Saturday, October 27, 2007

Banquet, Bangsar

Grand banquet

Get ready for a good blend of stylish setting and unpretentious selection of dishes.


1F-28 Bangsar Village II
2 Jalan Telawi Satu
Bangsar Baru, Kuala Lumpur
Tel: (03) 2282 3228


Spicy: The Prawn Noodle has the strong taste of prawn.

What happens when a talented cook and a creative designer join forces? The answer is, a banquet of good food served in a stylish setting. In an outlet named – what else? – Banquet.

It is the latest brainchild of Ben Yeong and Toto Ooi who also own chic Parisian-style eatery, Café Café at Jalan Maharajalela in Kuala Lumpur. We stumbled upon Banquet when we went to check out the newly-opened Bangsar Village 2. The eatery’s pristine white ambience is saved from being cold and clinical, thanks to clever accents such as classy chandeliers and beautiful hand-painted black and white Moroccan-patterned tiles. Its spacious rectangular dining space has a nice outdoorsy feel about it, furnished with comfortable white wicker chairs and marble dining tables in addition to the rows of potted fir trees that demarcate the area.

To reflect the outlet’s colour scheme, the service team is immaculately garbed in white uniforms. It certainly gives us the impression that we are being waited on hand and foot by a battalion of professional cooking experts.

Despite its rather highbrow setting, the menu turns out to be surprisingly down-to-earth, consisting of both Asian and Continental specialities. Chef Yeong has ensured Banquet’s sizeable selection remains rooted in tradition but with a contemporary presentation.

Clipped: These aromatic Chicken Wings are crunchy.
“Even our European-style salads, appetisers and mains will strike a chord with local tastebuds especially Malaysians who are intrepid travellers, said Yeong.

A fine example is the luxurious Pan-Seared Foie Gras. Served with olive oil and fruity apple reduction, this sensational treat is memorable for its light crispiness on the outside while remaining supremely smooth inside. No self-respecting escargot fan should miss the Baked Escargots with Anchovy Garlic Butter. The anchovy-infused butter spread generously on crisp bread slices alone is worth sacrificing your low-fat diet for.

Good salads are hard to come by in KL but I can vouch for the outlet’s imaginative creation of Wild Rocket, Parmigiano, Sliced Pear and Roasted Pine Nuts drizzled with Foie Gras Reduction. With such distinct flavours and textures, it is a clever way of seducing diners into going green.

Deep-fried chicken wings are always a popular choice with Malaysians and we anticipate Banquet’s Aromatic Chicken Wings will enjoy flyaway success. Thanks to its batter concoction that includes ground-salted fish, the juicy wings are not only crunchy but also imbued with an unusual brininess.

All good restaurants should have a unique dish that defines it. In Banquet’s case, the Pasta with Sun-dried Tomato and Duck Skin Croutons fits the bill. Yeong was inspired by an unforgettable peasant dish when he was touring France years ago, “It was a provincial delicacy where they serve fresh slices of baguette together with a huge pot of duck lard. I finally thought of this dish after wracking my brain on what to do with the leftover duck skin from our duck confit.”

He decided to deep-fry the chopped duck skin until crisp and toss them with pasta, olive oil and sun-dried tomato. The simple approach worked like a dream.

Lending a subtle yet well-rounded gamey aftertaste to the pasta, the crispy bits of duck skin emphasises the sun-dried tomato’s delicate piquancy. In turn, the latter tempers the dish’s cloying richness.

Perennial Asian one-dish meals are deftly prepared too. Our vote goes to the Prawn Noodles, which has all the requisite flavours nicely balanced – spicy but with prawn sweetness. According to Ooi, the recipe comes from one of his relatives who runs her own prawn noodles shop back home in Bukit Mertajam, Penang. Served with decent size prawns, blanched beansprouts, sliced chicken and hard-boiled egg, it has quickly emerged as one of the hot favourites amongst Banquet regulars. My only beef is the absence of crispy fried shallots to give the dish that finishing touch.

Luckily, I was appeased by the delectable Mee Jawa, a rare find in new hip joints around Bangsar. I devoured the delicious noodles covered in mildly spicy sweet potato and crab gravy accompanied by sliced fritters and fried beancurd, crunchy flour cracker, prawns and beansprouts.

Classy: Banquet has a white stately interior.

Thai food fans will probably like the Wok-fried Rice Vermicelli for its spicy-tangy nuances. Another tantalising option is the Kedah-style Asam Laksa. Yeong remarked, “The sourish broth is less fishy compared to the Penang version but we are delighted it has become quite a crowd puller.”

No banquet is ever complete without dessert, so don’t miss the outlet’s decadent creations. Good things come to those who wait and, believe me, it’s worth the 15- minute-wait for the Classic Chocolate Cake at Banquet. Here, the melted chocolate with a molten centre is infused with white truffles or peanut butter. The truffle-accented version is to-die-for even though it costs the earth at RM40 a pop.

Equally notable is the Lemon Tart and Tiramisu. The former tastes like a burst of sunshine on your palate whilst the latter is a fabulous ‘pick me up’ thanks to its dulcet smoothness.

Overall, Banquet is well worth a visit if you want a mixture of local and Western fare. Service is prompt and prices reasonable for the quality you are getting.

So go ahead and have a feast at Banquet.

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