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I suppose when it comes down to it, we all want to eat nice food in nice places that don’t cost the moon. Sure, we have French restaurants in KL where caramel is served upright in tangled webs; restaurants where the silverware is as shiny as the right side up of tinfoil; and of course, those that bestow themselves upon celebrities and socialites.
But oftentimes, we don’t want the theatrics; we just want good, honest food in generous portions. We want thick hunks of bread to tear alongside juicy slabs of meat. We want to laugh until red wine squirts out our noses. Well, you get what I mean. And this is where French Feast comes in, like the bumbling, doting grandmother KL never had.
Run by Jean-Michel Fraisse, formerly of La Vie En Rose, this restaurant is a celebration of all things tried-and-tested in French cuisine. Think Troyes tripe sausages with onions and mustard, braised rabbit with white wine and sautéed potatoes, and country-style terrines with onion jam and pickles. It’s a vintage French cookbook come to life, and frankly, it’s a hoot.
Because I’m feeling a bit ’80s, I start with the French onion soup (RM28). And it’s just what the doctor ordered, if the doctor was Julia Child on a crackly television box set. The broth is not overly sweet or jammy, and the Comté cheese topping on the bread becomes sticky and chewy when pushed down into the soup.
The next thing I order is irrespective of the chef’s skills because it comes straight from a can – ‘vintage’ mackerel confit in extra virgin olive oil (RM35). Canned fish and bread may sound unceremonial in a French restaurant, but if you only have RM35 to spare, you absolutely must order this. The fish is fat and salty, and its juices surrender to the crisp sourdough toast smothered in lemon butter, which I eat separately in whole pats.
You’ll be stuffed by this point because you would’ve eaten too much bread and fish and soup. But you must soldier on because the beouf bourguignon (RM75) is a thing of beauty. Glossy and burgundy-hued, the broth is so deep and dark, I want to tell it my secrets. And the side of truffle mash is so smooth and airy, you could slather it on like lotion.
The Castelnaudary-style cassoulet of duck confit (RM74) is less sexy, but just as generous. It’s a family’s worth of salty duck, pork belly, sausage and white beans in a ceramic vat. The meats melt onto one another, and the loose broth – made by a base of celery, onion, carrots and garlic, as are most French stews – is plumped up by what could be duck fat or gelatine. If this is ‘peasant fare’ in France, I’d like to sign up please.
At the end of the night, the waiter – a friendly chap who won’t judge you if you mispronounce saucicces aux lentilles – comes round to present the dessert menu, a list of things that would be deemed unfashionable anywhere else. There’s peach melba in all its 19th century glory, there’s a classic vanilla crème brûlèe, and there are choux puffs filled with bourbon vanilla ice cream and served with pools of caramel.
I zero in on the caramelised apple and crème fraîche with a bottom of rich sablé Breton (RM27) – it’s a version of tarte Tatin that’s unfussy, rich and reassuring, what has undoubtedly proven to be a running theme here. A theme that I – and I’m confident the rest of KL – most delightfully welcome.
20 Tengkat Tong Shin
|Opening hours:||Tue-Fri, 6.30pm-10.30pm; Sat, 10am-10.30pm; Sun, 10am-2pm|