Where to Eat in Kuala Lumpur: Chef Dato' Ismail Restaurant aka Restoran Rebung Chef Ismail


Entering a non-descript building atypical of the ones where popular restaurants are usually located, puzzled us a bit as to where we're heading. It was only when the elevator door opened that finally revealed our purpose when a wide entrance leading to a buffet table greeted us.

Kate Alvarez
A pop of colors and an explosion of culinary aroma instantly welcomes guests 

"This has to be it," someone said as we peered inside to see a gathering of diners enjoying a lavish banquet. Outside the door are tables and shelves brimming with antiques that captured my interest briefly before I heard a jovial greeting from someone graciously welcoming us.

Heidi Manabat
Chef Dato entertains diners as if they were guests in his own home

“Hello, come in, come in”, says a cheerful man who could be in his 60s but has a ball of energy of someone much younger. Waving us inside the restaurant, he then introduced himself simply as Chef Ismail.

Ria de borja
Other than savory Malaysian cuisine, one ogles at the many heirloom items around

“Eat to your heart’s desire”, he moaned at us excitedly before remembering to show us around his place first. “I have interesting collection that you must see, come follow me”. As Chef Ismail's unquenchable personality became more apparent to me, I had a feeling we were not only going to be nourished by mouthwatering cuisine, but also by some fantastic stories.

Happiness on a plate

With a mantra of "come hungry, leave satisfied", Restoran Rebung Chef Ismail offers more than just gastronomical satisfaction, especially if you meet its owner, celebrity chef and Malaysian tourism ambassador Dato' Chef Ismail.

Places to eat in Kuala Lumpur
Perfect timing since we all came hungry

Fortunately for us, before we could even take our initial dig on the buffet table, we were already being fed with Chef Dato’s enthralling tales. It only increased our craving for Restoran Rebung’s gastronomic offerings.

Melo Villareal
"Every dish has their own story"

A candid conversationalist with an infectious chuckle, Chef Ismail welcomes all guests as if they are old friends in his own house while they enjoy a spread of the finest Malaysian grub.

What to eat in Malaysia
Restoran Rebung is a one-stop place to sample almost all Malaysian cuisine

"This is not a snob restaurant" says the ever-gregarious Ismail, whose flair for storytelling outnumber the sheer number of antique items displayed in his restaurant. "If someone buys this from me for a million ringgit, I will still not sell it," he says as he points to us a 100-year-old door displayed on a wall of his restaurant.

Where to eat in Kuala Lumpur
Chef Dato showing us parts of a century-old door

Other than the innumerable vintage items, the location of his restaurant, located on a rooftop of a carpark building, adds a fascinating peculiarity made quirkier by its beautiful vibrant deco design screaming of nostalgic kampung atmosphere.

Street food in Kuala Lumpur
On the side is a "Kampung" (Village) styled eatery complete with stalls serving Malaysian street food

For a place built to provide excellent culinary experiences, Restoran Rebung also pops with visual delights and generates an environment where diners become comfortable sharing stories across tables.

Kaycee Estuita
"Jemput Makan" Let's eat

When it comes to food, Restoran Rebung serves dishes that are inspired by Chef Ismail's Negeri Sembilan roots (located in the southwest part of Malaysia) such as his Grandma's original take on Nasi Lemak, Nasi Kelantan, Laksa, Ayam Percik, as well as several types of desserts from the East Coast like Kui Tikam, Kuih Serabai, Kuih Ubi, and many more.

Alyana Bromeo
A food show in the future perhaps? 

Already an icon in Malaysian culinary scene, Chef Ismail now takes on a new hat as Malaysian Tourism Ambassador. "How come I don't have 2 million followers?" he asked the Malaysian Tourism staff who were with us (he currently has 13k on Instagram). "You should help me do something about it," he adds followed by a prolonged snicker.

Sophie Gianan
Dining here is like attending a family gathering

Judging by my initial impression of Chef Ismail,  he should have no trouble expanding his web presence. His charisma and enthusiasm are enough to win almost any audience. That is, if he really losses sleep over not having a million followers on social media.

Jam Co

The rapid filling up of available seats in his restaurant attest to the reality of his fan base. It’s the countless guests both locals and tourists that flocks to Restoran Rebung’s odd location that represent genuine patronage.

Cebu Pacific FamTrips
Groufie with fellow travel writers and vloggers who are part of Cebu Pacific and Tourism Malaysia's FamTrip in Kuala Lumpur

Chef Ismail's creative contributions to Malaysian cuisine, which combine the country's rich cultural heritage with modern techniques, deserve more attention, but he doesn’t need six to seven figures next to a blue check mark on his name. It’s all because he has already made his indelible mark in Malaysian cuisine.

Living up to its mantra, suffice to say, we left Restoran Rebung fully satisfied.