Risotto is a tricky dish to get right. But the chef's special we sampled at The Gallery in Taman Tun Dr Ismail hit the mark...crowned with plump Seared Scallops (RM48) and crispy leek, the risotto accentuated with parmesan fondue, brown butter and gremolata (classical condiment of lemon zest with finely chopped garlic and parsley) seduced our palate with its soulful creaminess; the grains retaining minute nuttiness at the core.
Don't let its posh looking signboard deter you from entering as The Gallery is at heart a family-run concern headed by the hospitable Latifah Abdul Latiff and her daughters, Natasha and Nabila. We love the many artworks mounted on the restaurant walls; the colourful canvases serving up a feast for your eyes while you wait in anticipation for the resident chefs - Nabila and hubby to work their culinary tricks in the kitchen. According to Latifah, The Gallery support local artists so there's always different pieces on display and for sale.
Slurping on cooling thirst-quenchers such as Peach Twist (RM13), TG Sunrise (RM16) and Raspberry Mint Tea (RM15), we had a hard time deciding what to eat as everything in the menu sounded irresistible.
The evening's curtain-raisers of TG Crostini (RM15) whetted our appetite nicely. Topped with sweet pumpkin mash, roasted cherry tomatoes and bell pepper & tuna, the toasted baguette slices were an instant hit with us.
Delicious deep-fried risotto balls with mushroom, mozzarella and parmesan known as Arancine (RM18) proved to just as addictive. Personally, I can gobble down the entire lot on my own but that would be overdoing it.
Forget about those sorry excuse of a burger from fast food joints. Yes, the prices are different but if you love burgers, save up and pay for a top notch one like TG Lord Burger (RM32). Our jaw dropped at the sight of the slab of sirloin layered on soft, fluffy sesame buns. Bulked up with fresh mixed greens, juicy tomato slices, onion marmalade and triple cheese: mozzarella, parmesan and cheddar together with a dousing of wild mushroom sauce, this masterpiece floored us with its scrumptiously rich, smoky and meaty taste.
Diners with petite palate may prefer digging into the Classic Caesar Salad (RM25) - a delicate mix of baby romaine, soft-boiled egg, croutons, beef bacon and shaved parmesan. You can request for smoked salmon (additional charge of RM10) or roast chicken (RM8) to be included for a more substantial salad.
Prefer something light with greens thrown in? Then the yummy Grilled Prawn & Scallop Skewer (RM18) should be your choice pick. Complemented by mixed salad with corn puree and lemon chilli vinaigrette, our dining party demolished this instantly, raving over the seafood; wishing there was more to spare.
On second thoughts, that was probably a good thing since we also ordered Prawn Bisque (RM22). Redolent with deep-seated crustacean accent, the broth's creaminess was tempered by the zingy touches of salsa verde (blended parsley, basil, garlic and capers), garlic and shallot whilst several poached prawns lent textural interest.
Reclining on a bed of basil potato mash, we took turns to admire the sexy angle proffered by the Roasted Spring Chicken (RM38). Accompanied by sauteed greens and orange thyme sauce, the chook was one of the more notable ones we had encountered.
Propped atop a mound of peperonata (stewed mixed bell peppers) and a side serving of rosemary sauce, we picked the bones clean off the Grilled Rack of Lamb (RM55). The chef deserved applause for rendering the juicy meat to medium doneness, retaining the full flavour.
Just in case you think it was a fluke, our medium rare Black Angus Ribeye (RM95 for 250g) cemented our belief in the kitchen team's capable skills. Paired with rustic sweet potato mash, sauteed mixed mushroom and fresh arugula, the trump card in this dish was the sublime vin cotto sauce - essentially reduced fig vinegar to viscous caramelised thickness.
An avid duck meat lover in our midst was full of praises for the Seared Duck Breast (RM42). Sliced and placed on crisp yet soft potato pancake, the cranberry sauce that came with it evoked an unexpectedly Christmassy feel to our dining experience. Crunchy garlic flakes and mixed greens provided the finishing touches which we took to like...well, duck to water.
Carbo lovers won't be left wanting either as The Gallery has five pasta options available. Pick of the pasta heap was Farfalle alla Ragu di Manzo (RM28) made swoonworthy with a superbly rich tomato-beefy sauce that brooked no resistance. Forkfuls of chunky and meltingly tender beef ragu ramped up the dish's flavourful appeal further.
Those robustly stewed bell peppers re-emerged in Linguine de Pepperonata (RM25); their companionable presence seamlessly in sync with a multi-flavoured quartet of tomato, garlic, black olives and onion, suffusing the thick pasta threads with bright, sensuous nuances.
I would equate Petite Orange Madeleines (RM15) with our local kuih bahulu. Although the latter is drier and lighter in texture, both has an enticingly eggy richness. Most bakeries either make them too greasy or hard but the dainty cakes we scoffed down at The Gallery were tres magnifique...they were slightly buttery and spongy with a subtle whiff of orangey note.
Chocoholics will readily succumb to Chocolate Vault (RM26), a decadent dome of choc fudge brownie and milk chocolate mousse enrobed in a silky covering of rich dark chocolate. The supporting cast to liven up the luscious creations included crushed nuts with raspberry and orange coulis to offset the indulgent dessert.
Lately, Baked Alaska (RM26) is increasingly making a comeback. Each version we had tasted was as different as chalk and cheese, and The Gallery naturally added its distinct interpretation as well. While we relished the cottony-soft coconut cake and mango sorbet pairing inside the scorched layer of Italian meringue, the neon green pandan paste threw us a little. Scattered with toasted coconut crumbs, and slivers of strawberries, it was underwhelming for me in the taste department after those excellent madeleines.
The Gallery is worth visiting if you like modern European fare without having to dig too deep into your wallet.
For reservations, call tel: 03-7732 2005. THE GALLERY, 165, Jalan Aminuddin Baki, Taman Tun Dr Ismail, KL.