Saturday, January 12, 2008

The C. Club, Pavilion Kuala Lumpur

Little pleasures

The art of dining and diamonds come together in The C. Club, the newly opened restaurant-cum-retail outlet in Kuala Lumpur that seeks to define the difference between merely living and living well.

Good food is a pleasure to enjoy. The same goes with diamonds. By fusing necessity (we all have to eat) with luxury, The C Club co-proprietor Chan Boon Yong seems to have it made. But does he?

When Chan, 44, first set up diamond jewellers The Carat Club 10 years ago, many thought him crazy for being unconventional — setting up shop in an empty bungalow in Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur, when there was a shopping complex across the road.

On top of that, 1997 was the financial crisis. Instead, The Carat Club took a chance and opened in KLCC, banking on young executives who would get married and celebrate with diamonds. Their hunch proved correct and the company weathered the storm.

Today, The Carat Club has grown from a five-man team into a 150-strong company. “What it is today is not what I had envisioned. I was quite happy to be running a small business,” says Chan.

Five-Flavoured Breaded Squid with Garlic Peri-Peri Sauce.

The last 10 years have been a journey of discovery for the former stockbroker who says he gets a kick out of doing things people say cannot be done. Like creating a haven of indulgences, the result of what his mother calls his “itchy fingers”.

“A lot of people look at The C. Club and say I’m mad. Jewellery is the ultimate luxury. People don’t buy it unless they’re celebrating a milestone in their life. It’s a challenge to generate traffic here,” says Chan.

In the last three months, about three million square feet of retail space has opened up at the Pavilion, and everyone has been fighting for staff, contractors and the like.

Add to that, the second-generation diamond specialist is a newbie as far as dining establishments are concerned.

“It’s about learning a new industry, investing money and going from ground zero.’’

Well, not entirely new as the concept of combining food with retail has existed since the days of The Carat Club.

Over the last decade, the Carat Club “family”, a unit of loyal customers has grown so large that the little bungalow is no longer able to contain the burgeoning brood. The need for space resulted in a search within the Klang Valley.

Approximately 800 sq ft popped up and The C. Club was born.

The C. Club continues to uphold the principle of The Carat Club: With knowledge comes passion.

Not only do you get to toast your birthday, engagement, wedding proposal or anniversary with champagne, you get a crash course at the Champagne, Oyster and Caviar Lounge on the hows and whys of the sparkling golden liquid.

You’ll have the chance to appreciate and differentiate between Fin de Claire oyster and Belon oyster and discover how paying an extra RM100 for caviar can make a difference on your tastebuds. All this while being surrounded by hundreds of thousands ringgit worth of Lalique crystals protected by glass and tinted mirror showcases.

“If people can drink coffee at Starbucks at RM15 a pop, they can indulge in a RM300 Lalique pendant while having a meal,” reasons Chan.

The eloquent entrepreneur has dreams of reaching a broader spectrum of people and getting them to indulge in what life has to offer.

Purchasing a diamond is no longer a luxury but a necessity or as Chan puts it: life’s necessary luxuries. “People work so hard, they often forget to reward themselves.”

He explains, “The purpose of The C. Club is to introduce you to something different. People perceive the place as expensive. But it’s really about educating customers so they can see the difference.”

Scoring some C’s

So what makes the lamb here different from the one served at the restaurant next door? For starters, a lot more ingredients go onto the plate than just a slab of meat.

For instance, to prepare the Sirloin with Shitake Sauce and Whipped Potatoes (RM50), the beef is first aged for two weeks until it is tender and the juices are sealed in before grilling it with shitake sauce, cream and butter which makes for a scrumptious garlicky, butter sauce.

Fruit & Prawn

And the soba noodles that accompany the Salmon with Sweet Ginger Sauce (RM40) isn’t any old Japanese noodles, it’s green tea noodles tossed with sesame oil and seeds, mushrooms and edamame beans drizzled with mayonnaise spiked with a tinge of wasabe.

Unfortunately, the chef couldn't accomodate my request for a medium-rare salmon. It came overcooked with a ginger glaze that was hardly detectable.

The Lavender Lamb Loin with Herb Potatoes and Mesculin Salad (RM54) fared a little better but only if you know how to appreciate the natural sweetness of lamb. The prime cut of meat isn’t marinated with salt and pepper, just dried lavender and garlic; it isn’t tenderloin so it can be rather chewy.

If you prefer something with more flavour, try the Lamb Loin Marguez with Coriander Couscous and Tangy Sour Cream Yoghurt (RM52).

Assistant head chef, Rajesh Khanna describes the menu as modern Australian with an Asian twist to suit the local palate. So how did the Mexican Seafood Broth (RM15) come into play? The salads come in disappointingly small portions as do most of the main dishes leaving you hungry for more.

But I couldn’t get enough of the Fruit & Prawn (RM23), a refreshing appetiser of prawns cooked with a medley of raspberry, raspberry coulis and mango. Don’t be fooled by the similar sounding Grilled Prawns with Honey Mustard and Mango Peri Peri (RM21) whose mango peri-peri seemed to have lost its zing.

The Cream of Forest Mushroom with Truffle Chantilly (RM14), or in layman terms, mushroom soup, is supposedly well received but it is a matter of personal preference. Some might prefer this fine blend infused with white truffle oil, while others like me, enjoy a thick, creamy soup with tiny bits of mushroom that I can chew on.

It takes skill to suss out the subtle flavours of the mushroom mousse made from three different varieties — shimaji, shitake and button — stuffed inside two pieces of hollowed zucchini, baked with a topping of Gruyere cheese.

And I couldn’t taste the creaminess of the crab meat in the Soft Shell Crabs with Creamy Ratatouille and Spinach (RM18) as they had been over-fried. But I enjoyed the Five Flavoured Breaded Squid with Garlic Periperi Peparade (RM16) marinated in five spice powder and sautéed with chilli and garlic.

The dessert menu didn’t do much to excite my tastebuds. The list includes Lavender Crème Brulee, Cassatta (three types of ice-cream — strawberry, vanilla and chocolate on a cookie base), Lemon Diamonds with Vanilla Cream (tart with lemon filling), Mix Fruit Blintzes (crepes), Jackfruit, Rhubarb and Apple Pastry with Ice-Cream and Raspberry Charlotte with Chantilly Cream.

What? No chocolate sauce, cake or even a spray of cocoa powder to satisfy my chocolate fix? Chan apologetically promises more next time.

Chilling out

Chan’s brief to its interior decorator, SWOT Design Group: make the place interesting, sophisticated yet approachable. Interesting. That pretty sums up the, I beg your pardon, rest room. Hidden behind a mirror that is essentially the wall, the rest room is surrounded by ceiling-to-floor mirrors.

The piped-in music, frosted mirror frame and sleek, black floor makes you feel almost like the dancing doll trapped inside a musical box.

Sophisticated. Crystal chandeliers hang from the ceiling. Even then, the place lacks the classy, refined facade it should command. The furniture is a letdown with the sofa being a little too low for comfort and the chairs looking like they’ve been sprayed with silver paint.

Approachable. The Moon Terrace, is where you can dine al fresco. The furniture selection boasts Philippe Starck’s chunky bubble club sofas and Louis Ghost armchairs which are not visually appealing but weather resistant, thus suitable for the outdoors.

There’s still a lot of unfinished business, like the carpeting on the staircase and the cocktail menu which is supposed to read like exotic jewels.

There’s still room for improvement in the food and the dessert menu needs to include at least one chocolate element. At any rate, the complimentary cup of coffee served after the bill has been paid is a pleasant surprise.

Still, Chan is confident things will turn around. He says: “I believe in giving people the opportunity to grow with the company.” It is this earnestness that will take The C. Club through another decade and prove the sceptics wrong. By then, Chan will probably be itching to take on a new project.

The C. Club
Lot 5.11 & 6.11,
Level 5 & 6,
Pavilion Kuala Lumpur,
168, Jalan Bukit Bintang, KL

Opening hours: 10am to 10pm (weekdays)
11am to midnight (weekends)

Tel: (03) 2141 3160, 2141 8190

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