The thought of going to a shopping centre for a meal frightens the bejesus out of most people. Malls in the US or Europe are proliferated with mediocre chain restaurants and fast food outlets vying for your exhausted appetites. Sitting at Pizza Hut or Kenny Rogers Roastery staring out through the grease-laced windows suppressing a guilt that tears at the soul with every saline bite.
Asia is different.
Climate and culture plays a role, whether its the barrage of monsoon rains in the summer, to the piercing brutality of the midday sun, people flock to air conditioned malls to congregate and socialize, and therefore, eat. It's a well known fact that the quality of the food courts in Bangkok malls rivals that of standalone restaurants. Price wars also guarantee a friendly exchange of currency in return for piping hot soul fuel.
Kuala Lumpur is no different, and the butterflied skeleton of KL's downtown is scattered with a multitude of heartless malls containing heartwarming bowls. From tongue paralysing Keralan curries, hallucination inducing chili ramen, wok-kissed Penang Kuey Tiao, plump pearls of Dim Sum worship; dip your head into one of these hallowed cathedrals of cuisine and baptise yourself in XO or Sambal.
Here below are our tips for the best restaurants in shopping centres scattered around Kuala Lumpur:
kayra (bangsar village branch)
To put it mildly, this is some of the best Indian food you will ever eat, anywhere. The location may cause fear to swell in your stomach (1st floor up some escalators in a shopping mall that's seen better days) but rest assured you are in for an experience.
At busier times of the week it's recommended to call ahead and book as it's perpetually packed. If you don't mind deafening bird song then ask for a balcony table. As far as dishes that can change the rotation of the earth, try their Mango Prawn Curry or their Bone Marrow curry. Both destined to make you swoon and need a glass of water to fight the faintness of disbelief. Armed with exemplary service, costly prices and chic ambiance, this is more of a "one-off" treat as opposed to daily opulence.
None of their menu sampled was disappointing, rather some dishes were even better than the great ones.
penang famous kway tiao
Having stood in line at the locally fawned over stand in Georgetown, and quite simply grinned at the simple deliciousness of the food, I would go as far as saying this wasn't miles off. The wok imprint deepening the crust on the noodles, the bean sprouts still full of vitality, egg soaking up it's surroundings, and chinese sausage nuancing salty umami with the plumpest fresh prawns.
You do know right that you can get good ramen outside of Japan? Great ramen infact! Well, this is one of those spots. Drenched in the misguided fashionings of a mall-facade, this generally sterile interior offers forgiveness in the shape of a bowl of fiery liquid atonement. Everything in their spicy chicken bowl is dynamite (beg them NO CORN NO CORN). Noodles cooked al-dente, chicken tender as a stick of butter, broth tempered with satan's blood ready to give you a real sweat-session.
Order a bowl, shut up, focus, eat, sit back and weep because life won't get much better than this.
nyonya tingkat by aroma village
Look, there are perhaps better curry laksa within the bosom of the sprawling metropolis that is KL. However, finding a better one in a shopping mall will prove tricky. Summoned by the stealthy lure of curiosity, distance being no issue with hotel a stonesthrow away, I parted the concrete sea and marched up to the 5th floor.
Sitting down when the bowl arrived, wafts of delicately spiced conjuring slapping my face with gentle intent, slurpability saliva beginning its turrets down to tongue and teeth, spoon brandished like a weapon of war, piercing the amber foil. Deep, luxury. Spicy, rich, balanced perfection. Words dry up.....
din tai fung
Millions of smiles have been correctly attributed to walking through these holy doors. Hidden within one of their multitude of restaurants, is the secrets to a glorious kingdom. Originating in Taipei, the worldwide encroachment of DTF restaurants is seen more as a blissfull mission to evangelize the world with dumpling gospel, rather than gentrificASIAN. To come here and not order the signature pork soup dumplings (not pictured) incurs automatic visa denial, reprimand, extradition and total ban from said nation until remunerations are made in the form of sincere apology, divine guidance, monetary contributions to charities of DTF's choosing, and prostration before photographs of the OG.
Despite there being a branch of Bankara Ramen in KL, I have to admit it wasn't up to scratch. The crushing disappointment of expectations vs reality left me in a tailspin of post-modern existential grief. Reclining in my hotel room, I scoured blog after blog for hope of a decent Tonkotsu Ramen. Bari-Uma kept popping up time and time again, bestowed with glowing praise from sight-unseen experts. Taxi's were negotiated, hallways and elevators misguided, doors opened and table sat at. Bowl thrusted down with poise and delicacy, steam appeasing to nostrils, colour of broth divine, pork almost too beautiful to disturb, spoon raised, dipped, tasted, face turns to grimace of disbelief. Spoon down. Half a minute to collect oneself. Noodles tested with shaking chopsticks. Pork dared to be bitten into, wildy spinning hallucinative room of discoballs and Lee Hazelwoods voice careening into a head on collision with DELICIOUSNESS experienced. Bowl finished, bill paid, wept dry of emotion or guilt, back to hollow existence of having tasted perfection and the fear of repetition leading to inconsistent memories.
In Asia the words "chain restaurant" escape the mocking sneer they summon in Europe or America. Asian cities are full of chains that deliver delicious, consistent food on a daily basis to thousands of punters. Boat Noodle is no different. A gimmicky place, yes, but one that packs flavour into their ridiculously cheap array of bowls. The flavours are close to authentic, the variety keeps you interested, and the service is quick and cheery. For those of competitive nature, bring some friends and see who can stack the most bowls in one sitting, it will only set you back a few dollars at best.
The moral of this entry is that even if the weather Gods are divining against you, throwing all manner of fable-like thunder and rain, you can still manage to have an amazing meal hidden away in the soft womb of a shopping mall restaurant. Tho the journey there and back may present difficulties, the rewards far outweigh the risks. Bon Apetit!
All these recommendations are just personal opinions based on my palate, things change, chefs get fired or replaced, places open-close, relocate, so take it all with a pinch of MSG and discover your own gems too. But please do try a few of these, they have been researched exhaustively.
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