One of the highlights of every trip to Kuala Lumpur is eating. But come to think of it, eating is a highlight of almost all of my trips. I’m an incorrigible glutton, so I make no apologies for my food fetish. In the past I’ve tried to sample a variety of Malay food and recommended local restaurants. On this trip, however, I confined nearly all of my meals to two favorite venues I’d visited on past trips. One of those is the Coliseum Café, home of the “legendary sizzling steak”. The Coliseum is located next to the old cinema of the same name and has been in business for nearly a century (most sources I’ve found say it opened in 1921). Legend has it that Somerset Maugham spent more than a few evenings drinking at the bar here, so that gives the joint a certain added historical pedigree.
You can tell the Coliseum is a good place by all the gravy stains on the tablecloths. Or at least I consider that a good indicator of the quality of the food that’s served. This is definitely not a fancy place where they spend a lot of money on the décor, which is fine by me. Who cares about the color of the curtains, tablecloth design, the lighting fixtures, or swank ambience? Just give me good food that won’t cost me a fortune! And at the Coliseum the prices are very reasonable and the meals are always satisfying.
Judging from all those stains on the tables, many diners clearly enjoy eating — and spilling — their food here. Knowing the inevitability of such spills when eating food with sauces and gravy, the waiters will affix a bib to diners. I don’t eat meat that much nowadays, but I still get the hankering for a good steak, and the sizzling slabs they offer at the Coliseum are very, very tasty. Each order comes with side dishes of vegetables, a salad, and bread. I washed it all down with a few glasses of Tiger draft beer and still had room for the fried bananas and ice cream for dessert. Hey, I was on vacation so I felt like I deserved such decadence.
The other place in KL where I had multiple meals was Yut Kee in the Dang Wangi neighborhood. This is a very popular family-run place (described in one guidebook as a “Hainanese coffeeshop”) that’s been around nearly as long as the Coliseum (Yut Kee opened in 1928). It’s packed in the mornings for breakfast and nearly as crowded at noon for lunch. But service is always attentive and the food is consistently good and cheap. For breakfast I usually order the toast with kaya custard and a bowl of noodles. Lunch is always a plate of spicy beef rendang. And of course I order a couple of their kick-ass iced coffees each time.