Jun 23 2012
Flamboyant and amicable Chef Ismail is a homegrown Malaysian celebrity who has made a name for himself by cooking traditional kampong (village) style cuisine and bringing it to big city and beyond; you can sample his dishes at Rebung Chef Ismail, a converted bungalow house (he opened it with another well-known identity, Malaysia‘s first astronaut, Dr Sheik Muszaphar).
A 15-minute cab ride from the hustle and bustle of downtown KL, Rebung is located on a quiet residential street in Bangsar, where a number of restaurants have cropped up and unassumingly disappeared. But this Malay restaurant has stood firm, its good food and simple fare helping to turn it into a bit of an institution.
Served either a la carte or buffet-style at approximately 44 ringgit for lunch or 55 ringgit for dinner, prices are affordable. Come with an empty stomach; the impressive spread comes as close as you’ll get to a Malay feast with more than 50 items and all the usual suspects being accounted for: rendang, sambal fish, chicken korma and nasi lemak wrapped in banana leaf. A number of cooking stations are placed in the corners, making fresh roti jala, goreng pisang and satay. The menu changes nightly though, so don’t start salivating over a particular dish until you get there.
The atmosphere is cosy and somewhat chaotic, while service is quick but occasionally forgetful — since this is a mostly buffet restaurant, that doesn’t really matter. This is however, one of the few places you can have an authentic Malay meal — the sort of meal you might have if you’ve just popped by a Malaysian friend’s house.
The indoor area is air-con (and sometimes a little too much so) and split into smaller rooms, so you won’t feel like you’re eating in a food hall but rather someone — perhaps that Malaysian friend’s — dining room. The outdoor area is preferable for those who enjoy a cool night’s breeze but be warned, there’s a stage, and daily except Sundays local singers perform Malay songs from the 1970s to 1990s before karaoke sessions take over.
Malaysians have a special love for karaoke and take the activity mighty seriously, so if you’re able to muster the courage without alcohol (it’s a Muslim establishment, so there’s no alcohol), this will be a great place to sample a variety of local dishes before belting out your best tune and being judged by the pros. Otherwise, head indoors away from the swaying, grooving aunties.
If you’re in the Bangsar area but you’re in the mood for a more western fare, you can always check out F Concepts by Buffalo Kitchens for good food in a contemporary, relaxing atmosphere.
Rebung Chef Ismail
No 4-2 Lorong Maarof
Bangsar Park (behind Dataran Maybank), Kuala Lumpur
T: (03) 2283 2119
Open daily 11:00 – 23:00
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