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Food reviews

Honest, fair reviews. Time Out reviews anonymously and pays for meals

Table & Apron

Table & Apron – formerly The Kitchen Table Restaurant & Bakery – doesn’t exist to disrupt the scene. From the outside, it barely stretches the boundaries of what is an already saturated restaurant-cum-bakery scene. But none of it matters. Because right from its birth in 2014, Table & Apron has proven to be a restaurant that has in spades a component so elementary yet so rare – heart. Through hard work, dedication and all the boring old-fashioned virtues of an honest operation, owner Marcus Low and his team have carved for us a little treasure in Damansara Kim. (Credit must also be given to former co-owner Mei Wan Tan.) The narcissism you’ll find in so many KL restaurants is refreshingly stripped off here; there’s no time and place for vanity if the team is worrying about what’s going on your plate. If it’s all sounding a bit ingenuous to you, therein lies the restaurant’s charm. Of course, a large part of the restaurant’s ‘soul’ is owing to the service led by one gracious Nelaton Ong. Even at peak brunch hour on a Saturday, the floor staff are efficient, attentive and willing to provide customised service whether in the form of a complimentary cookie for your restless kid or an informed recommendation for your diet-restricted friend. There’s a sense that they actually want to take care of you. There are signatures that have stood the test of time, cementing their place on the menu. If you’ve been even once to Table & Apron, you would have tried the fried chicken (RM23) who

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If your ideas about coconut have been limited to santan and gula Melaka, Kayra is the lesson that will change everything you know about the humble fruit. At TTDI’s bearer of Keralan cuisine, coconut is put on a pedestal, bestowed a gold crown, and praised with kind words no matter the form or colour it takes. All good meals here should begin with the Kerala Cooler (RM12), a milkshake-like beverage with a base of coconut milk, laced with brown sugar and cardamom. The Spiced Konju (RM18), tiger prawns marinated with crushed fennel and coriander seeds and grilled to a char, should follow closely. You will suck on the prawn head until the juices run out, you will chew on the fractured seeds that graze the sweet flesh, and you will reach for raw red onion to soothe the palate. It’ll be one of the best things you eat in any Indian restaurant in the city. The clear fish soup with pumpkin, tapioca and raw banana (RM12) is less rousing in comparison but is indicative of a clean, sparkling fish stock. Because of Kerala’s coastal setting, seafood is heavily featured in its cuisine, so I’d suggest focusing on prawn and fish over chicken or mutton. You won’t miss the meat when fronted with the Kerala fish curry (RM30), hunks of tenggiri carefully folded into a smooth, coconut milk-tinged gravy. 'Coconut is the true celebrant here' In a similar vein is the Chemeen Mangga (RM32), a curry with coconut-marinated prawns and raw mango slices. It’s creamy once again, and a dream when s

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Uroko Japanese Cuisine

Uroko has a bit of everything. It’s a party box of choices – nigiri and maki rolls, sashimi platters, noodles, tempura, yakitori, nabe and donburi, all packed into a massive hardbound menu that requires ample table space to flip through and about 15 minutes to grasp from cover to cover. So far, it’s not unlike Sushi Zanmai, but an affluent man’s version, if you will. Commonly, a large menu can come across as unfocused or lacking of speciality dishes, but Uroko turns out to be an exception. Case in point: the salmon ball salad (RM22). Salmon sashimi slices finished with salmon roe are draped around a zesty, crunchy mound of watercress. It’s all the things a salad wants to be – bright, sprightly and textural. Many of the entries at Uroko are similarly exciting and sometimes, original. While it may be tempting to opt for a sushi moriawase, it’s far more rewarding to try the more out-of-the-box rolls swathed in flavoured mayo, roe and badassery. For instance, the Uroko Maki (RM38) is a glitzy display of salmon, crab sticks, avocado, mentaiko and caviar – it’s about as much as fun as you can have in Seksyen 17. Look out for the page in the menu titled ‘Chef’s Specialities’ where most of the restaurant’s playful items reside. As its name suggests, the baked oyster with cod roe and cheese (RM12) does no wrong. The prawn stick (RM24) – marked as a recommended dish – is skewered prawns slathered in a mysterious creamy, enigmatic garlic sauce and liberally topped with cod roe. The p

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Seksyen 17

French Feast

I suppose when it comes down to it, we all want to eat nice food in nice places that don’t cost the moon. Sure, we have French restaurants in KL where caramel is served upright in tangled webs; restaurants where the silverware is as shiny as the right side up of tinfoil; and of course, those that bestow themselves upon celebrities and socialites. But oftentimes, we don’t want the theatrics; we just want good, honest food in generous portions. We want thick hunks of bread to tear alongside juicy slabs of meat. We want to laugh until red wine squirts out our noses. Well, you get what I mean. And this is where French Feast comes in, like the bumbling, doting grandmother KL never had. Run by Jean-Michel Fraisse, formerly of La Vie En Rose, this restaurant is a celebration of all things tried-and-tested in French cuisine. Think Troyes tripe sausages with onions and mustard, braised rabbit with white wine and sautéed potatoes, and country-style terrines with onion jam and pickles. It’s a vintage French cookbook come to life, and frankly, it’s a hoot. Because I’m feeling a bit ’80s, I start with the French onion soup (RM28). And it’s just what the doctor ordered, if the doctor was Julia Child on a crackly television box set. The broth is not overly sweet or jammy, and the Comté cheese topping on the bread becomes sticky and chewy when pushed down into the soup. The next thing I order is irrespective of the chef’s skills because it comes straight from a can – ‘vintage’ mackerel c

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Bukit Bintang

Restoran Good Taste

The revelation that there are still eating places which exist serenely above the clamour of foodie fashion is deeply comforting. The food at Good Taste is irreproachably dai chow-classic, although the dimly-lit restaurant could use a pump of Febreze. The photos of dishes plastered across the walls, which are in fact their menu in entirety, are reliable predictors of what will actually arrive at the table. It’s interesting how the chef has maintained a disciplined vision of his cooking while leaving plenty of room for you to enjoy something your sceptical Cantonese grandmother would probably frown on. Like the intriguing Mongolian-style chicken strips, deep-fried frogs, or the braised pig trotter cooked with salted fish and dried shredded squid. But you’ll never go wrong with their signature ‘yat zi guat’ (RM24): This huge slab of pork rib is on par with the archetype that’s been served at upscale Chinese restaurants. The sticky-sweet glaze pushes flavours into a pleasant, intense realm of smokiness – mop up the sauce with the fried mantao and try not to smile. A plate of stir-fried kalian (RM15) isn’t going to start a conversation but upping it with a smattering of salty muy choy (preserved mustard greens), minced pork and cili padi will. With every dish that exits the kitchen, what becomes clear is that Good Taste is still gunning for that pared-down Cantonese approach while ruffling expectations once in a while to deliver an element of surprise. The chef can whip up a tra

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Kafe Bawang Merah

One of the longest-running restaurants in the quiet neighbourhood of SS12, Bawang Merah always, always sports a healthy lunch crowd. Don’t say we didn’t warn you. It may seem a little chaotic – people navigating the cramped space (commence a slew of ‘excuse me-s’), restaurant staff trying to deliver trays of drinks, a queue for the nasi campur that’s getting longer by the minute. But calmly join the queue and pick from the spread through the glass case; the friendly kakak will scoop the lauk for you. Wait patiently for your turn to pay at the end of the queue, try to secure a table (somewhat impossible at the height of lunch hour), then dig right in. We’ve visited a fair few nasi campur joints in the city both in and out of Kampung Baru, and while most are excellent, there’s always one or two lauk that doesn’t quite hit the spot. However, three visits in to Bawang Merah, we weren’t disappointed yet. The daging masak hitam was tender to the last bite, vegetables in the acar jelatah were fresh, and the rice was fragrant with a good, fluffy texture. Found on nearly every table at lunchtime, the lontong – thick, milky broth, generous portions of tempeh and vegetables and topped with a dollop of sweet sambal – was fantastic too. While seating can be somewhat disorganised, the service is fast and friendly. And the best thing about Bawang Merah (at least to us) is the fact that it serves kuih, and superior versions of that. Upon our first visit, the kuih shelf was almost emptied;

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The Row on Jalan Doraisamy is Singapore-like in its manufactured prettiness, a concept more attractive in theory than in practice. A cute photo The Row might make, but aside from Limapulo, it doesn’t lure the Saturday night owls as say, Jalan Batai does. So, it comes as a surprise then that 2OX – run by the team behind Maison Française – is any good at all. The best thing about the restaurant is the set menus – you have the choice of a three-course menu for RM88, or a slightly more premium menu of the same at RM120. With only one single main course below RM65, the sets seem a rationale choice for those who don’t want to pay RM98 for a leg of duck, which comprises most of us, surely. I start with the Provence-style vegetable terrine – fridge cold and loosely packed. There’s eggplant, yellow zucchini and red peppers; they’re fine on their own but much better with a smear of basil cream cheese. Like a ratatouille, but… cold. The niçoise salad, meanwhile, is let down by a tumbling in of a limp supermarket salad pack. While the niçoise could easily be one of the best salads ever invented, it isn’t treated as one at 2OX. It picks up when the deep-fried oxtail meatballs arrive – each ball is filled with pulled meat filling and plenty of seasoning, while the side mash is lifted by loads of herbs. I particularly enjoy the red wine jus that floods the plate, the stuff of simple luxury you come to expect at a French restaurant. It’s a deliciously unfashionable main course, and what I

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Chung Wa Dae Korean Restaurant

The night is tiresome, and the city is feeling the effects of post-work grogginess. It’s instances like these that a Korean meal of sizzling meats reassures. KL’s ‘Little Korea’ calls, and I answer its pleas at Chung Wa Dae. From the get go, it’s a piercingly blithe restaurant that’s loud and proud about what could be Korea’s best export – pop. On the signage are photos of rosy-cheeked teenage boys clad in matching all-white ensembles, and inside, suspended TVs looping Korean girl bands competing for superstar status. Coupled with wooden chairs and covered in cloth of baroque prints, it’s all so inadvertently kitsch. Along the five-foot path, I notice a man flipping thinly sliced meats on a grill, a (mildly disappointing) signifier that my meal won’t be cooked tableside. There’s nothing like the fog of steam rising from smoky meats and their dramatic hiss and curl when smacked on the grill, and all the better for the senses to get warmed up if the meats are cooked below your nose. But never mind, because I’m armed with a cold pint of Hite beer (RM50 for a large bottle for two) and a smorgasbord of colourful banchan. There are at least ten varieties, laid out lavishly like a spread for a family of miniature figurines. Most things are great save for the cold, limp omelette, and a gloopy sausage concoction with peppers and onions. I particularly like the soybean sprouts – crunchy and slicked in sesame oil. The blocks of konyaku taste perfectly of nothing but are delightful i

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Mak’s Chee

This Hong Kong superstar has its share of Malaysian screaming fans, as the hype surrounding its opening proved. There were many blogger reviews, many full house nights, and many stylised Instagram shots. When the smoke settles many months later, I make my way to 1 Utama for many bowls of ‘authentic Cantonese wantan noodles’. It begins with the (soup) noodle with the signature sea prawn wantan (RM12.90). The highlight here is the wantan – plump, fresh, and filled with prawn instead of pork. I particularly enjoy the shrivelled, translucent skins around each morsel that so delightfully pop to reveal almost-crunchy sea prawns. They may look like embryonic terrestrials, but in taste, they’re far more pleasant. For good measure, I also order the same noodles with larger prawn dumplings (RM14.90), this time reinforced with bamboo shoots and mushroom. While tightly packed and well formed, they carry a bitter aftertaste that I can’t attribute to anything in particular. But the broth – made of dried halibut, pork bones and prawn roe – is sweet and clean. Meanwhile, the beef tendon and brisket noodles (RM15.90) carry an addictive peppery sauce that slicks the noodles nicely, while the meat itself is tender. One of my favourite things to order here are the dry prawn roe noodles (RM14.90), another Hong Kong speciality. The roe – dusted atop the noodles in powder form – are less crunchy than I expect, but when tossed with the sesame oil-dressed noodles, the dish as a whole is an excelle

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Bandar Utama

Classic Rebel

The surprise when you encounter a café in the Klang Valley with properly decent food is akin to discovering a fifty in your jean pocket. The very revelation has the power to redeem all the days wasted on café after café of tediousness and sheer soul-sucking duplication. Classic Rebel – our case study – is a saviour much needed in the current café climate, a modest operation that impressively veers from multi-stack pancakes, but manages to retain a sense of comfort and familiarity. All of it while completely zapping out pretention. You’ll run into squad-pose types, no doubt. But serving my table on a weeknight is a lovely lady who runs through the signatures with a tireless smile, like that of a kind stranger in a children’s fairy tale. In fact, she’s so lovely I think of all the extra stars I could’ve handed out in the past if all the ladies in all the cafés were as lovely. With her recommendation, I start with the salmon gravlax (RM28), a Scandinavian classic brought to the fore of the café scene by Nutmeg. Here, the fish is placed atop hash browns, looped within a crunchy bouquet of pickled onion, fennel, radish and dill, and upon it, dollops of sour cream. Texturally, it’s textbook perfect, but I wish for the hash browns to be less oily. The main of lamb confit pasta (RM28) knocks it out of the park. It’s spaghetti, threads of lamb, caramelised onion, coriander and tomato tossed in a punchy garlic and olive oil combo. It’s exactly the sort of pasta you’ll want to throw

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Petaling Jaya
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