The Time Out Kuala Lumpur Food 40 is our monthly, definitive guide for where to eat in the Klang Valley. Establishments will only appear in this list if they offer cuisine of a very high standard that is truly unique and worthy of your custom. No entry into the Food 40 has provided any Time Out team member with a free meal or other incentive – although plenty have tried! All have been chosen honestly, anonymously and after a great deal of deliberation by our team of expert food critics.
Best Malay, Chinese and Indian restaurants
Come lunchtime, it can be tough finding a seat at this popular Indian vegetarian joint. In the heart of bustling Masjid Jamek, there’s always a lively atmosphere here. There’s a substantial selection of a la carte dishes from Northern and Southern India, but to really appreciate Bakti Woodlands, you have to come for the lunchtime thali sets. The Madras thali will leave you fit to burst, while still attempting to savour all the flavours.
You can always count on Chef Low to dish up palate-pleasing Cantonese dishes. If you’re tired of the usual chilli crab, go for their soupy Fu Zhou style crab for a more delicate flavour.
Its well executed dishes deliver the robust flavours of a good Indian meal. Try their unique tandoori broccoli.
KL’s most exhilarating restaurant to emerge in what seems like years is Dewakan, buried deep in the campus of Shah Alam’s Kolej Damansara Utama (KDU). Head chef Darren Teoh puts local flavours on the fine dining map by using homegrown ingredients such as keluak fruit, budu and kaduk leaves. You can have lunch for either a three- (RM80) or four-course (RM133) meal, or opt for a five- (RM164) or ten-course (RM207) dinner. Take note that à la carte dishes are not available.
Fatimah Selera Kampung
This kampung-house-turned-restaurant manned by the dedicated 84-year-old Fatimah has been serving Malaccan grandma-style cooking in large pots since 1983.
The Ganga Deli and Café
The folks at this vegetarian Indian spot still spoon out your favourite sides for your weekly banana leaf binge, but without the impurities of food colouring and flavouring.
Restoran Sambal Hijau
Over 50 kinds of Malay and Minang-style dishes are displayed, which include the signature patin tempoyak.
We’re long-time devotees of Kulwant Singh and co. His 18-year-old shop churns out the best chapatti and mutton keema in town.
Best French, Italian and European restaurants
Guys, let’s all calm down about the ‘grill-concept’ trend. Grilling as a cooking method is at least 300,000 years old, and these days, there’s nothing novel about a restaurant that cooks food directly over a source of heat. Fortunately, Bakar’s affiliation with charcoal fire is far from opportunistic – spend one night here and it’s easy to see that boundaries are meddled with, for KL standards at least. Trust The BIG Group in all manner of aesthetic; every detail is measured to enhance the experience, from the white marble tiling, to the matchbox mural, to the open kitchen – it’s stylish, but not outwardly so. And when I ask for recommendations, the waiters are kind and welcoming, a true refresher in Bangsar. I start with the barbecue classic – grilled watermelon. It comes in a salad with strawberry, pomegranate, chilli, radish, cucumber and coriander. Objectively, the flavours sound threatening, but when eaten together in one forkful, they open up well. The juiciness of the fruit against the sharpness of coriander, the surprise crunch of the cucumber, the mild nuttiness of sesame seeds – it’s like playing many rounds on a coin-operated claw crane, and getting a different soft toy at every attempt. The second starter of parcelled clam bake is more predictable, but still very, very good. The flavours – lemongrass, chilli, pandan – can easily be found in any Asian- Western mash-up, but at Bakar, Chef Keith Choong extrudes the most out of each ingredient. The broth in which t
This charming restaurant and wine bar pulls off upgraded bistro fare that ranges from gourmet pizza to Angus ribeye. The pulled pork burger with whisky barbecue sauce is a must-try.
Naughty Babe Dirty Duck
Naughty Babe Dirty Duck is the kind of restaurant you want more of in the city. Interior-wise, it has the trappings of a hip café – salvaged wood panelling, raw brick walls, and pendant lamps with wire frames. But in essence, the restaurant is casual and unpretentious, with a menu that’s very straightforward. Food portions are big, and most importantly, it’s very reasonably priced. It’s the kind of restaurant you don’t need an occasion to visit, but when you do, there are long tables to fit a party. As the name suggests, this is a porky restaurant. Extremely porky. A big majority of the dishes on the menu are pork, in every iteration possible – chops, knuckles, bacon, sausages, skewers and their famous ribs. There’s a small amount of duck and one each of chicken, fish and lamb, not counting the salad and soup of course. We started with the recommended appetiser of Oink and Quack Skewer, in which cubes of pork and duck are skewed (sic) with capsicum, onion and button mushroom. It was a decent dish, but what really transformed this dish was the restaurant’s signature dipping sauce – Hot Stuff. A mixture of ground chilli and dark soy sauce (much like the Balinese chilli paste that’s used to barbecue chicken or as a dipping sauce), Hot Stuff first imparts a sweet taste before your mouth burns with a fiery spiciness – it’s got a good kick. Our first main, the char-broiled Sakura pork chop, was again a serviceable dish even though the meat was a little tough, but the less starchy
It’s not the fanciest in town, but it’s great for when you want to tuck into a comforting no-fuss ravioli dish.
Classic and hearty French food that doesn't break the bank. Always go for the seafood platter.
Sitka champions local produce to churn out exciting things from the test kitchen like duck with miso pumpkin, pear and almonds.
Best Asian restaurants
Owned by two Thai brothers, Erawan serves authentic Thai cuisine and may well be the best Thai place in town.
Fresh seafood from Japan and a quality menu are why Kampachi has always been the top choice for Japanese cuisine. You must try the omakase menu.
The neighbourhood Thai restaurant you can rely on to satisfying your craving for green papaya salad, spicy tom ka soups and perfectly baked seabass.
Don’t miss the black cod miso and the Chilean sea bass at this Japanese-Peruvian restaurant.
This modern yakitori bar strays from tradition with exciting tapas-style snacks to complement an impressive range of Japanese whiskies.
The monarchs of Japanese dining in KL – haughtily led by the likes of Kame Sushi – may never go out of fashion but sometimes we’re allowed to say, ‘three cheers for the mid-range Japanese restaurant’. There aren’t many of these in KL, but an entry like Uokatsu makes you wish for more. Here, appreciation of quality produce and an unpretentious evening can exist concurrently. On a Friday night, I appear without a reservation. Much to three other couples’ and my chagrin, there’s a line. Dining customers look out at us from behind the glass doors with a perverted sense of pity. Thankfully, tables clear out fast and a spot is secured in less than ten minutes. It becomes my turn to stare at diners-to- be that wait with hope. Oh, the cycle of a Malaysian diner. No time to be romantic for the mentai rice must be eaten. It’s mentai on egg on rice, the holy trinity of a good time. Apparently, it’s also the ghost of Fukuharu’s once-beloved mentai sushi. The egg appears stiff and accurately rectangle like a yellow Lego piece, its surface burnished and bumpy from the marinated roe. In one bite, the mentaiko is salty and creamy, the egg sweet, and the rice sticky and heavy. The message of comfort introduced by the rice bowl extends quite excellently throughout the meal. The grilled ocean trout is sufficiently tender; its oil gush out as the flesh is flaked. Next to it is a mound of grated daikon in soy, a necessary foil to the richness. The sashimi I ordered are on par as that from a p
Best cafés and coffee shops
Ashley's by Living Food
LivingFood’s offshoot is led by the 22-year-old Ashley Yiin, one of KL’s brightest talents in the arena of raw food.
Huckleberry Food & Fare
The appeal of this inspired and immensely popular bakery-café lies in master baker Christophe Gros's stellar French-style bread.
This ice cream parlour has some of the most inventive flavours around, and their Belgian waffles are stellar.
This porcine-heavy eatery serves the city’s best full monty – curls of fried bacon, housemade baked beans and a thoroughly filled arugula-pork sausage adorned by two crackling sunny-side-ups.
The Daily Habit
The Daily Habit banishes all stereotypes attached to healthy food by serving hearty breakfast and lunch options like the quinoa parfait.
Three Little Birds
Artisan Roastery’s latest venture sees coffee connoisseur Joey Mah experimenting with top roasts and meticulously prepared brews. Don’t forget the cake.
Best cheap eats
Kedai Makanan O&S Restaurant
This kopitiam is always crowded, and deservedly so; people come here for its famous prawn mee, Penang-style chee cheong fun, yong tau foo and char kuey teow.
Mohd Yaseen Nasi Kandar Pulau Pinang
Confession: Until recently, I had never eaten at Yaseen; let’s just say that it had never crossed my mind to look beyond the regular chains for nasi kandar. It was only when a Penangite friend suggested we go there for supper one night that I first got acquainted with the decades-old nasi kandar joint. Apparently, the claim is that the nasi kandar at Yaseen comes pretty close to a plate you would get in Penang. We visited on a Tuesday night around 9pm, and Yaseen was all lit up like a Las Vegas casino – it seemed like the only sign of life on the quiet side of Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman. It may have been past dinnertime, but there were about ten people ahead of us in line for nasi kandar (this, I learned, is considered normal. The queue can get a lot longer). Inside, there’s an air-conditioned extension where most of the crowd goes, but the purple-walled ‘old wing’ is where the old-school charm lies. Like me, you might be tempted to go for fried chicken, udang or sotong as your protein, but the speciality is the ayam kicap – chicken in a rich, soy-sauce curry whose flavours are further enhanced when topped with at least four different types of curry (it’s best to just let the anneh go crazy with the curries he piles on your rice – he knows what he’s doing). The result of this mix – paired with dabs of the obligatory sambal kelapa on the side – is delightfully spicy, and my only regret is not being able to finish off the rice soaking in all that curry goodness. I did, however
This stuffy stall is responsible for some of the city’s best curry mee – robust, creamy and brutal in spiciness. The wantan mee is also excellent.
Sri Lankan restaurants are few and far between in the Klang Valley, but this three-year-old restaurant in Brickfields is one step closer towards changing that. Run by a Sri Lankan Tamil, the food at Yarl is unique in that it specialises in cuisine from the northern province of Sri Lanka, aka Jaffna Tamil cuisine. The space itself is generic – there’s nothing that suggests it to be greatly different from the Chettinad operations in the area, save for its cleaner, newer walls. Food is displayed in large clay pots and metal trays filled with curry, vegetables and meats. As the sothi (mild curry with coconut milk) pot was almost completely dry, I skip it and go for the vengaya kuzhambu (onion curry), generous in shallots and watery in consistency. The sides of mutton peratal and dry chicken varuval are agreeable, but it’s the sora meen puttu that shines. Made of shredded shark meat, chilli and a few spices, it’s dry, slightly sweet and deeply aromatic. Paired with okra sambal and papadum topped with crispy dried chilli, it’s the stuff of perfect Saturday lunches. But I’m not nearly done yet. For a second helping of rice, I ask for the crab curry, for what’s a lavish Sri Lankan lunch without it? The curry is thick, gloopy and pungent, with strong notes of sweet crab. The crabs are left in pieces, all the better for you to get your fingers in the nooks of every leg. And just as you would suck a prawn head, you must slurp up the juices of the crab’s carcass when you’re done pickin