After residing in London for years, Ben Yeong and Toto Ooi returned to Malaysia 12 years ago and opened Café Café. Back then, fine-dining restaurants in Klang Valley were few and far in between. That was to change. Café Café is as romantic as it gets, with a combination of old world charm and a cool Bohemian vibe. Its location may not be the most ideal, but it soon became talk of the town. Tucked away at the corner of Jalan Maharajalela, it has the magic to take you away from the hustle and bustle of the streets.
This French inspired gem is tastefully decorated with crystals hanging from the tall ceiling, gorgeous chandeliers, trinkets and Bric-à-brac dotting through the shelves and filling the corners. The closely placed tables convey a sense of intimacy, complete with dim-lighting for the perfect ambience of a classic candle-lit dinner.
Even though the menu here has evolved over time, their signature dishes are left untouched, thankfully. Each dish has been carefully crafted to ensure consistency, using top quality ingredients. While the offerings are classically French, there’s a contemporary touch with less cluttered plates and lighter options for the weight-concerned.
If you love cheese, try their Fried Brie. With its Golden nut crust (made of Hazelnuts, Almonds and Walnuts with a touch of thyme), it’s truly a sight to behold and a treat for tastebuds. Cut to reveal a creamy soft centre and drizzle with passionfruit and mango coulis. The flavours are complex, and the aroma lingers. This is a perfect dish to whet your appetite.
Do not leave Café Café without trying their Pan Fried Foie Gras. Here, the delicious duck liver is served with Apple Compote, Poached Pear and Balsamic Vinaigrette. Cooking a perfect piece of Foie Gras takes skill and Café Café has a winning formula with this dish. Each piece is a decadent experience, with exquisite crispy exterior and its fat melting away in your mouth, coating your tongue in a wash of flavours. Pairing with sweet and tangy fruits is essential to cut through the buttery richness of the liver. I had this every time I visit (4th so far) and it’s always magical.
You can opt for a lighter main dish if you feel guilty after the starters, with the Chicken Morel. The Baked Chicken Breast is served with Morel Mushrooms and Cepes. Precision is the key here, as the Chicken breast is cooked for exactly 11 minutes in the oven to be just right: tender, juicy, and tasty with minimal seasoning. The rich earthy mushrooms provide plenty of umaniness. Do remember to scoop up all the delicious juices on your plate.
The ultimate French dining experience inevitably involves red meat, and here there are quite a few options, from the superbly comforting Braised Wagyu Beef Cheek to Grass-Fed Black Angus Tenderloin cooked to your preferred doneness. Simply served with Stir Fired Leek and Onion and a lone charcoal grilled tomato, the tenderloin wins in its robust beefy flavour, good enough to enjoy without any condiments.
One more piece of good news: Grass-fed beef is not only tastier than Grain-fed; it’s also better for the planet, and better for your health, with its higher Omega-3 content.
Be sure to leave some space for desserts here. Go for the classic Crème Brulee, one of the best desserts on Earth, consisting of a rich custard base topped with a contrasting layer of hard caramel. Here it’s infused with Vanilla Beans from Madagascar and served with a shot of Espresso, an idea borrowed from the Italian Affogato. Indeed, the pairing of creamy aromatic custard and bitterness of coffee is a match made in heaven.
Cafe Café had my heart 6 years ago, and it’s always great to discover a restaurant that has the special something that draws you back time after time, and it’s nice to see a quality establishment lasting in what is a very fickle market. Of course, the prices here might make it a more suitable choice for special occasions for most of us. Service has remained consistent and the staff are attentive, knowledgeable and polite. Cafe Café has stood the test of time, and it’s one of a very select group of KL restaurants that can dare to call itself ‘fine dining’ and for people who appreciate beautiful food it deserves a visit.
175, Jalan Maharajalela
50150 Kuala Lumpur
This review was published on The Malay Mail on 28th February 2014.