Thursday, September 22, 2011
Frangipani Restaurant @ Changkat Bukit Bintang, Kuala Lumpur
Choosing just one place I love to eat is tough. I'm quite a whore when it comes to eating. Give me fine dining with foie gras, oysters and truffles coupled with great service and I'm one happy gal. Throw me in the back streets of Pudu to find a slurp worthy bowl of Hakka mee and I'm just as ecstatic about it. There's also the various cuisines since I'm often game to try anything under the sun (except exotic meats) - Hunan, Malay, Indian, Italian and etc. Hence it was very tough when Time Out KL asked me to nominate a favourite choice for their Bloggers Choice Awards. Pinpointing one is like throwing a needle in the haystack with me. So tough that I straight away gravitated to my auto-mode go-to comfort choices such as Cilantro and Sage. Then, I stopped myself and had a look at the nominees and discovered they are already there under their fine dining category.
Fine dining in Kuala Lumpur remains a misnomer I reckon. I've often had endless arguments about its definition - is it just the food, service or must it be like how the Michelin guide terms it - be worthy of royalty. It was strange Frangipani was not in the list since they scored high on the food and service was exceptional making them completely worthy of a nomination. It happens I guess...good places slip through the cracks of Internet voting and etc. I'll probably receive brickbats for this choice but since Sage & Cilantro have made it to the nomination list, I reckon Frangipani can also join them side by side.
Dining here is much more than just a meal I reckon. It starts most importantly from their menu that contains these lyrical short essays by Chris Bauer, the man behind the culinary creations. Each write up details where he got his muse for creativity or the rationale of some ingredient pairing that gives the much needed connection between the kitchen and the diner, that elusive link that attaches each dish with a memory and face. Unfortunately for me, those open concept kitchens they try to throw in our face to give that connection just does not cut it for me.
This is also a place to be seen...especially since most diners come here just before they adjourn upstairs to the oh-so-happening bar. I do love the whole elegant set up after you push through the metal doors especially the atrium in the middle with the jet black pool that seems to add a sense of airy space. While the side of the restaurant offers lovely nooks for private dining, I love dining a deux around the pool since it adds a certain romance and intimacy to the whole meal.
The menu features classic dishes they have perfected for years, something the typical fickle KL diner will find offensive but I love. Rumour has it that the Frangipani creators are crafting up new eateries at the exclusive dwellings of Troika on the higher floors. Seize the moment to relish a meal here before things change....it seems in October or was it November.
What struck me is this is French food with a contemporary air. There's also a deep appreciation of local ingredients here in the apple rendang and the usage of items such as the buah keluak or Indonesian black nut, betel leaf and etc.
On to the food and what stood out for me in the meals I've eaten here before. Favourites include those soft potato blinis topped with decadent caviar and sour cream. The surprise is not the caviar but the innocent looking cauliflower truffle foam on the side with a fizzy texture that gives you a truffle "hit" to the senses...simply sublime. There's also the interesting pairing of foie gras with an apple rendang served on a ring of strudel - a crunch from the crisp pastry, a rich melt-in-the-mouth with the foie gras and the earthy tastes of the spiced apple cubes.
I also enjoyed the small sweet Kumamoto oysters with beetroot and cucumber. Even someone's "black" rice risotto is perfectly al dente and packed with umami flavours from the seafood and bonito flakes topping it. I also obviously love their classic, the warm tea smoked salmon with confit potatoes topped with ikura or salmon roe. It is one of the dishes that once inspired me to smoke my own salmon at home and I love the whole intense aroma that perfumes the pinkish flesh.
It is tough to choose mains here since everything is so good. The duck confit is excellent - crispy skin with a tender tear away meat. It is paired with mustard and mashed potatoes. I also love their version of grilled wagyu beef cheek with braised red cabbage and a Mexican mole sauce. Unlike other places, the beef cheek here comes with a seared crust that slowly yields to the knife to reveal its tenderness. The mouthfeel is perfect since the slight crust offers a beautiful contrast with all the softness. I love the smoky flavours of the chocolate mole sauce too and the tanginess from the braised red cabbage. I also love the buah keluak (Indonesian black nuts) as they're generous with the chocolate-like tasting filling that pairs well with my tenderloin steak.
Don't forget desserts here. Must-haves for me are the classic tarte tartin with its caramelised apples and the interesting iced green apple sorbet. I love the decadent chocolate ganache paired with crisp French meringue or if preferred, the creamy ice creams topped with Valrhona dark chocolate sauce. That night we dined here, it was caramelised banana and rum & raisin flavours.
We end the meal with one of my favourite teas, Mariage-Fres delicate tisanes. Its a perfect end to a perfect meal. Service is generally exceptionally good here with wonderful recommendations from the wait staff but there are of course, slight bumps on the road. When it gets packed up with people like a Saturday night, the kitchen tends to heave a little so patience is needed. Best to just chat to your dining partner and you'll find it smoothen over after some time.
Do give this place a chance and vote for it during the Time Out KL Food awards for 2011. Incidentally, go check out the shortlist of nominations and place your mouse over them to "undilah" your choices or forever hold your peace.
* Updated on 24 Sept: Duh! I forgot to ask all of you to also vote for me in the Bloggers Choice section in the Time Out KL Food Awards. Just click on the link to the shortlist. Thank you all.
Frangipani Bar & Restaurant
25 Changkat Bukit Bintang
Tel: 03-2144 3001
(Pork Free. Open from Tuesday to Sunday for dinner only. Choose first, second and third courses for RM160. Add RM30 for dessert. Tasting menu is RM220 and RM390 with wine. Full set of pictures are in the Flickr set. For more restaurant details, see their website link.)
* Part of the meal was an invited review but another part was all paid for by the reviewer.