Is it a gallery? Is it a café? Is it a fashion lifestyle store?
Those are usually the questions people ask when they step into Renoma Café Gallery – that spanking new establishment with the bright red Renoma sign along Jalan Bukit Bintang, diagonally across the Prince Court Medical Centre.
Actually, the answer is: All of the above!
Many years ago, I got acquainted with the brand “Renoma” through its popularity in ready-to-wear fashion clothings, accessories and of course, the famed men’s underwear. Did you know that during the 1990’s-2000’s, Renoma also ventured into furniture and crockery? Founder of the brand, Maurice Renoma is a stylist, designer and scenographer all rolled into one.
Being only the 2nd outlet (the first one is in Paris), Renoma Café Gallery (RCG) here in Kuala Lumpur is like a breath of fresh, if a bit eclectic, air to the somewhat jaded dining scene in the city presently. I can only describe the décor as very contemporary, quirkily artistic and chic in a raw simplistic way. Nuances of pop art are everywhere; the sofas and armchairs are in deep plush leather, with a neo-classical appeal and lots of street art motifs on the walls, nooks and corners. I’m sure, like me, you can’t stop photographing those animal head images imprinted on the vintage chair backs and other black-and-white artworks displayed all over the gallery. Oh, and you can’t miss those mannequins donned in trendy leather Renoma outfits at the Champ Galerie, just past the main door and the charming latest fashion merchandise display welcoming you.
You will then be ushered warmly into Salle, the main dining area with 98 seats… or perhaps you’d like some pre-dinner drinks at the bar – called the Oval Bar. There’s also the al fresco La Terrasse facing Jalan Bukit Bintang for a smoke or two. Up at the Mezzanine floor, there’s the Salon Lounge for drinks and dinner too. If you wish for more privacy, there’s this gorgeous private VIP room (complete with karaoke system) called the George V Suite – just perfect for some exclusive events, meetings or celebrations.
The food served in RCG is rather diverse… a mixture of European, American and Asian influences but “the heart of the cuisine is French”, according to their Executive Chef. As far as possible, RCG replicates the dishes closest to authentic nouveau and provincial French cuisine. In this aspect, their Chef de Cuisine, Chef Alven Tan and Chef Patisserrie, Chef Amanda Lim are doing great.
To start off the meal, I thought the best way to sample a variety of flavours would be their “Assorted Canapes” (RM20) featuring “forest, sea and farm” elements. There are fresh mushroom ragout, smoked Scottish salmon, beef pastrami and air-dried Muscovy duck on slices of toasted brioches all presented very prettily. A good start to any meal.
Having had a bite of the smooth tender Muscovy duck, I wanted more and so I had the Cured Muscovy Duck Breast Salad (RM28) next. The French duck breast has been cured with camomile tea (thus there was no hint of gaminess at all in the duck meat). With fresh crisp salad leaves, a poached egg and an interesting ginger flower (I like this local injection!) vinaigrette, this ducky salad is a winner in my book.
Cured Muscovy Duck Breast Salad
The Nicoise Salade with Scottish Salmon (RM28) is also good. I love the combination of mixed salad leaves with the silky smooth salmon, grilled artichoke, heirloom tomatoes, anchovies, quail eggs and and a robust red wine vinaigrette.
Nicoise Salade with Scottish Salmon
Mini Snails Parcels (RM18) may sound a bit awkward but they are actually oven-baked Burgundy Escargots in puff pastry and presented very prettily “hidden” behind curried lotus root chips. Paired with a bunch of micro cress drizzled over with sauce Madere, it makes an impressive starter.
Mini Snails Parcels
If you are a fan of foie gras, go knock your socks off with their huge 120g portion (RM78)! I think it’s best to share this with someone as it’s really too much and too heavy to stomach this entire portion all by yourself. Even though there are some compressed grapes, tropical fruit compote and fine mixed salad accompanying the 120g pan-seared foie gras on a toasted brioche, it’s truly a very rich appetizer for one person. Unless of course you do not intend to have any main course after that!
Pan-seared Foie Gras
RCG serves a Croque Madame (RM28) and not a Croque Monsieur. An interesting explanation on the difference between a croque madame and a croque monsieur is that the former has a poached/fried egg on top because that fried/poached egg looks like an “old fashioned lady’s hat”! To put it simply, a croque monsieur/madame is a grilled ham and cheese sandwich popularly served in French cafes as a quick snack, much like the American hamburger. The croque madame served in RCG is a bit more sophisticated – it has cured beef, Muscovy duck, turkey ham bathed in melted Gruyere cheese and the poached egg crowning it is seasoned with a shake of black truffles. Croque Madame is classified as an “appetizer” but if you ask me, this more than qualifies as a mains!
When you dine in a French-inspired cafe, of course the French Onion Soup (RM20) is a must. A classic Parisian dish, the version served in RCG is really thick with caramelized onions brewed in beef bouillon and topped with toasted bread and melted Gruyere cheese. The flavours are intense and a tad on the salty side – it would be excellent with bread.
French Onion Soup
Likewise, the hearty Rock Lobster Bisque (RM32) is intensely flavoured from the crustacean veloute (you can already see that from the dark hue of the soup!) but again, a bit heavy-handed with the salt. Besides little medallions of rock lobster in the broth, what’s uniquely surprising about this bisque is the serving of fried crispy whitebait on top and a drizzle of spicy cream… nice!
Rock Lobster Bisque
Would you pay RM58 for a burger? Well, if that burger has a patty made from grass-fed Beef Striploin (all 220g of it!), with rillette of Muscovy duck and a piece of foie gras stuck in the middle of it and all these sandwiched between a 6” bun, served with a rocket salad… I’d think it’s money well spent. Oh, did I mention that it’s also served with hand-cut pomme frites (French fries) which are double-fried? And those wisps of stringy stuff crowning the patty are crispy leek strips, for that added bit of texture and aesthetic appeal. The soft smooth texture of the rustic rillette, not to mention the foie gras, lift this L’Artisan Burger to the ranks of elitism in the burger world.
Beef lovers would do well with the various cuts available on the menu, from hanger, ribeye, sirloin and tenderloin, all at 220g. We tried the Ribeye Wagyu (with a marble score of 6) (RM128) and it was superbly executed. All their steaks are served with seasonal vegetables by the side and black truffle pomme puree and you also get to choose the sauce to go with it. However, we had our steak sans sauce just so we could taste the natural flavours of that superb slab of meat! Yes, you can tell we are such shameless carnivores, right?
Ribeye Wagyu – 220g
I didn’t quite care for the Boeuf Bourguignon… Slow-braised Beef Cheek (RM58) because I don’t really like soft mushy meats, haha! It’s a dish cooked with love… 8 hours of braising with red wine, root vegetables and forest mushrooms. Not much jaw exercise is needed as the cheeks are fork tender, served with pearl onion confit and potato mousseline.
Slow-braised Beef Cheek
If you prefer lighter proteins, the Cod Meuniere (RM62) and the Coq au Vin (RM36) would serve you well. The sizeable portion of cod fish is pan-seared in brown butter and served with seasonal vegetables on the side with some delicate aromatic infusion from kaffir lime leaves and lemongrass. The Coq au Vin is essentially spring chicken slow-braised in red Burgundy wine with added flavours from smoked duck in it. Very tasty and easy on the palate.
Coq au Vin
The Oriental Rack of Lamb (RM60) is faultless. The glistening pieces of lamb, char-grilled to perfection – the insides are so pink and juicy, are served on a bed of saute’ed vegetables and sweet Shimeji mushrooms.
Oriental Rack of Lamb
Rock Lobster Thermidor (RM148) is something to order if you’re set to impress your date. A whole rock lobster tail is saute’ed with chanterelles (a fungus with fruity aroma) and served with Porcini mushrooms, crustacean veloute and melted Gruyere cheese. I find the presentation is a bit under par, considering most of the mains we have tried earlier looked really good. Maybe it would be more impressive visually if the lobster was not chopped up.
Rock Lobster Thermidor
Valrhona Chocolate Fondant
Orange Vanilla Creme Brulee
If you are unsure about which dessert to order, I would suggest you go for the Le Cafe Gourmand (RM18) as you get a small glass of Espresso together with 4 assorted RCG sweet patisseries – macaron, mango millefeuille, eclair and croquignole (double-baked biscuit). Of course if you really have a super sweet tooth, the Orange Vanilla Creme Brulee (RM18) or the Valrhona Chocolate Fondant (RM20) and Peach Melba (RM18) should do the job.
Le Cafe Gourmand
Left: Chef Alven Tan (Chef de Cuisine); right: Chef Amanda Lim (Chef Patisserie)
Renoma Cafe Gallery
Lot 510 Jalan Bukit Bintang
55100 Kuala Lumpur
Open: Sunday-Tuesday: 12.00pm to 11.00pm
Wednesday-Saturday: 12.00pm to 1.00am