While I was in Kuala Lumpur a few months ago, Betel Leaf popped up on my radar as a must-try place for Indian cuisine. Little did I know, Betel Leaf is an Indian restaurant that boasts authentic Chettinad cuisine originating from the southern state of Tamil Nadu. Known for their exceptional vegetarian dishes, the Chettiars are also lauded for their seafood, meat dishes, and fiery combinations of flavours. Historically, the Chettiars originally settled by the coastline, but they uprooted their homes to the inlands of Tamil Nadu later on. This explains their penchant for using ingredients such as crab, fish, prawns, rabbit, and turkey in their signature dishes.
Apart from Southern Chettinad cuisine, Betel Leaf also serves a variety of Northern Indian cuisine and a handful of local Indian dishes as well. Their chefs and spices are brought in from India, they raise their own rabbits and goats, and they source vegetables locally from their own farm in Mantin, Negeri Sembilan. Located right above a succession of Indian retail stores, you can find your way to Betel Leaf up a flight of stairs into the first dining room. The restaurant has 2 sizable dining rooms in the front and it looked like it had a private dining area behind the washrooms.
Betel Leaf is tastefully decorated with traditional paintings, sculptures, and artifacts that add to the relaxed ambiance in each room. By the time it hit 8pm, both dining rooms were packed by locals and rightfully so. Always a good sign when a place is brimming with locals! Most of the staff spoke little English, but enough to take our orders and understand that I wanted those masala chai teas to keep coming (they were so good, I ordered 3 cups of them)!
Their menu offers a vast variety of vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes so be prepared to scroll down dem pages! We ordered a number of dishes including a Northern Indian vegetarian dish called Palak Paneer, which consists of a creamy spinach gravy cooked with paneer (cottage cheese). We also ordered Gobi Manchurian (deep fried cauliflower florets cooked in an Indo Chinese sauce), fish masala, mutton biryani, butter chicken, and garlic-cheese naan bread. For dessert, we opted for Gulab Jamun (spongy pastry balls drenched in sugar syrup) and Kulfi, a traditional Indian ice cream that gets its flavour from simmering milk, cardamom, and either nuts or fruits for hours.
The Palak Paneer was creamy but not too rich, balancing out the complex flavours from the fish masala and butter chicken. The perfect naan dip in between mouthfuls of spicy curries!
The Gobi Manchurian was just somethin’ else. ???? You would never have thought that these were cauliflowers in your mouth! It was savoury, starchy, and pillowy: a scrumptious trifecta of sorts! The fish masala was the spiciest of all our dishes and unfortunately the fish was a tad dry.
The mutton was surprisingly tender and it came with a little surprise in the middle: a hardboiled egg. My favourite was the butter chicken: spicy, creamy, and bursting with flavours. I could eat this all day, errday. ????????????????
Garlic and cheese make for a beautiful naan bread marriage. It definitely could have been cheesier though!
We were spoiled by the array of desserts on display and finally went with the Gulab Jamun. Personally, I found these spongy milk balls cloyingly sweet and neither of us could finish them. Served in an elegant dessert bowl, the kulfi was a delight to the eyes and the palate. The luscious flavours of sweet milk, cardamom, and pistachio tingled the taste buds so exquisitely!
Spicy, aromatic and vibrant, the flavours at Betel Leaf pack a serious punch. So much so, you will be left thinking of your meal for days after… I sure did!
Till our next meal together,
Location: 77A Leboh Ampang 50100 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Opening hours: Monday to Sunday 11am – 11pm
- Parking is hard to find during the weekdays, there is an open parking lot up the road from the restaurant but it will cost you about RM8 per hour (1.7 euros).
- You can find the menu on their website.