Conversations on eating and drinking in Malaysia often surround West Malaysia. KL, Penang, Melaka… the usual suspects. But just a flight away are food destinations that rival their counterparts across the pond, and the East Malaysia food trail should start at none other than Kota Kinabalu, the state capital of Sabah. The city’s diverse gastronomic options offer many opportunities for both the casual traveller and ravishing foodie to have their fill. From fresh out-of-the-water seafood to exquisite Western fare, the best restaurants in Kota Kinabalu will satisfy every appetite.
The Best Restaurants In Kota Kinabalu
As a coastal city, KK has a steady supply of fresh seafood at affordable prices. But there’s also a vibrant F&B culture that spans different cuisines.
Welcome Seafood Restaurant
A well-known haunt among locals and tourists (likely to the annoyance of aforementioned locals), Welcome Seafood Restaurant is packed with crowded tables and hungry patrons ready to pounce on empty seats. As one of the best restaurants in Kota Kinabalu, you can expect a full house as early as 5pm. Its popularity speaks volumes about the quality of seafood here, which you can pick and choose from clear glass fish tanks. Try the Steamed Prawn to taste the crustacean in its purest form or Kam Hiong Crab to perk up the taste buds.
Address: Lot G18, Komplek Jalan Asia City Phase 2A, Asia City, 88300 Kota Kinabalu
Opening Hours: Daily, 12pm – 11pm
Contact: 088-447 866
Kedai Kopi Fatt Kee
A beloved Cantonese restaurant below a dilapidated hotel, Fatt Kee’s fare is hearty, unpretentious, and refreshingly reasonable. Dinner favourites like succulent sweet and sour shrimp and tangy sambal kangkung are on the menu, but its signature oyster sauce chicken wings are a must-order. If you’re looking for the best food in Kota Kinabalu that even locals don’t mind lining up for, Fatt Kee is a reliable choice.
Address: Jln Haji Saman, Pusat Bandar Kota Kinabalu, 88000 Kota Kinabalu
Mon – Sat: 5pm – 11pm
Contact: 016-712 8268
New WK Restaurant Luyang
As the best and foremost dim sum restaurant in Kota Kinabalu, New WK Restaurant Luyang serves over 60 varieties of handmade delicacies, ranging from perfectly bite-sized siew mai to sticky loh mai kai. The egg tarts here are popular too, often selling out in a matter of hours. Besides, you can’t go wrong with the woo kok, which is a popular Cantonese fried snack stuffed with mashed taro, meat, and vegetables.
Address: Lot 4, 5, 6 Wisma HCS, Jalan Kolam, Taman Luyang Phase 1, 88300 Kota Kinabalu
Opening Hours: Daily, 6.30am – 8.30pm
Contact: 088-217 278
Kedai Kopi Yee Fung
For most tourists, the best food in Kota Kinabalu is a bowl of authentic laksa courtesy of Kedai Kopi Yee Fung. Arguably the most drool-worthy laksa in all of KK is found at this unassuming coffee shop. Slurp on a bowl of tantalising broth topped with shredded chicken, boiled shrimp, sambal, and lime. Then wash it all down with a Teh Maderas, a decadent frothy concoction of milk tea and evaporated milk. Be quick to make way though. The place is always packed during peak hours.
Address: 127, Jalan Gaya, Pusat Bandar Kota Kinabalu, 88000 Kota Kinabalu
Opening Hours: Daily, 6.30am – 5pm
Contact: 088-312 042
Nestled within a row of shop lots in downtown KK is Chilli Vanilla, a cosy restaurant for authentic Hungarian food. Don’t skip the Beef Goulash, Meat Stew, and Chicken Paprikash, all of which are traditional Hungarian dishes. There’s also a good selection of cakes and drinks to complete your meal. We heard that the chocolate brownies are fudgy, rich, and downright sinful. Sounds like a very, very good brownie.
Address: 33, Jln Haji Saman, Pusat Bandar Kota Kinabalu, 88000 Kota Kinabalu
Tues – Sun: 11.30am – 9.30pm
Contact: 088-238 098
Sri Latha Curry House
If you find yourself craving banana leaf rice in the heart of KK, make your way to Sri Latha Curry House. Often bustling with commotion during lunch, it’s one of the best Indian restaurants in Kota Kinabalu and the spread here is generous. You’ll get three to four servings of vegetables, a scoop of rice, crunchy papadam, and your protein of choice (lamb, fish or chicken). Finally, complete your set with splashes of fragrant dhal and curry.
Address: G/F, No. 28, Jalan Berjaya, Bandat Berjaya, 88000 Kota Kinabalu
Opening Hours: Daily, 7am – 5pm
Contact: 088-253 669
Kah Hiong Ngiu Chap
Ngiu chap, which literally means “mixed beef”, is a hearty noodle that’s served with a combination of beef meat and innards. At Kah Hiong Ngiu Chap, the dish can be served without innards if you feel squeamish. Just replace them with beef balls or other ingredients. The broth goes through hours of boiling to create a rich flavour, which the noodles then soak up perfectly.
Address: 2-0-10, Lorong Taman Nosoob Jaya Phase 2, Kolam Centre, 93450 Kota Kinabalu
Wed – Mon: 7am – 3pm
Contact: 016-826 9699
Yu Kee Bak Kut Teh
Klang may claim to have the best bak kut teh in the country, but KK’s rendition isn’t too shabby at all. Yu Kee Bak Kut Teh is undoubtedly the best BKT restaurant in Kota Kinabalu, courting even the interest of tourists from China and Hong Kong. The soup is rich but not overpowering, so you can easily finish a bowl by yourself. For choice of protein, it’s practically impossible to fault the rib or knuckle. Both are crowd-pleasers because of how tender they are.
Address: 7, Jalan Gaya, Pusat Bandar Kota Kinabalu, 88000 Kota Kinabalu
Opening Hours: Daily, 2pm – 9.30pm
Contact: 088-221 192
Capping off our list of the best restaurants in Kota Kinabalu is El Centro, a laid-back restaurant and bar to unwind over good food and drinks as tunes from the 90s blast within earshot. Tacos and burritos form the menu, but there are scrumptious burgers, sandwiches, and pizzas as well if you aren’t feeling Mexican. For drinks, expect the classic cocktails like margarita and mint julep done well and at affordable prices.
Address: 18, Lorong Dewan, Pusat Bandar Kota Kinabalu, 88000 Kota Kinabalu
Tues – Thurs: 9am – 10.30pm
Fri – Sat: 9am – 12am
Sun – Mon: 9am – 10.30pm
Contact: 014-862 3877
Extend Your Food Trail To The Best Restaurants In Kota Kinabalu
Like all major cities in West Malaysia, Kota Kinabalu has so much to offer when it comes to good eating and drinking spots. All you have to do is seek them out—and we’ve already done that with this list, so keep it handy when you’re visiting! It’s hard to say what’s the best food in Kota Kinabalu because taste is ultimately subjective and arbitrary, but the spots on this list are solid places to start. Sabah is also home to a myriad of stunning islands, some of which are just a 30-minute boat ride away.