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Mar 21, 2008 01:57 AM

Fine Dining in Kuala Lumpur

I would be very grateful for any tips you may have for fine dining in Kuala Lumpur. I am looking for Malay cuisine only, not for any tips regarding Chinese, Indian, European or any other cuisine. To the extent this exists, I would like to try a genuine gourmet restaurant - while I like the informal, delicious and reasonably priced eateries, I have had my fair share of meals at such restaurants and would like to try something really special this time.

I will be in KL from 18 to 20 April.

Thank you very much in advance.

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  1. The poshest Malay restaurant in KL (nay, the poshest fine-dining restaurant in KL, irregardless of cuisine) is Gulai House, Carcosa Seri Negara, Taman Tasik Perdana, Persiaran Mahameru, KL (Tel: 03-2295 0810).

    It's located in an incredibly beautiful British colonial mansion which used to be the official residence of the British Governor-General of Malaya. Today, it's converted into an official guesthouse (which Queen Elizabeth II had also lived in).

    The Gulai House has top-notch service and superb Malay cuisine (albeit, with the chilli content toned down a bit to suit "delicate" Western palates).

    I just happened to dine there last night (was in KL for the Malaysian Grand Prix this weekend). Former Malaysian Prime Minister (Tun Mahathir) & his guests were there. It was a treat - to see dinner guests flying in on private helicopters landing on the expansive manicured lawns of Carcosa Seri Negara.

    We ordered:
    Starters: Chicken satays - delicious skewers of marinated chicken kebabs, served with peanut sauce, thin slices of crunchy cucumber & tiny cubes of compressed rice (nasi himpit);
    Soup: Sop Ekor - Malay-style oxtail consomme, subtly spiced (with hints of turmeric, star-anise & cloves);
    Entrees: there were 3 of us & we shared (Malay-style) main platters of superb:
    - Daging madu Pulau Pinang (Penang-style honeyed, spiced roast beef steaks);
    - Kambing bakar air assam (char-grilled lamb-ribs, with a tamarind-flavored sauce);
    - Crisp-fried threadfin fish, with crispy shallots/cilantro/herbs;
    - Jungle ferns cooked in a rich, spiced coconut-creme-flavored curry.

    Dessert: Roti bom (a rich, flaky Malay-style mille-feuille, with a prata-like consistency & rich, buttery after-taste), topped with vanilla ice-cream.

    Prices are not cheap (by Malaysian standards) for dining amidst such palatial splendor: RM10 (US$2.80) for a plate of white rice (for one person); RM16 if you opt for nasi briyani (flavored pilaf rice) or nasi ulam (rice with chopped herbs).

    Budget for RM200 per person. All the ingredients were incredibly fresh, and the cooking was top-notch. The setting was incredible, set within spitting distance of the Malaysian Parliament House, the mansion was nestled on a hillock & surrounded by tropical rainforests, providing stunning greenery, eventhough one's only minutes way from the towering skyscrapers of modern Kuala Lumpur. It's a veritable oasis from the jam-packed streets & bustling malls. If Michelin has a guide for Malaysia, this restaurant is a definite 3-star!

    2 Replies
    1. re: klyeoh

      If you get chance, do go to Restaurant Rebung in Bangsar.

      Ismail Ahbad is considered one of the guardians of traditional Malay food and the buffet there ( RM64 per person) is a real treat with about forty dishes to choose from

      I was lucky enough to be invited by Chef Ismail to join him in the kitchen as research for the EAT MY GLOBE book as he and his team prepared the dishes for the day and then, obviously I got to chow down too.

      Well worth a try

      1. re: klyeoh

        UPDATE: Gulai House is closed, as Carcosa Seri Negara will be undergoing extensive renovations.

      2. I've not tried this restaurant yet, but it's got good reviews from Malay friends in KL as one of the premier Malay fine-dining restaurants in town:

        3 Jalan Ceylon
        Tel: 03-2031-3575

        Some of Bijan's specialties include Ayam Percik (originating from the north-eastern Kelantan state of Malaysia, it's chicken marinated in galangal, chillis, shallots, turmeric & coconut creme, then charcoal-grilled); Ayam Masak Merah (Chicken in red chilli-tomato gravy); Masak Lemak Sotong Sumbat (squid stuffed with glutinous rice & cooked in coconut gravy) and Masak Lemak Udang Nenas (Prawns & pineapple curry).

        Or you can also try Enak @ Starhill Gallery, which I wrote about in a recent thread:

        8 Replies
        1. re: klyeoh

          Thank you both so much for the recommendations!! Will try all I can! All sounds absolutely perfect.

          1. re: klyeoh

            What about what appears to be called "Ibunda" now?

            From the website and from Googlemaps, this appears to be in the very same building, IIRC, that used to be a colonial English/Sino-English posh restaurant. My folks and I used to go there on occasion for English high tea, brunch in the Sino-English style, that sort of thing.

            1. re: huiray

              I passed by this restaurant the other week & was quite curious to try it. Will definitely do it soon.

              1. re: klyeoh

                I tried Ibunda a few months ago. It's good and with nice surroundings. For such a nice place, the prices are not very cheap but still affordable, for example a plate of white rice is RM$3 instead of Gulai House's RM$10 which you mention earlier.

                The food was quite tasty although I prefer Penang's nasi kandar more, heh-heh.

            2. re: klyeoh

              A friend of mine just went to Bijan a few days ago, and he said it's Chinese-owned (?!), and offered Malay food with a modern/fusion twist. Nevertheless, everything he ordered was pretty good though the prices were a bit too high for Malay dishes which one can get for a third of the price outside.

              1. re: penang_rojak

                Yes, Bijan is owned by the people who own La Risata (Italian trattoria style) and The Daily Grind (burger joint/ diner). It is costly because they supposedly use premium ingredients, sometimes imported cuts of beef. They also target westerners and the corporate dining crowd who like the more exotic resort style setting. I heard the maitre d' and the chef left to open their own place on Jalan Yap Kwan Seng.

                1. re: mikey8811

                  Must be Songket - shall we try it one day, mikey?


                  1. re: klyeoh

                    Sure, give me a buzz when you feel like it.

                    PS. the road blocks around town today are a real hassle.

            3. Asomaniac,

              Where did you end up going during your trip, and what did you think of the food? I'm doing some very advanced planning for a trip coming up in December, and I'd love to hear your thoughts.