Chef Darren Chin serves 'young French cuisine' at his own DC Restaurant

Main of slow-roasted, milk-fed lamb en parmentier, lentils du puy, sherry jus, side accompaniment of seared veal sweetbreads, onion glaze, grilled Eryngi mushrooms with soy glaze, porcini emulsion, rocket Swiss chard. DC Restaurant. RAYMOND OOI/ The Star

DC Restaurant in Kuala Lumpur is the embodiment of its owner Darren Chin, who serves up food that reflects him and his French culinary skills.

Chef darren Chin, DC Restaurant. RAYMOND OOI/ The Star
Chef Darren Chin.

The breads already set the tone for dinner at DC Restaurant. In the basket were freshly baked levain and sourdough bread with cranberry, bread with nigella seeds and ciabatta, served with origin-protected butter from France – the irresistible Pamplie “raw” unpasteurised butter. I could barely restrain myself from over-indulging in these, for a long evening of French gastronomy lay ahead.

Chef and owner Darren Chin popped by to say hello, and he was visible and accessible throughout dinner to everyone as each new course was served. The DC degustation menu filled a whole page, with two amuse bouche, pre-entrée, entrée, mains, cheese, dessert and finalemente. It’s a new menu every week.

Darren’s cuisine is French. He channels le jeune cuisine ­– or “young cuisine” – that is unpretentious and is centred on the freshest ingredients of the day. “It’s not a traditional French restaurant. I use classical cooking techniques incorporating some modernist techniques. I try to come up with innovative and creative ideas or combinations of taste, textures and flavours for a unique gastronomic experience.”

On the ground floor is Le Comptoir (or The Counter) for casual, relaxed dining. It is fitted with a long table, with the chef working in front of his diners who are seated at the counter, presenting them with dishes created with the freshest ingredients of the day in a prix fixe menu. It’s now only open for private functions.

La Salle (or the main dining room) with a more formal ambience is on the first level, while on the top floor is the L’atelier, where the test kitchen is and where cooking classes will be held on the weekend.

For a restaurant that is just past a month, there have been rave reviews – well-deserved for all the incredible effort, both creative and practical, that the chef has put in.

I had been eagerly waiting for DC Restaurant to open, passing by the shop often as it was being renovated and fitted with a state-of-the-art kitchen. DC has had a long gestation, beginning with Darren’s return from France after training at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, learning from chefs from Michelin-starred restaurants. He stayed on to work in Paris in some stellar restaurants there.

All fired up with a plan to start his own restaurant in KL, he had said then: “I want the food to reflect me, using the techniques I have learnt in France. I want my kitchen to emphasise using as much local ingredients as possible, understand where they come from and how they grow.”

I was at DC for its dry run, a week before the restaurant opened, and dinner was a symphony of flavours, with nuances of Chinese and Thai woven into a French menu, and we were wowed from start to finish.

Its clear whos the star at DC Restaurant. RAYMOND OOI/ The Star
The spartan-on-purpose main dining room on the first floor.
The spartan-on-purpose main dining room on the first floor, DC Restaurant. RAYMOND OOI/ The Star

I dined at DC again, and as expected Darren delivered with aplomb every dish that he cooked. Different textures melded together in the first amuse bouche of Japanese pumpkin cream, anise emulsion with sago crisps, roasted pumpkin, pine needle soil, pumpkin seed oil and fried pumpkin leaves. (You have to take a deep breath if you read this aloud!) A super-light sago crisp sat well with the pumpkin cream and foam with a mere hint of anise, and the sweet and creamy pumpkin ball.

The cured yellow-fin tuna with lime and honey dressing, toasted brioche, torchon de foie gras and seaweed powder was exquisite. The smoky, tangy tuna was covered with the thinnest, crispiest slice of brioche that crackled at the bite. Then, there were the cubes of velvety torchon de foie gras to revel in. This was a surprise amuse bouche, not on the menu.

The third amuse bouche was on the menu – mushroom farci with cured duck and guinea fowl, chestnut purée, bitter endive salad and sliced raw mushrooms had a wonderful balance of flavours. It was sweet, salty and bitter all on one plate.

I wouldn’t mind at all for any of these amuse bouche to be full-size appetisers. “They can be translated into bigger plates,” said Darren later.

It was time to breathe in all the delightful aromas of the grilled gambas, red pepper puree, sauce Nantua, petit pois cream, caramelised baby onions, buttered coco beans and parmesan tuile.

Sauce Nantua, a classic French sauce with a béchamel base is traditionally lobster but this was done with prawns, which did not detract from its deliciousness when paired with the freshest, most bouncy and sweetest prawns, the catch of the day. It was a feast for the eyes: the orange Nantua sauce, the brilliant green pea cream, the light yellow tuile, the red cherry tomatoes.

I wouldn’t have missed it for the world, this entrée of wild-caught fillet of kurau (Pulau Ketam), razor clams with smoked olive oil, spinach purée, almond emulsion, avruga caviar and toasted almonds. It was accompanied by brioche crisps, foie gras spread, sliced almonds and pomegranate gel. It needs the inventive mind of a master chef to think of and put together the myriad ingredients, and this totally wowed me.

The chef even forgot to list the thin slices of dark sea cucumber which slithered and danced with the clams on my palate. The kurau was cooked meuniere style, with capers, lemon zest and toasted nuts, and it exploded with the zip and zing of each bite – tart, sweet and with lots of umami. It was multi-dimensional in flavours, leading you to the edge and then pulling you back.

I swooned over the toasted brioche with foie gras ganache topped with almond flakes, that at first glance looked like a dainty French cake. It was even better – I relished the delicacy of the salty and sweet foie gras ganache melting on the thin brioche.

Everything on my plate was just so good and precious that nothing, not even a morsel was left behind. Later, I was told by the chef that one of the diners had minded the little rawness in the fish. “For us, undercooking is fine. Scallops, for instance, have to be undercooked.” I agree.

We have arrived at the mains – slow-roasted, milk-fed lamb en parmentier, lentils du puy, sherry jus, side accompaniment of seared veal sweetbreads, onion glaze, grilled Eryngi mushrooms with soy glaze, porcini emulsion, rocket Swiss chard. The lamb en parmentier was separately served in a small casserole dish: three layers, with lamb braised with lentils, potato and cheese.

It was a busy platter – grilled sirloin Marble 5 and creamy sweet breads with a complex porcini emulsion, pan seared duck foie gras in a sweet sherry jus, flavourful knobs of mushroom and rocket salad. But I was still deeply attentive to all these, checking out each for its different flavours and textures. The duck foie gras is optional for this course.

Then the cheese trolley came to the table, with a curated selection of cheeses mostly from France. I had a sliver of Brin d’Amour, a Corsican cheese that is soft, nutty and fragrant with rosemary and fennel. I liked the Gaperon, slightly tart and bitter with a taste of onion and garlic. There was Sainte Maure, a goat cheese, the sweet and creamy Norwegian brown cheese, and of course, Roquefort and brie.

We had a little fun with the Tete De Moine, which means “shaving the monk’s head”. This Swiss semi-hard cheese is pared or shaved on a circular board with a blade held at right angles to its surface.

Dessert was Chocolate fondant, fromage blanc sorbet raspberry-strawberry gel, dragonfruit salad and crushed sable biscuit, followed by a lovely pineapple sorbet. It was a sublime ending to an exhilarating dining experience at DC.

It’s RM288+ for the five-course dinner we had, with RM60+ for the addition of duck foie in the main course. It’s RM148+ for two courses (entrée and mains) and RM198+ for three courses (entrée, mains, cheese or dessert). Wine pairing is at RM30+ per glass. They all come with two amuse bouches.

¦ DC Restaurant is at 44 Persiaran Zaaba, Taman Tun Dr Ismail, 60000 Kuala Lumpur. Phone (03) 7731-0502 or 012-223 2991. Closed on Monday.

¦ This article was originally published in Life Inspired, out every second and fourth Sunday of the month, and distributed exclusively with The Sunday Star to selected areas in the Klang Valley. The next issue will be out on Feb 8.

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