Word: Heather Onderick Photos: Monica Tindall
“A chef who says she has nothing to learn from others can close her doors.” said chef Nathalie Arbefuille to us when elaborating on her culinary educational journey over the years. Nathalie is not your “run of the mill” French chef. She is self-taught and had the unique opportunity to learn aside 3 star Michelin chef, Anne Sophie. Like many others, Nathalie arrived in Asia following her heart, or partner. She swept into the local food scenes and out of popular demand started catering events for the diplomatic crowd in both Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur. In 2010, she opened up Nathalie Gourmet Studio in Publika, where she has a restaurant and offers a variety of cooking classes. In 2011, she was awarded KL’s outstanding chef of the year. Having said all that, Nathalie has a sweet demeanor and likes a good challenge. We asked her if she would partake in The Yum List’s quest to find elegant vegetarian menus around town and she happily obliged.
Walking into Nathalie’s creative space, one automatically feels a sense of balance. Colder slate grey walls collide with passionfruit pink accents and fresh orchids on counters, giving the diner a sense they could be anywhere in the world. The cool but minimal decor allows you to focus on the culinary experience itself.
On this tropical and steamy night in Mont Kiara, we sat down to a crisp and inviting glass of Cotes Du Rhone. On days like this, a light glass of white wine makes your heart a bit lighter and freshens your palate, which helped highlight the raw flavors of the vegetarian options.
The first plate of the evening set the bar high, Zucchini and Goat Cheese Tube (RM 32). This starter was topped with a crispy zucchini flour, drizzled in green pea and mint coulis, sprinkled with Parmesan crumble, and the tube, wrapped in earthy zucchini filled fresh herbs and fluffy mousse. Nathalie’s dishes are all very well balanced in flavors, perhaps it’s a nuance of her experience in Thailand, as Thai dishes are meticulously thought out and checked for their combinations of sweet, sour, salty and often more.
Besides being full of flavors, Nathalie’s dishes illuminate the beautiful colors of vegetables. The following plate, was stunningly presented, like a paint palette with a fine prized sculpture. The Eggplant Caviar Tube Tart (RM 32) is served with capsicum harissa mouse, and roasted capsicum cream. The tube has a delicate base of a buttery biscuit, with hearty rich red pepper and textured well with a pasty middle and touches of sweet onion.
Mushrooms are a crowd pleaser on menus around KL and Nathalie’s Porcini Vol Au Vent with Porcini Emulsion (RM 35) will satisfy all fungi fanatics. The layered airy pastry has a light taste of buttery popcorn and the mouthwatering mushrooms with the slight fruit-of-the-earth edge mushrooms produced left me wanting to repeat this dish regularly.
Our next main was Zucchini and Basil Tortellini (RM 60) dressed in a gorgonzola cream and a fresh herb emulsion. This dish will satisfy the hungry vegetarian, with a silky, sharp cheesy sauce.
I’ve learned that many of us love the satisfaction of saving the best for last. Nathalie’s final main was truly testament to her rich cultural experiences. The Roasted Tofu (RM 60) was baked in clarified butter, coated with spicy roasted tomato and an Asian style sauce. Nathalie often serves this dish with fish but wanted to experiment with it as a vegetarian option. The tofu was firm and yet, a consistent texture on the inside. The Asian style sauce was inspiring, aromatic with a citrus kick, and layered complexities of salty, sour, sweet all in one.
Ending on that note was sweet, which was where we had arrived in the meal. Dessert! We indulged first in the chef’s recommendation: Destructured Red Fruit Amandine Tart (RM 30). This piece arrived looking like a food version of a cubist Picasso painting: mixed up shapes of fresh fruits and almond tarts, painted with drops of pistachio espuma and tart raspberry coulis.
If nuts and fruits are not your idea of dessert and your sweet tooth needs more, you should definitely consider the Icy Crème Brulee Tube Dulce de Leche Cremeux and Anglaise, Caramelised Popcorn (RM 28). This dessert is a labor of love. Nathalie makes crème brulee then turns it into a marshmallowy ice cream and finally, shapes it into a tube. Later on she serves it pouring over caramel anglaise and to ensure the complex textures are there, adding a side of caramelized popcorn.
To be honest, I really wanted to stop here, but Nathalie wouldn’t let us. When I expressed my love for Yuzu, when debating over what second dessert to try, this translated to ‘we must try three desserts.’ The grande finale, Café Gourmand, Lemon and Yuzu Upside Down Choux, Macaron and Chocolate Espuma with a Mascarpone Ice Cream and Chocolate Cake Dust (RM 28) was a distinctive way to finish the evening. This is the ultimate dessert, a little cream puff with a crunchy donut like outside and the lemony, sour tang of the Yuzu to balance out the milkiness, set next to a shot glass of a frozen ball of mascarpone ice cream in aerated chocolate espuma.
To be honest, I am regularly an avid meat eater, largely because of the different flavors that the combination of meat and vegetables bring out in each other. Having said this, Nathalie’s food, particularly her use of textures, made her dining experience one of the most satisfying vegetarian experiences I have taken part of: not once did I feel that something was missing.
Reasons to visit: A menu full of a rainbow of colors, textures and flavors. Order the special made to order Roasted Tofu with its addictive and tantalising Asian style sauce and the extraordinary Café Gourmand, Lemon and Yuzu Upside Down Choux, Macaron and Chocolate Espuma with a Mascarpone Ice Cream and Chocolate Cake Dust.
Nathalie Gourmet Studio
Unit A4-1-5, Solaris Dutamas
Jalan Dutamas, 50480 Kuala Lumpur
Lunch and Afternoon tea: 10-6 (Thursday- Saturday)
Dinner: 6-10 pm (Thursday-Saturday)