Thursday, August 16, 2007

What A Banquet


Crispy Salt-Fish Flavoured Chicken Wings


Super-rich Foie Gras for the well-heeled crowd


Hip & Hot Hokkien Pork-free Prawn Mee


Must try! Spaghetti with Crackling Duck Skin Croutons


Heavenly death by Chocolate with Truffle to boot!

The eclectic crowd who knows about chic Parisian-style eatery, Café Café at Jalan Maharajalela in Kuala Lumpur will adore this place. Despite being newcomers to the cut-throat F&B biz five years ago, Ben Yeong and Toto Ooi have naysayers flummoxed over their success. And they about to repeat it with Banquet.

We stumbled upon the outlet when we went to check out the newly opened Bangsar Village 2. With old folks in tow and a kid, it's not easy to find an eatery that suit everyone. Still the classy place offers a good East-West menu (NOT fusion but segregated into separate sections). Get past the 'chi chi' chandeliers and you'd feel right at home, lolling in the white wicker chairs that go with the white marble tables. Rows of potted fir trees give the dining area a mock outdoorsy feel. One tends to have the impression of being waited on hand and foot by a battalion of chefs as the service team is immaculately garbed in spotless white chef’s uniforms.

We were surprised the local items stayed true to tradition while the European-style salads, appetizers and mains will strike a chord with more sophisticated tastebuds. Definitely a good place to bring Mom, aunties and trendy gal-pals!

Had a recent windfall? Treat yourself to the Pan-Seared Foie Gras (RM45++) served with olive oil and fruity apple reduction. Supremely smooth yet light enough to leave you feeling hugely satisfied. Oh, we guarantee your diet will fly out the window once you sample the Baked Escargots with Anchovy Garlic Butter (RM24++).

The luxurious Wild Rocket, Parmigiano, Sliced Pear and Roasted Pine Nuts drizzled with Foie Gras Reduction (RM25++) is too good for rabbits so greenies will do well to order this.

Who says ham yue (salted fish) is only fit for a pauper's table? Crushed and mixed into the batter for Aromatic Chicken Wings (RM14++), the dish is fit for a king! Imagine biting into crisp batter and then moist, juicy and subtly briny chicken wings - oooohh...this humble ingredient deserves some new-found respect.

But all said and done, we always look for a kick-*** dish that defines a particular restaurant. We certainly found it in the Pasta with Sun-dried Tomato and Duck Skin Croutons (RM25++). Inspired by an unforgettable French peasant dish of solidified duck lard eaten with fresh sliced baguette, Yeong's duck skin croutons are good enough to rival the regular chee yow char (deep-fried pork lard dices).

Tossed with pasta, olive oil and sun-dried tomato, the simple combination worked like a charm. One gets a light, well-rounded gamey aftertaste in the pasta, with the crispy duck skin bits heightening the sun-dried tomato’s delicate piquancy. In turn, the latter prevents the dish from being overly rich.

OK, local foodies can take comfort that the Prawn Noodles (RM16++) has all the requisite flavours nicely balanced too. The soup is spicy without being tongue-numbingly so and has a tasty prawny sweetness to it. The recipe comes from one of Toto Ooi's relatives who runs her own prawn noodles shop back in Bukit Mertajam, up north in Penang. Served with decent size prawns, blanched beansprouts, kangkong, sliced chicken and hard-boiled egg, it is now one of Banquet's hot sellers. My only beef is the absence of crispy fried shallots to give it that essential finishing touch but Ooi has promised to rectify this.

Imagine eating a rustic dish like Mee Jawa (RM16++) in achingly hip Bangsar! Well, the noodle dish is on the menu and worth trying. Even though the mildly spicy sweet potato and crab gravy is not as thick as I would have liked it to be, the dish more than passed muster with its generous accompaniments of sliced flour fritters and fried firm beancurd, crunchy flour cracker, prawns and beansprouts.

Another diet-busting temptation that you must not miss is the Hot Chocolate Cake. You have to wait 15 minutes for it but heck, this light, ultra-decadent chocolate cake with a molten liquid centre imbued with white truffles is simply to-die-for! Don't let the RM30++ tag deter you - go on and have it just this once! Saner diners may want to opt for the classic chocolatey or peanut butter filling.

Inject a burst of 'sunshine' onto your palate with the Lemon Tart (RM9++) or pick up some Italian smoothness with its Tiramisu (RM18++).
Overall, Banquet is well worth a visit for its prompt service, stylish ambience and most of all, some ravishing dishes. It won't be cheap but it's not gonna cost you a king's ransom either to feast at Banquet.

Banquet (pork-free)
1F-28 Bangsar Village II
2 Jalan Telawi Satu
Bangsar Baru
Kuala Lumpur
Tel: 2282 3228