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The best restaurants and cafés in KL

The Time Out KL Food 40: Our monthly guide to the best places to eat in town, reviewed anonymously by critics

Photo: Stacy Liu

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

Bakti Woodlands
Restaurants

Bakti Woodlands

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.

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Chef Low
Restaurants

Chef Low

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.

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Delhi Royale
Restaurants

Delhi Royale

Its well executed dishes deliver the robust flavours of a good Indian meal. Try their unique tandoori broccoli.

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Dewakan
Restaurants

Dewakan

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.

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Fatimah Selera Kampung
Restaurants

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.

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The Ganga Deli and Café
Restaurants

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.

Users say
  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Hau Kee
Restaurants

Hau Kee

The messy environment is not indicative of the brilliant Chinese stir-fry that the restaurant serves. Don't miss the One Bucket Chicken and braised mutton belly in claypot. 

Time Out says
  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Kesom
Restaurants

Kesom

The rustic virtues of Kelantanese food are greatly underrepresented in KL – there are some solid options in Kampung Baru, a new-ish nasi Kak Wok stall in Shah Alam, and a scatter of barely-knowns far and between. So it’s exciting to come across a place like Kesom. It’s the type of restaurant that has the potential to properly acquaint Kelantanese fare to the KL masses, to make it accessible. 

Time Out says
  • 4 out of 5 stars
Users say
  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Limapulo: Baba Can Cook
Restaurants

Limapulo: Baba Can Cook

This place serves the best Nyonya food in the city. Go for the crispy fried fish with sambal come dinner, or opt for their famous Nyonya laksa over lunch.

Users say
  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Ming Room
Restaurants

Ming Room

Opened in 2003, The Ming Room serves authentic Cantonese cuisine with a touch of creative liberty. Recently refurbished, be impressed with the historical and elegant renovations, complete with antique terracotta horses as well as six private dining rooms to cater to 300 pax. Highlights include the baked foie gras with stuffed sea clams and the steamed fresh water prawn with radish cakes. In addition to the obvious Hong Kong dim sum, standard Chinese fare with a twist is served. A popular dessert among their patrons is the chilled durian pudding. As featured in Time Out KL's 101 things to do in KL

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Restoran Sambal Hijau
Restaurants

Restoran Sambal Hijau

Over 50 kinds of Malay and Minang-style dishes are displayed, which include the signature patin tempoyak.

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Tasty Chapathi
Restaurants

Tasty Chapathi

There’s some truth to the restaurant’s hammy title, and it begins with the paneer pasanda. Noted as a chef’s special in the vegetarian section of the menu, it’s paneer sliced into triangle pockets and fried, stuffed with green chutney, nuts and more (mashed) paneer before bathed in a ‘special gravy’ of creamy, spicy deliciousness. Even if non-vegetarian, this five-year-old restaurant on Jalan Ipoh bristles with vegetarian options from dhals and okra stir fried in masala to mock meat varuvals and chickpeas in thick gravy. One could easily be contented without meat here, but in keeping with Moghul standards, a lot of dishes are dangerously high in butter and oil.

Users say
  • 5 out of 5 stars
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Best French, Italian and European restaurants

Bakar
Restaurants

Bakar

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

Users say
  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Cantaloupe
Restaurants

Cantaloupe

Try the deftly-prepared foie gras satay at one of KL’s most stunning restaurants.

Users say
  • 5 out of 5 stars
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Fuego
Restaurants

Fuego

The city view may be stunning, but it's the modern approach to grill and the inventive cocktails that make this restaurant and bar one of the best in the city.

Users say
  • 5 out of 5 stars
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Mercat
Bars and pubs

Mercat

This Catalan gastrobar in Bangsar is one of the area’s more stylish for a quick dash to Europe. Chef David Caral, formerly of Circus, has concocted a menu rarely seen in the city – Iberico ham croquettes, salmorejo (chilled tomato puree), rice cooked with squid ink and a fun take on patatas bravas are only a few of the tapas-sized plates on offer. When in doubt, definitely try the cold eggplant puree with pine nuts and honey; but when in a crisis, the Iberico pork ribs with roasted peppers are a must.

Users say
  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Mezze
Restaurants

Mezze

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.

Users say
  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Neroteca
Restaurants

Neroteca

It’s not the fanciest in town, but it’s great for when you want to tuck into a comforting no-fuss ravioli dish.

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Sitka Restaurant
Restaurants

Sitka Restaurant

Sitka champions local produce to churn out exciting things from the test kitchen like duck with miso pumpkin, pear and almonds.

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Best Asian restaurants

Erawan
Restaurants

Erawan

Owned by two Thai brothers, Erawan serves authentic Thai cuisine and may well be the best Thai place in town.

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Kampachi
Restaurants

Kampachi

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.

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My Elephant
Restaurants

My Elephant

The neighbourhood Thai restaurant you can rely on to satisfying your craving for green papaya salad, spicy tom ka soups and perfectly baked seabass.

Users say
  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Oribe Sushi
Restaurants

Oribe Sushi

On the ground floor of ViPod Residences, off Jalan Kia Peng, is Oribe Sushi, helmed by arguably KL’s most lauded sushi master chef, Chef Hideaki Oritsuki. Formerly of the illustrious Sushi Hinata, Chef Ori brings his expertise and vision to Oribe, where the limited menu is devoted to showcasing the produce of the sea. Seafood is brought in thrice a week (Monday, Tuesday and Friday) from Osaka and Fukuoka. Grab a seat at the sushi bar to witness Chef Ori at work.

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Sumi-Ka
Restaurants

Sumi-Ka

Sumika – what is one of the best yakitori restaurants in the Klang Valley – likes to play hard to get. Getting through their landline is a game of chance, aided by the challenge of scoring a reservation even on a weeknight. Unflinching and fearless, I call in early on a Sunday night but to no avail. I decide to drive to the restaurant, but the lights are shut, its inexplicit sign bearing no sign of life. The restaurant’s lack of an official online presence only thickens the air of mystery around it. A few nights later, post-reservation, I’m finally sitting in the smoky, low-ceilinged confines of Sumika. My dining partners and I sit past the sliding doors, where a grey view of an ever-shifting SS15 meets us. The shophouses below are taking a beating from the rain, which beckons us even more dangerously towards the prospect of sizzling meat on sticks. The waiters are keen and smiling, if slightly bumbling. We are recommended the chicken thigh muscle from the off-menu specials, as well as the baked rice ball with butter. We order both, on top of a smorgasbord of grilled meats ranging from pork to chicken. The beef tongue with ponzu arrives first. It’s cold, tangy and good enough to line the tummy, but not nearly as good as the meats that come after. The chicken thigh muscle is tender; the chicken breast with yuzu avoids the dry route by way of a wonderfully tangy marinade cast with a spike of heat; the beef ribs are salty with a gaminess that is partly shielded by miso; the p

Time Out says
  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Torii
Restaurants

Torii

This modern yakitori bar strays from tradition with exciting tapas-style snacks to complement an impressive range of Japanese whiskies.

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Uokatsu
Restaurants

Uokatsu

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

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Best cafés and coffee shops

Huckleberry Food & Fare
Restaurants

Huckleberry Food & Fare

The appeal of this inspired and immensely popular bakery-café lies in master baker Christophe Gros's stellar French-style bread. 

Users say
  • 5 out of 5 stars
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Inside Scoop
Restaurants

Inside Scoop

This ice cream parlour has some of the most inventive flavours around, and their Belgian waffles are stellar.

Users say
  • 5 out of 5 stars
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Jaslyn Cakes
Restaurants

Jaslyn Cakes

You may have stumbled upon Instagram photos of the decadent sweet rolls, pastries, cookies, chocolate truffles and cakes by Jaslyn (@jaslynr), who used to supply to Wondermama Restaurant. Now you can make your purchase at her newly opened shop located in the vicinity of Bangsar Village.

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S.Wine
Restaurants

S.Wine

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.

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Three Little Birds
Restaurants

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.

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Best healthy eating restaurants

Ashley's by Living Food
Restaurants

Ashley's by Living Food

Living Food bistro’s maiden offshoot stays true to its health food roots without sacrificing panache and élan. Spruced-up comfort food like the quinoa salad as well as baked brie with almonds and cranberries share the spotlight in this quirky, stylish spot on Jalan Telawi 3. Other dishes to try here include the scrumptious saffron-spiced paella with shrimp, scallop and pearl snapper as well as the Portobello mushroom and buckwheat polenta stack.

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Simple Life
Restaurants

Simple Life

The food at Simple Life does not contain MSG, trans fats, colouring or preservatives; they use natural and organic ingredients. They also claim to use extra virgin coconut oil and brown instead of white sugar in their cooking. However, they do feature eggs in some of their dishes, but you can always tell them to omit that if you’re strict with your diet. I’ve visited Simple Life several times, and mostly their outlet in The Gardens Mall (they have a total of ten outlets). The menu is very well presented and there are lots of interesting choices, from rice dishes and noodles to steamboat, multi-grain porridge, lei cha, charcoal sandwiches and yes, even pizza. I ordered the vegetarian assam fish set meal, and it came in a beautifully laid out tray filled with a bowl of clear corn soup, a bowl of multi-grain rice and several small side dishes. The food looked appetising and tasted surprisingly good. The assam fish (which is seaweed wrapped bean curd, really) tasted just like the usual assam gravy with all its spiciness and piquancy, complete with long beans, brinjal, lady’s fingers and tomatoes. The side salads were particularly memorable, thanks to the nutmeg dressing that added a sharp tanginess to the palate. I went to its Suria KLCC outlet for my second visit, which is more of a stall in the Signature food court. The menu

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Best cheap eats

Mohd Yaseen Nasi Kandar Pulau Pinang
Restaurants

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

Users say
  • 1 out of 5 stars
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Restoran 168
Restaurants

Restoran 168

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.

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Restoran Yarl
Restaurants

Restoran Yarl

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

Users say
  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Village Park
Restaurants

Village Park

March 2009 In the three years I’ve been frequenting Village Park I’ve not once tasted its widely touted nasi dagang, a delicious (or so I’ve heard) rendition of the Terengganu-stye coconut-scented red and white rice accompanied by fried chicken and sambal. It’s not for lack of trying. With this dish, timing is everything; once it’s ferried out from the kitchen late in the morning you’ve only a wee two or three-hour window to partake before its sold out. If the restaurant’s nasi lemak is any indication, the dagang must surely be a stunner. An order of the former, enjoyed one recent morning, featured rice so expertly prepared that each coconut-y grain stood perfectly distinct from the other, in a snow-white mound that gave way with the barest nudge of a spoon. Accompanied by ikan bilis, peanuts, cucumber slivers, and blood-red sambal characterised by a tease of sweetness and a slow, creeping burn, the dish would have made a fine breakfast in itself. But I pushed the edge of the envelope, adding a ladle of sambal udang from Village Park’s tantalising display of curries, gulai, and vegetable dishes, and was glad for it. The shellfish’s firm texture announced its freshness and the sambal sauce, while eliciting a tingle in the lips, was mild enough to allow the shrimp’s briny flavour to come through. No need to rush over first thing in the morning if you want to snag that nasi lemak, but making an effort to arrive at Village Park early in the am offers the opportunity to sample

Users say
  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Best seafood restaurants

Coconut Flower Seafood Restaurant
Restaurants

Coconut Flower Seafood Restaurant

This famous seafood institution in Teluk Gong certainly lives up to its hype. Must order: coconut tom yam soup and kam heong la la.

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Crab Factory: Original Louisiana Boil
Restaurants

Crab Factory: Original Louisiana Boil

This restaurant is made for group dining. Get your hands dirty by feasting on Southern American-style crawfish and crabs.

Users say
  • 5 out of 5 stars
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Best modern Australian restaurant

Drift Dining and Bar
Restaurants

Drift Dining and Bar

This fairly new restaurant whips up modern Australian cuisine using fresh produce with Asian flavours and cooking methods.

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