attempt to help drinkers and novices like us navigate the craft-cocktail scene while appreciating the “abandoned” art of bartending seriously again.
特色鸡尾酒 Specialty Cocktail
眼前这4杯当月特调鸡尾酒，每隔数周就会彻底挥挥衣袖，不带走一片云彩，「精选时令材料挥发创意，专家传授一杯鸡尾酒的最佳饮用时间约为15－20分钟，味道即会随之改变。」。(右上) 以伏特加为基酒的 Holy Mary，清澈里尝得到番茄的微甜，「以独特的萃取方式凸显番茄中的甜味」，顶层缀以罗勒泡沫，最后常驻嘴里的乃柠檬滋味。(左上) “Earl”Mazing 以Gin为基酒，远观形似坊间「奶盖」，实为伯爵茶、橙香酒与奶泡的结合体，「更似滋味细致的 Cold Brew，风干的橙片恰如其分为滋味锦上添花。」
Infusing spirits with herbs, fruit, tea and other flavourings is an excellent way to add one’s signature to a drink, and this is exactly what Joe is getting good at. Looking to constantly experiment and offer a contemporary classic with an “Earl”Mazing twist, Joe reinvented this earl grey steeped gin cocktail mixed with orange liqueur salted milk foam that provided us with a surprising sense of relaxed sophistication. Amazing indeed.
Not resting on his laurels, Joe mixes up a bloody mary that is a nice diversion from the norm, which gives this Holy Mary cherry tomato water, lemon juice and vodka flavour topped with red basil foam to work in a way we have never imagine it would. And you can certainly eat the lightly sweetened oven dried orange slices for added flavour!
是否发觉 Joe 所呈献的鸡尾酒与平日所见略有不同？这两杯彩度不高的鸡尾酒绝对能让味蕾尝出新高度。(左上) JB Nightcap 以 V.S.O.P. Cognac 为基酒，搭配红豆浆与椰奶，最后飘洒上抹茶粉末增添风味，乍看之下极为浓稠，「调制前，Joe 预先让杯子外保有一定冷度，若没瞧见真实过程，必误以为这是杯热饮。入口后微微的红豆滋味随之而来，隐约藏着酒韵，紧接着椰奶滋味登场，说好的默契似的。」
(右上) 50 shades of Haiiro，单瞧名称莞尔不已，以知名电影之名搭上自家品牌，甚有巧思。这杯呈灰色的当家鸡尾酒以伏特加为基酒，入口后嘴里散开着玫瑰花茶的异香，「好顺口，中间摆着一块洁净无比的冰块与花瓣，颇有意境。据悉这冰块溶解的速度奇慢，美丽的东西难得不会昙花一现。」
The JB Nightcap will particularly please whisky drinkers with V.S.O.P. Cognac, sweet azuki bean paste and coconut cream going to the mix. We would have mistaken this for a warm cup of milk tea had we not noticed that the glass was pre-chilled before serving. Round and smooth on the palate, the sweet, red bean flavour intensifies at the finish.
Even if you haven’t been swept up by the Fifty Shades of Grey frenzy yet, chance are you will be at some point, even if you never read the book or watch the movie. Drawing inspiration from the best-selling novel, 50 shades of Haiiro is Joe’s rendition with an ingenious concoction of vodka, rose tea, cacao and charcoal cream poured over a huge piece of artisanal ice which is crystal clear and melts at a slower pace. Topped with beautiful French petals that adds an extra aroma to the drink, this signature cocktail will soon have all your body parts twitching in no time!
Seaweed Wasabi Kawahagi
这儿的下酒菜，皆以传统炭火烤炙，厚功耗时，确为鸡尾酒与伴酒话语点睛了不少。这一碟份量可观的干烤鱼 Seaweed Wasabi Kawahagi 好有嚼劲，烟熏香、微呛芥末与甜味交织，「毫米有余的厚度更是让人无法克制食欲。」
The highly recommended and perfect appetiser to go with Joe’s aperitif, the Seaweed Wasabi Kawahagi is virtually dried leather jacket fish with a piquant fishy flavour that makes a warm and crisp starter before our meal, and we polished the plate in no time.
食验味星 Rating ★★★★
Pork Belly | Haiiro Usagi’s Yakitori Momo | Teriyaki Tauhu
三类串烤料理各有拥趸，(上图) Pork Belly 天然的油焦香，大口咬下还需赘述吗？(左下) 咸甜交叠的鸡肉串 Haiiro Usagi’s Yakitori Momo，肉质极软嫩，自是下酒良伴；Teriyaki Tauhu 焦香味十足噢！担心肉食太多？那就点这份俗称植物肉的烧烤豆腐串吧！
Fans of Pork Belly rejoice! Haiiro Usagi is taking our favourite cut of the hog and turning it into a perfect balance of tender, lean meat and alternating layers of melt-in-the mouth fat, interspersed with the charred outer layers that taste belly good. Also lusciously lust-worthy is the Haiiro Usagi’s Yakitori Momo which exploded into juicy flavours with every bite and goes very well with any alcoholic beverage. If you find there’s too much meat to handle, go instead for the Teriyaki Tauhu where the teriyaki glaze is concocted according to our local taste buds, resulting in a balanced flavour that isn’t too sweet or salty.
食验味星 Rating ★★★★
Boneless Saba Fillet | Haiiro Usagi’s Tori Karaage | Seaweed Wasabi Fries | Cointreau Duck Breast
贴心的主人将鲭鱼的扰人鱼骨都给清理了，微醺之间大可放心享用这道 Boneless Saba Fillet； 丝毫不油腻的酥炸鸡块 Haiiro Usagi’s Tori Karaage，外脆内嫩，微咸中带有丝丝紫菜香，蘸上芥末沙拉酱，未免也太可口了吧；既软又脆的 Seaweed Wasabi Fries, 卷曲的薄香与芥末呛咸合一，较一般薯条更讨喜；
The Saba Fillet was perfectly grilled, with moist flesh beneath a crispy skin but the best part being, it’s boneless! Remember to squeeze some lemon over the mackerel to brighten up the flavours. On the other hand, the Haiiro Usagi’s Tori Karaage is not oily, equally crisp on the outside but moist and juicy on the inside, making this deep-fried favourite different from the other types of fried chicken. While the Seaweed Wasabi Fries tasted strangely of honey mustard, but we polished it off anyway :p
食验味星 Rating ★★★★
腌以君度橙香酒的弹嫩熏烤鸭胸 Cointreau Duck Breast，简直是今日最大的味蕾惊喜，「恰好的皮衣薰香、油脂与肉质交叠，太娇嫩欲滴，必点。」
Somewhat tender to the bite and bursting with juices, who would have imagined that the Cointreau Duck Breast would taste bigger than they look? With the meat beautifully pan-fried to near-perfection and doesn’t taste too gamey, this French orange liqueur-inspired dish is a revelation!
食验味星 Rating ★★★★☆
The Mains | Haiiro Usagi’s Seafood Udon | Haiiro Usagi’s Oyakodon
Haiiro Usagi 的两道饭面主食 Haiiro Usagi’s Seafood Udon 与 Haiiro Usagi’s Oyakodon 皆得人心。就好似个海鲜宝藏箱，剥好的鲜虾、带子与青蚝、乌冬里的甜葱搭配酱汁，熟悉的口感有着向福建面致敬的意味吗？
When our tummies call for something simple to keep our body going, Haiiro Usagi’s Seafood Udon did not disappoint. Packed with seafood goodness to the brim with fresh prawns, scallops and clams, it was the springy, slightly chewy and slurp-licious udon that’s reminiscent of our favourite Hokkien mee that has stolen the show! Surprised?
食验味星 Rating ★★★★
顶着颗鲜蛋黄的 Haiiro Usagi’s Oyakodon，铺顶的鸡肉块们好软嫩、饭粒与蛋黄相融后湿度宜人，「晚餐也在这儿解决吧！」
Haiiro Usagi’s Oyakodon has amazing chicken and egg that are soaked with flavours after being simmered in dashi sauce. The chicken is tender, and the eggs are so flavourful and soft that when eaten with rice, makes a perfect combination.
食验味星 Rating ★★★★☆
与被森林之神赐予魔法的灰兔一样，大人心想 Haiiro Usagi 的魅力即是让人「就想在这儿静静挥霍夜里的时光。」大人更爱的，自是此处绝不容许二手烟的存在，感激这里的所有坚持，一家咱们孜孜以求的暗室酒馆。
As bar after bar opens using the rather tired “posh and pretentious” template, making Haiiro Usagi seems ever more original. Sure, it can be tricky to find this diminutive club from the pavement level, but make an effort though, and you’ll be well rewarded. Overall, the space is so cool and cosy we bet you’ll want to keep it a secret!
Address: No. 75A, Jalan Maju, Taman Maju Jaya, Johor Bahru.
Contact: +607 – 336 0209
Time: 6pm – 1am (Closed on Tuesday)
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