Thursday, March 15, 2018


Once upon a time, in October 2011, Maison Française entered Klang Valley’s intensely competitive restaurant scene. Defying the odds, it succeeded in establishing a foothold as a fine French dining outpost. 
Tucked away in a quiet cul-de-sac amidst existing posh condos and upcoming skyscrapers within the Golden Triangle, the restaurant is now the domain of Brittany-born Chef Florent Lescouezec. His culinary creations should bestow fresh shine to Maison's menu; be it a la carte, a 4-course Menu Gourmand (RM280++ per person) or a 6-course Menu Degustation (RM390++ per person).
Although ghastly construction goings-on nearby aren’t complementary to Maison’s elegant, monochromatic ambience, those unseemly sights can be kept at bay once the dining space’s drapes are drawn.   
Chef Florent’s exquisite opener of Larnaudie Duck Foie Gras Custard with Smoked Eel, Green Apple Emulsion and Artichoke (RM90++) should serve as an apt distraction. The feather-light custard is made from foie gras de canard (duck liver) from Jean Larnaudie, a French foie gras specialist with a long history dating back to 1950. A fleeting hint of smokiness was discernible in mouthfuls of the lush custard; its cloud-like texture enlivened by a frothy green apple emulsion.

Quinoa — once a humble, poor man’s grain now food of choice for health-conscious urbanites — made its presence felt in the subsequent offering of Gamberro Rosso Tartare with Kristal caviar, crustecean oil and quinoa taboule (RM110++). The collusion of tastes and textures: from the natural sweetness of the red prawn to the coy nuttiness of the quinoa grains was delicate, almost playful on the palate.

A key staple since Maison’s opened its doors, the Signature Lobster Bisque (RM75++) remained something to write home about. The flavour-rich broth’s unabashed umami profile simply reinforced its long-standing appeal.
Escargot fans rejoice! Snail-pace is the way to savour the sumptuous French Organic Farm Snails in Fricassée, Garlic Butter and Porcini Mushrooms (RM90++). Sautéed in garlic butter and earthy porcini, the deliciously tender morsels came encased in a crisp golden brown breaded golf ball-size ‘shell’.
Like the proverbial ‘the devil’s in the details’ saying, we were reminded why a seemingly simple appetiser such as House Smoked Duck Breast, Shredded Confit of Duck Leg, 64.5 degrees Egg & Buttered Kale (RM80++) command such a high price. Before it hit the table, the chef and his team had put in hours of painstaking labour and sometimes, days of prep work in their quest to get the various components ready. To say the speciality was quackingly good won’t do it justice as the yummilicious ducky duet took to the sous vide egg like...well, ducks to water.
New mains in the spotlight ranged from extravagant Butter Poached Lobster (RM320++), French-aged Sirloin On The Grill and Slow-cooked Rump of Lamb (RM140++) to more rustic Butter Poached Wild French Cod (RM140++) and Poultry Breast Blanquette (RM160++).
The chef’s culinary artistry and technical competence came to the fore in ensuring the lobster creation looked good and tasted even better. Never mind its pared-down preso; put it down to the French respect for letting quality ingredients shine minus the frills.
Likewise, the medium, aged beef held its own; a pivotal lead touched by wisps of mesquite wood on the grill. With a convivial coterie of anchovy, horseradish, celeriac puree and onion tart in attendance, it left our hearts and tummies thoroughly smitten.
Also deserving of applause was the lamb. Slow cooked to blush pink doneness, its tenderness provided nice contrasting textural interplay with the soft eggplant confit and buttered broad beans.
Personally, I was reeled in by the Butter Poached Wild French Cod, Pea and Basil Velouté, Sauce Vierge (RM140++). Sauce vierge or virgin sauce in French is a blend of olive oil, lemon juice, chopped basil and tomato – presumably a trick of the trade to lighten the classical velouté, a mother sauce. In this instance, the resultant liquidy mixture made quite a splash when sampled with the fab fish.
Musky aroma of truffle juice whetted our appetite for the Poultry Breast Blanquette (RM160++). Akin to a ‘white-out’ ragout (French stew), this speciality also comprised truffle white pudding sausage and black trumpet mushrooms injecting their tasteful characters into the equation.
Happily ever-afters to wrap up your dining foray to Maison should cover the alluring
Valrhona Dark Chocolate & Pistachio Lava Cake with Vanilla Ice Cream (RM40++). Thumbs up to the green, nutty and bittersweet slant.
Chocoholics may find sweet succour in the delightful Chocolate Pear, Quince Paste, Jivara and Dulcey Chocolate Mousse (RM40++). A dreamy platter of distinctive Valrhona chocolates: Jivara 40% caramel-vanilla notes with a touch of malt meets Dulcey 32% blond chocolate with buttery and toasty notes, accented by a hint of salt, guaranteed to lift choc-loving diners to new highs.
Prefer returning to basics? Chef Florent tricked up Classic Tatin Apple Pie with a scoop of Bourbon Vanilla Cream Cheese, a grown-up, boozy uptake of old-school apple pie a la mode.

For reservations at Maison Francaise, call tel: 03 2144 1474. The homey colonial bungalow-based dining enclave is located at 5, Jalan Changkat Kia Peng, Kuala Lumpur.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018


Chi-ruh Chi-ruh ... the sound of boiling oil when chicken goes into a deep-fryer is music to the ears of every fried chicken fans. That’s also how you pronounced Chir Chir — the name of Korea’s largest casual restaurant chain specialising in freshly-cooked chicken dishes.
Amidst the recent CNY hustle-bustle, we managed to snuck in an afternoon of good lunch, trying out some of the resto’s signature chicken dishes. Todate, Chir Chir has over 100 outlets and more opening across South Korea, China and Taiwan, making it one of the largest chimaek franchises. In Korean foodspeak, chimaek is a contraction of two words: chi = chicken and maek = beer.
Most of the offerings comprising newer and existing specialities were on-point and as authentic as those we had eaten in Seoul. We predict the scrumptious Curry Fried Chicken (RM30.90/RM56.90 double portion), Chir Chir’s signature crispy battered chicken sprinkled with curry seasoning should hit the spot for locals.
I was pleasantly surprised by the distinct burst of zingy heat when I bit into the deliciously crisp chicken. Nifty small tongs were provided for us to pick up the chicken pieces, ensuring we didn’t need to get our hands dirty. For such delectable fried chicken, I daresay most people won't mind getting to grips with it.
At this point, the latest beverage of Grapefruit Yoghurt (RM14.90 glass/RM30.90 jug) proved a godsend, to douse our fired-up tastebuds. A cool ice blended drink of grapefruit juice and yoghurt, we were tickled to see the concoction came topped with half a fresh grapefruit and mint leaves.
Cheese lovers would go ga-ga over the indulgent offering of Rose Cheese Chiqueen (RM33.90/RM60.90 double). Conceived to appeal to the young (and the young-at-heart), the crispy albeit juicy fried chicken tenders heaped atop a creamy pool of rosy tinged melted mozzarella and fondue cheese is served with thick, burbling cheese sauce in a cast iron skillet. Some chunky-cut potatoes and cherry tomatoes lent textural contrast to the dish.
An avalanche of whipped cream and grated cheese crowned the wickedly decadent Nest Chicken (RM34.90/RM62.90 double). Guarantee to send young dairy-loving queens and kings into spasms of joy, the strips of tasty Cajun chicken tenders came swimming in rich cream sauce and sweet potato mash. Bits of capsicum, black olives and broccoli studded the unctuous mixture but we bet nobody is likely to complain about the cloying richness.
Personally, I’d return for the house speciality of Spicy Chi-Bap (RM33.90/RM60.90 double). Served with fragrant seaweed-flavoured rice, the juicy fried chicken tenders in sticky spicy marinade of onion salsa, BBQ sauce and sweet potatoes topped with rice and grated cheese proved incredibly addictive. The strong, punchy sweet-savoury-spicy accents are as typically Korean as it gets.
Washing that down was another newish drink, Pineapple Smoothie (RM14.90 glass/RM30.90 jug). Sips of the ice blended concoction of pineapple puree, coconut, strawberry, banana and mint leaves conjured up visions of blissful, balmy summery days.
Todate, the staple crowd-pleaser of Honey Butter Chicken (RM24.90/RM52.90 double) still rules. Dried cranberries, almond flakes and honey-mayo dip ramped up the appeal of lightly battered boneless chicken chunks coated in honey butter sauce. Textural contrasts came from thick-cut fries and chewy topokki (rice cake pieces).
For more info, call Chir Chir Fusion Chicken Factory, tel: 03-2110 4867. Address: Lot 1.108.00, Level 1, Pavilion Elite, Pavilion Kuala Lumpur, Jalan Bukit Bintang, Kuala Lumpur.