While in KL, a former colleague from the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival (now, mercifully, called CAAMFest), met me for lunch, taking me to a charming restaurant called Limablas.
Located in the eclectic Mesui neighborhood near upscale Bukit Bintang, Limablas (which means “15” in Malaysian) resides in an old shophouse that has been meticulously restored. The co-owner, Uncle John, keeps an eye on the business and visits with guests, many of whom seem to be regulars.
The interior is a veritable museum of antiques and a meal there feels a bit like a trip back to the middle of the 20th Century. Old glass jars hold ingredients used in the dishes, including dried chilies and dark, sulfurous palm sugar.
The collection of decorative items can lead you to wonder whether you should sit at a table or simply stand and admire it. That said, sitting is a good idea so you have a chance to enjoy the food!
The menu is pretty straight-forward, filled with a selection of basic Malaysian and Chinese dishes. Both Bryan and I ordered the mee siam, which is a noodle dish with a curry sauce that is ostensible Thai-style. More than anything, this illustrates a common food heritage stretching from southern Thailand (think Phuket) into central Malaysia. The noodles were simple but tasty. Since this was lunch and I had enjoyed a large breakfast, I didn’t try anything else from the menu. Prices were reasonable, especially for this area, and other reviews I’ve read online praise the food as authentic and tasty.
For a combination drink/dessert, I had cendol. The bowl is filled with (sorry, not visible in this picture) thin, green pandan-flavored flour noodles that look a bit like worms. Shaved ice is mounded on top and then the rich, molasses-flavored palm sugar syrup is poured on the ice, followed by coconut milk. Perfect for the warm weather. Probably not so perfect for my diet! This dish also speaks to the common culinary heritage of the region. Probably originating from Chinese traders, the same basic dessert is found in Thailand, too.
For a final thought, I will leave you with this cute picture of a couple huddled over their smart phone amidst the brightly colored walls and open air well at the back of the restaurant. If you find yourself in Kuala Lumpur around lunch time, I would suggest you stop by Limablas for a bite.