The food and drink scenes in Kuala Lumpur and Penang are dancing back into our hearts. Here, our pick of the best new spots in Malaysia in 2022.
Malaysia finally let us back in to see what they’ve been cooking… and it’s a delicious smorgasbord. So are all the new drinks. And a special shout out to one unique-in-its-class hotel. Here are our picks for the best new openings in Kuala Lumpur and Penang in 2022.
BEST NEW HOTELS IN KUALA LUMPUR 2022
A point of difference in the city’s hospitality scene: the 49-room Else that takes up what was formerly the Lee Rubber Building. Expect residential vibes with tropical Art-Deco flourishes. Rooms are decked in muted beiges, while common areas are all about meditation pods and ‘gratitude’ spots—elements that highlight Else’s wellness focus. Check-in for the novelty and Else’s resort-in-the-city vibes.
elseretreats.com; doubles from RM650
BEST NEW RESTAURANTS IN KUALA LUMPUR 2022
Gentrification comes in many forms. The inner-city area in which Peranakan-flavored Bōl is located has been made over in recent years to include hipster cafes and equally funky watering holes. But when it comes to the food Nyonya grandmothers make, Bōl doesn’t as much reinvent the wheel as it does embellish it. Think wagyu rendang and succulent lamb simmered in buah keluak, a Nyonya staple. On chef duty is not a granny. Joel Kirk who previously had a stint at Noma does his best Peranakan riffs. So, you can well imagine the level of inventiveness at play.
facebook.com/bol.in.kl; from RM350 for two
Warong Old China
Chinatown’s Warong Old China is a museum of sorts and authentic-as-it-comes old school eatery in one. Housed in a former crockery shop, it serves up traditional delicacies like pie tie —stir-fried radish served in cute crispy ‘top hats’ and popular nasi lemak—in movie set-worthy environs.
facebook.com/WarongOldChina; from RM100 for two
Gordon Ramsay Bar & Grill
British chef Gordon Ramsay’s partnership with Malaysian conglomerate Sunway Group is a surprise hit. Here, diners receive none of the infamous Ramsay surliness and all of his prowess with British cuisine the likes of immaculate Sunday roasts with sirloin and Yorkshire pudding, and succulent seafood platters. A surprising twist to proceedings at the restaurant is the presence of a walking violinist that adds a dash of drama to an already eventful meal.
gordonramsayrestaurants.com/gordon-ramsay-bar-and-grill-kuala-lumpur; from RM350 for two
An East-meets-West restaurant and bar located in what was the Selangor Grocer’ Guild is yet another spot where KL showcases its nightlife chops. The restaurant’s menu offers Malaysian winners like gula melaka sago desserts, while the bar upstairs is described as a 1920s boudoir. We’ll let your imagination run with that.
cranekl.com; from RM150 for two
BEST NEW BARS IN KUALA LUMPUR 2022
Owner Shawn Chong’s 10-seater bar takes things to a different level. Drinks are served omakase-style, and best appreciated with a group of close buddies.
solo.to/bar.mizukami; from RM120 for two
‘Theater’ in Malay, Panggung is yet another exploration of Chinatown nostalgia as cinemas back in the day were the center of social scenes. Panggung has retained the energy of its former life with an interior featuring cinema-type staircases and curtains, while drinks such as Pineapple Express—Bacardi rum and Midori laced with pineapple and traditional egg jam—offer sweet hints of what 1950s KL could have tasted like.
facebook.com/PanggungKL; from RM120 for two
The bar is a nod to the city’s founding fathers, the kapitans of yore responsible for cranking up the country’s tin industry, while ‘haus’ in Malay means ‘thirsty.’ So, it wouldn’t be too far of a stretch to expect stellar cocktails here. There’s the Petaling Street sour, as well as the tong sui (‘dessert’ in Cantonese), a libation with decidedly citrus and herbal aromas.
facebook.com/kapitanhaus; from RM100 for two
A top choice for highballs, BAC (which some say drolly refers before any Covid) is a neighborhood joint for the Beverly Hills 90210-type Damansara Heights crowd. With an interior of backlit fluorescent lighting, BAC offers a design counterpoint to many of the city’s other glammed up or quirkily designed bars.
facebook.com/highbac.kl; from RM120 for two
BEST NEW RESTAURANTS IN PENANG 2022
The island’s version of fine-dining comes courtesy of chef Petr Feher who riffs up well-considered dishes such as squid ink spaghetti with Dungeness crab; barramundi with zucchini; and pork ribs with mushrooms. Chef Petr is no stranger to honing palates. He previously worked at The Datai Langkawi and the E&O Penang, and brings a similar sensibility to one of Penang’s finer tables.
facebook.com/levenuepg; from RM350 for two
Heap Seng at 29
An oyster house and restaurant, Heap Seng at 29 is where Penang’s hipsters like to hang on weekends over a glass or five of wine and platters of freshly shucked shellfish. The mood is always convivial at this low-key establishment.
facebook.com/heapseng29; from RM250 for two
Juju Lounge & Restaurant
Part of the charm one finds on a visit to Penang is by ambling along UNESCO-accredited Georgetown’s rustic alleyways. Located near boutique hotel Seven Terraces, the five-table hidden diner with its Mediterranean-inflected omakase menu is a refreshing addition to Penang’s already buzzy dining scene.
facebook.com/JUJULoungePg; from RM400 for two