(THE STAR) - Entier is probably one of the prettiest eateries in the Klang Valley. Perched high up on the 41st floor of the spanking new boutique luxury hotel Alila Bangsar, the restaurant offers unbridled aerial views of the dense Kuala Lumpur conurbation, weaving an intricate tapestry of old-school shoplots, patches of foliage and sky-high buildings.
In the afternoons, the sun butters the eatery in golden hues, giving you an even clearer picture of the understated, sophisticated Kinfolk vibe that award-winning Shanghai based design firm Neri & Hu were going for.
The restaurant marks the newest entry in F&B outfit Platform Hospitality Group's repository (the group is also behind hugely popular restaurants Botanica+Co and Bocosan Izakaya).
"We always wanted to open a Western restaurant that is more upmarket and to serve food that is not your common fare and we were looking for a French chef in particular," says Tay Hui Ying, the brand development manager of the group.
Tay and her partners quickly identified talented Japanese chef Masashi Horiuchi as the ideal candidate for the job. Horiuchi spent over 20 years working in French restaurants in Europe, alongside internationally renowned French chefs like Georges Blanc and Antoine Westermann. His last position in Europe was as sous chef at the Michelin-starred L' Atelier de Joel Robuchon in London.
When Tay and her team found Horiuchi, he was working in Singapore, but the decision to come to KL was a fairly easy one.
"When I was working in Singapore, I realised a lot of the produce comes from Malaysia. So I thought 'Why not go to Malaysia?'" he says matter-of-factly.
Having identified their chef, Tay and her team then set about nailing down a concept for the restaurant, finally hitting on nose-to-tail dining, a trend that has been growing in the US and Europe, in part as an avenue to curb wastage and utilise every conceivable part of an animal, even the ones traditionally considered inedible.
"We felt that nose-to-tail is very interesting in today's era where we are talking about sustainability, so why not apply it to eating culture?" says Tay.
And so Entier, which means "whole" or "entire" in French, was born. Before the eatery opened, Horiuchi spent nine months working on Entier's menu and travelling across the country gathering inspiration. His travels are reflected in the menu, which features Bidor duck (which Horiuchi says is better than the French ducks he is used to working with) as well as local herbs like daun kesum.
"Before opening, I had time to travel around Malaysia. I went here and there, and ate this and that, and I was inspired by many different ingredients that I had never used before, so I thought why not use them?
"I want to try and develop a new style of French food. That's why I try to mix," he says.
Entier's plates are served in pre-determined small, medium or large portions (you can't choose portion sizes) with the small and medium plates serving cuts like ox tongue, beef tripe and chicken heart while the large plates - also called Entier plates - feature whole chickens, duck, fish and cauliflowers large enough to feed three to four people. Everything at Entier is designed for sharing so there's no fun to a meal here if you're dogged in your determination to eat a whole plate all by yourself.
"Our recommendation is that for best enjoyment, you should share. It's always interesting when you go to a restaurant and you can try more things, because you can share," says Tay.
Victuals here are not overly dressed-up, instead you'll find rustic beauties that are the gastronomic equivalent of fresh-faced models.
"What we want to serve is what people in France eat in the villages, in their homes, so this is definitely more down-to-earth," agrees Tay.
To begin your (shared) meal at Entier, try the leek (RM30/S$10), which features a Josper-grilled whole Australian leek with anchovy butter and hazelnuts. The Josper oven is a recurring element in the meals at Entier. Interestingly, Horiuchi didn't know how to operate the Spanish charcoal grill-oven before launching Entier, as he was used to French ovens. It was actually Malaysian chef Darren Teoh from Dewakan who taught him how to use it and Horiuchi has not looked back since.
"Even I am surprised at how much better the taste and finish is," says Horiuchi, grinning.
And he's right too, because the leek is sublime, with an inner core that is wilted and malleable to the touch and an outer membrane emblazoned with a slight char. The anchovy butter adds rich, salty notes and the hazelnuts provide texture - all in all, a perfectly thought-out meal.
The beef honeycomb tripe (RM28) meanwhile offers the opportunity to sample a traditionally maligned animal part. Typically chewy and rubbery, the tripe here is done two ways - fried to a crisp and braised. The fried tripe is crunchy and easy to snack on but it is the braised variant that is the star here - bouncy with a spongy hold that soaks up all the flavours of the honeycomb tripe jus on the plate.
Then there is the delicate baby cuttlefish (RM61), a simple meal made up cephalopods, house-made stracciatella cheese (a soft, creamy cheese made with mozzarella), heirloom tomatoes and herbs. This is a fresh, light affair, jazzed up by the sumptuousness of the cheese and the pliable, perfectly cooked cuttlefish.
Another clear winner on the menu is the beef flank (RM76), which features a constellation of ingredients that include Josper-grilled Australian flank, red wine shallot sauce, watercress and calamansi vinaigrette festooned with a complicated looking pile of pomme allumette, or thin-cut French fries.
The meat has a rose pink blush and is akin to chewing on finely-spun silk - tender, soft and lightly yielding in the mouth. And just when you think things can't get any better, you'll discover the red wine shallot sauce, a robust, full-bodied affair with the perfect calibration of shallots and wine designed to incite maximum pleasure.
If you're after an unforgettable meal with the price tag to match, you're likely to enjoy the lobster (RM316). The poached Maine whole lobster with mussels, octopus, and asparagus in a laksa leaf bisque boasts applause-worthy performers like the voluptuous, petal-soft lobster meat that has just the requisite amount of push-back and springiness. Equally glorious is the laksa bisque, which has a gentle herbaceous quality and a rich depth of flavours (although it would be nice to have more of it).
From the Entier large plates, there's plenty to salivate over, including the cauliflower (RM36) which is essentially a giant whole roasted Australian cauliflower buoyed by mornay sauce, cheese and thyme. The cauliflower is blistered with char spots on the outside but a knife seared through the vegetable will reveal tender insides cooked to perfection and coated in a creamy, cheesy sauce that is truly addictive.
Finally, end the savoury part of your meal with the duck (RM180). This beautifully burnished assemblage features a whole Bidor duck, with legs cooked confit-style and a breast that has been roasted. The duck legs are ably executed and offer plenty of flavour.
And when you spear your knife through the slices of duck breast, you'll discover juiciness and tenderness in every mouthful, although Horiuchi has capitulated to the local predilection for duck cooked through, so it is perhaps not as pink as you might expect it to be.
There's nothing quite as satisfactory as something sweet to end a good meal and Entier's dark chocolate souffle (RM37) made with 70% single origin Pahang cocoa sourced from local chocolate purveyor Chocolate Concierge is the stuff dreams are made off. The souffle is feather-light and airy with decadent, dark chocolate flavours submerged in every spoonful. It's so intoxicatingly good that even after I professed to be "so full I need to be carried to my car", I found my stomach reconfiguring its capacity and my spoon wandering towards this cocoa delight time and time again.
Entier's full menu is available for dinner, but the eatery also recently introduced lunch sets, priced at RM55 for two-courses and RM75 for three-courses, designed for busy urbanites looking for quick, high-quality meals.
Tay says she hopes Entier will become a favourite Klang Valley dining haunt, especially with people looking to have both good food and a good time.
"Hopefully Entier is a place you will remember having fun conversations and a relaxed time, and is somewhere you will come again," she says.
Entier French Dining
Level 41, Alila Bangsar
58, Jalan Ang Seng
50470 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: 016 263 0596
Open Tuesday to Friday: 12pm to 3pm; Saturday to Sunday: 12pm to 4pm; Tuesday to Thursday & Sunday: 6pm to 11pm; Friday to Saturday: 6pm to 12am
The good: Thoughtfully-prepared rustic French food
The bad: Some of the dishes are pretty expensive
The food is carefully constructed and designed to delight