Last December, Naughty Nuri’s crossed the Indonesian border and opened outlets in Sri Hartamas, Kuala Lumpur, and Burmah Road in Penang, serving its legendary pork ribs.

The eatery started out as a warung in Ubud, Bali, in 1995, with only a two-burner stove. It was founded by Isnuri Suryatmi (after whom the restaurant is named) and her American husband Brian Aldinger. Soon, word spread about their ribs and the restaurant got so popular that the pair franchised their brand.

While Naughty Nuri’s Ubud is still managed by Isnuri (her husband passed away last year), its sister outlets in KL, Penang and several parts of Indonesia, are all franchised to different holders. The menus differ, but the constant is always the signature barbecued spare ribs.

Naughty Nuri’s Hartamas operates on a first-come, first-served basis, but takes reservations for groups of eight or more. It also gives priority seating to the elderly, pregnant women and families with young kids. A queue is a common fixture here; on weekends, we hear, it can take two hours before you are seated. If you are not one for waiting, a safer bet would be to lunch there on a weekday.

Naughty Nuri's ribs

Naughty Nuri’s ribs.

The menu here is crafted by owner Peter Khor and head chef Eddy Wong. It ranges from Indonesian favourites like babi guling (roasted suckling pig; RM150 for half, RM300 for whole), Indonesian-Style Nasi Goreng (RM18) and Balinese-Spiced Sop Buntut (oxtail soup; RM21.80) to Asian-inspired tapas and Western bites. Pork is the star of the menu, and you can find it in most of the dishes – even the salads aren’t spared.

Platters of Naughty Nuri’s Spare Ribs (RM39) sit temptingly on every table. Khor imports his pork ribs from Germany, and marinates them with spices before grilling the slabs with the brand’s secret sauce. This creates sweet, sticky ribs with flesh so tender it practically slides off the bone. Well-executed, this is one of the best sticky ribs I have eaten in KL. Having tried the ribs at the Seminyak outlet in Bali, I can attest that they remain true to the original flavour.

The tapas – Baked Flat Bread Topped with Balinese Style Pork Rendang (RM22) and Asian Pineapple Mango Salsa with Seared Parma Ham (RM22) sounded interesting, but both were somewhat mediocre in execution. The first featured a mild rendang that was heavy on the lemongrass, while the salsa in the latter was just chopped pineapple. That said, the sweet, sour and salty combo of the fruit and the ham worked for me.

The original restaurant is also known for its martinis. Celebrity Anthony Bourdain called them the “best martinis in the world” in Naughty Nuri’s guestbook, after dining at its Ubud warung in 2010.

As per Naughty Nuri’s tradition, the martinis are served with its customary “shake, shake, shake” number: staff sing and dance, as your martini is shaken in front of you. This musical number is spirited and highly infectious; diners often jump to their feet and join in the merriment.

But the energetic performance was followed by a rather disappointing Ginger Jam Martini (RM28) which lacked balance. The other cocktail we ordered, the Bunga Kantan Lychee Mojito (RM26) was missing a main ingredient – bunga kantan (torch ginger flower)!

Naughty Nuri’s served some hits and misses, but I’d definitely return for its killer ribs.

NAUGHTY NURI’S
2 Ground Floor
20/70A Desa Sri Hartamas
Kuala Lumpur
Tel: 019-339 9611
Opens daily, noon to midnight
Non-halal

This is an excerpt of a review which first appeared in the April 2015 issue of Flavours Magazine.