KL trip planning [Kuala Lumpur]

I’m going to be in KL for 6 days in November. Planning to stay in the city centre but haven’t booked a hotel yet. I’ve been trawling the extraordinary treasure trove of posts by @klyeoh to try and draw up an eating itinerary. My husband and I love to eat and I usually do the planning around that when we travel.

I’ve never visited KL properly before, only transited through the airport. To try and make some sense of the eating opportunities, I’ve tried to group eateries by neighbourhood.

KLCC:

Madam Kwan - for nasi lemak, nasi bojari, satay

Burger and Lobster - for the lobster laksa? Seems super pricey!

Any good places for barista style coffee in KLCC? We’re suckers for good flat whites!

Pudu:

klyeoh mentioned this is an edgy part of town with gang fights, triads, etc. Yikes! But the food sounds too good to miss.

ICC Pudu - Ann’s nasi lemak, Sister’s crispy popiah, Chef Ming’s steamed buns. Ah Fook Chee Cheong Fun, Ipoh style CCF.

Are the stalls in ICC Pudu arranged in a food court? The yong tau fu - is that just soft tofu served with the CCF? Do the stallholders speak English? Is there anything else interesting to do at the ICC?

Restoran Good Friend for Uncle Kei’s Wantan noodles. Is English spoken here? If not, do I ask for wantan mee or mein?

Heun Kee for claypot chicken rice

Big Tree curry laksa. I couldn’t find any timings in the post on HO.

Petaling Jaya:

Original Penang Kayu Nasi Kandar - roti tisu!

O&S Restaurant - popiah, sui kow (how do I order these, is it pretty evident?), char koay teow, wantan noodles, chung

Kee Kee Bentong chicken rice

Lontong and Such

I read that the owners of Lontong and Such were based in London, but with the other eateries in Pudu and PJ, would I be able to get by in English or do I need to use Google Translate if I need to ask things? Is it pretty safe to eat out in November (I heard it is the rainy season, which would make me a bit wary if I were in India)?

Will write again with some more plans, but would really appreciate it anyone (paging @klyeoh!) would critique my initial thoughts. Any tips on other things to do in the areas above would be great. I am planning to buy some foodstuffs I can’t easily find in the UK - I love Malaysian fish, chicken and beef flosses. I just eat those on crackers or in sandwiches!

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Other places which I think are also in KLCC which I’d like to try:

Ming Ren Xuan for dim sum

Nasi Lemak Tanglin

Secret Penang Cafe (is this what the place is called) at Hutong Food Court for Penang style char koay teow. Any other places worth trying at Hutong Food Court?

Vertigo Bar at the Banyan Tree Hotel for the view

Madam Kwan is highly commercialised, but is still a must-try for first-time visitors to KL. Temper your expectations, though.

Burger and Lobster’s laksa is good, but I think is over-priced.

Some good coffee places in town can be found at the spanking new TRX mall: Eight Ounce Coffee Co. , %ARABICA , The Coffee Lounge by Kenny Hills Coffee in Seibu.

One of my personal spots for coffee is Whisk Outpost at One Utama, a popular mall in Damansara, an upscale suburb of KL.

Another good one is Dou Dou Bake.

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You won’t have much problems communicating in English in KL - most Malaysians can speak basic English, more so than in HK, Taiwan, Korea, Japan or Thailand.

Let me check on the other eateries in your list and revert to you later - just want to make sure they are there and not moved or closed.

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I was in KL last year. I’ll leave the restaurant tips to other more knowledgeable posters, but the one tip I can give is to look into staying at the Mandarin Oriental.

I don’t know your budget of course but imho the price I paid (around 125 euro per night for a room) was 100% worth it.

The staff is incredible, the breakfasts very good, and the best part is the perfect pool outside with a view over green KL.

This was really a place where I could recharge for a few days, working out in the gym in the morning, and relaxing by the pool in the afternoon.

And then with a taxi - which the staff can help you with - you can easily go wherever you want for lunch and dinner. If you want to book I’d suggest booking with the hotel directly for extra benefits.

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Thanks Peter.

I’m also hoping to go to a nasi kandar place. Might try Restoran Puteri if we do a day in Brickfields.

We’ll also try to browse some night markets.

Thanks Damiano.
The Mandarin Oriental is above what I would be able to afford. My husband has the bright idea that if the hotel isn’t luxurious then that will ensure we get off our backsides and actually explore the city! So I’m looking for something more functional - comfortable with air conditioning but don’t need major frills. I’m hoping we can find good breakfast eats as many of the places above seem to open quite early. I wouldn’t mind eating nasi lemak for breakfast every day!

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Your husband sounds like a very smart person! Apologies, I feel awkward recommending the hotel. Indeed, I didn’t see much of the city. I do know that there are many reasonably priced apartments for rent, often with great amenities and pools.

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Please don’t feel awkward! I remember you recommended Hotel Sama-Sama for my KLIA layover and I did book a room at their branch in the terminal. Any information is always welcome as it could turn out to be useful.

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For Nasi Kandar, the best I’d tried in KL was Kudu bin Abdul, which has been operating since the 1960s.

Restoran Puteri is more of a “Nasi Melayu” joint, actually - there is a difference between Nasi Melayu (which is closer to Indonesian Nasi Padang) and Nasi Kandar, even though they outwardly look similar: a plethora of curried dishes to choose from, and served with steamed white rice.

Nasi Melayu, like Nasi Padang, uses “wet spices” for their curries, i.e. fresh turmeric, fresh chilis, galangal, kafir lime leaves, lemongrass, etc. Coconut milk and pandan leaves are used - indication of its Southeast-Asian pedigree.

Nasi Kandar, on the other hand, uses dry spices: cumin, coriander, cardamom, cinnamon, fenugreek, even chili powder. It’s of South Indian/Tamil via Penang origin.

Nasi Melayu tends to be matriarchal, i.e. you see mainly women cooking and serving. Nasi Kandar is patriarchal: all the cooks and servers are men.

Taste profiles of the spiced dishes in the two culinary cultures can be pretty distinct, too. Beef rendang, for example, belongs to Nasi Melayu/Nasi Padang culture, and can never be found in a Nasi Kandar joint! Ditto fresh/raw salads - called ulam and a must-have, with sambal belacan dips, in Nasi Melayu joint. These does not exist for Nasi Kandar places.

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The place still look rough at the edges, but is perfectly safe nowadays. SF’s Tenderloin district would be way more risky!! :joy:

Yes, a very large one - you can spend a whole morning eating through the place!

Soft tofu is just one of the garnishes to choose from. You also have various types of tofu: dry ones, spongey ones, yuba skin, and a whole range of vegetables: okra, chili peppers, bitter-gourd all stuffed with a combination of fish-pork forcemeat. It’s all very Hakka, and very tasty!

Yes, most stallholders speak English: from very rudimentary to fluent. Much depends on the stallholders - some of the older ones spoke really good English.
Sometimes, I don’t “notice” their level of English competency as Malaysians are generally multi-lingual, and switch from one language or dialect to another when they communicate with each other - until they find a common language both sides are comfortable in.

I’m not a fluent Cantonese speaker, the lingua franca of KL’s Chinese, so I’d subconsciously switch to Hokkien or Mandarin, then English, or Malay, as a last resort - and English usually works.

There’s nothing much else to do at ICC, as it’s basically a market and food centre. The immediate surrounding neighborhood is pretty grungy. I tend to go to nearby Bukit Bintang for its malls, e.g. Pavilion, or Starhill, which has a beautiful bookshop: Eslite.
https://www.eslite.com.my/

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I just updated it - got the latest details from Big Tree’s Facebook page. They are open 8am to 3pm Tue to Sun. Closed on Mondays.

BTW, it’s just a minute’s walk from Uncle Kei Wantan Noodles!

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Yes, all the food kiosks there would have English signboards. The “sui kow” is from the wantan noodles stall.

Lontong and Such announced on its Facebook page that they’ve gone on a “sabbatical”, with no indication if or when they’ll return. So, it’s a no-go!

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A few ideas from our just completed trip to KL:

  1. For dim sum, Ming Ren Xuan (in KLCC) was the best of the three we tried. Elegant Inn a solid second. Thanks to Peter for the great recommendations.
  2. For nasi melayu: village park in damansara utama. Get the ayam rendang. Nearby Annie 1 has very good wantan noodles so you could make it a double lunch.
  3. For high end: Shu Dining. Recently opened interpretation of teochew Chinese diaspora cuisine but using ingredients from all over Malaysia. Hard to get this quality at this price in other cities in the region (Bangkok, Singapore, certainly USA and Europe). 15 min walk from KLCC. 498 RM around usd 100.
  4. A short Grab ride away from KLCC is Karim roti canai which is among the best I’ve had in KL. No tourists and doesn’t seem to be on any radar but excellent nonetheless.
  5. While I don’t think the cocktail/bar scene is as strong as other cities in the region, we enjoyed PS150 in an old shop house in Chinatown and Ver bar at the four seasons hotel in KLCC which is the the bar of Nadodi, and extremely expensive Indian tasting menu restaurant. The bites at the bar were excellent along with the indian influenced cocktails. Trigona Bar at the four seasons is probably the most well known outside of KL and is quite good but more expensive than other places.
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Thanks very much for clarifying the difference between Nasi Kandar and Nasi Melayu. And for answering my various questions.

I was reading that the food at places like Restoran Puteri is served at room temperature. Is that true for all Nasi Melayu restaurants? Is the food at Nasi Kandar restaurants also served at room temperature? Does serving the food unheated not affect its taste? In London, at places like Lahore Karahi in Tooting, where the food is displayed already cooked, you choose your dishes and they heat it up and bring it to your table. Is this not a thing in KL?

I actually have a dedicated paper notebook to write down all my KL ‘eatinerary’ notes. Then I will distill that down into an electronic document I can carry on my phone. Your tips are really helpful for my note making.

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Thanks tigerjohn!
I’ve added Elegant Inn, Karim Roti Canai and Village Park to my long list. My husband and I are thinking about whether we commit to a reservation at Shu - the menu sure looks tempting.

Any recommendations for murtabak and apam balik? Or are these readily available at local markets/food courts?

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Yes, it’s true. It’s the same approach in Indonesia’s Nasi Padang places, and also the Philippines (those turo-turo food kiosks) - dishes are pre-cooked then displayed at the order counters. I do think it affects the taste, which is why I’d rather go to restaurants where they cook dishes which we order from a menu. These are rarer.

One of my faves are Adu Sugar:

Another oldie but a goodie is Dancing Fish in Bangsar - opened back in 2010 by a bunch of ex-House of Sundanese Food staff.

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These look great. And we would probably enjoy the food better if it is cooked to order. I’ll replace the plan for Nasi Melayu with Adu Sugar and/or Dancing Fish. If we happen to pass by a Nasi Melayu then might just check out a few things rather than a full meal.

But keeping Original Penang Kayu Nasi Kandar on the list. That roti tisu your aunt had looked amazing.

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