KUALA LUMPUR, March 2 — The Man Roast Beef Salad was a great start to lunch. Slices of beef, medium rare, were laid over a mixed salad, and drizzled with a tart, tingly dressing. It’s one of the dishes on the lunch menu at Topshelf in Taman Tun Dr Ismail.
Fresh coriander, lemongrass, garlic, a little chilli, lime juice and fish sauce made up this fragrant dressing, which complemented the tender, soft, almost velvety beef. We loved it. Why the “Man” name of the salad, I asked Topshelf head chef and partner Christopher Yee later. “Men like meaty dishes,” he said.
As Topshelf is mainly about French food, we were keen to try the quiche, Les escargots au beurre and Confit de Canard. As the quiche was a vegetarian one for that day, we decided on the last two, and added to that Linguine Ai Fruitti De Mare. Linguine is not French, but Topshelf does have some Italian dishes on the menu. The Pesto Capellini is another pasta dish, and pizzas as well.
The escargots, baked with butter laced with garlic and herbs, had a fine balance. They did not drown in melted butter; there was just enough to coat the almost delicate, succulent snails. Slices of toasted baguette were there for us to soak up the butter on the escargot dish.
Duck Confit it was for our main course, with fondant potatoes and braised cabbage in red wine with raisins and shallots. The leg of duck slow poached in its own fat for hours in the oven had the meat falling off its bone while the skin was crispy.
The braised cabbage in red wine with raisins was needed to balance the very rich-tasting duck. It also came with a green salad and fondant potatoes. It was altogether a complete, satisfying meal.
The Linguine Ai Fruitti De Mare came wrapped in parchment paper, to be opened at the table; it released wonderful aromas of seafood smothered in a thick tomato sauce fragrant with basil, fresh parsley and dried herbs.
The sauce had been cooked first with freshwater baby lobster, calamari and mussels before the pasta was added. The whole thing is then wrapped in paper and finished in the oven. You would have to eat this as soon as it is served, before the pasta goes soft.
We were totally enamoured with the Straits Panna Cotta which had been splashed lightly with gula Melaka and amaretto, an almond liquer. The panna cotta was divine: it was just a little jiggly, silky smooth and perfectly creamy.
The Apple Tarte Tatin had vanilla ice cream atop the upside down apple tart. I would have liked it better with the ice cream on the side as it melted over the crispy, buttery puff pastry with lush cinnamony apple slices, and turned it soggy.
The restaurant had only just started lunch service. Besides the Man Roast Beef Salad (RM25.90 with coffee or tea) and quiche, there is also Hot Jerk Chicken Salad, Caesar Salmon Salad and Salmon and Fries Sandwich. Add to that a pumpkin or roasted tomato soup (RM9), or leek and potato chowder, and you will get a satisfying meal.
This is my second visit to Topshelf. I had come away impressed the first time with the sublime Pesto Capellini, Boeuf Bourguignon or beef slow cooked in a full-bodied red wine, and Moules Marinere, which is mussels cooked in white wine, butter, parsley, thyme and shallots.
We also had the delicious Crispy Aromatic Duck, shredded and served with pancakes, scallions and hoisin sauce. This is not French but the chef had included this in the menu as it was something he used to eat in London, while doing his culinary training at Westminster and working at the Hilton there.
His last stint was at the French restaurant Le Vaudeville in Paris, where he refined his skills in French cooking.
The prices: Desserts are RM18 each, Escargots RM24, Duck Confit RM33 and Linguine RM36.
Topshelf is located at 61 Lorong Rahim Kajai 13, Taman Tun Dr Ismail 6000, Kuala Lumpur. Tel: 03-7727 7277. The restaurant is pork-free, and closed on Sundays.