Ten of the capital city’s restaurants tease and tantalise into Going Places’ best list
In a city where countless eateries compete ferociously for the esteem of food lovers, claiming to offer the most remarkable rice recipes, the most succulent steaks or the most desirable desserts, it takes true skill and style to stand out amid the culinary clamour. Here are 10 restaurants that do KL proud, commanding the confidence, charisma and creativity required to become playgrounds for the palate.
A five-minute stroll from the Petronas Twin Towers, Tujo is a springboard for exploring KL’s gastronomic gems. In this spacious venue bedecked with Modo globe-light chandeliers, customers navigate through continent-leaping cuisine while enjoying the leafy view outside through a full-height glass frontage. Chicken satay is served with striking verve, with meaty skewers juxtaposed vertically on a sliced pineapple, coated in salsa and shrimp paste. Malaysia’s national dish of coconut milk rice with side dishes makes its mark too, but on a pizza instead of a plate – chilli paste, peanuts and anchovies are showered on a squid-ink crust to evoke the flavour and fragrance of nasi lemak, without a single grain of rice.
No. 9, Jalan Pinang, KL. Tel: +603-2161 7789. tujo.my
This family-run restaurant strives to spearhead a ‘real food’ revolution; health consultant patriarch Philip Yiin and his three children – chef Ashley, Phoebe and Stirling – flaunt a flair for wholesome fare that caters to everyone from meat lovers to committed vegans. Behind the scenes, the Yiins mindfully transport wild-caught prawns and pearl snappers from Borneo, instead of antibiotic-reliant farmed seafood, to prepare intriguing pastas and stews. They also steer clear of health-food clichés, serving complex concoctions like a red yeast bun baked with three raw cheeses and adorned with almonds, cranberries, flax crackers and balsamic reduction. You can even indulge in organic wine and minimal-guilt desserts, such as nutritious cakes with fruits and nuts garnished with dairy-free caramel made from dates.
11, Jalan Telawi 3, Bangsar, KL. Tel: +6017-325 3663. facebook.com/ashleysbangsar
Don’t be intimidated by the terracotta warrior that guards the entrance of Tao. Inside, this Chinese restaurant is a sanctuary of serene sophistication, with a lavish centrepiece of ceiling lights that conjure an under-the-stars impression, bearing down on walls with a pink peach blossom motif (‘Tao’ is Mandarin for peach) and shelves with ornate teapots assembled from across Asia. Executive chef Wong Lian You works miracles with masterpieces like Peking Duck with black truffles, oven-baked cod fillet with pomelo and plum sauce, and warm sponge cake with green tea ice cream and chocolate sauce, which illustrate how Chinese cooking can be winningly complemented by contemporary elements. If you’re visiting in a group, reserve one of the ravishing private rooms decorated in the fashion of the Han, Song, Tang and other Chinese dynasties.
InterContinental Kuala Lumpur, 165 Jalan Ampang, KL. Tel: +603-2782-6128. intercontinental-kl.com.my
La Vie En Rose
This 1950s-era bungalow on a verdant hill slope has been transformed into KL’s most compellingly romantic French restaurant, where strains of Edith Piaf’s signature song can sometimes be heard wafting across the candelabra-lit setting. Founder Jean-Michel Fraisse promises “honest French food from the heart and hearth”. In the evening, dine on duck leg confit, goat’s cheese salad and sautéed snails on an alfresco terrace overlooking time-worn shop-houses contrasted against sparkling skyscrapers. Or come on Sunday for brunch and bid au revoir to your diet by partnering some Champagne with foie gras and pear on toast, croque madame with mushrooms, and artisanal bread with luscious fruit jams.
39, Jalan Raja Chulan, KL. Tel: +603-2078-3883. lavieenrose.com.my
If you’re hunting for a convenient compilation of beloved Malaysian delicacies, expertly executed under one roof, the Grand Hyatt Kuala Lumpur’s street-level restaurant is a reliable bet, with open kitchens that bustle with satay grills, wok stations and tandoor ovens. Head here hungry and revel in rendang daging (braised beef with lemongrass, galangal and turmeric), prawn mee soup (yellow noodles with prawns and bean sprouts in a briny broth) and roti canai (crispy, flaky flatbread), as well as the restaurant’s pride: a princely platter of nasi ayam, or ginger-tinged rice with a choice of perfectly poached or roasted chicken and vibrantly nuanced sauces.
Grand Hyatt Kuala Lumpur, 12 Jalan Pinang, KL. Tel: +603-2182-1234. kualalumpur.grand.hyatt.com
Bistro à Table
Stowed on a sleepy suburban street, a 30-minute drive from KL’s commercial nerve centre, this exquisite eatery exhibits the revelatory cooking of Isadora Chai, a biochemist and biotechnologist-turned-chef who thrives on upending expectations with what she brands ‘adaptive French cuisine’. The menu evolves each month, but Chai’s indelible inventions in recent years have comprised everything from macarons laced with Alba white truffles and Avruga caviar to an enigmatic bowl of offal dubbed ‘Hold Your Tongue’, unveiled as duck tongue, veal sweetbread and chicken unmentionables in Cognac velouté. An exuberant way to experience Bistro à Table is through its monthly degustation dinners, rolled out with eccentric themes like ‘Alice In Wonderland’ and ‘Around The World in Eight Dishes’.
6 Jalan 17/54, Section 17, Petaling Jaya. Tel: +603-7931-2831. bistroatable.com
KL’s most cheerful chef might well be Masami Moritomo, whose million-watt smile lights up Hanare’s sushi bar as he plies his craft with deceptive effortlessness. Elegantly woodsy tones cultivate a welcoming warmth at Hanare, which specialises in seafood hand-picked by the restaurant’s staff in Tokyo’s Tsukiji fish market and flown into KL twice weekly. Masami and his compatriot Akira Yonomoto team up to bedazzle even the most sashimi-jaded customer; whether you’re sampling wild-caught whelk, Hokkaido oysters or seasonal spiny lobsters, the ocean’s bounty shines here. For patrons scouting for value for money, Hanare’s weekend brunch buffets deservedly draw legions of fans, making reservations essential.
Ground Floor, The Intermark, Jalan Tun Razak, KL. Tel: +603-2164-2133
Danish chef Albert Frantzen propels Roost with a 'farm-to-fork' philosophy that ensures much of his produce is locally sourced. Roost’s name suggests that fowl forms the menu’s foundation; sure enough, the smash hit is house-cured duck breast, sliced into sumptuously savoury slivers reminiscent of prosciutto. There are other highlights too: Frogs are freshly slaughtered in the morning and served in the afternoon, their legs deep-fried to a crunchy juiciness and coupled with tamarind jam. Also try the delicate but decadent panna cotta, harnessing the synergy of Malaysian-produced Jersey milk, coconut and passion fruit.
69-1, Jalan Telawi 3, Bangsar, KL. Tel: +603-2201-1710. facebook.com/roostkl
The oldest establishment on this list has been whipping up Spanish cuisine in a laidback residential neighbourhood since 2006; its longevity is etched on its nostalgia-tinged walls, which showcase black-and-white framed photographs of Cava’s staff and customers over the years. The restaurant’s paprika-dusted octopus on potatoes and saffron-scented paella with prawns, mussels, calamari and clams convincingly convey a taste of the Mediterranean, partnering with eight varieties of refreshingly icy sangria, imaginatively invigorated with diverse fruit juices to counter KL’s heat and humidity.
71, Jalan Bangkung, Bukit Bandaraya, Bangsar, KL. Tel: +603-2093-6637. cava.my
DC Restaurant by Darren Chin
Finally, the newest restaurant recommended here ranks among KL’s most ambitious. Its chef-founder, Darren Chin, opened this eponymous outlet in October 2014, making an immediate splash with progressive European fare rooted in Chin’s French training that displays a deep respect for the Malaysian terroir, like lamb tartare with coriander oil, sago crisps with smoked haddock and lime-honey hollandaise, or buckwheat rolls with cured mackerel and grilled persimmon. Chin is the consummate chef, changing his prix fixe menu every week while relying on pure, natural ingredients at their seasonal peak to share what he calls ‘the joy of cooking’ with his blissfully contented guests.
44 Persiaran Zaaba, Taman Tun Dr Ismail, KL. Tel: +603-7731-0502. restaurant-dc.com