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Saturday January 19, 2013

Friendly French food at Bistro & Bar à Vin

Rich and creamy: The sweet creaminess
of the Pumpkin Soup is complemented by
the strong flavour of the duck confit on top. Rich and creamy: The sweet creaminess of the Pumpkin Soup is complemented by the strong flavour of the duck confit on top.

A newly opened boulangerie, bistro and wine bar aims to take the ‘formal’ out of French food.

FRENCH cuisine has a rather unfairly earned reputation of being intimidating. Yes, the unpronounceable names, delicate decor and pocket-sized portions can often be perplexing, especially to us Asians who are more used to heaping plates of rice or noodles, but the truth is, dining out for French food need not be a stressful experience.

This is where the newest eatery in town, Yeast Boulangerie – Bistro & Bar à Vin, comes in. Aiming to be authentically French yet simple and approachable, founder Christophe Chatron-Michaud hopes Yeast will give Malaysian epicures a new way to enjoy quality French cuisine.

“We want our patrons to have great French food in a casual, comfortable setting, and at affordable prices. Instead of thinking of French food only on ‘special occasions’, we would like them to come in when they feel like eating out, and relax over a few glasses of wine,” he says.

As a boulangerie (bakery), bistro and wine bar, Yeast seems to cover the full spectrum of the dining experience. At our tasting session, we were given a sampling of their specialities, starting with their baked goods.

The Croque
Monsieur is
worth a try. The Croque Monsieur is worth a try.

For bread-lovers, their range of rustic-style French breads may prove irresistible, with tempting varieties like white chocolate, cranberry, and gruyere-and-duck-confit alongside the more common croissants and baguettes.

Made with natural, organic yeast using local fruits, the bread was a little chewier than you may be used to, but bursting with flavour, and it left a subtle yet delicious after-taste. The white chocolate bread, particularly, was a clear favourite with its indulgent dessert-like feel.

Yeast’s superb baking also made treats like their quiches and croque monsieur worth a try; while it was simple and hearty fare, the high-quality, fresh ingredients and fine balancing of flavours certainly took them up a notch.

We started off our meal proper with a pumpkin soup topped with duck confit, where the soup’s sweet creaminess was nicely enhanced by the strong-flavoured duck. This was followed by a beautifully composed Salad Nicoise – where tuna in olive oil with greens, string beans and olives are topped with anchovies and hard-boiled egg – another classic, simple dish that relies on its ingredients to work.

Both the bittersweet Valrhona chocolate tart with
mocha (right) and calamansi passion fruit tart with
meringue have excellent crusts. Both the bittersweet Valrhona chocolate tart with mocha (right) and calamansi passion fruit tart with meringue have excellent crusts.

The list of mains has many familiar French dishes, including Boeuf Bourguignon and Foie Gras de Canard, duck foie gras terrine with a port balsamic and fruit reduction served with brioche toast. We first tried the seared salmon Béarnaise, served on a bed of creamed spinach. The salmon was done to perfection – soft, juicy yet firm – and the Bearnaise sauce, with its herb-enhanced buttery finish, added just the right touch of elegance.

The star of the meal, though, was the Boeuf Bourguignon – tender braised Australian short ribs cooked in Cabernet Sauvignon and served with carrots and pearl onions on a bed of parsnip puree, topped with crispy onions. Beautifully cooked, the beef was juicy and tender, with the contrasting tastes and textures in the dish making each mouthful a delight. The parsnip puree and crispy onions add a surprising amount of flavour to the meat too.

For dessert, we had not one but two sinfully delicious tarts: a bittersweet Valrhona chocolate tart with mocha, and a calamansi passion fruit one with meringue.

The Valrhona tart was a chocoholic’s dream: rich, smooth and not too sweet, with the mocha bringing out the subtle bitter notes in the cocoa. The calamansi passion fruit, meanwhile, was equally delectable yet completely different. Sweet and refreshing, the sour calamansi added a real zing to the passion fruit. I also loved the crust on both tarts; soft enough to crumble in the mouth, yet dense enough to hold and complement the filling.

So French food is intimidating, you say? After indulging yourself silly at the friendly, welcoming Yeast, you’re likely to be singing a different tune.

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