Whenever I travel outside the US, I madly crave Asian food so bad. So one thing I absolutely love about Asia... the FOOD. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia has so many little hole in the wall places, family owned places, shitty places, upscale places, but all of these places for eating. Kulala Lumpur, especially, is famous for the street stalls called hawker stands. My company had us staying at the Prince Hotel right in the heart of KL by Bukit Bintag (literally means Star Hill in Malay), so luckily many places were walking distance. It was awesome! Especially with the ridiculous heat and humidity, I really appreciated the short walks to places.
Since I was in KL for 2.5 weeks, I am going to break down my posts into the eateries, touristy places, and bars of Kuala Lumpur. This blog... will be about the food! Yum!!!
The first night I got into KL, I was starving (?!) or sleepy??? I really wasn't sure since my body clock has been completely flipped. But I just decided that I was hungry because honestly... I am always hungry. I tried to quickly check in, but as I got into the elevator to get to my room, someone VERY familiar walks in to the elevator with me... I completely recognize him from somewhere... Then I realize that it's the Iraqi guy I met for just a couple of days in Brunei while I was there in December! Wow! Small world! Who knew that we would meet again? And in KL? So I invited him to eat with me and my dear friend Petter.
I heard about the awesome hole in the wall hawker food street called Jalan Alor so I decided that we would all go try it out. It was only about a 10 minute walk away from Prince Hotel. It was accessible through an ally from the main street. When we actually got to Jalan Alor, I was excited because there was so many things going on, cars honking, Chinese people chopping up strange meats, restaurants filled up with people drinking and eating, Asian people in wheel chairs singing terribly with some weird music in the background, the smells of durian, Chinese lanterns... all the sights, smells, and sounds were just so colorful. We stopped at the most crowded restaurant called Sai Woo and sat in one of the outside tables enjoying local Chinese food with Malay influences (like sambal sauces and spices) with a ice cold Anchor. This was a great first night in KL with delicious food, old/new friends, and cold beer on a hot day.... especially since all of this cost like 5-7 USD/person :)... hehe
Lot10 was recommended from a colleague that is originally form KL. The entrance is an inconspicuous escalator from the main Bukit Bintang street and it takes you to an underground "high end" version of the hawker stands and placed in a cafeteria. It is placed in the basement of a retail building with shops and a grocery store. I consider this "upscale" because it is clean, modern, and there is A/C! So the same extremely cheap but delicious local foods with the luxury of comfort through cleanliness and cold air. I wanted the beef soup, but I think there was definitely a language barrier.. and I ended up getting dry noodles with soup on the side. But since I was such a noob, I thought you placed the side soup INTO the bowl of dry noodles.... well... that's not right at all haha. Everyone made fun of me for it. Tip: If you are with a big group of friends, get someone to save a table while the rest of you find something to eat! Seating is limited here and it is PACKED during dinner time!
Bukit Bintang (Star Hill) is literally a street/area filled with non-stop traffic of both cars and people, all the shopping you can imagine, and so many eateries/restaurants/street food. The main street in this area, called Jalan Bukit Bintang, is continually hustling and bustling with so many people. One can literally do whatever (even prostitutes!! There are pimp daddy/mama's soliciting men for a "happy time" on the this street as well) and eat whatever they want! Since I was staying so close to Bukit Bintang street, I ate at a different place every night from Middle Eastern food at Zafran to authentic Chinese dishes at Hakka.
Dhiaa could not take the Asian food any longer so we went to his choice of Zafran. Because of Ramadan going on at this time, there were massive Ramadan Buffets everywhere... But since Petter hates buffets, we ordered A La Carte. I am going to have to admit that the food at Zafran was pretty amazing and wished I had the buffet! We had the hummus/eggplant dip/olive dip sampler with bread and I had the saffron Chicken (SO GOOD). It was a really good change of flavors.
I heard great reviews about Hakka (which was literally right behind Prince Hotel) so one lazy evening when we didn't want to walk the extra 5 minutes across the bridge to Jalan Bukit Bintang, we decided to try it! There is traditional Chinese/Malay food here with options with all different kinds of meats and seafood. There was cozy Christmas lighting on the outside patio, making it ideal to sit outside! It seemed a bit fancier than other Chinese places, but what was bazaar were the what the workers were wearing there? They were dressed in short skirts/tight shirts that had sponsorship of the local beer there and the men were dressed up in suits... The attire really confused me but the food did not confuse me! It really was delicious, but maybe not for the price that you pay. I think the food at Jalan Alor is comparable in flavor but maybe not in price (or quality of the meat/seafood). The spicy Chinese broccoli was amazing, but I am a sucker of anything spicy and Chinese broccoli so I may be a bit biased :P.
There are WAY more places to eat and explore around Bukit Bintang area and Jalan Bukit Bintang but these two restaurants stood out to me to as places that I would go back to if I came back to KL. Definitely a must try!
Also along Jalan Bukit Bintang are little stalls with royal blue tarp covers. They have many special Malay street food stalls filled with BBQ satay on a stick, all sorts of strange fruit juices, and mystery meats with rice balls all home made. Many of the local Malaysians eat this as it is a tasty cheap snack! Many of these locals even buy in bulk before they head home to take for dinner! If you're brave enough and are looking for a very, VERY cheap meal, you must stop here! The food here is SO cheap... cheap meaning a whole meal including a drink for less than 3USD. But take caution as you do not know how long these foods have been out in the 30 + Degrees Celsius humid weather of KL... nor do you know how many flies have pooped/landed on this food. I can't give you an exact number of flies that did but I will tell you that it is because there has been so many that it's hard to count... so if you're brave and have a strong stomach, go for it!
By this time, Petter the Norwegian, was getting tired of all the dirty cheap street food. We decided one night to try out the bars and restaurants around Jalan Changkat. I heard great things from my friends in Brunei about this street (my friends and I were planning to visit KL when I was in Brunei and this was one of the for sure stops during our visit). This street is filled with upscale places mostly filled with expats (as this is a more expensive option for locals). There is a great atmosphere energy on this street since all the bar fronts are open to the outside with a balcony that is easily accessible along the street.
We decided to go for Pampas Grill which is known for their great steaks, so that is what we tried! Our meal was on the pricey side, even for us (about 35USD)! But included in our meal was a shrimp appetizer, tender steak with "vegetables" (only one broccoli...), and a molten chocolate cake with ice cream. I am usually a steak snob, but this was actually very tasty! There are a lot more restaurants along Jalan Changkat I was not able to try, especially the "Dining in the Dark" restaurant, but I am sure I will be back in KL sometime to try the other places on Bukit Changkat!
Malls, malls, malls, and more malls. In KL, you will find HUNDREDS of huge malls scattered throughout the city. I honestly have no idea how the stores can even make any money since there are so many of the same stores in the mall right next door!
Burjaya Times Square Mall -
Burjaya Times Square Mall is famous for the rollercoaster ride inside. Unfortunately, I was not able to go experience that, but instead I got to experince the food! Around that area are many little restaurant gems. I met up a colleague from Brunei who now works in KL. He took us to a restaurant in close proximity of Times Square Mall. We enjoyed a traditional family style meal with spicy seafood, meats, and veggies! I wish I could remember the name of this place because it was delicious... During this time was close to the Moon Festival, a special time known for the delicious moon cakes. Right next door to this restaurant was a very famous moon cake stand called Overseas that had a variety of colorful moon cakes. Great gifts for friends and family back home!
Pavilion Mall -
The Pavilion Mall has an abundant amount of restaurants... The top two floors are strictly restaurants and the rest of the five floors have restaurants trickled throughout. Since this mall was just a stone's throw away from our home at the Prince Hotel, I found myself eating here a lot more than I thought. One night I enjoyed a delicious Ramadan Buffet feast with Dhiaa at Al-Amar Lebanese Cuisine. They had a huge layout of different Mediterranean foods in the buffet. The Hummus was my favorite! We just came back from a long journey from Pulau Perhentian and was starving, so this was an amazing way to satisfy my hunger! Yum! This restaurant was considered "fine dining" and it was a bit pricey even for American standards.
Another night we tried more of a casual dining place called Grandmama's. This place had "outside" seating along the hallways of the mall with traditional Malay choices. The only reason why I wanted to eat here was because of their Laksa which I found out they ran out of after we were seated... Instead, I opted for the Spicy Fish Head Soup with noodles. It definitely tasted good, but it did not go through good. From this restaurant I got GASTRITIS.. the most painful stomach inflammation I have ever experienced in my life. I naturally have a pretty weak stomach and get sick if I eat the wrong things, but even Petter, the Viking Norwegian, was experiencing stomach pains the rest of the week! Norwegian Vikings rarely get sick and even he was feeling the stomach pangs. It was TERRIBLE. I would NEVER go back to this restaurant again. Not only did they not have what I wanted, it was pricey, and I had extreme pain in my stomach. I took some charcoal pills to help with my digestion and stomach pain but, after suffering for 3-4 days, I finally got a taxi and went to the Glendale Emergency Room to get it checked out. I was given a medicine prescription and a shot in my butt in this shady hospital "room". I'm not even sure if the "doctor" and "nurse" sanitized their hands or the needle. On top of all of this, I had to wait about 1.5 hours to receive my medicine from the Glendale Pharmacy. To get rid of this stomach pain and reduce the inflammation of my stomach, I had to take a probiotic, a digestion syrup, pain medicine, and some other medication I have no idea what it was for. NEVER GOING AGAIN TO GRANDMAMA'S. STAY AWAY FROM THEIR FOOD.
At the most bottom floor of the Pavilion Mall is a hidden cafeteria with all the foods you can imagine. It literally took me 30-40 minutes to find out what I wanted! I was overwhelmed by all the options I had. There's Malay, Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, Japanese, American, and basically any type of food you would want located in this one spot! Our whole class decided to meet for dinner here on our last night before the class ended. I had, of course, some soup with noodles. Especially since I was suffering from gastritis still, I needed something warm to settle my belly. Everything is good here (I took a bite out of everyone's food)! I would definitely recommend going to this cafeteria as the food is good and the prices are as low as Jalan Alor! Also, there is a little candy store called Sticky right by the cafeteria that has the cutest little sugar candies. They have the most detailed pictures on their candies and they taste so yummy! Definitely a great gift idea for people back home (and for yourself)!
I heard great things about Sushi Tei,which is located by the food court in the basement of the Pavilion Mall. I heard it was great sushi but at a price! Petter and I decided on trying it out since we both love sushi! It's a super clean, modern restaurant with a revolving sushi belt. There are a lot of fresh fruit juice options, but not a lot of sushi options on the conveyer belt. Being a sushi snob, I was expecting outstanding sushi, but for me it was just decent. The price was a bit excessive for the quality and variety of the fish. Especially after eating fresh Norwegian nigiri's in Norway... This was memorable!
Central Night Market in China Town, Jalan Petaling -
The Central Night Market in KL is famous for all sorts of knick knacks... you can literally buy anything here: used clothes/shoes, snacks, books, antiques, tourist gifts, fake Chanel and Gucci products, etc. There is both an outside and inside market. The inside has independently owned boutiques with A/C and more expensive options whereas the outside market is a crowded less expensive options. Close by the market are many great cheap Chinese restaurants. My friend from Brunei has suggested his uncle's place, Lai Foong Beef Noodle Soup, famous for their beef noodle soup, so we decided to stop by there for dinner. It was basically an outdoor patio area on the first floor a building, so it was hot and sticky. There was definitely a communication barrier as no one spoke English. We were seated at a table and handed a menu with just photos of food. I ordered whatever beef noodle soup that was available on the menu, but it was strange... It had a very thick corn syrup-y texture as the "soup" with thick noodles that reminded me of worms... Ended up that this little outdoor patio was made up of 3-4 other restaurants and Lai Foong Beef Noodle Soup was closed that day... fail haha. I will have to come back to this place to try their famous beef meatballs and soup!
Suria KLCC Mall -
Directly underneath the Petronas Towers is a HUGE mall (comparable to the Dallas Galleria!) called the Suria KLCC Mall. Just like all the other malls in KL, this mall is massive, full of Western and Asian stores, and endless amounts of different restaurants with all types of food you can imagine. If you are craving Chili's, look no further. It is located at the Suria KLCC Mall... but be prepared to be spending a large amount of cash for this place... On our last night, we decided to eat at Svago Cucina, a modern, upscale Italian restaurant with a great view of the colorful water fountains in front of the Petronas Towers. This place was even a bit pricey for Americans... which means extremely expensive for local Asians. But we decided on this place as a celebration for our last night out in KL! We all shared 4 pizzas between the five of us and it definitely was a good portion (even with a giant Norwegian eating). The food was forgettable. I have learned that cheese is very hard to get in Asia, so what is Italian food without good cheese? I may also be a bit biased as I ate real Italian Pizza for 2-3 weeks in Italy... not the real deal and not even close. For the price, not a place I would recommend to try, especially with all the tasty and cheap hawker food available.
Overall, KL was a great place for foodies for me since there are so many options. You can literally get any kind of food you want and imagine. With my experience, the "fine dining" in KL did not impress me and all the cheap street foods were way more memorable. My favorite places to eat were all the hawker food stands, where you can have a delicious bowl of noodles for only 1-2 USD. The quality of the food may be questionable, but I didn't get gastritis from the hawker food.... I did with the "fine dining" restaurants in KL. As a tip, I would scout out places to eat before hand. If you're really hungry, it will take forever for you to decide on where to eat if you walk into any of the malls. I got overwhelmed by the amount of choices I had in any of the malls. It is much easier when you walk around the streets to find a place to eat!