Time Out KL Food Awards winners

Every year, we ask you to put forward your nominations for the best cafes and restaurants that deserve the highest recognition in the Kuala Lumpur dining scene. You’ve voted, and here are the award results

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Photo: Shawn Lor/Pixelpix

Best new restaurant: Cantaloupe

There’s no doubt that 2013’s most exciting opening was Troika Sky Dining. The location, the styling and most of all the food have made the triumvirate and its crown jewel, Cantaloupe, one of the most talked about restaurants in KL. Cantaloupe has the credentials: Eddie Chew and Christian Bauer, formerly of the award-winning Frangipani. It has the setting: The stunning 24th floor of the Norman Foster-designed Troika. Most of all it has the food, an inventive and exciting fine dining menu crafted and exhaustively tested by Chris, and annotated with his own personal thoughts, recommendations and explanations. The creativity that he displayed at Frangipani has been allowed an even bigger playground here, and it shows.

  1. Troika Sky Dining 23A Tower B, The Troika
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Best Chinese Restaurant: Noble Mansion

2013 has been a year of firsts for Noble Mansion – their first year running, first time nominated in the Food Awards, and now, their first win. The latest opening from the Oriental Group, Noble Mansion isn’t your average Chinese banquet restaurant, though it’s seen its fair share of weddings already. Branding themselves a modern reinterpretation of the traditional Chinese restaurant, Noble Mansion is thoroughly contemporary in execution and outlook, while staying true to tradition in the places that matter: quality and taste of food, and creating that special, festive atmosphere.

  1. Level 1, The Plaza @ Jaya33
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Best Malay Restaurant: Bijan

You’ve picked Bijan as your favourite Malay restaurant once again, marking the Jalan Ceylon restaurant’s fifth win in a row. Offering traditional Malaysian dishes from all over the country, Bijan is the go-to place for visitors wanting a taste of our local cuisine without having to go through the long queues and less desirable eating conditions associated with roadside stalls and warungs. The restaurant boasts a chic yet simple décor further amplified with soft, dim lighting that paints everything in romantic orange hues; Bijan is definitely not a place to overlook for date night.

  1. 3 Jalan Ceylon
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Best Cheap Eats: Devi's Corner

A winner in 2011’s Best Mamak/Hawker category, Devi’s Corner returns to the winner’s circle by bagging this year’s Best Cheap Eats title. A frequent haunt for the post-clubbing masses and night owls, this bustling mamak benefits from its wide array of Indian culinary staples and strategic location opposite Bangsar Village II. The signature Kerala fish curry and mutton masala remain the go-to dishes at Devi’s Corner and with good reason – the hearty banana leaf rice here is best complemented with a liberal amount of its creamy, to-die-for curries.

  1. 14 Jalan Telawi 4
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Best Healthy Eats: Marmalade

Marmalade is a seasoned winner in this category – all down to its applause-worthy consistency, familiar menu and kid-friendly vibe. The food here – though healthy – refrains from blandness with hearty mains like wild mushroom fettuccine, spicy pulled chicken and salmon laksa. A separate kids menu and splashes of colour on the walls make it a popular café stop for parents. If you’ve been good, order their carrot cake with cream cheese frosting. 

  1. Publika
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Best Indian Restaurant: Fierce Curry House

  • Price band: 2/4

After generating so much buzz last year, Fierce has finally proven they’re more than just hype. The owners have created a winner: Their lobster biryani, which must be booked three days in advance, has become the stuff of legend – just unveiling the giant lobster from the heaping portion of Hyderabadi biryani seems dramatic. Fierce’s banana leaf rice is a star too – all those spicy curries will stoke a fire in your stomach but there’s always the lassi to cool it off. Either way, bring a hearty appetite for lunch or dinner – the biryanis are really not for the timid.

  1. 16 Jalan Kemuja, Bangsar
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Best Italian Restaurant: La Risata

Sure, there are other Italian restaurants in town with a bigger story to tell. But neighbourhood eatery La Risata has forged their own culinary identity with underrated throwbacks like pizza margherita, squid ink risotto, oven roasted beef ribs and minestrone. The menu is culled from Italian classics while the décor – exposed brick walls, antique chandelier centerpiece and comfy seating – stays true to a rustic trattoria. The ambiance is as much a draw as the food and if you factor in the great wines La Risata has to offer, you’ve got yourself an authentic Italian dining experience. Cocktails here are also knockouts – make sure to bring someone you really like for dinner because it’s going to be a long night.

  1. 16 Persiaran Ampang
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Best Japanese Restaurant: Kampachi

This oldtimer – 40 years to be precise – has become one of KL’s statement restaurants since its Equatorial days. Meals here are demonstrations of why less is more: Unaltered slabs of fresh striped jack, yellowtail, seabream and sweet shrimp are treated reverently on perfectly executed sashimi platters. Sushi or hand rolls may seem elementary but under the guiding hand of Kampachi’s chefs, the run-of-the-mill becomes awe-inspiring. Huddle around the sushi bar where you’ll be dutifully rewarded with a display of impeccable knifework or an impromptu education on Japanese cuisine. Kampachi truly excels at their craft – no wonder they get to keep their crown for another year.

  1. Ground Floor, The Troika
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Best Middle Eastern Restaurant: Al-Amar

Al-Amar’s classy interior that features simple Middle Eastern-inspired furnishings (the al fresco area is especially a good place to linger over shisha), convenient location and good quality food all contribute to the restaurant’s exponential popularity. The extensive menu features everything from hot to cold mezzes, grilled meats, salads, shawarma platters, Oriental rice dishes and traditional dessert staples like baklava and crème caramel (the Lebanese version with caramelised hazelnuts). For a quick bite, Al-Amar Express is a more casual café-like extension of the restaurant offering breakfast, shawarmas, sandwiches, manakeesh (Lebanese pizza) and more.

  1. Level 6, Pavilion KL
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Best Western Restaurant: myBurgerLab

After missing out on 2012’s Best New Restaurant gong by a whisker, the ever-popular myBurgerLab returns to the Food Awards this year and emerges triumphant in the Best Western category. Much has been made of the cosy burger joint’s long queues, but regulars will assure you that fan favourites A++ and Beautiful Mess 5.0 are always worth braving the maddening crowds. Not content with inspiring the city’s gourmet burger revolution from its original Seapark outpost, the boys from myBurgerLab opened a second outlet in OUG in October to prolong our love affair with its experimental burgers and succulent patties.

  1. 14 Jalan 21/22
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Best Thai Restaurant: my Elephant

Year upon year, my Elephant grows in strength and popularity. What was once just a small suburban restaurant is now a Thai tour de force. It’s full house every night, so good luck if you don’t have a reservation. There’s nothing flashy or tryhard about my Elephant’s three restaurants – just simple, well-executed Thai favourites served in a casual environment, with free-flow rice. The menu, rife with fan favourites like roast duck curry and salt-baked fish, is designed to please, so prepare your stomach for a big meal.

  1. 20-2 Jalan Sri Hartamas 8, Taman Sri Hartamas
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Best Fine Dining: Cilantro Restaurant and Wine Bar

This award is testament to the restaurant’s inventive French-Japanese cuisine designed by culinary wonder Chef Takashi Kimura. Considered a veteran in the game, Chef Takashi has a steady hand in KL’s fine dining scene and veers from clichés often practised by its French-Japanese competitors. No miso-coated pasta here, but rather clever things like cold angel hair with sea urchin or the more classic grilled Blackmore Wagyu, meticulously prepared and presented to match international standards.

  1. MiCasa All Suite Hotel, 368-B Jalan Tun Razak
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Best Pub Grub: Tom, Dick & Harry’s

TDH is no one-trick pony; it has perfected the formula of what makes a good local pub: friendly service, casual ambience, great comfort food and pet-friendly, too. They have outlets in two different parts of town (not counting the live music venue that is Tom, Dick & Harry’s Live at Pavilion), so it’s no excuse not to dig into TDH’s pork-heavy menu, which includes items like shepherd’s pie, Harry’s Cheese Burger, pork ribs curry, fish and chips (of course) and many more.

  1. 18, Lorong Rahim Kajai 14
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Best Place for Meat: Ril's Steakhouse Bangsar

A change of scenery hasn’t dampened Ril’s appetite for silverware. Fresh from vacating its original Jalan Tun HS Lee outlet for the bright lights of Bangsar’s Telawi strip earlier this year, Ril’s has now added a second successive Best Place for Meat title to its trophy cabinet. Synonymous with its expertly grilled steaks and classy ambiance, Ril’s Bangsar is home to signature cuts like the MB5 Australian Wagyu tomahawk and grass-fed Australian ribeye. Although the elegant steakhouse’s deftly executed slabs of meat are the true attractions here, its tuna tataki and whole baked fish en cocotte are no slouches either.

  1. 30 Jalan Telawi 5
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Lim Chee Wah

Best Place for Seafood: Restoran Fatty Crab

There’s a lot other restaurants can learn from Fatty Crab. This multiple-times Food Awards winner is proof that if you do what you do well, you don’t need a fancy menu to pack in the crowds. There are only eight items on Fatty Crab’s menu (crabs, prawns, steamed fish, fried rice, chicken wings, and toasted bread), but everyone comes for their claim to fame – the sweet and sour crab – and it’s almost guaranteed that you’d need to queue for a table during mealtimes.

To mop up the gravy, we recommend either the toasted bread or fried rice. And for starters, go for the barbecued chicken wings while you wait for the mains. And don’t bother dressing up; Fatty Crab’s casual setting means you can rock up in shorts and T-shirts, and we believe comfort plays a big part in making Fatty Crab top on everyone’s mind when voting for the best place in KL for seafood.

  1. 2 Jalan SS24/13, Taman Megah
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Stacy Liu

Best Place for Coffee: CoffeeSociété

With this year seeing a rapid increase in cafés, CoffeeSociété has scooped up this award by no easy feat. The boys behind the machine have created a consistently flavour-packed house blend grinded and pulled by young baristas. The lattes here are great for beginners – mild and creamy, best paired with a slice of red velvet cake. The setup too exudes a simple charm with wooden accents and a warm glow. Following the success of the Publika outlet, a newly launched offshoot in Sunway, Garage 51, is raking in crowds for its grungy, automotive-inspired setup.

  1. Level G3, Publika
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