Named after one of the greatest love songs of all time, La Vie En Rose is quite the romantic restaurant with its candelabra-lit dining room, crisp white tablecloth and open garden setting – and melodious French songs. It is housed in a bungalow built in the 1950s on the gentle incline of Ceylon Hill, and enjoys views of the KL Tower and Twin Towers.
Opened for nearly a year now, the restaurant has made a name as the place for real French food in Kuala Lumpur, or as chef-owner Jean-Michel Fraisse likes to describe it, “honest French food”.
What he meant is food prepared from scratch using choice ingredients, whether sourced from credible local farmers, or imported. On the menu are classics such as French onion soup, Coq au vin, meltingly tender duck confit and beef cheek bourguignon. They don’t shout about it, but here’s also where you can get great steaks that are grilled to optimise the taste and texture – order it topped with pan-fried foie gras and that’s Tournedo Rossini with red wine sauce.
The French excels at sauce making, and the sauces here are thick and unctuous, and full of flavour – made by reducing stock over a slow fire for many hours and even days.
Even side dishes get the fabulous treatment: potato roasted in duck fat until it gets a crisp skin, and the most silky truffle-scented mash. Ratatouille, that hearty vegetable stew from the south of France, is often served in a little cast-iron pot on the side with the main dish.
From day one, the foie gras crème brûlée has been a hit, a savoury starter of creamy custard topped with a thin crackling of smokey, bitter-sweet caramel. And this is probably the only restaurant in town that serves you tuna and sardine right out of the tin! But these are no ordinary canned fish, but sustainable, line-caught gourmet fish considered in the same league as foie gras and caviar.
The bread deserves special mention as it is hand-made the artisanal way, without commercial yeast but a levain (starter) of live microbes captured from the air. The loaves are baked fresh every morning in the annexed bakery and gourmet shop.
Pride and passion are at work in this establishment, with a team of staff who are willing to go the extra mile. In the kitchen is chef de cuisine Mickael Cornutrait and his team, and in the front of house, another French man, Till Gangne, who understands that serving is an honorable profession.
They make the restaurant a convivial hub, a restaurant envisioned as a meeting place for people who love good food, living out Edith Piaf’s song, La vie en Rose, which can be taken to mean the good life: a “life in rosy hues.”
In order to offer good wines at the right prices, the restaurant brings in some of the wines – especially boutique wines from France; these are not the expensive grand crus of famous appellations but wines that are truly well made but lacking in fame, hence providing great value for money. The wine list is entirely French, save for the odd bottle of Lebanese Chateau Musar wine, a personal love of the owner who regards them as undervalued great wines. The wine list is well-pruned and managed: the selection is not exhaustive but interesting. A virtuous bottle starts at around RM120, and herein lies one of the little secrets that savvy diners know; the wine prices here are pleasantly decent. Great food is lacking in spirituality – so to speak – when not accompanied by good wine, so prices are kept low so everyone can enjoy a bottle with the meal. That’s all part of creating that convivial atmosphere there.
Tuesday-Friday lunch from 12 noon to 2.30pm and dinner from 6.30pm to 10.30pm;
Saturday breakfast & brunch from 9.30am to 2.30pm and dinner from 6.30pm to 10.30pm.
Sunday breakfast & brunch from 9.30am to 2.30pm and closed for dinner.
Closed on Mondays.
Reservations: 03-2078 3883; fax: 03-2026 4188; email: [email protected]
la vie en rose
French restaurant, bar, bakery & shop
39, Jalan Raja Chulan, 50200 Kuala Lumpur