Make Your Next Weekend Away a Gourmet Break in Kuala Lumpur
Just a six-hour direct flight from Beijing (budget airline Air Asia X flies twice a day, although the times are a little antisocial), Kuala Lumpur is the perfect destination for a short break from Beijing. While there aren’t that many sights to see there is one major attraction – the food. KL is awash with fantastic restaurants, from cheap street stalls to hushed temples of gastronomy. You can find Indian, Chinese, and Malaysian cuisine, the three ethnicities that make up the majority of the population of Malaysia.
With so much choice it can be difficult to decide where to eat, so to help you out I have put together a short selection of unmissable restaurants, all of which I visited at least once during a recent trip.
Lot 10 Hutong
This clean, well-organised food court in the basement of a mall in Bukit Bintang feels a little sterile but is a great place to try lots of different dishes under one roof. The food court is home to around 20 vendors, many of which have celebrated restaurants or stalls elsewhere in the city. The food is primarily Chinese or Malaysian-Chinese, with popular dishes including the chili pan mee from Restoran Kin Kin and the soy sauce-rich Hokkien mee from Kim Lian Kee.
Wong Ah Wah
A rare example of a much-hyped restaurant actually living up to its reputation, Wong Ah Wah is a Chinese restaurant on Jalan Alor, a popular restaurant street. Wong Ah Wah is famous for their chicken wings (pictured above) and boy, are they good – tender meat, sweet-but-not-too-sweet glaze, just the right amount of charcoal-scented charring. Their seafood dishes are decent, too – try the butter prawns and the black pepper crab.
Naughty Nuri’s (Life Centre branch)
Originating in Bali, Naughty Nuri’s is best described as an Indonesian barbecue restaurant – but barbecue of the ribs and pulled pork variety. Their signature ribs are excellent, with fall-off-the-bone meat coated in a sticky, sweet sauce. Be sure to order a martini – I won’t give away the surprise but trust us when we say you’ll want to have your iPhone camera ready. There are several branches around KL.
Tucked away in a quiet neighborhood in Bangsar, modern, minimalist restaurant Bakar specializes in dishes grilled over charcoal flames. The menu is wide-ranging, featuring flavors from everywhere from Malaysia to Korea. If you’re only in KL for a few days you may not want to waste a meal eating “western” food but Bakar is definitely worth the trip.
Limapulo (Baba Can Cook)
This small restaurant next to the Sheraton looks like a hipster antique shop but actually serves up authentic Nyonya cuisine (Nyonya, or Peranakan, cuisine comes from the descendants of Chinese migrants who settled around Malaysia, and combines Chinese, Malay, and other influences). If you’re there at lunch, try the excellent laksa, otherwise, the dinner menu features tasty renditions of chicken kari kapitam and squid stir-fried in sambal.
There is plenty of excellent Indian food to be enjoyed in KL but there is a special place in my heart reserved for Saravanaa Bhavan, a global chain of vegetarian South Indian restaurants based in Chennai (where I lived for a while when I was younger). The restaurant serves classic South Indian snacks such as dosa and idli, as well as vegetarian banana leaf rice sets. There are several branches of Saravanaa Bhavan in KL; the branch just down the road from KL Sentral station is handy for a quick lunch on the way back from the Batu Caves.
Bonus: Amazing nighttime views at Heli Lounge Bar
For 360 degree views of the KL skyline, head to Heli Lounge Bar on the 34th floor of a tower block in Bukit Bintang, whose terrace is, as the name suggests, a helipad. Drinks are reasonably priced for the location and view, especially during the daily happy hour (6-9pm), when a pint of Heineken or a glass of wine will set you back just MYR 30.