I joke sometimes but it’s true that I’m a half-KL boy. Katherine’s family is in Kuala Lumpur, affectionately referred to as KL. I love the food in KL, and that love is all the more strengthened literally and figuratively by the Singapore Dollar’s appreciation over the years. KL is known more for its street food than fine dining, such as the ubiquitous lard-laden dark soysauce Hokkien mee, nasi lemak, Klang bah kut teh, Penang char kway teow, sang-har (fresh prawn) noodle, nasi kandar – way too many to name. This is said in context to the high quality and abundance of great street food. Before I incur the ire of my Malaysian friends, I must add that the fine dining scene here is hotting up seriously: Marini’s on 57, Troika Sky Dining, Thirty8 KL, Prime, and last but not least the opening of Nobu, the eponymous restaurant of celebrated Japanese chef Nobu Matsuhisa and his actor-partner Robert De Niro.
Despite all these new openings, my fave premier restaurant is still Cilantro Restaurant and Wine Bar, located in the Micasa All-Suites Hotel a short stroll away from KLCC. Micasa is a lovely boutique apartment, and Katherine and I will sometimes stay there, dine at Cilantro, get sloshed, and stagger up to our room – decadent. Cilantro dishes out sumptuous French cuisine inspired by the Japanese heritage of Chef Takahaski Kimura; and had garnered 2 listings in the Miele guide of the Asia’s Top 20 Restaurants. It also won Best Fine Dining in the Time Out KL Food Awards 2013 and 2011. Without fail, I’m always tempted by the tasting menu on each visit. I took my Singapore makan kakis there recently as part of our KL food tour, which included a dinner at my fave Chinese restaurant in KL – Overseas Restaurant at Jalan Imbi.
Regulars to Cilantro rave about the truffle butter, a sinful and creamy mix with black truffles; dangerously seductive with the warm freshly-baked bread – beware of overstuffing yourself.
The dinner started with a light and refreshing Hokkaido scallop carpaccio that was lightly seasoned and simply presented, a great way to let the sweetness of the scallop shine through.
Next up is the dish that keeps me coming back – the torch-bearing capellini crowned with a generous topping of sea urchin and sweet prawn, delivering a heavenly juxtaposition of textures and flavours with the al dente pasta gelling everything together perfectly.
This was followed by the White Asparagus with peas from the Nogaret Farm – simple and elegant.
To cleanse our palate, next up was the King Crab and Avocado Potage, with fresh crabmeat (a hallmark of any fine restaurant) in a light avocado broth.
The Steam Tai with Hotaruika and Sakuraebi was my least favourite item of the evening; not that it was bad; just that the flavours were perhaps wee too subtle to make an impression.
The Burgaud Duck with Foie-gras confit was good but didn’t really excite me as I’m more biased towards a crispier version.
For the final course, I opted for the Roasted French lamb which was done a loving pink and tasty too. Excellent.
Dessert was Chocolate Rum baba with Banana, done goreng-pisang style of which I’m a big fan. All in all, I enjoy Chef Takashi Kiruma’s innovative style – the starters are stellar enough to make me return time and again, but the mains, while competent, could do with a wee bit more daring-do. I liken Cilantro to a healthy relationship; you are very comfortable with each other and know what to expect but that unexpected once in a while helps to spice it up. I look forward to be surprised on my next visit, soon.