Travel black book: Good food, good music

Travel black book: Good food, good music
A boat ride at a man-made Putrajaya Lake in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Who: Singaporean jazz singer Alemay Fernandez, 36

Favourite destination: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Why: My mother was Malaysian and I spent the first two years of my life living there with my maternal grandmother.

I have been there umpteen times over the years and, more recently, two to three times a year for gigs and family weddings.

Favourite hotel

My absolute favourite place to stay is the Majestic Hotel (5 Jalan Sultan Hishamuddin; tel: +603-2785-8000; www.majestickl.com) for its lovely historic architecture.

The well- designed rooms provide both comfort and luxury without burning a hole in your pocket.

I love the four poster beds, sprawling chaise longue covered with pillows, the floor-to-ceiling glass door bathroom with a lavish bathtub that has a TV above it, so you can soak and be entertained at the same time.

What's more, service in the hotel is impeccable. There is always a warm and friendly greeting awaiting you and the staff are genuinely happy to help.

Favourite Spa

Spa Village at the Ritz-Carlton hotel (168 Jalan Imbi; +603-2782-9090; www.spavillage.com/kualalumpur) is a sanctuary in the city that awaits with excellent home-made spa lotions and scrubs using local spices and ingredients. It has pampering treatments worth spoiling yourself with.

Favourite restaurants

My three favourites are Restoran Sakura, Restoran Oversea - both in Jalan Imbi - and Little Penang Kafe in KLCC and Mid Valley Megamall.

Sakura was recommended to me by jazz veteran Jeremy Monteiro who, in addition to being Singapore's King of Swing, is also a foodie. The nasi lemak and nasi bojari are a must-try here. A meal costs about RM30 (S$10.91) a person.

Oversea has the best Cantonese cuisine in Kuala Lumpur. My best friend introduced it to me when we were there for her hen party weekend 12 years ago and I keep going back.

Try the roasted meats - char siew, roast pork and roast duck which are really good. The cod fish done two ways - steamed and deep fried - is incredible.

You really can't go wrong with anything on the menu. The food is just spectacular and you need at least four people to go with you so you can order a few dishes to share. A meal here will cost about RM60 a person.

Everyone knows Penang has some of the best food in Malaysia and Little Penang Kafe is the closest you'll get to traditional Penang cuisine in Kuala Lumpur.

The char kway teow is worth the 20-minute wait, and the prawn noodles and ngoh hiang (pork roll) are scrumptious too. A meal here will cost about RM30 a person.

Favourite place to shop

Mid Valley Megamall (Level 31 Lingkaran Syed Putra; www.midvalley.com.my), where I've bought everything from expensive performance gowns to affordable costume jewellery. There is so much variety under one roof.

Best place for breakfast

K.R. Mani Curry House (next to St James church, 243 Jalan Ipoh; foursquare.com/v/appom-kr-mani-curry-house) serves mouthwatering appam, a popular South Indian breakfast dish.

Appams look like lace doilies, white pancakes made with rice flour and yeast. For breakfast, they are served with brown sugar and coconut milk.

You can also visit the curry house for supper.

Best place for supper

One of the best things about being a performer and working late is having supper after the gig.

My two favourite road-side or sarabat supper places are Mungo Jerry's Bak Kut Teh (292 Jalan Raja Laut; mungojerrybkt.blogspot.sg) and Loong Kee (18 Jalan Pahang; m.facebook.com/pages/Restaurant-Loong-Kee- Jalan-Pahang/405108086208401), a zi char-style coffee shop in Jalan Pahang.

Malaysian bak kut teh isn't peppery like the ones in Singapore. It's got a nice, thick herbal stock instead, which I much prefer.

Another must-try is the pork curry. Uber tender pork is slow-braised in a dark soya or kicap stew that ends with a satisfying chilli padi kick. Another special surprise is the rice is cooked with fried onions.

Loong Kee was introduced to me by Malaysian piano virtuoso Michael Veerapen, also a foodie. You know the food is going to be good when the wok-frying area is at the entrance of the coffee shop.

It is famous for its Black Mee, a Malaysian hawker speciality, and boasts a wide menu of zi char favourites.

My favourite is the Mee Babi Tin which, loosely translated, means noodles fried with canned pork trotters. You have to have it with fried pork lard and fresh garlic for that extra pow.

Best hidden find

Tucked away in a small lane in bustling Bukit Bintang is The Magnificent Fish & Chips Bar (28 Changkat Bukit Bintan; m.facebook.com/pages/The-Magnificent-Fish-Chips-Bar-KL/72127600052), an authentic beer- battered fish and chip shop with great pub grub if you feel like a break from local fare.

Event to bookmark

The KL International Jazz & Arts Festival (www.klinternationaljazz.com) in May is great because it brings in a variety of unique jazz acts from around the world which people don't get to see often, such as American jazz singer and pianist Diane Schuur. It's not the usual suspects.

For live music throughout the year, I recommend No Black Tie (Jalan Nagasari, Bukit Bintang; www.noblacktie.com.my), where you can find the best of live jazz, soul and funk all week long.

Alexis Bistro (Lot 10 and 11 Great Eastern Mall, 303 Jalan Ampang www.alexis.com.my) offers a good mix of live performances on weekends.

Mezze (132 Jalan Kasah, Medan Damansara; www.mezze.my/music) serves incredibly good food with live music to boot.

Located in a quiet neighbourhood near Bangsar at Damansara Heights, it provides a nice break from the bustle of the city without venturing too far.

Ideal length of stay

Four days, then head to the gorgeous beaches in the north of the peninsula such as Pulau Perhentian or Pulau Redang.

Travel advice

Take only the Blue Executive taxis and request for metre fare, otherwise you end up haggling over taxi fares, which is exhausting.

vlydia@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on June 7, 2015.
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