Kuala Lumpur Night-Life

KUALA LUMPUR it so happens, has, dish for dish, some of the finest Asian and International fare available anywhere. When it comes to securing the votes of gourmet palates this small city’s nosheries punch way above their class. And the Kuala Lumpur nightlife throb pulls in locals as well as visiting pin-stripers, its full-throttle crescendo during the March F1 race period. Days can be devoted to food for KL serves everything from the lightest, savoury kuehs (cakes) to the silkiest curries round the clock. When the craving for a steaming bowl of noodles strikes at 5am, you won’t go hungry. We’re always starving, so speedily on with our Kuala Lumpur nightlife guide to cool bars, fun nosh, and more.

“Sudah Makan”'(have you eaten?) the cook bellows. It’s 7am at a small gerai (street hawker) on an obscure lane downtown – umbrellas have been popped open, stalls set up, simple round tables and plastic stools laid down and all manner of cooking is furiously underway. By nightfall, countless woks would have been stirred and umpteen bowls of noodles and curries dished out to hordes of hungry people.

A plate of nasi lemak (a combo of coconut rice, spiced anchovy, chilli relish and condiments) served at a street-side stall can surpass the best eating that five-star hotels can offer. KL street food is cheap too. Dinner for two at a street vendor in Chinatown can cost as little as RM20 (US$6), hooch included, making Kuala Lumpur dining one of the most inexpensive, yet most palate-tickling, experiences.

Kopitiams (coffee shops) and hawker stalls are icons where owners know their customers by name and tastes. Their service, intimate and personalised, while their dishes are packed with flair. Breakfast is an all day affair at the legendary Yut Kee (tel: [60-3] 2698-8108), one of the city’s oldest kopitiams. Think faded tiles, straight-backed wooden chairs and marble-top tables. Yell for some “kopi si” (strong, dark coffee with evaporated milk) and dig into restorative soft boiled eggs (RM2) and thick slices of homemade, charcoal toasted bread smeared with kaya, luscious coconut jam (RM1.80).KL fun dining at Heritage Row

Running a close second to Yut Kee’s breakfast experience is the Chee Cheong fun stall in the heart of Chinatown. This unassuming stall with its age-old wooden stove, manned by a husband and wife team, has achieved a certain notoriety for its smooth-as-silk rice noodles. The layers of rice flour rolls are packed with chopped spring onions and tiny bits of dried prawns.

Not many know of Prasad Chetty Naadu Mess. Locating the eatery, which has been around for more than 25 years, is in itself an exciting excursion. Make your way up a narrow and dimly lit footpath at the far end of Lebuh Ampang. It’s a small canteen-like space that serves no-frills Southern Indian food on banana leaves. There is conventional seating, with fewer than a dozen tables to share. Expect good food and efficient service. It’s an extraordinary combination – a dollop of perfectly cooked white rice, on top of which is heaped thick dhaal (lentil gravy), vegetable, curried mutton and poppadum crackers (all for just RM6). Different dishes are offered daily: turkey curry on Wednesdays, kudal mutton on Saturdays and chicken biryani on Sundays. This is a terrific informal Kuala Lumpur dining option.

Another lunch option is 10 minutes away from the city centre, Pak Din‘s ikan bakar (Grilled Fish) at the Tanglin Hawker Centre, near the National Mosque. Arrive well before noon for the best selection of his fiery, turmeric-laced grilled fish. Cracking a wide, no-holds-barred smile, Pak Din welcomes regulars with a swift nod of the head. Dip the delicate fish morsels into some air cucuh assam (tamarind sauce), laden with chopped onions and sliced chilies. Pak Din charges around RM5 (US$1.60) for kembung (fish).

Right next door is Tang Lin’s nasi lemak. It’s inspired cult-like devotion among foodies, the sambal sotong (squid chilli relish) a fantastic combination with the fluffy coconut-infused rice (RM2.80/US$0.90).

The buzz at Sri Nirvana Maju (tel: 2287-8445) in Bangsar – the Kuala Lumpur nightlife Mecca – is exhilarating despite the quite ordinary setting. There are mile-long lines to get a table for a quick lunch of curries served on banana leaves. Wash your meal down with homemade yogurt drinks. Of course, top of the curry league, is the alfresco Raju Restaurant in Petaling Jaya (tel: 7561-361). Or try Kayu Nasi Kandar Seafood Paradise Restaurant (tel: 2141-4027) at Chulan Square for more of the same. Annalakshmi (tel: 2272-3799), a volunteer-run Indian vegetarian restaurant at the Temple of Fine Arts in Brickfields, dishes out a variety of curries, vegetables and breads daily.Fine dining in KL, LaFite at Shangri-La

It is pretty much compulsory to visit Coliseum Café (tel: 2692-6270) on Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman. Decidedly cosy and delightfully worn around the edges, this almost 90-year-old café with its worn tiled floors and stained walls makes you feel like you’ve stepped back in time. Seasoned waiters and a stream of eccentric regulars add to the atmosphere. The colonial era bar is a great draw. The café does lunch and dinner (old school greasy steaks) but you’ll be mad not to sample their thick slices of bread dipped in spicy prawn sambal. Precious Old China (tel: 2072-5915) serves Peranakan dishes in a reproduction Peranakan house setting at Central Market. Peranakan cuisine is an amalgam of Chinese and Malay fare. Try nasi lemak, rendang (beef cooked in spices), kari kapitan and bubur cha cha for dessert.

No place else will do but Jai Hind (tel: 2692-0041) for Punjabi and Northern Indian food. This low-key restaurant on Jalan Melayu has inspired cult-like devotion for its soft, fluffy chapattis (griddled flat breads cooked in tandoor ovens), best savoured with kheema (a delicious concoction of minced meat and peas). Take home some jewel-coloured sweets like gulab jamun, jalebi, and rasmalai.

Ramly Burger is popularly found all around the city. Look out for makeshift stalls selling these seriously messy, yet sinfully yummy burgers (sandwiches of beef or chicken patties, smeared with mayonnaise and ketchup). Typically spotted in front of 7-11 stores or at street corners.

The stalls on Petaling Street and Jalan Alor open late and have earned an enthusiastic following. Kim Lian Kee (tel: 2032-4984) and Lien Bee (on Petaling Street) are the top two favourites. Chicken is king at Jalan Alor’s Wong Ah Wah’s (at the end of the street). Pull up a chair among the locals and tuck into succulent, finger-licking-good grilled wings (RM4.20 for a pair).Kuala Lumpur dining guide, Ril's Steakhouse

Walk five minutes towards the quieter enclave of Tengkat Tong Shin and to the popular neon-lit Ngau Kee beef ball noodles stall. If you’re still peckish, roll up your sleeves and stroll across to the 24-hour Estana Curry House (tel: 2141-1958) around the corner from the Istana Hotel. Estana does terrific tandoori chicken and a gut-busting meal here will set you back less than RM10. On a side street nearby, Estana also runs the Restoran Nagasari Curry House, a clean banana leaf slop shop with aromatic South Indian fare.

Ril’s Steakhouse adds a touch of glam to Jalan Tun H S Lee near Petaling Street. The steakhouse takes up the top floor of a cleverly converted Chinese heritage lot. Downstairs, you’ll find a café, bar and art gallery. It’s all black and white, sleek and sexy with a menu for serious meat and cocktail lovers.

Stadium Negara Restaurant (tel: 2161-8557), formerly located at the national stadium, now sits grandly at a bungalow close to the Twin Towers. Impossibly popular, this restaurant continues to serve the same dishes it did back in the Sixties – try chilli crabs with deep fried and steamed buns, BBQ chicken and squid, butter prawns, chili lala (cockles) and kangkung (greens).

Kuala Lumpur nightlife, bars, and dining

There’s never a shortage of clubs or bars charting a new course. Start your night out in a sleek eatery, wine and dine, and get into the party mood before ending up somewhere louder later.

Saucy Kuala Lumpur bars abound around Jalan P Ramlee. For a bird’s-eye view of the city, shimmy up to the observation deck of the 421m Menara KL (tel: 2085-448, open 9am-10pm). Tickets for foreign visitors are priced RM15 (adults), and RM9 (children).Kuala Lumpur nightlife, pool bar

The Menara also houses a restaurant and the Mega View Banquet Deck that lays claim to being the “highest” banquet facility in KL. Now you know. For just as good views of the city, take the lift up to the rooftop Luna Bar (tel: 2026-2211). Up there, it’s cool with a hot cocktail list and even hotter clientele. The 18-metre pool doubles as a party space. If you want to play pool, right opposite the Istana hotel at the intersection below the monorail is the Lodge Paradize lounge bar, useful as a quick pit-stop if you get caught walking in the rain.

Over at the Shangri-La Hotel, the Lafite (tel: 2716-3111) menu is inventive to say the least while Shang Palace (tel: 2074-3904) offers delectable dim sums. Everything is top-notch Japanese at Zipangu, from sushi and sashimi to sukiyaki. The former pub has been refurbished and renamed Arthur’s Bar & Grill, a Manhattan-style bar and grill – great for cocktails and above-par food.

A real gem has turned up just a short walk up from the Shangri-La. Cuisine Gourmet by Nathalie (tel: 2072-4452) has struck a chord with its brilliantly devised, great-looking and delicious Asian inspired French dishes. Cuisine Gourmet by Nathalie teams up two talented chefs — Belgian chef Evert Onderbeke and French chef Nathalie Arbefeuille. Together they create exciting tastes and textures. There is a la carte, seafood, set lunch (RM60-70/US$19- 22) and tasting menus.

Opposite is Menara Hap Seng, where you’ll get the whole lot under one roof. Find German fare at Brussels Beer Cafe, spicy Indian food at the Olive Tree (tel: 2031-7887), sushi and maki at Xenri D’Garden Terrace (tel: 2078-6688), gourmet pastas and burgers at Impromptu (tel: 2141- 0227), Italian fare at Trattoria Il Porcellino (tel: 2022-0460) and Chinese (golden-fried pork spare ribs and mud-crab with salted egg yolk) at Elegant Inn Hong Kong Cuisine (tel: 2070-9399). The star has got to be Hakka Republic and Wine Bar (tel: 2078-9908). Contrary to its name, this restaurant serves Western food, with Japanese nuances.Kuala Lumpur nightlife and dining, Cuisine Gourmet

Jalan P Ramlee, a name synonymous with KL nightlife, is usually bopping by sundown with sleek bars, sleeker women – many with undisguised commercial intent. The strip is helmed by Modesto-managed string of pub-nosheries led by, of course, Modestos (tel: 2694-6868) and other throbbing dance clubs such as Aloha (tel: 2711-7266). The raucous Beach Club (tel: 2161-6666) is eternally crowded, with patrons spilling out onto pavements. Its laid back surroundings, staff in casual beach wear, top 40 music and sleek women are a big draw for tourists. Across the road the fast expanding Thai Club has gained a saucy reputation, not just for its short-time inn that now competes for business with established service apartments in the area. Or try the Argentinian Maredo’s Steakhouse (tel: 2162-8268) not far from the relocated bar and chow entrant Rum Jungle (tel: 2148-0282). Poppy Collection (tel: 2141-8888) is a one-stop, two-tiered staple, that’s garnered a following of super-stylish partygoers. The relaxed colonial-white Padi House Club (tel: 2143-3840) on the upper floor serves Chinese, Malaysian and Western, with a small wraparound balcony.

Around Jalan Sultan Ismail the legendary queues are no more, but Hard Rock Café (tel: 2715-5555) remains the granddaddy of live music. A host of regional bands play nightly for a mix crowd of locals, tourists and expatriates who take their partying very seriously. KL Live (tel: 2162-2570) is now the city’s most outstanding live music venue that sees a dazzling number of big names each year. It’s a huge airy space with industrial ducting. Be sure to clock in extra hours at Overtime (tel: 2161-0246) – the best place to have drinks beforehand. Expect only the best and freshest brews as Straker beer is imported daily from Germany. The Havana Club (tel: 2711-2791) is a cosy cigar divan specialising in Cuban cocktails and a ground floor view of the bumper-to-bumper traffic on Jalan Sultan Ismail.

Tamarind Hill (tel: 2148-3200) occupies a hilltop bungalow right in the heart of Sultan Ismail, serving choice Thai-Burmese. Next door is Neo Global Tapas & Luxe Lounge (tel: 2148-3700), a polished bar, restaurant and lounge with sleek modern interiors.KL dining and fast bites, Ben's Cafe

In the KLCC area and beyond are quite a few choices. The best place to take in the views is from the foot of the Petronas Twin Towers at Chinoz On The Park (tel: 2166-8277), one of the city’s most exciting restaurants, where everything is superb: location, food, décor, wine list and service. It serves modern Japanese food nuanced with the tastes of Italy and Spain. Another chic restaurant is Madam Kwan’s (tel: 2026-2297). Its continuing success is a tribute to the endearing friendliness of the place and its no-holds-barred menu. Have nasi lemak, char kway teow (wok-fried flat rice noodles tossed with bean shoots and shellfish) or fish-head curry, best savoured when drizzled over warm rice. Or sample English tea of scones and clotted cream at the Harrods (tel: 2166-6000). KLCC is a useful area to start your Kuala Lumpur nightlife and dining trawl. The newer Ben’s (tel: [60-3] 2382-2828) is chic and has a splendid park view. The place serves crunchy salads and appetising local and Western fare. Satisfy your sweet cravings at Bruno Gelato (Concourse level), Garrett Popcorn Shop (tel: 2166-7933), Candylicious (tel: 2161-7633), Durian Durian (Concourse Level) and Tong Pak Fu (tel: 2181-1531). Get your Japanese street-food fix at the Isetan Food Market (tel: 2382-7777).

Sky Bar (tel: [60-3] 2332-9888) at the Traders Hotel is one of the best spots for stargazing in the city. Up here, the bar, by the long pool, is full of shiny folk, tourists and post-work crowd, lapping up the stunning views of the Twin Towers. Its discreet and relaxing ambience is ideal for an after hours wind down. Views give it an extra edge. The Mandarin Grill (tel: 2179-8960) at the Mandarin Oriental is a very grown up restaurant serving a seductive range of grills plus lots of girlie desserts. For sparkle and glamour, head to the hotel’s Sultan Lounge (tel: 2179-8966) – the perfect example of a grand hotel bar tuned up for the 21st Century. Highlights include the 10 semi-private booths running along the lounge’s entire length. Casbah (tel: 2380-8888) – an opulent Arabian-style lounge – takes over from Pacifica. Its Mediterranean mezze and tapas menu is pleasantly consistent: Lebanese patata harra with labneh (strained yogurt), chicken moghrabieh, Moroccan lamb merguez sausages, and paella Valencia. The bar serves super cocktails such as the exotic Moroccan green tea mint derby.Kuala Lumpur nightlife and bars, SkyBar at Traders Hotel

Close by is Ascott’s 7atenine (tel: 2161-7789), a classic lounge that’s understated but very cool. An abundance of glass walls reveals the Twin Towers beyond. Nearby is Neverland – a wannabe venue that hosts DJs, live bands, performances and choreographed dances.

Located on Jalan Ampang and open for several years, Zouk KL (tel: 2171-1997) is approaching iconic status. A long line of eager clubbers waits amid clouds of perfume and cigarette smoke. Inside, the club’s dance floor, the biggest in town, is charged with retro, funk, hip-hop, electro, Brit pop and rock. Zouk KL has been redesigned, promising clubbers a new level of energy and a packed roster of big-name international DJs. The club’s latest room is the plush Phuture.

Grappa (tel: 2166-8088) at Avenue K offers a mod Italian menu. A whole new clubbing experience awaits you at Supernova (ground floor, Avenue K). Party to R&B and top 40 hits, performed nightly by resident band Cosmic Fire.

Why order a conventional meal when tiny, innovative morsels are more fun at the Marketplace Restaurant and Lounge (tel: 2166-0750). In the Jalan Yap Kwan Seng area, the large space is divided into a bar, a restaurant on one level and an upper lounge with a view of the Petronas Towers. Tucked away on a quiet corner, Sassorosso (tel: 2166-6428) is laid back, serving commendable pastas and pizzas. Close by are Songket (tel: 2161-3062) for Malay delicacies and cultural performances; 1919 (tel: 2161-9919) for Chinese and Nyonya fare; and Mughle Azam (tel: 2166 -1022) for regal North Indian dishes.Kuala Lumpur fine dining restaurant, Il Lido

Il Lido Italian Dining & Lounge Bar (tel: [60-3] 2161-2291, off Jalan Yap Kwan Seng), offers a truly gourmet experience. Ascend up to the restaurant’s luxurious dining space and plunge into immaculately executed Italian dishes of roasted veal, quail, champagne risotto and goose liver. Arrive early and head up to the rooftop bar for chic cocktails. It’s our pick as the Kuala Lumpur’s top fine dining spot.

The very animated Mr Amarjeet will welcome you into Spice Garden Imperial (tel: 2142-2220) for straightforward North Indian delights and some Middle Eastern fare. Tykoh Inagiku (tel: 2148-2133) at Menara Keck Seng, is the oldest Japanese restaurant in town and continues to be popular with Japanese and locals for its refined, high quality creations. Or pop into the newly opened Riki-Ya (tel: 2143-3336) on the second floor for traditional Tokyo style sushi.

Undoubtedly the most happening place for Kuala Lumpur nightlife and dining in this neighbourhood is the basement of the Starhill mall near the JW Marriott, crammed with eateries from around the world. Head to Sentidos Tapas (tel: [60-3] 2145-3385) for interesting nibbles (though the Sangria is doubtful), or Tarbush Restaurant (tel: 2144-6393) for Lebanese. These are theme restaurants with decor to match. Also try Royale Vietnam, Vansh for Indian, Charcoal Steak Grill Angus House (tel: 2145-6015) for delicious, juicy cuts, Gonbei San (tel: 2782-3801) for Japanese and Koryo-Won for Korean. Pak Loh Chiu Chow Restaurant (tel: 2782-3856) is a lavish recreation of a traditional Chinese restaurant. The menu features cold fish, lion-head goose, deep-fried fresh prawn balls, cold flower crab and braised goose feet. Satisfied? The cooking at Shook! (tel: 2719-8535) brings a new depth and subtlety to menus that range from sushi and tempura to Chinese dishes and steaks. This smart, spacious restaurant with its four diverse kitchens is popular among local celebrities, fashionistas and the arty set. For a stiff drink try the Village Bar (tel: 2782-3852). On the lower ground floor, there’s La Bomba (tel: 2143-9418) for Peruvian-inspired dishes.

The verdict is that you can’t beat Third Floor (JW Marriott, tel: 2141-3363) for sublime French-based cooking, coupled with a friendly service style. And the hotel’s Shanghai does exactly what its name implies.Kuala Lumpur nightlife, Hard Rock Cafe

Prego at the Westin continues to draw a crowd for authentic Italian cooking and an enviable Sunday brunch. Its Bubbly Brunch is priced at RM268 (US$85) per person with alcohol); RM168 (US$53) per person (without alcohol); and RM84 for children aged four to twelve. Check out the new Five Sen5es for porky Oriental dishes such as their ‘thousand-layered’ pig ears and charcoal-roasted ribs.

Tucked away in a corner of Fahrenheit 88, the rustic Moussandra Mediterranean and Tapas Restaurant (tel: 2144-0775) is one of the city’s most durable. After a short flirtation with traditional tapas, tuck into sumptuous paella. The new mall has a host of eateries – try Marutama Ramen (tel: 2141-1573), The Cream & Fudge Factory (Lot number 1-28), Al Amar Express for Lebanese fast food, Su’s Cakes For Kicks (Lot G-41) and Celsius Restaurant & Bar (tel: 2145 3131) for decent happy hour fare (noon till 9pm).

Opposite, Pavilion KL has an enviable list of restaurants. The Loaf (tel: [60-3] 2144-1153) is KL’s artisan bakery. Breakfast on handmade pastries and breads and follow that at 11am with a slice of poppy seed pound cake. Go for excellent Middle Eastern fare at Al-Amar (tel: 2166-1011); authentic bak kut teh flavour at Pao Xiang Bak Kut Teh; Italian at Spasso Milano (tel: 2148-0688); and exceptional Japanese fare at Kampachi (tel: 2148-9608). Celadon Royal Thai Cuisine (tel: 2148-8708) offers unfussy Thai cooking coupled with a chic and modern interior. Market Hall (tel: 2141 9622) is part deli, part gourmet restaurant with an eco-friendly dining concept. Expect mod Aussie cuisine with some pastas and paella. Décor is very earthy with recycled biscuit tins, wooden furniture and lights made out of paint cans. Bedroom KL (tel: 2141-9620), sister outlet of Market Hall, is the current favourite of the cool crowd for its sexy atmosphere, sultry and plush interior. Sip on imaginative cocktails and enjoy views of the city through the lounge’s floor-to-ceiling windows. Local and top international DJs bring the house down with an eclectic and experimental music mix.Kuala dining guide, Teeq restaurant

Explore Tokyo Street (on the sixth Floor) for all things Japanese. The strip is crammed with cafes, boutiques, and snack stalls resembling those you’ll find at the Ginza and Shibuya districts of Tokyo. Order steaming hot ramen from Hokkaido Santouka Ramen; bread and pastries from En Ginza Café; rice cakes from Mochi Sweets; donburi at Tokyo Don and an array of teppanyaki from Tokyo Tepan.

Grand Millennium Kuala Lumpur’s Pulse (tel: 2177-4888) is dubbed an ultra club – the whole place oozes glamour with furnishings in shades of cream and lightning blue. Here, the queens of the night dance to RnB till the lights come on. The hip swaying Latin beat dominates at the Q-ba (tel: 2731-8333) at the Westin. Reminiscent of Cuba in its resplendent years, Q-ba is a regular crowd puller. Count on cocktails laced with rum, an authentic five-piece Cuban band, plush sofas, velvet drapes, a cigar lounge, wine cellar and all the necessary props. Planet Hollywood (tel: 2144-6602) still offers live rock bands and famous faces.

How about street food, indoors? At Lot 10 the Hutong Food Court is worth a look-see. Bon Ton (now at Lot 10, tel: 2142-2287) is a stalwart. Décor is the usual oriental clutter of antique furnishings, ethnic carvings and rich fabrics in a kampung house setting. Perched atop the mall’s rooftop is Teeq (tel: 2782-3555), a vast restaurant with dramatic undulating, wooden-ribbed ceiling and all-glass facade. Next door, Rootz (tel: 2782-3557) is another hot spot. The interior is rock baroque, with lavish walls and plush seating. There’s a spacious dance floor with DJs and two private rooms.

If you have an urge for some Hong Kong-style Chinese in a large efficient establishment, head to the Imbi Palace Restaurant (tel: 2145-4822) where the clatter and menu won’t disappoint. Noble House (tel: 2145-8822), off Jalan Imbi does Peking duck and lots of pork.Kuala Lumpur dining, chic surrounds at Frangipani

For late nights and large wallets there’s always the twinkling lights of clubs like Bintang Palace or Kelab de Vegas. Bintang Palace faux-Versailles karaoke rooms start at RM200 (US$63) or more per night and a crooning companion will set you back around RM60 per hour. Drinks and the mandatory fruit platter are extra and a four-hour minimum levy for your lady friend will add some hefty zeroes to the bill. At de Vegas the room is RM300 (US$94) and your companion is a more modest RM50 per hour. Things at these establishments only get moving after 9.30 or 10pm.

The route down this hilly strip involves passing by countless bars, restaurants and hawker stalls. Old Chinese shop houses have been lovingly refurbished; things shift from swanky to laid back as you trot downhill. Find anything from French, Japanese, Greek and Italian to English, German, Indian and Chinese.

Frangipani (tel: 2144-3001) is an ultra-chic art-deco hideaway with subdued lighting, square columns, brushed steel walls, maroon drapes, and an indoor pool with an atrium. Here you can try exotica like “Skinless leg of organic chicken”… The nosh is terrific and the menu changes every two months. It is undoubtedly one of the best Kuala Lumpur restaurants. Friday nights welcome the alternative crowd into its sleek, sexy bar and lounge. Bibitus is Frangi’s wine bar – plush and hushed. Frangipani recently added a City Deck Bar outside its main restaurant – ideal for evening drinks and people watching. This is a highly regarded Kuala Lumpur nightlife icon.

Head farther up to Jalan Ceylon to bungalow establishments like Bijan Bar & Restaurant (tel: 2031-3575) for unpretentious Malay fare that brings traditional dishes out of homes and places them firmly in the KL high street.

Try masak lemak ikan (fish cooked in coconut broth), cucur udang (prawn fritters) and ikan masak asam pedas (fish cooked in spicy tamarind); and the cosy Nero Vivo (tel: [60-3] 2070-3120) that serves excellent Italian in eccentric surrounds with large, eye-catching paintings. It takes ages to get a table on weekends. Order familiar rustic staples such as osso bucco, lasagna, pizzas prepared in a wooden oven and delectable dolci (the pannacotta drizzled with hot chocolate sauce is a must). Or sample its more sedate, non-halal (serving pork) younger sister Nero Teca (tel: 2070-0530). The adjacent Nero Deli, an importer of fine Italian foods, stacks a huge list of delicacies.KL bars and Italian dining, Nero Vivo

Also check out the Aussie style bistro Twenty-One Kitchen & Bar (tel: 2142-0021), which doubles up as a cool lounge, packing in the after-dinner crowd; the very good eat-in chippy Magnificent Fish and Chips Bar (tel: 2142-7021) championing the British staple; the Green Man Pub & Restaurant (tel: 2141-9924) where regulars congregate to talk about soccer and more soccer; and for laid back dining and classic brasserie dishes, try Bermuda & Onion (tel: 2145-8333). Also, Pinchos Tapas Bar (tel: 2145-8482), is where the kitchen stays open till late for serious tapas; Giovino (tel: 2141-1131) for a wide range of Greek mezze selections; Loco for Mexican tapas; Baan 26 (tel: 2142-8878) for Thai staples and Thai-inspired cocktails; crowd-puller Havana (tel: 2142-7170) for Creole grub; Sutraa (tel: 2144-7788) for spicy Indian nosh; Cicio (tel: 2141-8605) and Werners (tel: 2142-5670) for Italian; Daikanyama (tel: 2141-0323) for late night Japanese; and El Cerdo (tel: 2145-0511) for gutsy pork dishes from multi-award winning Chef Werner Kuhn. New to the block is Spanish restaurant El-Rincon (tel: 2142-7633), which opens daily for dinner. Try Andalusian gazpacho, braised veal tripe and chorizo in tomato and pimento sauce or roasted suckling goat.

Elixir (tel: [60-3] 2145-8111) is a tsunami of flesh and flash. The only criterion for entry is the right attitude to match the club’s hip and sexy image. Sip on wicked cocktails at Envie Clublounge (tel: 2142-7381). Replete with mirrored walls and a sultry bar, Envie packs in the after-dinner crowd of girls in party dresses. Changkat’s Reggae Bar is more hip than its original outlet near Petaling Street, with a boisterous ground-floor bar and on the upper floor, a more intimate dining space. Other drinking dens include Finnegan’s (tel: 2145-1930), Ceylon Bar (tel: 2145-7689) and Healy Mac’s (tel: 2144-5778). Others include Never Mine Bar that serves RM10 (US$3) Tiger beers all night; the quirky Red Victorian restaurant and bar; Whisky Bar (tel: 2143-2268) and Bier Bar for a wide selection of single malts and beers.

Bar Italia (tel: 2144 4499) on Jalan Berangan (right behind Changkat Bukit Bintang) is Paolo Guiati’s (the man behind both Neros) modern, chic restaurant serving unpretentious, rustic dishes. Have baby lamb liver stew and ziti in cream sauce with prosciutto. The best part is the restaurant’s rooftop bar. On the same row is Albion (tel: 2141-928) a next-generation gastropub and the casual Bakita (tel: 2141-7733) bar.KL bars and fun evenings, Traders SkyBar Twin Tower view

Italian food seems as natural as roti canai and nasi lemak in this area. Delucca (tel: 2144-6545) on Jalan Mesui serves hearty, rustic cooking and delicious wines.

None is more serious than No Black Tie (tel: 2142-3737) for live performances. Musicians, writers and poets mingle in this effortlessly chic venue that’s all about uncovering and promoting new talents. Pop in before the curtain-raiser for tasty Japanese delights. Dishes and cocktails are served by friendly, unhurried staff.

Palate Palette (tel: 2142-2148) is a quirky, vibrant restaurant, bar, cafe, lounge and art space. Here, fashionistas rub shoulders with the arty, indie crowd. Palate Palette also screens a variety of films, in its upper lounge – absolutely free. Right opposite is LUST Restaurant and Bar (tel: 2142-0525) – the menu is a mishmash of western and Spanish delights, and potent shooters. After a stellar opening night that included Michelle Rodriguez at the decks, LUST could very well become the city’s favoured nightspot.

For a final exotic touch, there’s Sao Nam (tel: 2144-1225), on Tengkat Tung Shin – one of the best Vietnamese restaurants in the city and a great favourite among food critics and gourmets. In essence, it’s just a homely Asian kitchen but there’s something really fresh and original about the cooking.

La Vie En Rose (tel: 2078-3883) is a romantic restaurant housed within the walls of a mid-20th century bungalow. Solid French cooking, with roasts and grills, helps it feel deliciously decadent.

Along and around Tun Razak look for places like Cilantro Restaurant and Bar (tel: 2141-3363), which has been brought back to life and continues to attract a loyal audience. Dish at Dua (tel: 2164-1286) tempts the palette with robust flavours executed to military perfection. It is a suitably decadent deli where the strip-loin is carved at your table. Look forward to delicious desserts such as strawberry mousse, granita and jelly with olive oil ice cream or a selection of top cheeses. The decor is severely modern yet casual and relaxing. Brunch costs RM249 (US$78) with champagne.KL cafes, Delicious, laid back

Upstairs, is Delicious Cafe (tel: 2166-2066), an agreeable, laid back restaurant that hasn’t let its fashionable reputation go to its head. It serves traditional, comfort street fare such as curry laksa (vermicelli immersed in coconut-rich gravy), sambal udang tumis (prawn chilli relish with pickled condiments and rice), Nyonya assam garoupa (grouper simmered in a tangy tamarind gravy) and nasi kerabu (flavoured rice with salted egg, raw vegetables and grilled chicken). There’s also a good wine list. These days you’ll spot Steve Allen (former head chef at Gordon Ramsay’s restaurant at London’s Claridges Hotel) in Dish’s kitchen, experimenting with local flavours.

At the Intermark, Hanare (tel: 2164-2133) is excellent for creative Japanese and a sumptuous Sunday champagne lunch. Other restaurants here include T42, Kin No Mizu, Porto Romano and Royal India (tel: 2163-3280). Restaurateur Benjamin Yong, a consultant with the BIG group, has had profound impact on the dining scene in the past two years. Here at the Intermark alone, the BIG Group has opened up After Ate (tel: 2161-4160), a dessert lounge; EST (tel: 2163-5731) – an exclusive 10-tables-only steakhouse; Estate (tel: 2163-5731), a gastro-lounge for cocktails and live music; and the discreet Tate (tel: 2161-2367), a gentlemen’s bar. Over at the Doubletree by Hilton, savour your favourite local dishes at five different open kitchens at the splendidly decorated Makan Kitchen (tel: 2172-7272).

Bombay Palace (tel: 2145-4241) is instantly recognisable on the Tun Razak strip, a stately colonial bungalow whose kitchen dishes out some of the best Northern Indian gravies. Close by is the very grown up View Rooftop Bar at the G Tower Hotel. Ride up to the 30th floor – there’s a whiskey lounge, an Absolut bar, a champagne room and breathtaking views over KL. Tanzini (tel: 2168-1899) at the hotel is a glamorous restaurant serving hearty Italian fare (downstairs); and a swanky degustation menu upstairs at the Upper Deck. Sample smoked duck consommé served in a teapot or lobster wrapped in sheets of apple.

Long-running Rama V (tel: 2143-2663) on Jalan U-Thant does classy Thai and remains a popular Kuala Lumpur dining draw. An overhaul has resurrected Ciao (tel: 9285-4827) on Jalan Kampung Pandan. Expect standard Italian fare in a romantic restaurant with cosy seating and murals.

Over on Jalan Damai, stalwart Rahsia (tel: 2144-0059) still dominates with fusion cuisine; Hajime (tel: 2143-0073) is popular for upscale Japanese; Basil Leaf (tel: 2166-1689) for Indochine fare; and Tatto (tel: 2166-5212) offers classic Italian.KL cafes and bars, Estate

Try the sophisticated Waraku Japanese Dining House (tel: 2145-0448) on Jalan Stonor for its classical food and sushi counter. It costs an arm and a leg to experience it properly but the memorable food and warm welcome are worth it.

Over at Royale Chulan hotel, L’ Heritage, a predominantly French restaurant, is slowly garnering a following. Expect French classic cuisine. Gu Yue Tien (tel: 2148-0808) at Chulan Square wows with its innovative menu – begin with the soft-boiled eggs with foie gras before moving on to wok-seared minced pork cake, pan fired scallop roll wrapped with bacon and mint sauce or duck leg with Chinese herbs.

At the Terrace at Hock Choon (tel: 017-209-8477), a two-storey bungalow complete with poolside bar, flavours shift from Indonesian comfort food at IR1968 and traditional Japanese at Fukuharu to fusion at Romanza.

The popular Souled Out has opened a second branch in Ampang (tel: 2181-1626) – bringing the party vibe, its fusion food and killer cocktails to this part of town. Make a stop at the new and very sexy The Pool @ Ampang for glamorous parties and innovative cocktails.

Tamarind Springs (tel: 4256-9300), a bit farther out, is spectacular – enter through a Balinese-style wall and gate down a candle-lit path to a spread-out thatch-roof bungalow set in lush greenery, above a golf course, and with its own quick-dip pool. The open-sided establishment has a wraparound balcony, ceiling fans, and walls in a deep salmon hue. The menu is Lao, Cambodian and Vietnamese. If you’re craving Italian, there’s Il Tempio (tel: 4256-8200) for exquisite contemporary Italian within the same premises. Enjoy the crisp, fresh air and surrounding greens at Mandi-Mandi (tel: 4251-7200) for traditional Malay flavours that have been tweaked for the adventurous palette. That about sums up Kuala Lumpur dining options in this area.KL nightlife, Qba at the Westin

One of the popular Kuala Lumpur nightlife areas is a district of converted shophouses called Heritage Row. The bars and restaurants run along Jalan Doraisamy next to the Sheraton Imperial. Here you’ll find The Loft complex with a funky lounge; Fluid Bar & Club with fluorescent lighting, stark concrete surfaces and silver lounges plus an oversized dance floor; and a fusion of sorts at Mojo’s (tel: 2697-7999), which also gets packed with revellers after 10pm. Break open the piggy bank and have yourself an extraordinary experience at the Vanity Mansion (tel: 2698-8282). It’s discreet, secluded and perfect for the glamour crowd. The baby of the block is Desire @ the Manor (tel: 2691-9618), which radiates the almost exact same vibe. Newcomers include Baan Ruen Thai Restaurant and Bistro (tel: 2697- 0728); Cungdinh Vietnam Restaurant & Saigon2 Bar (tel: 2692-2288), and Lax Club Lounge (tel: 2694-8188).

Finding the right cool Kuala Lumpur bar to start the evening is almost as important as choosing the right pair of heels. The bars and cafes at Capsquare may be the perfect place to begin your rendezvous. Pop into Bayernhaus (G33, 42 and 43) for imported beers on tap before heading over to Modesto (tel: 2697-4020) for drinks and Italian food. Next to Heritage Row is the interesting pool-level Italian Villa Danieli at the KL fine dining, Villa Danieli, Sheraton ImperialSheraton Imperial.

Café Café (tel: 2145-8141) on Jalan Maharajalela is one of the most dramatic and glamorous places in town, but you’d never suspect it from the discreet entrance. A resolutely Parisian style bistro, Café Cafe injects its French and Italian food, and décor with appealing whimsy. Indulge in mussels in white wine, escargots, scallops with black truffles and crème brulee. The Museum Restaurant (tel: 2270-5152) at the Islamic Arts Museum (near the Lake Gardens) serves traditional dishes such as fatoush, harirah, mansaf, mousakhan and bamya tajin, in a richly decorated space with low tables.

Hip Bangsar bars and dance clubs, and beyond

The Bangsar suburb has always been sought after: a succession of small, delicious tapas are brought to the table at La Bodega (tel: 2287-8318) but the real action is at the bar and in the laid back lounge upstairs; enjoy non-halal tapas that have a freshness and extra gutsy edge at El Meson (tel: 2282-8290); and expect Thai staples such as green curry, seafood tom yam and pineapple fried rice at the ever-popular Lanna Amazing Thai (tel: 2283-6099).

Antipodean Café (tel: 2282-0411) has been an instant hit, serving Arabica blends from Sumatra, Java, Sulawesi and Bali and an all-day non-halal breakfast. You won’t find a menu here; just a huge chalkboard displaying all the dishes. Order their big breakfast of chicken, pork or beef sausages, scrambled eggs, herbed hash brown and bacon, sandwiches, Kiwi lamb burgers or Burmese shredded chicken salad. Plus points – portions are adequate; prices are affordable; and a little kid’s play area complete with toys, games and a television.

Reunion Chinese Restaurant (tel: 2287-3770) at Bangsar Village II has won fans from all over KL. It is a classic Chinese restaurant with a stylish dining room, skilful and welcoming staff, delicious food, a commanding selection of wines and reasonable prices. Try xiu mai (steamed pork dumpling) and har gow (steamed prawn dumpling), or the fluffy char xiu bao (pork buns) and buttery egg tarts for dessert. Pop into Canoodling (tel: 2287-1566) for a two-in-one restaurant concept – opt for an array of Asian noodles or simple Chinese rice dishes right next door at Ricetaurant. In the area, Fit For 2 (tel: 2287-5001) is perfect for mummies and their babies, serving small portions and simple dishes for picky eaters. The cafe’s flexible layout includes a play area. There’s also T42 (tel: 2287-6566) for fancy French fare and desserts.

At Village I, the Daily Grind (tel: 2287-6708) does an inspired version of an American diner with cosy seating, and an imaginative take on diner staples; Plan B (tel: 2284- 8790) and Ben’s General Food Store (tel: 2284- 2630) – part of the Big Group that’s also responsible for T42, Canoodling and Ben’s – keep shoppers fuelled on pastries, pastas and crispy pizzas.Kuala Lumpur nightlife and dining, Antipodean Cafe

Customers love the wide range of cupcakes at Bisou (tel: 2287-3535 ) on the first floor. Garibaldi Italian Restaurant & Bar (tel: 2282-3456) serves unfussy Italian prepared by Chef Giuliano Berta. Popular with diners are Napoli style baked eggplants with mozzarella, basil and tomato sauce; Hokkaido scallop with baked mashed broad beans and truffle emulsion; and flat, wide homemade egg noodle with braised wagyu beef cheek. Service is faultless. It is one of the top KL restaurants on our Kuala Lumpur nightlife review.

The trendy F Concept Dining by Buffalo Kitchens (tel: 2201-1710), just opposite Village 1, has a truly unfamiliar but intriguing menu. There’s sesame steak with fennel salad, chicken teriyaki roulade with risotto, duck soba and wagyu beef cheeks with Mediterranean taboule. Open cooking kitchens within the dining space lend an informal feel to your dining experience. Service is friendly.

Flamboyant Chef Ismail will personally welcome you into Rebung (tel: 2283-2119). A large buffet spread of classic Malay kampong (village) dishes is served for lunch; a la carte is also available. You’ll find delicious rendang (spicy beef) and sambal terung (brinjal in spicy sauce); the varying flavours reflect the chef’s rich kampong upbringing. Chef Ismail also conducts cooking classes for those interested in learning how to cook popular Malay dishes.

Close by is Jalan Bangkung, a side road heading up a low rise and lined with shop lots. Restaurants such as Opus Bistro (tel: 2092-4288), Four Seas (Tel: 2092-1222), U Restaurant (tel: 2032-1388) and Leonardo’s Dining Room (tel: 2096-2226) have been quietly dazzling diners with top-notch food. The popular Jarrod & Rawlins joins this strip, serving their brand of hospitality and meaty dishes in a more posh setting.KL Italian dining, Garibaldi

Bangsar Shopping Centre has reopened with many exciting restaurants. The Pressroom (tel: 2095-8089) joins sister restaurant La Bodega, with a completely different menu and ambience. It’s a rare taste of splendid and hearty French bistro cuisine in a richly decorated place. Chinoz and Busaba Thai are noteworthy additions. The latter, with a kitchen headed by a Thai chef, produces excellent mieng kam, rolled Thai betel leaves stuffed with a variety of condiments; the spicy, clear tom yam soup (laden with lime, lemongrass, chili and prawns); and creamy green beef or chicken curry with pea aubergines.

An express lift whisks you up to the sleek Twenty-One Tables & Terraces (tel: 2287-0021) on the third floor – a smooth, minimalist temple to Pan-Asian and mod Euro tucker. If you’re a svelte, rich, gorgeous party animal, you’ll probably end up here. Even if you’re none of the above, it’s still a great place to take in the scene and the city’s stunning views. Arrive early for some good nosh – black cod with foam in mushroom broth, enoki and shinmeji mushrooms; or perhaps sirloin with crusted potato dauphine and grazed shredded vegetables and bordelaise jus. When the music is ramped up, the dancing starts – resident DJs keep the modest dance floor pumping from Wednesdays through Saturdays.

Vineria.IT (tel: 2287-7889), an offshoot of Bar Italia, is slowly becoming an institution. Its alfresco bar can get crowded but there’s more comfortable dining room indoors with a kitchen smack in the middle.

Every bowl of noodle, steamed or deep-fried dim sum is meticulously prepared at Grand Imperial (tel: 2283-1118). Hong Kong and Shanghai have inspired the kitchen’s subtle cooking style with an accent on pork and seafood, and absolutely no MSG. Reservations are a must on weekends. Old favourites WIP (tel: 2094-1789), Monte’s Restaurant (tel: 2094-01112) and Ming Room (tel: 2284-8822) are still going strong.

Le Midi (tel: [60-3] 2094-1318) is a very sophisticated restaurant. Its kitchen churns out good, wholesome, Mediterranean food using top quality produce. Try Bouillabaisse Marseillaise, Mediterranean octopus salad, and prawns with roasted fennel. The restaurant has an impressive wine list. Efficient service headed by a maitre d’ from London. Le Midi is a fanfare of wood and leather. Its interior is fun and accessible with nautical-inspired features such as sails, portholes, yacht lights, a wavy ceiling and a hypnotic display of jellyfish in a circular tank.KL dining, Mediterranean food, Le Midi

Mist Club (tel: 2282-2018) on Jalan Liku is resurrecting a style of sophisticated entertainment not seen for many years in this part of the city. It’s snug, sexy and exciting, with superior music, and local and world-class DJs. Next door is Milk – sexy, fun and super glam. Resident DJs serve up a mix of contemporary dance music.

Yogitree (tel: 2282-6163) at the Gardens Mall is a restaurant with a conscience and endeavours to use only organic stuff. It sounds deadly serious but, in fact, is quite glamorous and fun. Alexis Bistro & Wine Bar (tel: 2284-2880) serves honest, unfussy food.

Do try to get a spot at the chef’s table at Sage Restaurant and Wine Bar (tel: 2268-1188) at the Garden Residences. This smart, new restaurant and bar has spurred on new life in this part of KL. Chef Daniel has reinvented the concept of fine dining, with ambitious Japanese-influenced French cuisine. He plays with taste and texture but never forgets that what you basically want is something delicious to eat. Raring to go is the new G Six, next door. It could very well be the next big thing – it’s all about glamour with private rooms, steel-framed chandeliers, velvet drapes and suede lounge seats. Pop into Vertigo Club and you’ll discover a minimalist yet stylish interior with ample dance space. Big name International and local deejays spin at the club’s two separate spaces: Nero pulsates to R&B, techno and house beats; Bianco explodes with edgy electronic.

Venture into Senses (tel: 2264-2264) at the Kuala Lumpur Hilton, intimate and personalised, to sample culinary master Cheong Liew’s classic dishes like four dances, a series of tiny seafood-influenced tastes. At the hotel’s Zeta Bar (tel: 2264-2501) the party crowd arrive, champagne corks pop and the dancing starts when the music peaks. It’s party central for the energetic and well-heeled.

On the daily menu at Prime (Level Five, tel: 2263-7888), Le Meridien‘s plush steakhouse, are cowboy-size portion steaks. The former Al Nafourah Middle Eastern restaurant has redesigned itself as the Italian outlet Favola.Bangsar tapas and lounge, La Bodega

All the Damansara and Mont Kiara action

Many a Sunday afternoon has been spent coming back to life at the casual Jarrod & Rawlins (tel: 2093-0708), after a Saturday night devoted to all those late night excesses. Come for a heart-starting breakfast or a relaxed weekend brunch of eggs and bacon with champagne. Whoops. Also look at Nero Fico (tel: 2089-5312) for wood-fired pizza.

In the Mont Kiara area find Savory Bistro (tel: 6211-5100), Hagen Bake & Brew (tel: 6201-1628) and Porto Romano Italian, family friendly establishment. The neighbourhood has countless Japanese restaurants, mostly located at Plaza Mont Kiara.

Solaris Mont Kiara is stuffed with a wild array of restaurants, bars, specialist shops and boutiques. Go for fine Mandarin dishes, creatively conceived at Peking Duck (tel: 6203-7071); sip on sexy cocktails at Envy Club (tel: 6203-0913); feast on ribs at Brussels Bierhaus; savour Russian fare at Dubrovnik (tel: 6203-6780); Iranian cuisine at Naab (tel: 6203 7647); or sample the steaks at Meatworks (tel: 6203-0871).

Nearby is Solaris Dutamas, another up-and-coming enclave with countless noteworthy restaurants. The real star here is Nathalie’s Gourmet Studio (tel: 620-79572). Chef Nathalie Arbefeuille has adapted luxurious French bistro-style cooking to the modern taste for lighter food (with a slight Asian twist). The menu varies every month, featuring a choice of five appetizers, five mains and five desserts. Be sure to sample her famed macaroons that come in 13 flavours including raspberry, chocolate, caramel and coconut. The restaurant opens for lunch and tea and stays open for dinner twice a week on Fridays and Saturdays. Check out three new arrivals: Fatboy’s The Burger Bar for gourmet burgers, The Red Beanbag for breakfasts and desserts, and Yamagoya Ramen. When the sun goes down, head to Devil’s Brew, Back to Skool, The Bee, Overtime or Paradiso Lounge.

The Big Group has also dominated the dining scene here at Solaris Dutamas with countless eateries such as Journal by Plan B, Ben’s, B’wiched that serve an extensive selection of sandwiches and my personal favourite, S.Wine. Expect everything from pastas laden with pork belly to whole slabs of sticky ribs and Parma ham with ripe melon. The menu has a section devoted to local porky favourites such as the Nyonya assam pork curry, Hainanese pork chop and Chinese pork rib and duck soup. Its interior is simple and stylish with flashes of shocking pink to remind you that the menu is utterly porky. Their breakfast platters deserve mention – imagine Mexican pulled pork with poached eggs and avocado-feta mash on toast and French toast with applewood-smoked bacon.KL private kitchen, Millesime

Helming the kitchen at On the Table (tel: 6207-9966) is Chef Riz Redz who interprets flavours in his own unique way. Sit at the chef’s table and be treated to an outstanding meal of mod Malay cuisine. Fun fact: Chef Riz Redz is the son of Malaysia’s very own culinary ambassador Chef Wan.

You’ll find sparkling flavours at Max Chin’s private kitchen at Millesime (tel: 6211-0648) – expect real tastes and luxury ingredients. Standards are seafood, wagyu beef and lamb but there is no fixed menu. Dishes change daily based on the availability of produce and seasonal ingredients. Chef Max enjoys the freedom to craft new dishes daily, and that is when his true cooking skills shine through.

More clubbing and dancing at Sunway

The Kuala Lumpur clubbing scene has been given an injection of youthful fizz by the Ministry of Sound with the opening of Euphoria (tel: 7495-1788) at the Sunway Lagoon Resort. Its nightly entertainment keeps clubbers sane – Wednesdays are gloriously playful with an urban and house mix; Thursdays, helmed by Miami’s DJ Patrick Oliver, are about house, rock, new wave and hip-hop. But the real thrill is on Fridays and Saturdays when luscious house sounds erupt. KL has always remade its own rules; so it is not surprising that this is a non-smoking spot. The Opera (tel: 5635-7272) at Sunway Pyramid is like an exotic bird of paradise with fantastical interiors, terrific cocktails and a wonderfully decadent late-night scene complete with Cirque Nouveau performances featuring acrobatic circus troupes from China and Russia.

Who said Kuala Lumpur nightlife is staid?

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