The Best of Kuala Lumpur
November 13, 2014
Around the Malaysian capital, Mark Lean steps beyond the glitzy rooftop bars, mean martinis and killer views to uncover a city full of charms to the many cultures that call it home. Photographed by Kit Chan.
Published on Nov 13, 2014Page : 1 2
Lay of the Land
The city's main shopping thoroughfare has malls like Pavilion, where you can take the air-conditioned elevated walkway to Suria KLCC mall and Petronas Twin Towers.
Suria KLCC Mall and Petronas Twin Towers
In this suburb popular with expats, there's a mix of eateries and shops plus a Sunday evening market with delicious street food.
Most locals live in PJ. The SS2 neighborhood is famous for all-you-can-eat durian buffets (durianss2.com) at late-night stalls.
Visit here for the Publika Gallery (facebook.com/PublikaGallery), a mall that combines art installations with quirky shops, restaurants and bars.
Find most embassies on these wide and leafy streets. The restaurants and bars offer an alternative to the gridlocked weekend party scene in central KL.
Taxi fares are inconsistently priced. Hail one at a hotel, and insist on the meter.
From hip to classic, five properties to check out.
Candy-striped rugs, comfy magenta sofas, colorful pop art and pool tables turn this unconventional business hotel into one of the city's hippest spots to hold a meeting or hang out. Or both. Its handy location, on the doorstep of KL Sentral, the transport hub, ensures that you steer away from traffic when heading out, and to the airport. Jln. Stesen Sentral; +603 2723 1188; aloftkualalumpursentral.com.
W XYZ℠ bar at Aloft Kuala Lumpur Sentral
This storied 300-room property with a wing built in 1932 matches Art Deco glamour with interiors decked out in refined beige and burnished brown hues, and freestanding bathtubs in rooms. In the evenings, pop into the chandeliered bar with its white tuxedoed pianist and grand piano, for a refreshing gin and tonic, garnished with a slice of cool cucumber. Jln. Sultan Hishamuddin; +603 2785 8000; majestickl.com.
The storied Majestic
The rooms here check all the high-tech boxes: LED televisions; MP3 docking stations; and, for privacy, LCG cubes in bathing areas. On Sundays, join the high society for champagne brunch at Thirty8, the restaurant with eye-popping views of the city. Jln. Pinang; +603 2182 1234; kualalumpur.grand.hyatt.com.
Kitted out in tasteful gold furnishings and varnished cane chairs, this hotel marries comfort with classic Malay design. The views from the club lounge are a bonus, with the Petronas Twin Towers just next door. Dress to impress at MO Bar, popular with socialites and corporate types. Jln. Pinang; +603 2380 8888; mandarinoriental.com/kualalumpur.
The golden Mandarin Oriental
Smooth granite flooring, aluminum-caged beds and nets to keep mosquitos away are sure signs that this five-room residence isn't your typical hotel. It's better than it sounds, really. The bare environs are offset by lush greenery, funky avianinspired murals and a manicured rooftop garden, ideal for reading a book and catching some rays. 42A Jln. Terasek, Bangsar; sekeping.com/terasek.
Stylish Malaysian designers and one-of-a-kind stores.
A label by one of Malaysia's most stylish and best-dressed personalities, Farah Khan is all about maximized glamour. The form-flattering beaded column dresses, hand-sewn by Southeast Asian artisans, have found a following with celebrities like Kimora Lee Simmons and Guiliana Rancic. The Melium Galleria, G17-18, GF, Suria KLCC; +603 2382 9988; farahkhan.com.
Farah Khan is all maximized glamour
Here, you'll have access to a finely curated range of Malaysian-themed accessories, home wares, and curios from some of the country's finest artisans, all in one shop. Our favorites: batik print elephant soft toys, artful rattan bags and baskets, as well as vibrant hand-painted bead costume jewelry that veer towards the right side of kitsch. G 1.10, 1 Jln. Medan Setia, Bukit Damansara; +603 2096 1323; kitakita.my.
KitaKita --- Fine Malaysian Handicrafts
THE EXTRA PIECE
Jewelry designer Natrah Omar's design manifesto emphasizes contrasting themes and materials. Think clunky chains, paired with spikes, pearls and crystals—a mesh of glam rock and American rustic inspirations. The city's fashion insiders clamor for her bipolar baubles. Great Eastern Mall, Level 2, Lot 10-2, Jln. Ampang; facebook.com/The.Extra.Piece.
Alia Bastamam's creations, including modern interpretations of the classic kimono, all point towards a bright future for both the designer and Malaysian fashion. At her Damansara Heights atelier, Bastamam possesses a clever measure of what women want to wear—take-your-breath-away evening stunners, and resort outfits that look just as dazzling on the beach as they would at a cocktail party. 14 Jln. Chempenai, Bukit Damansara; +603 2095 3232; aliabastamam.com.
Men's fashion in the city has recently been given a dapper update with places like 15sheets stocking hard-to-find brands like Paper Denim Cloth, Descendant of Thieves, H by Hudson and Stolen Riches. Stop by for a coffee at the shop's café annex, and watch the Bangsar scenesters stroll past. GF, 9 Jln. Telawi 2, Bangsar; +603 2201 3760; 15sheets.com.
Menswear from head to toe at 15sheets
Three places to get your culture on in the capital.
Just minutes from KL Sentral is this large South Indian community. The mom and pop stores sell everything from saris to spices. Pop over to Annalakshmi, a vegetarian restaurant at the nearby Temple of Fine Arts with lunch and dinner buffets. Payment is by donation, so you decide how much to contribute for your meal. tfa.org.my.
ISLAMIC ARTS MUSEUM
As the region's largest Islamic arts repository, this 12-gallery museum features more than 7,000 artifacts from India, China and Southeast Asia. Highlights include religious manuscripts and ancient calligraphic coins as well as Kashmiri shawls with intricate plant designs. iamm.org.my.
MALAYSIAN PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA
The Petronas Philharmonic Hall's convenient location next to the Suria KLCC mall means that it's possible to just drop by impromptu for a matinee or evening performance. mpo.com.my.
Funky new openings, plus a couple of old favorites.
Chef Zulkifli Razali's careful renditions of treasured family recipes make a trip to this sedate bungalow restaurant—owned by sisters Lissa and Way Cheng Yeoh, and up the hill from party street Changkat Bukit Bintang—worthwhile. Try the turmeric chicken with tender morsels of jackfruit; stir-fried asparagus in a zingy prawn paste; as well as flavorsome duck rendang, slow-cooked with coconut milk and pestle-pounded spices. 3 Jln. Ceylon; +603 2031 3575; bijanrestaurant.com.
Bijan, a fine Malay Cuisine.
OLD CHINA CAFÉ
Straits Chinese cuisine (a mix of Chinese and Malay cooking styles and ingredients) can be tricky to perfect. But the chefs here have it covered. Adventurous eaters should opt for desserts like sago with caramelized palm sugar, and durian in coconut milk. Added attraction: the nostalgic elements in this pre-war shop house, where ceiling fans whirl above marble top wooden tables, flanked by feng shui mirrors that amplify good vibes. 11 Jln. Balai Polis; +603 2072 5915; oldchina.com.my.
Dining at Old China Café
KAMPACHI BY EQUATORIAL
Check out the floor-to-ceiling glass-front Kampachi, located at the Norman Foster-designed Troika, for upscale Japanese fare. Reservations are recommended as this spot, popular with movers and shakers, fills for both lunch and dinner. The Troika, Jln. Binjai; +603 2181 2282; kampachi.com.my.
This modern trattoria remains one of the buzziest Italians in town, and is a top choice to impress clients or a date. The menu takes inspiration from both northern and southern Italy with more than 20 pizzas made in the wood-fire oven, as well as a la carte dishes like the Sicilian risotto with tiger prawns and green asparagus, and the charcoal-grilled T-bone. 3A Jln. Ceylon; +603 2070 3120; nerovivo.com.
A trend-setting restaurant, Nerovivo
HIT & MRS
Its stylish, reimagined 1970's interiors of a suburban Malaysian home—wicker chairs, jade tiles, chintzy cushions, a bold tropical wallpaper centerpiece—get the thumbs up from KL's trendy set. Likewise the food that includes winners like butternut pumpkin risotto, and lamb loin served with pickled purple carrots, carrot mousse and Dukkah nuts. 15-15A Lorong Kurau, Taman Bukit Pantai; +603 2282 3571; thebiggroup.co/hitandmrs.
Hit & Mrs, stylish, reimagined 1970's interiors of a suburban Malaysian home
OMAKASE + APPRECIATE
There's no signage at this joint that's fast becoming the worst kept secret for the well-connected. Inside are winning cocktails such as the elderflower martini and vodka collins. Ming Annexe Building, 9 Jln. Ampang; +603 2148 0122; facebook.com/OmakaseAppreciate.
The current place to be seen at 2 a.m. on Saturday. The crowd? Models and TV personalities. Order? A bottle of champagne, naturally. The Intermark, 182 Jln. Tun Razak; +6010 252 7678; facebook.com/providencekl.
HELI LOUNGE BAR
After the last helicopter lifts off presunset, lounge chairs pop up on the roof of Menara KH, turning this helipad into a spot to chill out to a blend of funky house tracks. 34F, Menara KH, Jln. Sultan Ismail; facebook.com/heliloungebar.
CLARET WINE BAR
At this interior design dream, the city's tastemakers appreciate the wine selections and the shiny views. 23A, Tower B, The Troika, KLCC; +603 2162 0886; troikaskydining.com.
Tastemakers appreciate the shiny views from Claret Wine Bar
A house/art gallery/bar for theater types. The balmy terrace has antiquated off-white wooden louvers and mosaic tiles. 3 Jln. Sin Chew Kee, Bukit Bintang; +603 2141 7850.
Three insiders share their go-to places in the city.
Head of marketing and PR, luxury fashion and lifestyle company The Melium
"I love the jazz nights at No Black Tie (noblacktie.com.my). Their pop-up collaborations with the cool team behind supper club Cantina Modena always make for a fun night out. It's all about the amazing combination of the food, the crowd and the music. For Chinese food, head to Restoran Muar (6G, Tengkat Tong Shin; +603 2144 2072). The butter kailan is a winner. For a great crowd and ambience, you can never go wrong with drinks at Claret Wine Bar in The Troika. Explore the beautiful Lake Gardens in the morning or late afternoon. I cycle there on weekends."
Alfresco drinks along Tengkat Tong Shin
Gallery owner, Shalini Ganendra Fine Art
"Petaling Jaya is a must-visit with its restaurants, galleries, stalls and markets. Oriental Pavilion (orientalrestaurants.com.my) is a sprawling, busy and noisy restaurant with tasty dim sum. My Elephant (myelephant.com.my), a non-descript Thai spot, serves a delicious mango salad—make a reservation as it is usually crowded. There's also Raju's (Jln. Chantek, off Jln. Gasing, Petaling Jaya; +603 7956 1361), a casual local South Indian eatery with an outdoor dining space that's shaded by tall trees. A simple tosai with curry gravy works best, washed down with fresh coconut water."
My Elephant Thai restaurant
YONG YOON LI
Executive director, Royal Selangor International
"Restaurants aren't restricted to the city center anymore; there are interesting spots in suburbia too. A favorite: Mei Keng Fatt Seafood Restaurant (meikengfatt.com), popular for Marmite crabs, salted egg crabs, and spicy clams. My workplace at the Royal Selangor Visitor Centre (visitorcentre.royalselangor.com) has a wonderful café so I find every reason to hold meetings there. For elegance Cantaloupe (troikaskydining.com) and Cilantro (cilantrokl.com), in the city, never disappoint. Getting around isn't easy. I recommend a private chauffeur. At around RM300 a day, it's affordable."
The Royal Selangor Visitor Centre
Trips Out of Town
Head to this highland retreat, a two-hour drive from Kuala Lumpur, for its cooler climate and diverse nature reserves. Trek one of eight trails, or opt for a game of golf at the nine-hole Royal Fraser's Hill Golf Club that skirts a pristine rainforest. frasershill.info.
A 30-minute train ride from KL Sentral gets you to this rocky outcrop, the country's epicenter of Hinduism. Climb up to the Cathedral Cave. For lunch, head to the restaurants below for cheap, authentic South Indian staples like banana leaf rice, dosas and masala tea.
The unesco World Heritage site is two hours away by car. Stroll down historic Jonker Street, which is lined with antique stores. If you're spending the night, stay at The Majestic Malacca (majesticmalacca.com), a restored 54-room property on the banks of the Malacca River.