Dinner at Cilantro, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and a discussion on sous vide cooking amongst other things over drinks at Frangipani


Simon had been talking about Cilantro for the longest time now, so he made reservations a few weeks before my arrival and persuaded Chef Takashi Kimura to create a menu for us.


Abalone with pasta cooked in Abalone jus – This amuse bouche blew us out of the water. It was simple but tremendous. The flavor rang out like a church bell on a clear day. We bitched so much about the minuscule portion that Chef Takashi has promised a big bowl for our next dinner.

When Chef Takashi Kimura came out of the kitchen to greet us, he exuded a quiet and humble air. He’s been away from Japan for more than 21 years, traveling the world working and learning.

I was surprised to learn that his role model and “idol” as it were was the legendary Bernard Pacaud of the gastronomic institution that is L’Ambroisie because usually a celebrity chef would be cited. Chef Pacaud’s dedication and approach to excellence was greatly admired. Although he has never worked with Bernard Pacuad, Chef Takashi looked me in the eye and said, “I will die for him”.


Shima Aji with Shiso Cress, Sea Urchin with Consommé Jelly and Lightly smoked Ocean Trout – The Shima Aji was gone in a flash but the Ocean Trout topped with lightly toasted pickled Konbu was slowly savored to prolong the experience and the Sea Urchin was luscious with tiny pops of salty umami from the caviar.

The first thing you will notice about Cilantro is that everything is cooked sous vide. I think this is a very practical way of cooking in a restaurant or for a banquet because you can prepare the food in advance and then do the finishing touches just before serving.

Simon’s opinion of sous vide is interesting: it’s like a fake boob job, we don’t mind looking at them but you don’t have to shout out, “it’s a fake boob job!” We know and if we don’t, we don’t need to know. It’s a simple procedure that’s been used in kitchens and caterers for many years. It’s only come into vogue recently because of Thomas Keller’s cookbook and the fact that the water bath equipment is now within reach of most households.


Challandaise Duck with Foie Gras and Red Wine Sauce – moist and tender, it was the best duck I’ve had all year. The Foie Gras was the odd ball here, we felt; Chef Takashi said that it was there because Malaysians recently discovered Foie Gras and are quite enamored with it. He had to put it in otherwise very important guests would question its absence.

In fact, I’ve developed a keen interest with this method of cooking because being a busy bachelor means I rarely have time to cook complex meals except for the weekends, hence, sous vide is a good option where I can cook my meals in advance, freeze them and then re-heat for my supper and the occasional surprise guest. Just add a wheat product of your choice.

In any case, we decided to go for after dinner drinks with Chef Takashi. We originally wanted to try this new “Gastro-Lounge” that opened up near our hotel but it was closed when we arrived at 10.30pm. A rather inauspicious sign for a newly-opened joint on a Friday night.


Japanese Sole with Maine Lobster – This was a rather blah course for me, being a less than enthusiastic seafood-person. While it was well-executed, I felt there was no harmony in this course as there was no discernible link between the strong and sweet lobster, the light-tasting sole and the potato wedge. If the purpose was contrast, then I think it was a rather dull attempt.

After much deliberation and some hesitation, we decided to do drinks at Frangipani in Bukit Bintang. It was supposed to be one of the top gay bars in KL. Not that there was anything wrong with that, after all, a dirty martini is still a dirty martini. Which, incidentally, is Chef Takashi’s tipple of choice.

Anyway, it was still very early, so the bar was actually prepping for the bar-hoppers coming in later. A corporate event had just ended, so Chef Takashi scored some free nosh to go with our drinks. The food network here is strong, I tell you. 🙂


Two way preparation of Wagyu – upon presentation, we thought this was a rather mundane course but when we tasted it, it was Mea Culpa all round. The braised shredded beef wrapped in cabbage was done Chinese-style with hints of bright ginger and Shaoxing of such subtlety that can only be Japanese. I craved for more. The rump was flavorful with a light beef jus. It hit the spot perfectly.

Chef Takashi started in KL as he felt it was easier here than in Singapore. Perhaps, but I felt that the Singaporean food scene was either getting boring or too expensive.

On one end, it’s the endless recycling of well-worn but still worthy hawker centers and food courts that people never seem to tire of writing and “discovering”, on the other extreme, we have restaurants that serve dinner and inept service that start at $400 per person and in the middle, other than the Korean and Japanese Ramen shops, it’s mostly Italian with the odd place here and there where they still think it’s hip to do fusion.


Tagliolini Pasta with Hokkaido Scallops and Autumn Truffles – By this time, we were stuffed but we persevered. Unfortunately, this course was upstaged by the amuse bouche; the light flavors underwhelmed our palates that were still pining for the Abalone Pasta.

Perhaps I’m jaded, or maybe not, because recently I was invited to attend a fast food chain’s launch of “gourmet” coffee. We’re running out of ideas.

No, I told him, Kuala Lumpur seems to be the place to be these days. Even Garibaldi is opening a restaurant in KL. New fertile ground with an appreciative custom that’s not been too badly influenced by a fearful generation that is so prevalent in Singapore.


Roasted Banana Souffle with Bitter Chocolate Ice Cream – I expected a nice strong banana-y flavor but it was pleasantly subtle which made room for the stronger ice cream. The service staff were concerned as we lingered over our wines because the souffle were ready to be served and was suffering by the minute. A pleasant but not terribly high-note end to the meal.

Cilantro, KL was included recently as one of the top restaurants in the world by the Miele Guide. However, I am sold on Cilantro simply for the fact that they do not charge corkage. The wine service charge of RM25 is reasonable considering they have the full complement of stemware and decanters.

Dinner plans were made just before Cilantro’s entry into the Miele Guide, so we were joshing with Chef Takashi on the possible price increase because of that. He smiled and just shrugged.

The call of the Abalone Pasta is strong. We will be back.

Cilantro Restaurant & Wine Bar is at MiCasa All Suite Hotel, 368-B, Jalan Tun Razak, 50400 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Tel: +603 2179 8082, Fax: +603 2164 3730. NO CORKAGE!!! But there is a wine service charge of RM25 per person.

Chef Takashi Kimura





Posted on 21st Dec 2010 in French, Fusion, Japanese, Malaysia


There Are 3 Comments


food.recentrunes.com | 2010 in review commented on February 1, 2011 at 12:39 am

[…] deterred with the minor setback and experienced Malaysian cuisine in the form of Fermented Durians, Abalone Pasta and old-school Hainanese western […]


Simon Tan commented on April 28, 2011 at 4:47 pm

You should post the Redux and show us your take on the Abalone Pasta.


[…] first tasted this at Cliantro, KL. Like a drug dealer, Chef Takashi give us all a taste; it blew us all away and had us begging […]

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