Beta, KL: Modern Malaysian Food that Inspired Me to Write Again

Push past this door, a speakeasy cavern awaits

For a long time, this blog has been dormant partly because I was lackadaisical but also because the food scene in Singapore has been in the doldrums. Everything is boring, few people take risks anymore. If it’s popular, every cafe, every restaurant starts doing the same thing. Name a cafe that does NOT have truffle fries. There is no individuality, no originality, only torpor and bourgie capitalistic concerns. I have been eating out in Singapore, and sometimes at fancy or highly acclaimed restaurants, but they were lackluster. I am bored of Singapore food scene, hawker, cafe, and restaurant.

The bar area where you have drinks before being ushered into the dining area. The old school way of dining.

Then came Beta at KL, a modern Malaysian restaurant with courses inspired by ingredients from all over Malaysia. Funny story. I was in KL for a work trip and met someone for a hookup but I was not at all interested in him. So I made an excuse (yikes!) saying that I had to leave for dinner and at 7.15pm, I texted Beta to see if they had a table available. They said, “get here at 8pm, fat ass.” Okay, they didn’t say fat ass. They politely said “the last order is at 8pm because the meal lasts for 2 hours.”

Malaysian Daiquiri (RM45): curry leaf-infused rum, banana liqueur, and brown sugar.

I immediately grab-bed there in my tee and berms, really inappropriately dressed because it was such a beautiful, speakeasy space. Push open the botanical door, there exists another world. Accented lighting, red and jade, batik motifs, and impossibly tall ceiling with ceiling-to-floor curtains, clothed table. You know things are serious when restaurants put cloths over their tables.

First appetisers: Nearest to farthest: Ulam (Budu, Calamansi); Fish Cracker (Anchovies, Fermented Chilli); Baby Corn (Lempeng, Buah Kulim)

There are two set menus here at RM360 or RM450. They can also pair the courses with cocktails. The cocktails themselves are works of art, infused with Malaysian flavours. I ordered the Malaysian Daiquiri (RM45), which consists of curry leaf-infused rum, banana liqueur, and brown sugar. The spiciness tasted strange at first—chilli and banana aren’t ingredients I think would go together–but gradually I understood what it was trying to achieve, a kind of Malaysian flavour palette.

I also examined the cocktail pairing with the food and approved of the pairing. But I am almost a teetotaler, so I didn’t want the flight of cocktails.

Second appetisers: Oyster (Galangal, Lime); Quail Egg (Mushroom, Cincalok); Yam (Duck, Long Beans); 0.00% YEAST (Tapioca, Fermented Black Beans, Green Chili Emulsion) inspired by wartime food

At first, they sat me at the bar area. This is where they serve the amuse bouche before they move you to main dining area.

Finally moving into the main dining area

Okay, the food. They were stunning, they were so good I wanted to cry but they sat me in front of the open kitchen where chefs were looking at me, a solo eater, so if I cried, I was afraid that they might think that I was out of love or crazy. So I had to keep in my tears. Do you know how difficult it is to NOT cry and eat at the same time?

Inspired by northern Malaysian cuisine, which shares similar flavours as Southern Thai food. Tiger Prawn (Green Papaya, Torch Ginger, Kombucha) was so sweet and the soup was so refreshing.

The food was so good that it demanded my full attention. I was playing with my phone, took a bite of the food, and had to put my phone down because the flavours were washing over me, exploding in my mind, my mouth, my body, and my soul.

Inspired by the otah otah. Instead of mackerel fish, they used chicken with asam pedas.

There are three wonderful things about the food. In Singapore, fancy restaurants like to go the middle route, the inoffensive route, in attempt to please everyone, so they tend to be “balanced” whatever it means. But at Beta, the chefs do their own thing. The chillis are REALLY spicy, and they serve Mao Shan Wang durian here. Few fine-dining restaurants in Singapore would do that because these strong flavours would offend the foreign (read: white) tongues. But Beta is unapologetically Malaysian and that’s so amazing to be steadfast in one’s own beliefs and cultures. That’s de-colonialising the tongue and mind; that’s post-colonialism.

Main course: Duck Breast (Tamarind, Gula Melaka, Betel Leaf), like duck confit and beijing duck rolled into one.

Secondly, almost every dish is mindblowing. In fine-dining restaurants, they usually have one or two star dishes and the rest are blah. But at Beta, every dish is unique and unforgettable.

Beta: How atas do you want your Balonglong sorbet? Me: Serve me gueridon style with liquid nitrogen.

Lastly, this gastronomic journey features ingredients from all over Malaysia and as the servers introduced and explained the origins of the ingredients, it’s like a geographical, cultural, and culinary lesson. I gained so much knowledge from this meal. And as a nerd, I very much appreciate knowing the origins of the ingredients that I was able to enjoy the food fuller and better.

Inspired by the CNY honeycomb snack. Loyang Vol 3 (Red Beans, Sesame)

The only thing I didn’t understand was the otah otah dish made from chicken. Okay, fine, but with a sourish asam pedas? That’s weird. It’s so far from otah it can’t be said to be inspired by it.

This is so beautiful and delicate it deserves a second photo.

I paid about RM500 for the meal and I was so glad to escape the hookup for this better-than-sex orgasmic meal. I used to say, “Sure, Malaysian street food may be better than Singapore’s but we have way better fine-dining restaurants.” I won’t be saying that again.

It’s really difficult to pair durian because it overwhelms everything, but this works wells. Musang King Durian (Peanut, Chemor Chocolate)

Cormar Suites, No. 10, Jalan Perak
50450 Kuala Lumpur
T – Th, Sun: 6 – 10PM
F & Sat: 6 – 11PM
T: +6019 2121 094 (WhatsApp only)

Food: 9/10
Service: 9/10
Ambience / Decor: 9/10
Price: 7/10

You may be interested in…
Best Street Food in Kuala Lumpur (Recommended by a Food Tour Guide)
-Hotel Review of Element by Westin, Kuala Lumpur: They Treat Guests Like Adults

Written by Dr. A. Nathanael Ho.

Categories: >$60, Kuala Lumpur

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