franco fare

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croisette cafe is a quaint, authentic French cafe located within the cascadium condominium complex, one of Bangsar’s oldest residential towers. the owners, chef pierre m chaillou and his wife michelle soon, used to live there but since setting up the cafe two years ago, decided they did not want to work and live in the same place. after moving to malaysia, chef pierre supplied cakes to hotels and restaurants before the couple decided to set up shop. The cafe occupies a simple space by the swimming pool, with a seating capacity of around 30 pax – including a couple of small tables on the balcony that overlooks jalan penaga.

the layout is straightforward, the decor comprises white furniture punctuated by lime green tables. michelle attends to the front of house and does an amazing job, welcoming and personable in dealing with guests, right from the moment you call to book a table. while we looked through the menu, she patiently fielded questions and explained each dish (and the French names) in detail. in between serving guests, she also had a VIP to attend to: their five-month-old son, looking all angelic in his stroller.

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order the prawn bisque is more watery than creamy – as a bisque should be – and equally light on the shellfish flavour, but add that dollop of rouille (olive oil, garlic, chilli sauce and saffron blended into an orangey mayo-like cream) that’s served on a small piece of toast and the broth gets that needed lift. Although, the rouille doesn’t exactly melt into the bisque so you will see tiny blobs floating around.

during our visit, croisette was promoting their steak frites, australian rib eye in 150g portions (a good fill for lunch yet dainty enough for small appetites) served with hand-cut thick fries and a simple mesclun salad. A disc of herbed butter crowns the steak, melting all over it to add flavour – which is sadly lacking in the well cooked meat. Instead, the fries are the unexpected star of the dish: unsalted, so the natural tuber taste shines through.

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highlight french food is known for its simplicity and where pasta is concerned, a pesto-tossed dish is one of the most basic classics. except at a French restaurant, you get pistou – pesto minus the pine nuts – which, far from tasting like something’s missing, is actually more intense in flavour. croisette tosses thin linguine in a generous amount of the beautiful green mix and a good sprinkle of cheese, then tops it with a few oven-dried cherry tomatoes. compared to sundried tomatoes, these have a rich sweetness while staying juicy. The pasta was a little overcooked but the excellent pistou made up for it.

we also tried  the pumpkin veloute (cream of pumpkin) was thick and sweet, but fairly run of the mill. for desserts, croisette offers several types of cakes (they are mainly for pre-orders, whole, but a different selection is available per slice at the cafe each day) but it is their apple tart on thin crust that has a following. each tart is baked a la minute, so make sure to order yours along with the rest of your food or be patient with the 15-20 minutes’ wait. what you get is an ultra crispy rectangle of well-buttered pastry holding apple slices, accompanied by an earl grey and raspberry sauce, garnished with a boysenberry and strawberry. the earl grey cream takes the cake, but the tart falls short elsewhere: the pastry was burnt and overpowered by the butter, while the apples were sourish and dry.

overall  perhaps it was the big group of diners that threw the chef off on our visit, because this place has a lot of promise  and although not all of the dishesall pass the taste test, the food was properly prepared and well presented.  we're chalking this up for a revisit.

croisette cafe level 3, cascadium condominium, jalan penaga, bangsar, KL opens 11.45am-2pm and 6.45pm-9.45pm, tue-sun tel +6014 665 7944/+6014 970 7430/+6016 330 4477 Facebook

 *pistou is the French version of pesto, sans pine nuts but rather than tasting like something's missing, the lack of it actually makes the basil and garlic stand out more