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Inside the new restaurant that only serves airplane food—it looks surprisingly good

Santan's most popular dish is Pak Nassar's Nasi Lemak Ayam Rendang
Credit: AirAsia

Generally, budget airlines aren't known for having great food. But AirAsia, a low-cost airline based in Malaysia, is so confident about the quality of its in-flight meals that the company opened a fast-food restaurant featuring its signature in-flight dishes.

On Monday, AirAsia opened Santan (which means coconut milk in Malay) in a megamall in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

A spokesperson for AirAsia tells CNBC Make It that it made the move because customers have a "significant appetite" for its in-flight menu (which was designed by a team of five chefs) even when they're not in the air.

According to the spokesperson, the airline's Nasi Lemak dishes (a Malay rice dish cooked in coconut milk and pandan leaf) sold out by the end of lunchtime on opening day.

AirAsia said it plans to open four more locations by end of 2020, and then 100 franchise-operated restaurants and cafes within the next three to five years.

So what does an airplane food restaurant and menu look like?

The restaurant

Santan's flagship restaurant at Mid Valley Megamall in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Credit: AirAsia

Each Santan restaurant will feature smart menus that will be equipped with artificial intelligence to help recommend dishes to customers based on time, past ordering patterns and demographics. Customers will also be able to place orders online or through Santan's mobile app. Prices for meals are 8 to 15 Malaysian ringgit, or about $2 to $4.

Kiosks inside AirAsia's Satan Restaurant in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Credit: AirAsia

The food

Santan's most popular dish is chef Pak Nasser's Nasi Lemak Ayam Rendang, which is described as a coconut rice dish with chile sauce and a chicken stew. The meal also includes fried anchovies, half a hard-boiled egg and some nuts.

Santan's most popular dish is Pak Nassar's Nasi Lemak Ayam Rendang
Credit: AirAsia

Santan also serves a Vietnamese Chicken pizza...

Vietnamese Chicken Pizza
Credit: AirAsia

...Cambodian Pineapple fish fillet with noodles...

Cambodian pineapple fish fillet noodles
Credit: AirAsia

...Thai-style basil chicken with rice and a fried egg...

Thai basil chicken with rice
Credit: AirAsia

...and Uncle Chin's chicken with rice.

Uncle Chin's chicken rice
Credit: AirAsia
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