Every year, we ask you to put forward your nominations for the best cafés and restaurants that deserve the highest recognition in the Kuala Lumpur dining scene. You’ve voted, and here are the award results.
Fuego has everything going for it: a gorgeous view of the Twin Towers from 23 stories up, a vibrant alfresco space, an exciting tapas and grill menu inspired by South American flavours, and a killer cocktail list. In other words, the location has wow factor and the food lives up to the hype. The dishes are made for sharing; there are guacamole made by guacamole specialists (yes, Fuego claims they exist), ceviche and a selection of small plates such as grilled watermelon and soft-shell crab nachos. The grilled meats are a must: You have a choice of lamb ribs, the spicy chermoula chicken, or the beef ribs, flank and sirloin. Finish your meal with one of the best churros in town and any of the fruity, spicy, complex or dark cocktails – if in doubt, go for the margarita; it’s served with a charcoal-grilled lemon. There are two seatings every day and reservations are required.
The fried chicken at Village Park Restaurant is so consistently crunchy that repeat visits have become mandatory. They bagged the award for ‘Best Ayam Goreng’ last year, and now the accolade for ‘Best Malay/ Malaysian Restaurant’ – proving that though their fried chicken may be their crowning glory, Village Park is still a laudable Malaysian restaurant at heart. If you’ve only known Village Park for their nasi lemak, it’s high time you try their equally commendable assam laksa, lontong, Penang prawn mee and Ipoh hor fun. Nothing dims the enthusiasm of a dining experience like an excruciatingly long queue (read: avoid lunch time) but you can always share tables, Malaysian-style.
- Bijan Bar & Restaurant
- Makan Kitchen
- Straits Food Company
- WonderMama Restaurant & Café
A frontrunner for KL’s fancier Chinese plates, The Ming Room leads the way for Cantonese cuisine. It stays true to tradition where it matters most, but with creative, contemporary tweaks: Think baked foie gras with stuffed sea clams, spare ribs with black pepper and honey, and steamed fresh water prawns with radish cakes, and that’s only scratching the surface. For top-end trolley action, start your day with a table heaving with Hong Kong-style dim sum as featured in Time Out KL’s ‘101 things to do in KL’. Egg tarts, fried yam and siu yuk come highly recommended, but don’t miss the steamed varieties – they set the benchmark in the dumpling department.
- Celestial Court
- Mohammad Chow Restaurant
- The Royal Flush
- The Tranquerah
- Way Modern Chinois
Cantaloupe has serious real estate: This swanky restaurant is housed on the 23rd floor of a Norman Foster-designed building, and it overlooks the iconic Twin Towers. Thankfully its menu is equally as lofty. Gone is the traditional à la carte menu; you now have a choice of around 24 dishes, from which you can pick and design your own five-, eight- or ten-course tasting menu – so get all desserts if you like. And just like its location, there is some serious fine cooking here: There’s ambition in the concept, fine technique in the cooking, playfulness in the experimentation of textures and flavours, and wait staff that are not only attentive but also knowledgeable. It’s fine dining done impeccably.
- Cilantro Restaurant & Wine Bar
- DC Restaurant
- Sage Restaurant & Wine Bar
One of Bangsar’s most popular 24-hour mamak joints, Devi’s Corner adds a third TOKL Food Awards win to its trophy cabinet (they won ‘Best Mamak/Hawker’ and ‘Best Cheap Eats’ in 2011 and 2013 respectively) with this ‘Best Indian’ win. Their crispy roti, tandoori, spicy curries and banana leaf rice are well loved among the crowds. To balance all that heat, ask for the sweet and tangy mango chutney (available on Friday nights and weekends only).
- Fierce Curry House
- Passage Thru India
- Restoran Santa Chapati House
- Restoran Sri Nirwana Maju
Hidden in an alley, nasi lemak joint Nasi Lemak Bumbung is known for its efficient service (we timed; the nasi lemak was served within ten minutes after we got a table). Good for folks who have trouble deciding what to eat, the menu at Nasi Lemak Bumbung is short and simple: nasi lemak, Ibumie and Maggi goreng (with a perfectly runny sunny-side-up). The secret to its overwhelming popularity? The sweet sambal tumis and fried chicken.
- AK Noodles House
- Restoran Devi's Corner
- Restoran Santa Chapati House
- Straits Food Company
Skillet@163 burst onto the scene this year, taking over Mediteca at Fraser Place and going on to secure a win as one of the city’s finest European restaurants. Helmed by Chef Raymond Tham, Skillet@163 aims to make fine dining more accessible with a slightly more casual vibe and affordable prices. It seems to be working, judging by the healthy crowds at the restaurant come lunch and dinner time. The desserts are great (Chef Raymond is also a chocolatier), as are the wine-pairing dinner menus. Try the braised Australian beef brisket with Belgian chocolate mass.
- Albion KL
- Mercat Barcelona Gastrobar
- Yeast Bistronomy
Being a vegetarian doesn’t mean you have to settle for just stir-fried vegetables and mock meats. At Simple Life, you can expect meat-free dishes that use organic ingredients and are high in fibre, low in sodium, sugar and oil, and best of all, still delicious. Think Thai-style organic bean curd with multi-grain rice, lion’s mane mushrooms, vegetarian assam fish, or the mini hotpot where you have a choice of black bean, miso, tom yam or burdock soup. There are lots to choose from – rice sets, noodles, snacks, salads, breads, kids’ meals and even organic desserts.
- Beyond Veggie by Secret Recipe
- Organica Lifestyle
- Pickle & Fig
You don’t come to Tom, Dick and Harry’s (TDH) for surprises – the staff have been doling out staple lagers and whipping up fashionable cocktails for years, and they do them well. Customers patronise this neighbourhood pub for a sense of community and familiarity, but it’s the classic pub grub that secured TDH a spot on the top of the podium again this year. The choices are enough to make you feel indecisive, like their hearty pork knuckle, pigs in the blanket and a jazzed up porky fries made from deep-fried luncheon meat. TDH may not be the most eye-popping pub out there, but it’s still a very lively, fun place to knock back some pints.
- Pisco Bar
- Sid's Pubs
- SOULed Out
- TAPS Beer Bar
Despite all the new seafood and specialty crab restaurants popping up all over town, there’s no diminishing Fatty Crab’s star power. Perhaps this proves one thing when it comes to the restaurant business: consistency matters. And that’s what we really want – to go to our favourite place and have our favourite meal, knowing full well that we won’t be disappointed. The piquant sweet and sour crab is what everybody raves about, but the steamed fish, fried chicken wings and satay are good too. Come as early as 6pm if you don’t want to wait in line.
- Crab Factory
- Lala Chong Seafood Restaurant
- Restoran Fresh Unique Seafood 23
- Southern Rock Seafood
What separates myElephant from the other Thai spots is its simple, authentic standards of the salty and the spicy, the sweet and the sour; that’s what keeps the chowhounds coming back, evident in its expansion since opening its doors in the suburban Section 17 a few years ago. The gaeng phet yaeng, which is roast duck curry with fruit, the pan-fried diced chicken with cashew nuts and dried chilli, and the salt-baked seabass with green chilli sauce are cult favourites – but don’t miss the tom som, a fiery soup featuring chicken, fish or seafood in a broth bubbling over with lemongrass, lime and Thai herbs. Wash it down with the pandan cooler – a real treat after all the heat.
- Go Thai
- Tamarind Springs Restaurant
- Thai Camp
- Rama V Fine Thai Cuisine
Ginza-trained chefs, fresh seasonal ingredients from an exclusive vendor in Tsukiji fish market, and 42 years of excellence since its days at Equatorial Kuala Lumpur, Kampachi gets a well-deserved win in this ‘Best Japanese’ category. Helmed by executive chef How Yoke Seng, Kampachi stays true to its traditional Japanese ethos with seasonal menus and painstakingly handmade soba noodles. To top it all off, Kampachi very recently welcomed sushi master, Chef Norikazu Shibata to their flagship restaurant at The Troika.
- Manmaru Robatayaki and Bar
- Nobu Kuala Lumpur
The familiar favourite hasn’t lost its steam since it opened in 1996 – that’s almost two decades of pastas, pizzas and all sorts of other standards done the right way. Don’t dismiss the Ampang branch for date nights: The restaurant is rustic and romantic, with an antique chandelier, exposed brick walls and wooden accents, while the Medan Damansara outpost boasts an old-world charm. The menu provides multiple choices for memorable bites, from crisp, wood-fired thin pizzas laden with cheeses and red sauces, to pastas which involve hunks of lamb, lobster and smoked duck, and platters of cured beef ham, chicken liver pâté and smoked turkey. The protein profusion continues with meat and seafood dishes, and you’ll have no trouble picking a wine to pair with your meal: La Risata’s list is very extensive.
- Fatto A Mano
- Strato @ Troika Sky Dining
- Villa Danieli
The cult creamery scoops up some of the best ice cream in the city to cool down with. Not only are the frozen goodness freshly made on-site, dense and packed with flavour, the selections are countless and constantly changing. Inside Scoop churns out classic creations such as cookies and cream, strawberry cheesecake and Valrhona chocolate, but the local flavours are the most lickable: Think bandung, cendol, durian, salted gula Melaka and teh tarik. The sorbets – blood orange, coconut or dragonfruit – might tempt too, as will the rum and raisin, smoked cognac and XO cranberry. One can opt for the cone or the cup – but if you’ve been good, pair their ice cream with hot, fluffy Belgian waffles.
- A Pie Thing
- Jaslyn Cakes
- Madame Waffle
Mention ‘Penang char kuey teow’ and our expectations are immediately heightened – after all, Penangites take serious pride in rustling up a good version without a recipe to hand. So you can imagine the hype when a Penangite-helmed char kuey teow stall first set up shop at Lot 10 Hutong. The roaring fire and smoke billowing out of the kitchen are all signs of a promising char kuey teow with wok hei. True enough, the flat noodles are well-oiled and studded with huge prawns, cockles, lap cheong, chives, bean sprouts and fried lard. Plus, you get a choice between chicken or duck egg. The Penang Famous Fried Koay Teow does the dish justice, especially at a place where you’d least expect to find it: in a food court. But this is Lot 10 Hutong we’re talking about.
- Robert's Char Kuey Teow
- Restoran Lorong Seratus Tahun
- Sisters Char Koay Teow Kopitiam
- Restaurant Well Cook Gourmet
Ante is known for their way with meats – their signature char-grilled pork steak is an education of how good a slab of pork can be. This year, the restaurant hit a home run with a brunch menu that excites even the non-carnivorous: big breakfast, house-cured salmon with scrambled eggs and hugely satisfying deep-fried soft poached eggs with bacon. The chefs maintain a single-minded focus to perfecting their meats – the Norwegian salmon with candied black olives and the chicken fillet with truffle butter sauce might even be enough to tempt you away from the juicy pork. You’ll be happy to know that Ante is also as passionate about steaks as it is about wines – their comprehensive selection proves it.
- Fuego @ Troika Sky Dining
- Maria's Steakcafé
It’s pretty clear why you voted for Yellow Brick Road. The café at Jalan Batai has everything going for it – great location (a prominent lot with pretty decor and lots of natural light), an experienced team (the guys from Publika café stalwart The Red Beanbag masterminded it), and most importantly, legit coffee cred (reigning barista champion of Malaysia Jason Loo mans the brew bar which focuses on filter coffee). The varied Asian-fusion brunch menu is creative, the cakes are good, the service is attentive – there’s nothing more you can ask for, really. Although, to avoid the queues that often snake around the corner even before lunch time, go there really early in the morning.
- 103 Coffee Workshop
- Artisan Roast Coffee
- Brewyard Coffee
- Departure Lounge
- Strangers at 47
How it's done
The Time Out KL Food Awards is the city’s first independent, public-voted restaurant award. You, our readers and the public, have the ultimate say in creating this annual best-of list.
We opened for nominations in July, where you submitted your favourite cafés and restaurants across 17 categories. In September, we sieved through the thousands of entries and compiled the nominations into a shortlist, which we then presented for the final round of voting. The polls closed end October and here they are, the winners of 2015’s Time Out KL Food Awards, as voted by you.