6 of a Beauty Queen's Top KL Restaurants
Former Miss Malaysia Deborah Henry on her passion project and dining out in Kuala Lumpur. BY MARK LEAN.
Published on Jun 13, 2016
I WASN'T SURE ABOUT DINING with a beauty queen. Would she force salads and quinoa upon me? Would she monologue about the health benefits of spirulina? Would there be any carbs at all? As it turned out, I need not have worried. Kuala Lumpur-based Deborah Priya Henry, former Miss Malaysia World 2007 and Miss Malaysia Universe 2011, knows food and doesn't shy away from filling fare. She's been following the trending foodie movement since it started gaining momentum around 2012, and is excited by the number of youngsters choosing to forgo the rat race in favor of driving food trucks, opening coffee shops or starting their own Instagram-driven gourmet desserts businesses. "I love seeing their passionate approach to introducing new food concepts," Henry says of the city's mini culinary renaissance.
Beauty queen and food-hound Deborah Priya Henry. Courtesy of Deborah Priya Henry.
So what is Henry passionate about? Under the spotlight, beauty queens are notorious for spouting notions like promoting world peace and stopping global warming. But once the pageants are over, and the sashes are hung in the closet, how many of them actually follow through with tangible initiatives? Henry stands out with her steely determination—and for her successes. She cofounded and runs a nonprofit center for refugees called Fugee School, which educates 130 Somalian kids, in a push to increase awareness of the plight of the nearly 30,000 refugee children in Malaysia, who don't have legal access to institutional schools. For her efforts, she was named one of Forbes Asia's Heroes of Philanthropy in 2013, but Henry isn't in it for the accolades. "What puts a smile on my face is when I see these kids transform and blossom into confident and amazing individuals," she says.
Much like Henry, with her frenetic schedule, Kuala Lumpur never sleeps. So it's easy to grab a bite at any hour of the day or night from street-side vendors as well as from the ubiquitous Malaysian Mamak coffee shops. Henry says she can relate to the drive of these young chefs who work around the clock: "I guess there is nothing more satisfying that seeing happy, satisfied diners." Here, Henry shares her favorite Kuala Lumpur restaurants and cafés.
+ "The chef Darren Chin at (1) DC. Restaurant plays around with flavors and textures," says Henry, who likes that the food is innovative without being overly complicated. The highlight: its tasting menu. 44 Persiaran Zaaba, Taman Tun Dr. Ismail; +60 3 7731 0502; restaurant-dc.com.
Chef Darren Chin at DC. Restaurant. Courtesy of DC. Restaurant.
+ For classic Italian, Henry loves the burrata, seafood pasta and the risotto alla Milanese at (2) Zenzero. GF St. Mary Place, 1 Jln. Tengah, +60 3 2022 3883; zenzero.com.my.
+ (3) Drift is a modern Aussie restaurant and bar popular with expats and tourists. Here, Henry orders the sharing plates and the truffle mushroom arancini. GF 38 Jln. Bedara; +60 3 2110 2079; driftdining.com.
Drift is an expat favorite. Courtesy of Drift.
+ At (4) Mario & Luigi, she likes the cozy setting, and the menu that includes a yummy cold capellini with truffle paste and kombu. 15 Lorong Kurau, Taman Weng Lock, Bangsar; +60 3 2282 3571; thebiggroup.co/mario.
+ Henry has a weakness for sweets that she indulge at (5) Jaslyn Cakes with chocolate ganache and saltedcaramel cake, which she says are to-die-for. 7A Jln. Telawi 2, Bangsar Baru; +60 3 2202 2868; jaslyncakes.com.
To-die-for pastries at Jaslyn Cakes. Courtesy of Jaslyn Cakes.
+ On hot days, Henry goes to (6) Whimsical, for its assortment of homemade gelato in unusual flavors like rose syrup, steamed bean curd, lavender and honey—and the admittedly strange-sounding but totally delicious rice-and-chicken nasi lemak. D2-G3-05, Solaris Dutamas, 1 Jln. Dutamas 1; +60 3 6419-0966; fb.com/whimsicalcaffe.