This post was written by TC Gerrard.

When I first came to Langkawi, I was attracted, like so many visitors, by the beauty of the sea, the mountains, and the jungle. Beer, wine, and cocktails, common ingredients of a tropical paradise, were remarkably inexpensive due to the duty-free status of the island. And seven years ago, the exchange rate made dining slightly less expensive than my native country. With the changing economic climate and with more experience dining in Penang and Kuala Lumpur, it became evident that the cost of food products and the restaurant experience was in fact more costly here and offered less variety then the big cities.There are many Malay and Chinese restaurants serving island fare from roti canai to lobster and prawns.These have been the foundation of dining here for generations. But the variety of cooking styles was limited to a few restaurants that stepped outside the mold of local food to more Western and fusion dishes.

The Beach Garden Resort in Pantai Cenang is not only one of the pioneer resorts here, it has consistently been serving fi ne Western,Thai, and Malay fusion cuisine ever since. The Brasserie and Yellow Café, along with the Beach Garden have now become fi xtures in more upscale dining with their Western-style beachfront bistros.Though the cost of food and dining has not come down since my fi rst visit, the restaurant scene is changing dramatically for the better. The development of the Telaga Harbour/ Perdana Quay area inspired restaurateurs from KL and Penang to invest in and create a more sophisticated dining experience. Tapaz, a Spanish/Mediterranean style restaurant offers Spanish Tapas, Lamb and Paella. Mare Blu, an Italian staple, have been in Telaga since the pre-tsunami days. Located on the ‘boardwalk’ along the harbour they offer a refreshingly different dining experience than elsewhere on the island, located in the Mediterranean-style ‘village’ that surrounds the harbour. With the changing tourist market on Langkawi over the last few years has come the opening of many new and different style restaurants. Privilege is a good example of the new trend towards more sophisticated dining.The restaurant serves an inventive Malay fusion cuisine. Located on the upper floor in Perdana Quay, this small and intimate restaurant offers a great view of the harbour and a quiet ambiance. They have raised the bar in Langkawi dining, so much so, that you often cannot get a table without a reservation.

In the Pantai Cenang/Pantai Tenaga area, The Hungry Monkey Turkish Delight is another new venture.To ensure that their recipes have the genuine Turkish fl avour they bring in many of their ingredients from off-island. Some are even brought from as far away as Turkey.The Turkish owner even makes his own Turkish yogurt at his home kitchen to guarantee the quality and consistency of his dishes. Mona’s, also located in Pantai Tengah, offers an extensive Lebanese menu. Again many of the ingredients are sourced off-island to ensure that dishes have a truly Lebanese taste.The atmosphere is casual but sophisticated and has an atmosphere comparable to more upscale restaurants in Penang, KL, and Singapore. Another new entry into the restaurant scene is The Cliff. It has one of the best locations in Pantai Cenang perched over the rocky headland at the north end of the beach. With the expansive open-air architecture this restaurant could be located in La Jolla or Acapulco. It offers Western and Malay dishes and is a preferred spot to sip a cocktail, have some appetizers and watch the sunset with incredible views of the beach and the outlying islands. In the recently opened Cenang Mall, the Wakaba Japanese Restaurant offers indoor and outdoor dining and a menu that lives up to its expectations.The sushi is fresh and delicious served by an attentive, knowledgeable staff.They have an extensive menu of sushi, tempura, noodles and other Japanese delicacies. Fat Cupid’s serving Western and Malay, El Nino, specializing in steaks and Sagar’s North Indian are just some of the more recent additions to the Pantai Tengah dining experience.

In Kuah, Mafioso’s Steak House recently opened in Pekan Rabu.This classic Italian/ American-style bistro specializes in the finest steaks, but also offers an expansive menu fish and chicken to pasta, sandwiches and pizza.The hand-painted murals and mafia theme brings a little of The Godfather into the mix. As Langkawi is embracing new development and greater investment in the tourism industry, so too are coming the new restaurateurs. Langkawi will someday not only be known to as a beautiful island destination but also an island with enough culinary diversity to sate even the most discriminating diner. First published April, 2013

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