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Posts from the ‘Kuala Lumpur’ Category


It had to be done. James became fascinated by this mall A&W with semi chic design, not fast food style at all. I liked the idea that Malaysia was teeming with forgotten American brands–Orange Julius, Long John Silvers and Body Glove, too (and actually not that forgotten, I had no idea there was a combo Long John Silvers/A&W in Canarsie).

Having been put off root beer floats for life after a childhood stomach sick experience, I refrained from their signature beverage, which seemed to be popular with fellow diners. We ordered a double cheeseburger meal with curly fries and plain root beer. Not bad and perfect for an American food craving (even being S.E. Asian food crazy I still had urges for things like bagels, tacos and pizza).


A&W * Suria KLCC, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Madam Kwan’s

I can't think of a New York equivalent off hand. Madam Kwan's isnt touristy because locals eat there too. I guess it's overpriced if you compare its menu to hawker equivalents, but its not expensive. $3 for a bowl of laksa is still a bargain to me. Madam Kwans is the kind of restaurant where youd take out-of-towners for Malaysian classics without folding tables and plastic chairs.

James wanted rendang (as he did all trip long) and I figured they'd have it here. They did in a nasi lemak platter. I had high end curry laksa with unorthodox add ins like eggplant and curlicued chayote(?). A young Malaysian couple whod been on the elevator with us, were seated nearby and ordered exactly the same two dishes, he the nasi lemak, she the laksa. Who knows if that's any testament to our brilliant ordering skills, but I like to think so.

Madam Kwan's * Suria KLCC, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia


Malaysia was an odd duck when it came to dining. Maybe its just the New Yorker in us, but were accustomed to crowds, especially for restaurants that come highly recommended, and especially for dim sum, which is always a mob scene here. Once again, our early rising (thanks to trouble with the twelve-hour time difference) caused problems.

Xin didnt open until 11:30am and we showed up half an hour too soon. The restaurant happened to be in our hotel, which was kind of cool, especially in comparison to the Hard Rock Café, which was also downstairs. We killed time until quarter to twelve, figuring a lunch crowd would be showing up by them. But we were the first and only diners for quite a spell.

It's unnerving and unappetizing to have five staff members corralled around your table, every bite watched, every tea sip replenished. We ordered lightly, as to make an escape as sooner rather than later. What we find fun about dim sum is the selection, the commotion, the excess, and this was anything but. Perhaps the quality is higher, creations more innovative, but those nuances are kind of lost on me.

Quite clearly, because I'm hazy on what we even ate. Post traumatic stress will do that to an eater. I know we had egg tarts, probably pork buns, chee chong fun stuffed with scallops, er, and thats it. Recovering repressed memories is painful.

Xin * 2 Jalan Sultan Ismail, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Ahwa Coffeeshop

1/2It's a rarity for me, but I'm going to have a go at this one in (blurry) photos because I happen to have to have so many from this particular meal. I spent Merdeka with some equally food obsessed near-strangers I met on the internet who were kind enough to chauffeur us around and show us the best of Kuala Lumpur. We never wouldve found this suburban hawker center in Petaling Jaya without them.


Hokkien mee. We also had a version with rice vermicelli, which isn't
pictured. Lardy, greasy goodness.


Squid with kang kung (water spinach). It's peanutty.

Or chien (oyster omelet)


Chicken satay. I think–there was also beef at the table.


Balitong, a kind of snail/whelk creature that's nearly impossible
to suck out


Bbq stingray with a tasty condiment made of cincalok (fermented
shrimp–James thought it was fish sauce, which is for the best)
and lime juice.

Ahwa Coffeshop * near Jalan 222, Petaling Jaya, Malaysia


This almost ended up being our most expensive meal (top honors went to Mortons in HK) at $150, half the bill coming from a pricy (for us) bottle of wine. And we almost didnt find the place. I dont know what it is with Malaysia, Singapore and directions. No one seems to know street names or addresses. They tend to go by landmarks. Our cab driver dropped us off randomly in the Bukit Bintang shopping area, which isnt the same as Changkat Bukit Bintang, luckily we were able to track that specific street down (we were standing right on it, but had no idea because signage is severely lacking in Malaysia. And on top of things, the public maps You Are Here dot was completely inaccurate) despite addresses not being in chronological order.

This was Merdeka, Malaysias Independence Day , so half the city was out and about celebrating. (I swear, if you squinted and ignored the lack of blaring salsa and reggaeton, youd think it was Puerto Rican Day.) The atmosphere was hot, steamy, chaotic and overwhelming– the dead opposite of Frangipani. Two different worlds, for sure.

Even the crappiest NYC restaurants are full any given night of the week. Not so, in Asia. There was huge rigmarole with reservations, needing a number to confirm and reach us when we didnt have one. I think they just like following rules (same thing happened in HK). I'd counted on crazy fusion and high for Kuala Lumpur prices. What I hadnt expected, and encountered numerous times during our travels, was that wed practically have the entire restaurant to ourselves.

When we arrived, the entire lofty space was occupied by a one couple. The modern opulence almost feels wasted by the silence and lack of audience. Frangipanis centerpiece is an enormous, dark, reflecting pool surrounded by tables with plush chairs. You are reminded not to step into it, as its so still and glassy. It did indeed look like marble, but I couldnt help wondering who would dare step out of bounds in such a sterile, reserved atmosphere. Service is big in S.E. Asia. Too big for me. You are constantly being watched from angles and corners, hovered over while eating and stood behind while paying the bill. I'm not sure if its part of the culture or a lack of patrons for the staff to attend to.

I'm embarrassed to admit that I cant really remember what I ate, which is absolutely no testament to the forgettable-ness of the food. It was just complex in comparison to much of the hawker food we ate, lots of ingredients, unusual pairings, the menu descriptions consisted of large (intentionally) humorous paragraphs per dish, which would likely draw criticism in NYC. I do know that my entrée involved tea smoked duck breast, I had caviar on my appetizer and the dessert contained chocolate and banana mousses. Frangipani would really benefit from having a website (Malaysia stuck me as lacking in web presence).

The dining experience left me feeling a little traumatized. I remember from visiting Bangkok in 03 that I vowed to avoid upscale restaurants if I visited again, despite their good value. Mainly because of the stifling vibe and suffocating service. I wonder if Europeans get off on this, theres something old world and master/servant about it all that I cant get comfortable with. Youd think after being annoyed by NYC attitude–pointless posturing, velvet rope culture–that I'd enjoy being treated well. But what I used to think of as noise, crowds and obnoxiousness actually feels more like energy in comparison. This passion and verve is what I found lacking at Frangipani, despite the creative cooking.

Frangipani * 25 Changkat Bukit Bintang, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia