Cover Photo: Jing Ze Contemporary Asian

We dedicate this year's awards to the movers and shakers in F&B, without whom life would be a lot less delicious

Simply called ‘BRG' by our in-house team, the Best Restaurants Guide has been revered by generations of gourmets since 1993—that's 26 years and counting! T.Dining is committed to providing a roundup of recommended dining experiences, from ritzy kaiseki to no-frills bistronomy—we believe that fine dining and casual eats must coexist.

Each establishment in the Best Restaurants Guide was paid a visit by an incognito reviewer who went on to rate the eatery in 19 categories including comfortable environs, freshness of ingredients, and warmth of service. The final ratings are the result of the reviewers’ reports, plus feedback from our expert panel of writers who love to eat (and eaters who don’t mind writing). It's important to note that the list is not hierarchical but alphabetical.

Enjoy planning your next meal!

See also: The Top 20 Restaurants In Malaysia In 2021

1. A Li Yaa

While Indian restaurants are a dime a dozen in Kuala Lumpur and Petaling Jaya, the same can’t be said of Sri Lankan cuisine, which is what makes A Li Yaa (Sinhalese for ‘elephant’) such a culinary gem. The elegant restaurant serves the whole spectrum of Sri Lankan specialities, from popular street snacks to coastal seafood dishes. Start with the lamb cutlets, a moreish tea time treat, before mixing and matching a melange of vegetable, meat, or seafood dishes with a starchy base, such as string hoppers, appam, rice or roti. Note that the chefs don’t tone down the spices, which is exactly how we like it.

2. ATAS Modern Malaysian Eatery, The RuMa Hotel And Residences

An all-day dining restaurant with designer elements, ATAS Modern Malaysian Eatery taps into wordplay for its title—meaning ‘above’ or ‘bougie’ in Malaysian slang, ‘atas’ describes the hotel restaurant to a T. Earlier this year, we heaped praises upon the restaurant for being one of few where every single ingredient has traceability, and are keeping our fingers crossed that this attention to detail doesn’t slip over time. From locally harvested caviar from Tanjung Malim to European greens grown in Cameron Highlands, the restaurant’s produce is carefully curated and well assembled. The tiger grouper with tuak, a type of rice wine from Borneo, is simply intoxicating, while the corn-fed chicken remains one of our favourite poultry dishes in town.

Watch: We Blindfolded Chef Tyson Gee To Test His Sense Of Taste

3. Cilantro

One of the first fine dining restaurants to make its mark in KL, Cilantro emerged on the scene in the 2000s. A recent visit confirmed its timeless appeal. Slip into a half-moon booth and sip on a wine recommended by chief sommelier Guillaume Villien—it’s the quickest route to bliss. White tablecloths, peace and quiet, anything at our beck and call... Isn’t that one of the draws of fine dining? Escapism? Also known as ‘the embassy chef,’ Takashi Kimura has kept dignitaries well fed and happy in West Africa and Malaysia. His decision to go rogue by opening Cilantro has been a boon to the public. First-timers should sample the chef’s signature dishes such as the Wagyu tartare with egg mollet, but return customers will always find something new on the ever-evolving executive lunch menu that's available every Friday.

4. Copper

Chef Chai and Zeehan Zahari, a husband and wife team, decided to name their restaurant after the precious metal for its beauty and durability. Literally a hidden gem with the barest of signages, Copper is, nevertheless, always crowded come lunchtime. Largely catering to an office crowd, the modern European restaurant is where Malaysia Tatler goes when we feel like treating ourselves after meeting tight print deadlines. A place of ‘firsts,’ the innovative restaurant is where we discovered the crystallised ice plant so loved by chefs, and experienced a mystery-themed dinner party (they really went all out for that one). Copper has also challenged us to rethink drink pairings—so delicious are Zeehan Zahari's mocktails that even hardcore tipplers are convinced to abandon the ABV.

On that note: Copper X Wayang Kitchen's Theatrical Collaboration Kicks Off With Murder


5. Curate, Four Seasons Hotel Kuala Lumpur

One of the best all-day dining restaurants in town, Curate cooks up popular dishes from all over the world and serves them under one roof. Can’t get enough of fresh oysters, jumbo prawns and juicy mussels? Check out the mouthwatering selection here. Miss a good English roast complete with yorkshire pudding? Head straight to the carving station. Curate serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, but we most enjoy swinging by for their weekend brunches, as the restaurant puts a playful spin on the adjective ‘bubbly’ by offering bubble milk tea in addition to champagne. While Curate is best known for its buffet spreads, its private room is where the Four Seasons Hotel Kuala Lumpur hosts its Chef’s Table series, which sees internationally renowned chefs serving tasting menus and mingling with diners in an intimate setting.

6. DC Restaurant

Named for Chef Darren Chin’s initials, DC Restaurant espouses the slow food movement via 'la jeune cuisine.' The result is a breath of fresh air, as Chin goes to great lengths to procure premium ingredients before adding layers of Japanese influences to his classical French training. Your evening begins at Le Comptoir for a round of aperitifs. Later, a server will usher you to La Salle. Vegetarian menu aside, DC offers three degustation options: a 3-course menu (Light), a 5-course menu (Taste) and a 7-course menu (Discovery). Stave off the temptation to chow down on the complimentary basket of crispy croissants to save room for DC’s signature cold capellini (available on all three menus)— its silken texture is enhanced by rich sabayon, truffle celeriac cream, and briny sea urchin.

See also: Uncorking The Dom Pérignon Vintage 2008 & Rosé 2006 At DC Restaurant

7. Dewakan

The only Malaysian restaurant to make it onto Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list (number 46), Dewakan does us proud by putting Malaysian gastronomy on the fine dining map. Research and development forms a big part of what they do, as many ingredients in Dewakan’s pantry haven’t been tapped commercially. This takes the Dewakan team to places where no other chefs have been, from inaccessible jungles to lofty plains. In this regard, a meal at Dewakan is truly one of a kind. During our last visit, we encountered goat tartare with a fun DIY component, a savoury black banana porridge that had us scraping the bottoms of our bowls, and sweet leaf sorbet with a herbal quality. Dish changes happen in the blink of an eye, which is crucial when you have a total of 15 plates to work through.

Related story: Chef Darren Teoh Of Dewakan Describes An Important Woman In His Life

8. Entier French Dining

Providing good reason to check-in at Alila Bangsar, a boutique hotel on the periphery of an affluent suburb, Entier French Dining specialises in French fare minus the white tablecloths and high airs. Call us biased, but it’s impossible not to feel allied with the restaurant when so much of their produce hails from our favourite suppliers; think locally harvested caviar from T’lur Caviar, heirloom vegetables from Weeds & More, single-origin cocoa from Chocolate Concierge, et cetera. True to the restaurant’s name, Entier would indubitably get Fergus Henderson’s nod of approval for adhering to the nose-to-tail principle. Ox tongue is turned into a confit with coffee beans, chicken feet finds new expression in a citrusy soup, and duck head is presented in all its gory glory alongside pâté. Where libations are concerned, the Laurent Robert Cuvée Prestige Brut seamlessly pairs with everything, from starter to dessert.

9. Jeff's Cellar

One of, if not the most, unique restaurants in Malaysia, Jeff’s Cellar was initially (and somewhat humorously) designed to be a ‘man cave.’ Tan Sri Jeffrey Cheah, founder and chairman of the Sunway Group, had the spacious wine cellar constructed for his own pleasure before deciding to share it with the public. As expected, all the usual suspects in the pantheon of five-figure wines—Château Margaux, Château Lafite Rothschild, et cetera—are present for pairing with Chef Lee Choon Boon's cooking. Although we wish that the restaurant hadn't disposed of its à la carte offerings, thus requiring guests to partake of pricey degustations, the ambiance and impeccable service make the splurge worthwhile. Further details, such as the beautiful opera music, a free rose for the lady, and the helpful staff (who are persistent about taking your picture) converted us into fans. Because 90% of the cave is natural, its features constantly evolve. The chilly establishment (do bring a cardigan or a jacket) welcomes diners in intervals, so as to preserve the natural wonder. 

10. Jing Ze Contemporary Asian

Located in a residential part of Petaling Jaya, Jing Ze Contemporary Asian has the benefit of being mere minutes from the LDP highway. The first thing that grabs one’s attention inside this hip establishment is the open kitchen, which reveals all the inner workings (no Gordon Ramsay types, thankfully) of the kitchen. The compact menu sees a melange of inspiration from Thai, Japanese, Vietnamese and Balinese cuisine, and the flavours pack a punch. Start with the stuffed chicken wings marinated with basa genep before moving on to the roast duck; the zippy cabbage lives up to its moniker. The nangka crumble served on a bed of coffee crumbles is one of our favourite ways to cap dinner at Jing Ze. Where libations are concerned, we suggest scouring the bottom part of the menu, under the heading ‘Funky Stuff.’

See also: Chef Nicholas Scorpion Dishes Helpful Tips On Eating & Drinking Well In Bali

11. La Moon

When Chef Trakool ‘Korn’ Yodsuk packed his bags at Erawan to open La Moon, a stream of his followers followed suit—such is the chef’s popularity in a nation besotted with Thai flavours. Few customers come here without ordering the chef’s signature corn salad. Salted duck egg, cashews, cherry tomatoes and dried shrimp might seem like incongruous components for a salad, that is until you mix everything together—every mouthful packs a sweet, salty, spicy and sour punch. Another of Chef Korn’s signatures, the iron-rich cockles curry is best paired with white rice. But our favourite dish is indubitably the curry powder crab, which gives a new meaning to luxury—imagine tucking into mounds of crab meat without the laborious process of shelling a single crustacean; though powerful, the spice mix doesn’t overpower the shellfish’s delicate sweetness.

12. Mandarin Grill, Mandarin Oriental Kuala Lumpur

Floor to ceiling glass panels overlooking KLCC Park make diners at Mandarin Grill feel connected to the outdoors, and a recent facelift—complete with plush turquoise seats, tiled ceilings and wooden panelling—heightens this unique factor. The makeover extends to the menu, which provides an inkling of chef de cuisine Luigi Stinga’s childhood memories. Take the ravioli di baccala, for instance. Resembling a painting with splashes of green oregano and orange potato reduction, the dish of handmade pasta and salt cod harks back to the chef’s youth. Equally memorable is the risotto alla parmiggiana, which balances the acidity of tomato crème with the earthiness of eggplant. No matter how tight your waistline feels, don’t pass on Chef Stinga’s take on tiramisu. Peaks of mascarpone veiled by sheets of shredded sponge cake are sprinkled with crumbled cocoa and coffee. The result? A dizzying and delicious sugar rush.

See also: Meet Luigi Stinga, Mandarin Grill's New Head Chef With A Michelin Background

13. Marble 8

The three types of clients you’ll meet here are: suave, suited businessmen, couples cosying up to one another, and out-of-towners who feel safer sticking close to the city centre. Leave the kids at home if you can, and break out a bottle of red at Marble 8. Begin with the rich, roasted bone marrow or the Wagyu steak tartare perfumed with black truffles before getting started on the main event. Offering both wet- and dry-aged beef, Marble 8 ages its cuts on site, in the restaurant’s very own aging room. While some steakhouse menus can be awfully vague, Marble 8’s clearly lists the weight of each serving, thus eliminating any misunderstandings. Where wine pairings are concerned, we suggest the Chateau Lafont 2009 off the limited wine menu; the Bordeaux blend pairs beautifully with both beef and venison.

On that note: 10 Restaurants To Reserve When You Need A Good Steak

14. Nadodi

Nadodi’s minimalistic interior design ensures that diners stay fully focused on their food—not that our attentions would have strayed far from our plates, for what wonders come out of the kitchen! Our experiences here have been near flawless as all aspects, from the food presentation to the server’s explanations, are perfected and rehearsed. The entire dining experience is, as the menu suggests, a journey, and one you can enjoy at a leisurely pace. Because the menu is ever-evolving, don’t expect to receive the same dishes as your pal who raved about the restaurant some months back. That being said, some dishes sometimes return due to high demand. For instance, some form of rasam almost always appears on the menu. Portions are slightly larger than what you’d expect from most fine dining establishments, which makes a meal at Nadodi worth every last cent.

See also: Nadodi KL Meets Demands Despite Mounting Pressure

15. Saint Pierre Kuala Lumpur

Fine dining lovers were titillated when Saint Pierre Singapore announced its second branch in the W Kuala Lumpur in September 2018. Plenty has happened since: while Saint Pierre Singapore successfully scooped up its second Michelin star this year, Saint Pierre KL experienced more turbulent times; head chef Kim Kevin deDood submitted his resignation, requiring sous chef Lroy Lim to step up his game—not that customers noticed, as the food standards didn’t dip one bit. A meal at Saint Pierre always begins with bijoux-like bites, to give diners an inkling of grander things to come, and ends with mignardises, which means you’re more than likely to be stuffed to the brim.

Throwback to: This Spooky Menu Saint Pierre KL Created For Glenmorangie

16. Sitka Studio

Only open on Friday evenings, Sitka Studio is where Chef Christian Recomio and team get their creative juices flowing, for unlike Sitka Eatinghouse downstairs, the 5- or 7-course menu at the studio changes weekly. That being said, the team is strongly attached to several popular dishes: some form of tart, cavatelli and house-aged duck are reincarnated time after time. Handling the front-of-house service is restauranteur Jenifer Kuah, who is ever ready to recommend a natural wine to pair with your meal. One of the most value-for-money degustations in town!

Related story: Christian Recomio's Recent Partnership With Parisian Chef Taku Sekine

17. Sushi Hibiki

Keep your eyes peeled for Sushi Hibiki’s iconic fish logo to locate the elusive eatery. Dressed in muted shades of grey and taupe, the restaurant is dim, so as to direct focus to the sushi counter, where Makato Saito Sam serves up his craft omakase. Upbeat jazz plays in the background, which might not be expected of most ‘serious’ sushiyas, but Sam is experimental (and a jazz lover, to boot). From sushi served on orchid leaves to an impressive edamame flight featuring different soybeans grown in various prefectures of Japan, Sushi Hibiki's dishes don’t stray too far from Japanese tradition, but the restaurant doesn't take itself too seriously either.

18. Tamarind Springs

Illuminated by paper lanterns and votive candles, the walkway to Tamarind Springs is just the beginning of a memorable meal that will transport you to picturesque Bali or Thailand. While most Asian restaurants offer two types of rice (white or brown, if you’re lucky), Tamarind Springs carries 14 kinds; in fact, choosing from okra and basil or kaffir lime and fruit rice might prove more taxing than deciding on your mains. Vegetarians can rejoice, for a sizeable section of the menu lists meat-free starters, soups and mains. But if you do enjoy your meat, we recommend the roasted duck curry with pineapple and grapes; best paired with lemongrass rice, the medium-hot curry won’t send your palate into shock. The service staff are attentive yet unobtrusive, retreating into the shadows when they aren’t needed, only to re-emerge when your water or wine glass needs refilling.

19. The Brasserie, The St Regis Kuala Lumpur

‘All-day dining’ might be synonymous with long buffet lines and screeching children, but not here. In fact, The Brasserie is one of our restaurants for a plethora of occasions. Fancy a gourmet executive lunch that won’t nip at your pocket? Book a table at The Brasserie. Want to spoil your significant other? Book a table at The Brasserie. A native of San Sebastián, today’s ‘it’ city for culinary innovation, Chef Pedro Samper Mahòn showcases the best of the Basque Country (and Spain at large) with the likes of snapper in salsa verde, Galician-style octopus and squid ink black fideuà.

See also: Basque-ing In New Flavours At The Brasserie

20. The Gulai House, The Datai Langkawi

The little things about The Gulai House—from the warm towels that are handed out to arriving guests to the radiant servers who genuinely seem to enjoy their work—contribute to our love of this restaurant. Moreover, their food counts among the best Malay cooking we’ve had in this part of Malaysia. Take the fall-off-the-bone kurma sendi kambing (lamb shank curry) or the fluffy tomato rice, for instance; both quintessentially Malaysian dishes are amply laced with spices such as cardamom, cloves, and cinnamon, and speak volumes for the wealth of ingredients in our country.

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