A Tale of Two Houses: two very different restaurants _ La Vie En Rose & PH Pastry House _ opened this month, sharing one similarity: both were transformed from residential bungalows into beautiful eateries that could become firm favorites for KL's foodies.
Let's kick off with La Vie En Rose; an abandoned location for 15 years at Jalan Raja Chulan, this is now an immensely charming outlet where strains of Edith Piaf's signature song waft across the romantic alfresco setting in the evening.
La Vie En Rose joins the ranks of French restaurants like Le Bouchon, Cafe Cafe & Ma Maison, dishing out delicious traditional fare cooked by Toulouse-born chef Jean Michel Fraisse.
Complimentary bread with duck rillettes. Fraisse is no stranger to KL; he landed here in the 1990s, eventually founding the French Culinary School in Asia & spearheading eateries like Cuisine Studio & Urban Picnic.
Pate en croute with sweet & sour pearl onions, red cabbage, mustard seeds & blackcurrant chutney (RM22++). Artisan bread is painstakingly baked on the premises, while many other premium ingredients are imported, but prices are far from crippling; a three-course dinner without wine should cost below RM150.
Musketeers' salad: duck confit (with smoked duck bacon), sauteed mushrooms & violet dressing (RM28++). La Vie En Rose's menu is a tribute to time-honored recipes, some of which Fraisse learned from his mother; this is the type of hearty, no-nonsense nosh that we envision when we watch a movie like Ratatouille.
Chicken Marengo, a recipe favored by Napoleon Bonaparte _ grain-fed free-range chicken, sauteed with yabbies & tarragon-flavored tomato concassee (RM58++). Our only complaint about La Vie En Rose: while driving here, we had to make a perilously sharp turn up a hill (slightly past a Shell gas station, before the St Andrew's Presbyterian Church). The restaurant recommends that customers park across the road in an open-air lot instead.
Tea-smoked Muscovy duck breast with warm organic green lentils (RM58++). Notice a pattern in this post? We prioritized poultry for our orders, but there was no tiresome feeling of deja vu, since each recipe was uniquely enjoyable in its own fashion.
Wishful drinking: beer served in champagne glasses. But it's no regular booze; reputedly the first beer created to pair with food, Estrella Damm Inedit is the brainchild of Damm brew masters & Ferran Adria, Juli Soler & El Bulli's sommeliers' team (RM120++ for 750ml).
La Vie En Rose currently opens for dinner, Tuesdays through Sundays, with last orders at 10:30 p.m., and for brunch on Sundays. It also sells everything from olive oil to pasta machines. We have faith that it'll prove itself to be one of 2011's best new restaurants.
OK, next up: here's a look at PH Pastry House, a former family residence at Imbi that's cultivating a chic, contemporary bakery-cafe vibe.
PH Pastry's trump card might be macarons; by the end of November, this outlet _ run by a trio of Malaysian entrepreneurs _ promises to introduce funky flavors of savory macarons, such as foie gras, black & white truffle, extra virgin olive oil & smoked salmon with dill.
In the meantime, try the "Guilty Confession" Sarawak pepper macaron, comprising salted caramel, apricot ganache, sea salt & pepper _ sweetly sticky, with a subtly spicy aftertaste. It costs a hefty RM7.90, but PH offers cheaper varieties (rose, green tea, dark choc) for RM3.90.
Pumpkin soup (RM9++). PH Pastry's business hours will please many customers; breakfast starts at 7 a.m. daily, with the outlet remaining open through 10 p.m. Last orders are at 9 p.m.
Pasta Puttanesca, with smoked salmon, egg, anchovies, tomatoes & capers (RM13.90++). PH Pastry's food is fair, considering the prices; the manager says the menu is a work in progress, but expect to see everything from pizzas to poached cod fish here in the months ahead.
All in all, PH Pastry has potential. Let's put it this way: have dinner at La Vie En Rose, but for a casual breakfast or lunch, PH Pastry might prove perfect.
Best bets for beverages at PH Pastry: milkshakes, coffee & affogato.
At PH Pastry, beer is available, but not wine, for now.
La Vie En Rose,
39, Jalan Raja Chulan, Kuala Lumpur.
54, Jalan Utara, Off Jalan Imbi, Kuala Lumpur.