I imagine it’s as annoying and predictable as the demand most oft directed at my comedian friends: “Tell us your favourite joke” (True; I checked with Harith Iskander), although for entirely different reasons. Dear readers, just because I write about food, and present shows on said subject on radio and television, there isn’t a cheat sheet of favourite eateries that I can draw from at the drop of a hat. Tastes change, at least mine do, and I’m ashamed to say with the frequency of a pro-tennis player changing her balls. There are, of course, exceptions. If I discover a particularly delectable dish at a restaurant, I have been known to then consume the same thing each time I visit, without fear of gustatory ennui. Nevertheless, more often than not, as with everything in life, change is the only constant, and with the festive season upon us, here are some of the best restaurants I’ve eaten at this year, and which I most enthusiastically exhort you to visit, have you not yet had the privilege. What better way to discover a new culinary gem than at Christmas, when surrounded by loved ones and the odd relative you abhor but are forced to pretend to like?
Hands down the most exciting eatery in Malaysia today, Dewakan is a milestone in so many ways. Not only was it the first restaurant to be launched that’s set in a college campus, it’s also a culinary incubatory lab of sorts that concurrently just happens to serve world-class cuisine. Most crucially, under the considered helm of chef-visionary Darren Teoh, the restaurant has been instrumental in forging a modern Malaysian gastronomic identity that had hitherto not yet existed. When dining at Dewakan, expect the unexpected. Teoh and his team employ a panoply of local ingredients and modern culinary techniques to produce food that is restrained and nuanced, but unerringly exacting where flavours, textures, theatre and visual aesthetics are concerned. Dewakan is a masterclass of what can be achieved when boundaries are pushed, not gratuitously, but thoughtfully, so that the result is always a significant improvement on the precedent.
KDU University, Seksyen U1, Jalan Kontraktor U1/14, Glenmarie, +603-5565 0767
Since she brazenly set up shop in the sleepy ‘hood of Section 17 four years ago, Bistro à Table’s chef-proprietor Isadora Chai has wasted no time exhilarating the collective palate of KLites. Serving what she describes as “adaptive French” cuisine-read: French classics creatively reinterpreted with local elements-Chai’s food is often as provocative as she is, and unfailingly satisfying, which is why their myriad awards in the Miele Food Guide and Tatler Malaysia’s Best Restaurant Guide, amongst others, have been richly deserved. Do not eschew the signature coddled maple syrup egg with crouton dust and fleur de sel; it is a succinct (and quietly orgiastic) augur of what is to come.
6, Jalan 17/54, Petaling Jaya, +603-7931 2831
Erstwhile the star that gave Sushi Hinata its considerable glimmer, Chef Oribe’s decision to go independent and set up shop with two partners has paid off in spades. Every little detail is attended to with great care-even the humble ginger and wasabi are fastidiously sourced-and it’s as much Chef Ori’s gregarious, extremely charismatic personality and his prodigious knife skills as it is his spectacular seafood that mesmerises. Expect to be enthralled, but a caveat or two: when booking (and if you’re dining in a smallish group, request a seat at the counter because that’s where you will get a spectacular vista of the master in action and the opportunity to hear him explain his food. Secondly, only go when time is a luxury you have plenty of. The downside is you’ll already be hankering for your second trip back even before your delicious meal has come close to a conclusion.
GF, ViPod Residences, Jalan Kia Peng, KL, +603-2725 8064
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