Kuala Lumpur – the finer side

Besides offering a lot of Malay, Indian, and Chinese food, KL has restaurants that serve up almost any kind of cuisine you can imagine. And after a solid week of noodles or rice, often served with some type of curry, I was looking to try some other kinds of dishes I knew I could find in KL’s restaurants.

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But before I ventured out, I wanted to look inward, to the hotel restaurant. Generally in the US, I think hotel restaurants are to be avoided, at least at the hotels where I might stay for work. The food is often overpriced, and really boring. But after a couple really, really long days at work, I just wanted to expend as little effort as possible to feed myself. Plus, I had heard from a colleague who is a native KL-ite, that restaurants in hotels in KL tend to be pretty good. So I took the elevator down to the Japanese restaurant in the Intercontinental Hotel to give it a try.

As it turns out, this Japanese restaurant, Tatsu, is actually one of the better known and better regarded in KL. All of the fish I had at Tatsu tasted very fresh. The tempura I had was quite good – the seafood was still quite tender and buttery. And I also enjoyed the agedashi tofu, though I thought the exterior could have been a little crispier.

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The mochi I ordered for desert was also good, and very different from most mochi I’ve had before. The texture was quite a bit smoother, and wasn’t as sweet as a lot I’ve had. One of my favorite things about Tatsu is that it offers an al a carte buffet on weekends and national holidays, all for 98 ringitt! Check out this blog post for really wonderful photos of just about all the dishes available for the buffet.

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Another evening when I had more energy, I went with two coworkers to the French restaurant Frangipani upon the recommendation of a friend who had lived in KL for many years. The interior is beautiful and felt a bit like a roman house – there is an atrium in the center of the space with a reflection pool, and the pool is surrounded by pillars.

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The food at Frangipani was quite good, although most was nothing that I would go crazy for. My favorite dish was probably the trio of foie gras (which, I must say, I did not order to eat all by myself, lest some of you readers think I am that gluttonous. The white Japanese fish I ordered was good, though it still looked better than it tasted, which is always disappointing.

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While Frangipani was very focused on creating the most beautiful dishes possible, my favorite restaurant that I tried in KL was focused on something entirely different. In fact, I don’t have any photos of the food to show either how beautiful or not the dishes were. Photos at this restaurant were not allowed, and even if they were, no image would come through. This is because this restaurant, Dining in the Dark, serves its customers in pitch black.

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At first I was skeptical of how interesting Dining in the Dark could be. I wasn’t sure it would be anything different than trying to eat with my eyes closed. But the complete darkness was startling. To help the customers adjust to the darkness, each table is given a “darkness expert.” These experts are visually impaired, and guide you start to finish through the meal.

I had never been anywhere this dark before, and it really did make you focus more on other aspects of the meal. I think we’re so often preoccupied by the appearance of food (evidenced by the never ending photos of french toast, etc. on instagram. I’m guilty too…), it was nice to be forced to pay attention to other parts of a meal. I was more aware of the texture and taste of the food, and of the sounds around me.

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To encourage you to focus more on what you’re experiencing and eating, none of the dishes are revealed ahead of time. It was fun trying to figure out what I was eating with my dining partner, a colleague from work who was with me in KL. We got pretty close most of the time! Just one of the appetizers and the desserts was beyond our tasting ability. It is only after the meal is finished that they reveal photos and descriptions of the dishes you were served.

Though the “dining in the dark” concept exists in other cities, KL was the first city where I’d had a chance to try a “dark” restaurant. If you’re in KL, and are looking for something totally different, and very memorable, try Dining in the Dark.

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