Cover Photo: Aliyaa

As the world gradually recovers from the ravages of the Covid-19 pandemic and dining in is allowed again, Tatler Dining Malaysia celebrates the crème de la crème of the Malaysian dining scene

Having been deprived of the pleasures of dining in for so long, Tatler Dining Malaysia is delighted to continue its annual tradition of identifying and celebrating Malaysia’s premier chefs, restaurateurs, and industry experts who pave the region’s culinary landscape. Tatler Dining Awards 2022 recognises 20 restaurants as well as three special award winners who have been creating impact in the scene this past year. It's also an opportunity to bring industry luminaries together to celebrate all that is great about our local food scene.

Read more: The Top 20 Restaurants in Malaysia in 2021

Find out where you should have your next meal and why.

Asterisk (*) denotes a newcomer to the Top 20 list. All the winners are listed in alphabetical order and numbers are not weighted.

1. Aliyaa

Aliyaa continues to wow and serve great dishes. From an assorted array of light bite appetisers to a full assemblage of tasting sets, this popular Bukit Damansara restaurant has you covered when it comes to running the gamut of Sri Lankan cuisine. While Amma's Crab is a firm favourite, the fish cutlets come highly recommended and the Flaming Appam is a sweet ending to a lovely night. Not to be missed as well is the award-winning Wattalapam Dessert, a delectable Sri Lankan pudding crafted from coconut, brown palm sugar, eggs and spices such as cinnamon and cardamom. It's heaven in every bite.

TATLER TIP: Advanced bookings are necessary as the restaurant can get very busy, even on weekday nights.

See also: The Ultimate Guide To Vegetarian Fine Dining In Malaysia

2. *Atelier Binchotan

Helmed by the husband-and-wife team of Lau Ka Hong and Celine, Atelier Binchotan is an open kitchen with a Barbecue Bistronomy concept. The character and philosophy of their type of cuisine, which follows the ancestral technique of using binchotan charcoal and the scented trace of the smoke, inherently results in a limitation on the number of diners that they can accommodate without sacrificing its essence. For this reason, Atelier Binchotan can only serve a maximum of 12 persons per dining session, curved around the open-concept grill. Sample the full-bodied flavour of their Spanish Iberico pork ribs or pork collar before moving on to the A3 Japanese wagyu. Not to be missed are also Atelier Binchotan's mini burgers of barbecued pork patty sandwiched with gribiche egg sauce.

Don't miss: Akâr Dining, Atelier Binchotan And Fowlboys On Surviving Their First Year Of Operations

3. *Binchotan JB

From the same team that gifted Johor Bahru with the acclaimed Sushi Shin, Binchotan JB is a restaurant that deserves far more than just a 'good for Johor' labe. It would rival restaurants of the same caliber in any gastronomic capital, despite being the 'baby' of the lot (Binchotan JB opened in February 2021). While omakase with premium ingredients is its raison d'etre, Chef John Chang takes them to the next level with inspired combinations, precise cooking, and exquisite plating. Menus change according to season and availability, but one can be assured of a memorable time every time one dines at Binchotan. With irreproachable ingredients and inspired combinations, all impeccably prepared, you're in for a unique omakase experience by a team that runs like a well-oiled machine.

TATLER TIP: Due to limited seatings, be sure to make reservations ahead.

4. *Eat and Cook

While ‘modern Malaysian’ can mean many things, Eat & Cook refuses to settle into a comfortable niche, choosing instead to showcase as much as possible our country’s cooking techniques and ingredients, from Malay smoking (salai) to Chinese claypot rice (bo zai fan). Even the Malaysian mamak is represented by way of teh tarik ice cream. How could anyone not have fun with bread and butter served in toothpaste tubes? Or enjoy perfectly grilled octopus presented with snow-white petai powder? Sit at The Table, a cosy corner reserved for intimate gatherings of up to six, or go to The Stage, the equivalent of a Japanese restaurant’s sushi counter, where one can practically feel blasts of heat from the kitchen torch or tuck into a masterpiece milliseconds after it is pieced together. Leave behind your expectations, bring a hearty appetite, and enjoy a delightfully intrigue-filled dining experience.

TATLER TIP: The best seats in the house are at The Stage.

Read more: 7 Malaysian Chefs Share The Foods That Remind Them Of Home

5. *Elegant Inn

Elegant Inn has the remarkable ability to maintain a truly high standard in spite of being around for quite a few years. Their service staff are attentive and knowledgeable, and always on hand to ensure their guests has a good selection of food. Start with the delicious and flavourful Pig Stomach soup before eating your way through a selection of old school Cantonese dishes such as the much raved about Hong Kong Waxmeat Claypot Rice and Steamed Tiger Garoupa with HK Sweetened Vegetables. If you'd like, end your meal on a high note with an array of dim sum bites such as radish cake and xiao loong bao (soup dumplings).

See also: 6 Classic Chinese New Year Dishes Explained By Famous Hong Kong Chefs

6. Entier French Dining

While it could be tricky to locate Entier French Dining at the top of the Alila Hotel in Bangsar, a trip there is definitely worth your time. The restaurant owes its success to the passionate team behind Platform Hospitality and a Japanese chef who is equal parts creative and conscientious. Masashi Horiuchi, who trained with greats such as Joël Robuchon, cares so much about his customers' enjoyment that it's not unusual to see him sneaking a peek of the dining room from the kitchen. Culinary magic takes place every night in this small yet cosy space, as disparate ingredients come together to create unforgettable dishes. Iwagaki oysters meet Tanjung Malim caviar in one of their inspired appetisers, while sweetcorn engages in savoury menage-a-trois with parmesan cheese and black truffle in the resident corn dish. A highlight is the A5 Wagyu and Rice–bathe this tenderloin cut in beef broth liberally for a truly satisfying experience.

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7. Gooddam

There isn't another North Italian restaurant quite like Gooddam, located in a fantastic corner lot overlooking The Hub at SS2's water feature. Rather than relying on oft-repeated pizza-and-pasta combinations, co-founders Miki Lie and chef Daniel Yap have taken a far more interesting and thoughtful direction. Clever Malaysian touches make welcome appearances throughout Gooddam's menus: beef tartare arrives enlivened with crispy betel leaves, handmade cappelletti pasta are bathed in roasted duck broth, and a semifreddo carries notes of kelulut honey and roselle flowers. Their selection of reasonably-priced Italian wines provide an illuminating insight into lesser-known, boutique winemaking gems.

Read more: Gooddam Is Your New Go-To For Northern Italian Cuisine With Malaysian Inflections

8. *Hoshi

Hoshi is the Japanese word for ‘star’, and it certainly lives up to its name. The restaurant has a dark, cosy and sexy atmosphere with bar-style seating arranged around a polished stainless steel avant-garde kitchen. A lively, colourful mural adorns the upper part of the far wall and depicts the flora and fauna of the beautiful Desaru coast. Its menu gives me a choice of three omakase sets, and I opt for the Kengyuu set with four signature appetisers, one tempura and nine premium nigiri sushi. The appetisers are beautifully crafted and presented, with the ikura and peas chawan mushi being quite exquisite. The tuna tartare is another stunning dish, the blended tuna contrasting beautifully with the piping hot fried paus. This is followed by a selection of nine sushi servings, all top-notch, super fresh and delicately handled. Also noteworthy is the excellent presentation, with dishes served on top of a glass bowl filled with seashells and local leaves.

TATLER TIP: The omakase menu is pretty extensive so make sure you are hungry. Pair it with the dry sake.

See also: First Look: One&Only Desaru Coast—Malaysia's Newest Luxury Resort


 
 

9. Jeff's Cellar

One of, if not the most, unique restaurants in Malaysia, The Banjaran Hotsprings Retreat's Jeff’s Cellar was initially designed to be a ‘man cave', set in a 260-million-year-old limestone cave surrounded by naturally sculpted limestone stalactites resembling acrobatic dancers suspended from the ceiling. However, even the spectacular surroundings couldn't hold a candle to the culinary spectacle of Chef Boon's offerings. Each dish is carefully designed to highlight little-known premium local ingredients, such as fruit, vegetables and herbs grown in the resort’s own organic garden or seafood and meat sourced from sustainable partners, for an artful curation of a food journey.

TATLER TIP: Be sure to have plenty of bread: freshly baked sourdough accompanied by Aged 12 years Balsamic Vinegar and olive oil.

Don't miss: Post-Lockdown Plans: Jeff's Cellar Is Currently Perfecting Its New Menu

10. Kayra Authentic Kerala Cuisine

Three generations in the making, Kayra Authentic Kerala Cuisine is a modern Keralan restaurant that was started by Meriam Sophia Alonso as a tribute to her grandparents–and it never fails to delight. Its interior is warm, colourful, and bursting with greenery. The food is plentiful and flavourful, the atmosphere appropriate, and most importantly, the service is just brilliant. Tantalise your tastebuds with Kayra's delicious dishes, starting with the pain puri before going into the mains. The fish briyani made with local barramundi is a standout, especially when paired with vatallapam, a gula Melaka creme caramel dessert with a coarse texture.

Read more: Gajaa At 8 and More Indian Restaurants We Love in KL and PJ

11. Kayuputi

Set in beautiful surroundings, The St. Regis Langkawi's brilliant gem Kayuputi boasts magnificent sunset views and a unique blend of fusion cuisine. A visit here will certainly not disappoint–prepare to be surprised with the astounding sensations on your palate, as you recognise the expertise that goes into the blending of flavours into well-balanced, beautifully presented cuisine. Suspended over water with views to die for, your dining experience here will fully immerse you into a world of flavour, flora and fauna, highlighting the beauty of our local culture. Not only will you be pleased with what's on your plate but you will also be more than satisfied with those serving them. Kayuputi's service is commendable and should not go unnoticed. 

See also: These 6 Restaurants & Bars Across Malaysia Have The Best Views

12. Nadodi

Nadodi expertly takes you on a culinary journey through India with a touch of modernity without losing its essence. One would assume that an Indian restaurant is almost always one-dimensional in its offerings and heavy on servings. Nadodi is the antithesis of that. Their Experience tasing menu is the perfect balance of progression and proportion. The first two courses consisted of an assortment of little bites. The third course was a scene-stealer: egg kalaki, Egg yolks, Aerated Masala Egg Whites, Alaskan King Crab, with a dollop of caviar: this was culinary alchemy at its lockdown best, creating a taste sensation that could only be described as sublime.

Don't miss: Review: Nadodi Gives Us Optimism for the Future of Fine Dining

13. *Natalina Italian Kitchen

Going to Natalina Italian Kitchen is akin to going on a gastronomical journey through the heartland of Italy, where Roman cuisine is blessed with a modern touch. Named after Frank Sinatra's mother, Natalina Italian Kitchen straddles the line between homey and ritzy, attaching gaggles of girlfriends squeezed into semi-circle booths as well as handsome older couples sporting dinner jackets. Chef Diego Reali's Roman recipes, hand-me-downs from his mother, are clearly labelled for the benefit of diners with dietary restrictions, so anyone and everyone can dig in without apprehension.

Start with the melt in your mouth Polpettine Frite or Wagyu meatballs served in deeply delicious tomato sauce, but don't disregard the pastas and pizzas, from the perfectly al dente Vongole with briny clams to the oozing Burrata pizza that's bound to please any appetite. End your meal with the luxurious Crostata Con Crema di Pistacchio, the truffle-pistachio interplay makes this traditional Italian pie worthy for the tier of all-time great desserts.

Read more: The Best Tiramisu in the Klang Valley

14. Restaurant Au Jardin

Blink and you'll miss it. Restaurant Au Jardin is a hidden gem in George Town right inside Hin Bus Depot, nestled in a location filled with pleasant small cafes and art galleries. The menu offers a good variety of starters and main courses, and a reasonably priced degustation meal beautifully presented with a delicious dessert. An elegant and modern eatery set in a historic city, it embraces their diners from the moment they step through the glass-panelled entrance. Shortly after being seated, guests are treated to what the restaurant calls a 'sneak preview' of the restaurant's 'Cuisine de Jardin'. Must-try items include main courses Hay Aged Duck, Wagyu Ribeye, and Foie Gras.

See also: What To Eat In Malaysia This Week: The Delivery Edition

15. *Sage Restaurant & Wine Bar

There's a reason why Sage Restaurant & Wine Bar has stood the test of time–because it consistently delivers. Over the years, there have been some hits and misses but generally, the food is always satisfying and imaginatively put together, with much thought given to the combination of flavours and textures to please the palate. And it delivers this promise in the form of a value-driven price point. If you have the opportunity, ask the well-travelled wine director Hari for a bottle with a story. Their copper pan sharing platter is also a good option for those who want a more family-style meal, which includes a Wagyu Tomahawk A la Plancha.

TATLER TIP: Private rooms are available for those who want a more serene and personal dining experience with their tablemates. 

Don't miss: 6 Restaurants Serving Cold Capellini Or Noodles In The Klang Valley

16. Skillet at 163

The restaurant's seasonal degustation menu is the best way to experience Skillet at 163. Carefully built to ensure a gradual build-up, this modern European restaurant = features prime seafood and vegetables that reimagine chef Raymond Tham's extensive dining experiences abroad. Order the aged Cherry Valley duck for a sensational main, which uses Penang-bred ducks to showcase the growing quality of local produce. While bold flavours will undoubtedly keep your taste buds on the edge throughout the night, it's the kitchen's finely-tuned finesse that transforms the meal into something elegant. Of course, no meal would be complete without dessert and what more one that's born out of Tham's first love (he's a former pastry chef). The pain perdu is still our personal favourite and the perfect way to end a meal.

Read more: Chinese New Year 2022: What We Love About These Truffle Bakkwa

17. Sushi Hara

Sushi Hara sets itself apart by serving unexpected ingredients that you wouldn’t find in a run-of-the-mill sushi bar. For chef Usami Yasuro, having good cooking skills is never enough; the art of presentation is also key, as all eyes are on you as you make each dish. Together with deputy chef Kelvin Wan, he crafts outstandingly unique takes on beloved Japanese dishes. Each of their creations is carefully placed on an exquisite plate from premium tableware supplier Artelia, and the aesthetics are nothing short of stunning. For the ultimate Sushi Hara experience, order one of Sushi Hara's most beloved signature dishes, the Ebi Uniyaki: deep-sea prawns, grilled to orange-gold perfection, served with specially made uni (sea urchin) paste.

See also: Tatler Dining Guide 2022: What To Order at Sushi Hara

18. Sushi Hibiki

Elusive eatery Sushi Hibiki dishes out a few surprises in its premium omakase Miyabi menu for those familiar with edomae sushi. The beginning displays salvo after salvo of premium Japanese seafood prepared with minimal manipulation, boasting in-season prized vegetables and mushrooms, oysters, and hairy crabs. Tokyo-born owner and executive chef Makoto Sam isn't afraid to venture out of Japanese waters either, incorporating the delicious carabineros prawns as part of this experience. The nigiri course is also superb, with a few curveballs in place that mix up the order of nigiri served to keep your palate on the edge. Truly, Sushi Hibiki is a worthy celebration of an iconic Japanese culinary experience, hosted at an intimate venue with impeccable service.

TATLER TIP: Check with the chef if your chosen menu comes with tamagoyaki at the end of the meal.

Don't miss: Sushi Summit In APW: Not Even A Trip To Japan Could Have Matched This Experience

19. Sushi Kazu

Helmed by master sushi chef Norikazu Shibata, Sushi Kazu delivers where it matters–the food. Kazu-san's culinary techniques have long been the talk of the town, and to see his swift and capable hands in action at the chef's table is breathtaking. Not only does he tweak his techniques according to season, but he also takes the individual customer into consideration. Witness omakase taken to a whole new level as he meticulously crafts each serving to your tastes, creating a delicate dance between diner and the dined-on. Watch as he elevates Sushi Kazu's offerings with great detail, from miso soup to its signature dishes: Kazu Special, Aged chutoro/otoro, and Yuzu Akami.

TATLER TIP: For matters related to wine and sake pairing, politely request for the manager's assistance.

Read more: Sushi Kazu, Cover Star Of The 2021 Tatler Dining Guide

20. The Regent Chinese Cuisine

The Regent Chinese Cuisine serves authentic Hong Kong dishes in the heart of Mont Kiara, with a string of signatures that has turned this restaurant into a neighbourhood staple. For a palate-pleasing meal, start with the addictively crunchy typhoon shelter-style deep-fried fish skin. If you’re game for more exotic eats, then go for the pleasantly smoky Salt and Pepper Boston lobster. Then order the restaurant signature Hainanese Valley chicken rice and Teochew braised pork buns, and end with coconut jelly for dessert. The menu contains a healthy variety of dishes across various proteins and seafood that warrants multiple visits. Indulge in a rich assortment of delectable offerings, made using Hong Kong-style Cantonese recipes and ingredients. Service is relatively good, although it can be hard to get their staff’s attention sometimes, especially during peak hours. The establishment also doesn’t sell spirits and wine, so make sure to bring your own drinks.

TATLER TIP: Pre-order the restaurant’s signature dishes beforehand to avoid disappointment.

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