A Malaysian Blog about Food, Family and Friends – by Lyrical Lemongrass
To those who say that December is the month when everyone winds down at work and takes a breather, I say, “bah humbug!”. To combat my stress levels at work, I: (a) eat fruitcake; (b) sing along to Christmas tunes; (c) curse bad drivers. Solution (a) isn’t so good for the waistline, so I’ve stopped bringing any more fruitcake to work, and solution (b) can get a bit tiresome and repetitive when I have only one Christmas album on my iPhone. Solution (c)…aaahhh….plenty of arse drivers out there who allow me to test my vocal cords. My brother insists that Malaysians are offensive (as opposed to defensive) drivers, but I sometimes think that we must surely be a little bit of both to survive the roads of KL. Bald Eagle loves to speed, especially when his new car can do 0 to 60 in 7.1 seconds, but the fact is that no matter how careful you are, there is no assurance that someone else will exercise the same amount of care as you. I mean, these days, you have to anticipate people running across highways on a suicide mission while you’re driving at 120km/h on the Fed.
Despite work, I’m looking forward to Christmas. I’m halfway through my Christmas shopping, my Christmas tree is already up, and I know the lyrics to all 15 songs on my Christmas album. Naturally, I haven’t been able to resist enhancing my pictures on this post with Christmas accents even though I was at Le Midi over a month ago (on the invitation of one of its proprietors, Melissa Groot). Despite her Dutch surname, Mellissa is very much Malaysian, and the restaurant is very much Mediterranean. Le Midi, in geographical terms, refers to the area south of France covering the Pyrénées to Spain and Italy. In terms of cuisine, expect hearty soups, seafood and shellfish.
“A signature French trademark, although traditionally from Brittany, Fruit de mer Frutti di Mare, literally fruits of the sea, is found in almost every town, and dish, from the Aegean to the Atlantic. Le Midi offers a more typical southern Mediterranean rendition of this mouthwatering bonanza of sea catch.”
The range of seafood and shellfish was astounding. We were served delicious and briny oysters from France, lobsters, prawns with flesh so sweet that they could have been diabetic inducing, periwinkles and clams, with dips of creamy homemade mayonnaise that was to die for and Echire butter. I’ve waxed lyrical about Echire butter before; suffice to say that I’m a fan. You’d probably scoff at the idea of eating seafood with butter, but let me tell you that when you try seafood with a dollop of Echire butter – now that’s a match made in heaven.
“A French delicacy, and a part of the cultural gastronomical heritage of France, dating all the way back to the Egyptians, then as a luxury dish in ancient Rome, the fattened liver continues to be the king of appetizers.”
The foie gras terrine was very rich. It was akin to eating a slab of butter on a piece of brioche, with the fig compote slicing through its richness….just slightly. The preparation of this textured dish was faultless, but I’d probably have enjoyed it more had I not pigged out on Echire butter earlier. As a matter of preference, I like a quickly seared piece of foie gras with a crisp surface as opposed to a traditionally prepared cold layered terrine. However, I can appreciate the fact that terrines are comparably more labour intensive thus justifying the higher price tag.
“Ceviche de Pescado, thinly sliced fish, served raw is deeply rooted within the history of colonial Spain and its variations are found through South American cuisine.”
According to Chef Emmanuel Gaudin, Mahi-Mahi was used in the preparation of this raw fish dish. (Mahi-Mahi is sweet and less “fishy tasting” compared to other types of fish making it suitable for ceviche.) The raw fish was cured in lemon juice, sliced very thinly (similar to carpaccio) and served with pesto sauce.
“From the oldest of Italian traditions, Carpaccio, named after the Venetian painter from 1930s Harry’s Bar is Mediterranean simplicity at its best.”
Beautifully pink, the ultra thin slices of raw meat served with shaved parmigiano regianno and basil pesto sauce was flavourful and exquisite.
“One of the stars of Le Midi, Bouillabaisse, a fisherman’s dish brings you the authentic flavours of Provence. Literally meaning boiling and simmering, served with rouille and croutons, it is one of the signature dishes of the Mediterranean, and is usually eaten by larger groups of diners, the more the merrier.”
Made with rascasse (an essential fish in the preparation of bouillabaisse), turbot, periwinkle, whelks, mussels and clams, and seasoned with saffron, star anise and fennel, this hearty soup is simmered for three days prior to serving. It almost seemed out of place in such posh surroundings – a robust dish like a bouillabaisse belongs in similarly robust surroundings – but we were not about to complain about the luxurious settings, the designer furniture and the ethereal dance of the jellyfish which formed part of the gorgeous decor of Le Midi.
“Creme Brulee is one of the most popular desserts. That probably has to do with the titillating contrast between the cold, creamy custard and the hard, hot layer of burnt sugar. The very first recipes for creme brulee date from the seventeenth century.”
Lightly flavoured with orange blossom, the creme brulee at Le Midi was well prepared with a nicely burnt caramelised surface and creamy custard beneath. The tiramisu, with a dousing of alcohol, was lovely too.
“Tiramisu, translating to “pick me up” in Italian, is a popular dessert layered with sweet cream. There are many possible explanations of its origin. Though many claim the dessert may have been made as far back as the Renaissance, some suggest Tiramisu was not made until 1971 by Italian baker, Carminantonio Lannaccone in a small bakery in Treviso, Italy. Italian cookbooks did not include recipes for Tiramisu until the 1980s, when it literally became one of the most popular desserts in Europe and the United States. The dessert is now served in many restaurants and is not exclusive to those restaurants offering Italian fare.”
For Christmas, Le Midi will be serving a set menu at RM268++. The menu will include a Mediterranean sesame tuna salad with a fennel, melon and orange vinaigrette, and a Greek moussaka with layers of lamb ragout complemented by eggplant and goat’s cheese. Mains include an Italian seafood ink ravioli with saffron sauce, and Capon baked in a pistachio crust served with a pomegranate sauce, chestnut puree and roasted vegetables. Chocolate sacher rounds off the meal.
To usher in the New Year, there is a special 5-course set menu priced at RM298++ per person. This includes a starter of French Tsaikaya oysters accented with caviar and paired with a watermelon gazpacho. Also served is a Mediterranean seafood soup as an appetiser. Mains include grilled lobster with tabouleh followed by a Moroccan lamb tagine with prunes and fava bean falafels paired with a yoghurt mint sauce. Desserts – homemade pannacotta with wild berries. I’m getting hungry just thinking about the food!
There is a separate section where one can chill out and enjoy the view of KL’s skyline, where the decor is as stunning as the sights outside. On Fridays and Saturdays (after 9.30pm), there is live jazz music by the Jose Thomas Jazz Trio – a perfect complement to the live jellyfish “lava lamp”.
Thank you to Melissa Groot and the management of Le Midi for kindly hosting the dinner!
Lot T3, 3rd Floor
Bangsar Shopping Centre
285 Jalan Maarof
59000 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: 603-2094 1318
Food, for me, is a means to an end and not an end in itself.
Food, for me, represents the love of family, the fellowship of friends, and the community and communality it brings.