Isabel they call her. A quaint Southeast Asian influenced restaurant located in the heart of Kuala Lumpur city.
Drive along Jalan Mesui in Changkat and you might miss it. Isabel Restaurant & Bar is tucked away behind a white gate, with a sign not quite easy to spot from the street. But once you’re inside this gem, the experience is so worthwhile that you almost don’t want to share the secret.
Isabel KL is any Instagrammers dream, because the space is oh-so beautiful. But that’s not the only reason I’m here…or have been here so many times. The reason is simple… the food is delicious, and it’s become one of my go-to restaurants in Kuala Lumpur.
Isabel Restaurant and Bar is brightly lit with a light color palette filling the space. The design of Isabel KL takes inspiration from the culture and arts of the Southeast Asian region. From rattan furnishing to marble counter tops to colonial style fixtures such the rattan lampshades and ceiling to its black & white marble tiled flooring – Isabel evokes a sense of Southeast Asian nostalgia. And one of my favorite features in the restaurant is a beautiful illustration of tropical trees.
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The Menu at Isabel KL
Sharing is caring at Isabel, with a menu filled with small and big plates all made to be shared.
The menu is filled with contemporary food that is very much influenced by the Southeast Asian region. From influences from Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, and Thailand – Isabel’s menu is a perfect amalgamation of the best in the region.
With a menu filled with Southeast Asian dishes, white wine or rosé both works really well, especially for some of the spicy dishes. There is also a great selection of cocktails, from classics to house-made creations.
And the food at Isabel is absolutely delicious…so delicious that the restaurant gets quite busy especially at dinner. So, I highly recommend booking in advance to avoid disappointment.
Highlights of the Menu at Isabel Restaurant & Bar
Southern Thai Spanish Mackerel Yellow Curry
I will be honest, I am usually not a HUGE fish curry fan. I usually opt for either chicken or beef…or even a mutton or lamb before picking fish curry. But when I first visited Isabel, it came highly recommended.
It was love at first bite.
The Spanish Mackerel is beautifully cooked, with its meat oh-so-tender. And the yellow curry… oh my! The yellow curry has a kick, but it is so flavorsome and well-balanced. It pairs so well with rice and the kerabu salad.
Vietnamese Style Roasted Short Ribs
Meat lovers rejoice because this dish is an absolute favorite.
We have come back over and over again to Isabel to order this. In fact, when I book my table, my Mum even asks me to double check that the short rib is definitely available!
The dish is made using Australian grain fed short ribs that has been slow cooked for a good 48-hours with a tamarind and lemongrass glaze. The result? An absolutely succulent and oh-so-delicious dish that has me graving for more!
Gulai Tumis Oxtail
Now I’ll be honest, this isn’t the easiest dish to eat, but when you get that juicy meat off the bone, wow it’s delicious. Using Australian oxtail, the meat is braised in a Malaysian style stew which is both spicy and slightly sour. Torch ginger flower and Vietnamese mint adds an amazing burst of flavor to this dish.
It goes well with any of the salads in the menu, and definitely best eaten with rice.
A Malaysian classic, and for good reason.
The kerabu salad is a Nyonya-style salad, which can be made using a variety of key ingredients including green mango, pineapple, fern, cucumber you name it. Either way, the kerabu salad is a well-balanced dish which is very much representative of Malaysian and Nyonya cooking – a balance of sweet, salty, sour, and spicy.
The Mango Kerabu at Isabel is a delicious combination of green mango, anchovy, lemongrass, shallots and kaffir lime leaf – yum! The salad is great on its own, or pairs very well with one of the bigger plates such as the Spanish Mackeral Yellow Curry.
I am a fan of ulam. Basically, the ulam platter comes with a selection of local herbs and vegetables and a selection of house-made sambals.
I know this might sound a bit basic, but ulam pairs so well with the many dishes offered in Isabel…and in general spicy Malaysian food. But ulam also has a good reputation in the traditional medicine scene, where many of the herbs and veggies found offer health benefits.
Ulam is ingrained in the Malaysian food heritage. Nowadays you will usually find items such as cucumber, cabbage, and longbean in a ulam offering, because well these ingredients are super easy to find. But the Isabel ulam platters offers amazing traditional herbs and vegetables, which are not as easy to find these days.
Some things you’ll find at Isabel include ulam raja and selmon, and these are served raw and are beautifully frangrant that works so well with spicy food. Ulam raja apparently helps to improve blood circulation
Another traditional ulam found at Isabel includes pegaga, which apparently is also great for easing things like hypertension and migraines.
Banana Fritter with Gula Melaka Ice Cream
This might seem like your ordinary Asian style dessert, and whilst it is in so many menus featuring Asian food…the banana fritter here is quite good. The batter is nice and fluffy, and the banana has not been over-fried.
The gula melaka ice cream is also great, it’s beautifully creamy which pairs well with the banana fritter. However… there is also a ‘ciku’ ice-cream in the menu, which I have had on occasion asked to switch the gula melaka ice cream too. Ciku is a tropical fruit found here in Malaysia (and other tropical countries such as in South America) and it has this very unique sweet taste that I find works well as an ice cream.
When you find yourself here, Isabel Restaurant & Bar is a must-visit restaurant in Kuala Lumpur. It’s a great way to experience local flavors in a beautiful space. There’s a great atmosphere, especially at dinner which makes it a perfect spot for date night or a night out with friends.
Saturday & Sunday from 12pm till late;
Tuesday – Friday from 12-3pm and then 6pm till late;
Address: 21, Jalan Mesui, Bukit Bintang, Kuala Lumpur (near Changkat area)