Terrine Times: Is Chez Gaston Kuala Lumpur’s most authentic French bistro?

Photo: Chez Gaston/FB
Photo: Chez Gaston/FB

TL;DR — Oui.

But, we’re guessing that you came here for a bit more detail than that. In fact, you’re probably here for a lot more than just proverbial crumbs: You’ve come for the whole baguette.

Chez Gaston opened late last year in a nook of Bangsar previously associated with a towering series of low-cost flats and terrible rush hour traffic jams. Then DR.Inc opened with their mostly vegetarian buffet spreads, and Coley opened up shop just a little bit more down the road, and suddenly that little trip behind the Bangsar LRT station became more than a vehicular quagmire.

While finding the restaurant wasn’t difficult — it was the only open front on a quieter block away from the busier main road — once inside, we found that the decor left a little bit to be desired. The lighting was low, and yet the restaurant couldn’t escape looking like it had been decorated as some kind of hasty afterthought.

And so begins the charm of Chez Gaston, the kind of bistro where they give zero f*cks that you don’t like their yard sale-inspired decor. You came for the food and company — not so your eyes could get full on floral filler, so to speak.

Waiting for our (perpetually) late date, we were offered a glass of wine.

via Wikimedia Commons (We drank our glass before remembering to take a photo)
via Wikimedia Commons (We drank our glass before remembering to take a photo)

It was Tuesday, but it had already been a long week: We went with one of the by-the-glass reds (RM32) — a French wine — Costières de Nîmes — less appreciated than other varieties grown in the Rhône, but a pour we truly love. It was served slightly chilled, which isn’t necessarily the way we like to drink it, but totally worked in this instance. Flavorful whilst still being light, fruity, well-balanced and without the sulfite-induced hangover we tend to get with “by-the-glass” (aka, cheaper) pours. After a few sips, our edge was taken off juuust nice.

Convenient, as our date sat down in front.

“What are we having?” they asked.

“We’re here for a tasting menu — I kind of have no idea what they’re serving us.”

“I hate suspense.”

Reader, rest assured: Your experience at Chez Gaston will be limited to what you chose from the menu — we were there for a tasting, and a tasting was exactly what we got.

via Coconuts KL
via Coconuts KL

A bread basket appeared in front of us. Standard bistro fare, but we couldn’t help but notice that the pieces were small, and the butter rationed in tiny, individual UHT packets. While Coconuts KL will never dismiss a throwback to every wedding of our youth, it’s 2019 and the world is a much bleaker place — we kind of want as much butter as we can handle.

“Can I get some more butter, please,” asked our dinner date, reading our saturated mind.

The waiter paused, confused that two well-nourished humans could finish four pats of butter in less time than it takes to slice a loaf of bread. One moment, he told us.

He returned with more butter, only to be asked by our date for more bread. And so the vicious cycle began: When there was bread, there was no butter, and when there was butter, there was a dearth of bread.

A small suggestion, Gaston: More bread, more butter. Perhaps less rationed. You can’t go wrong.

Our first dish arrived, two specks on a blindingly white plate.

An amuse bouche — something to open the appetite that we were trying to sate with bread.

We popped the tiny toast in our mouths to much delight, as a wave of nostalgia washed over us: Un petit peu de moutard, cornichons, oignon brûlé, et rôti de porc (A hint of mustard, gherkins, caramelized onions, and roast pork).

Reader, we may have failed to mention that one of our parents was born in France, and that for three years we lived a stone’s throw from Le Jardin Publique in Bordeaux.

Yeah — we kind of have a bit of a history with France, and as strange as it is to say — that single bite of an amuse bouche, with its tangy, sweet and savory flavors, sitting in a restaurant in Kuala Lumpur, brought back all of the memories of every picnic we had as a kid. It was a good omen.

via Coconuts KL
via Coconuts KL

Two more plates arrived, each bearing one of the restaurant’s signature terrines, one pork and another salmon.

What’s a terrine, you ask? I’m glad you did, reader. They are central to our souvenirs from our time in France, and generally refer to a dish of ground meat and/or offal, and/or vegetable, and/or seafood, and/or fish, with, or without a boiled egg, packed into loaf-shaped dish, and cooked in a bain Marie to perfection. You eat them cold, or at room temperature — hence their heavily featured presence at picnics, preferably (in our minds at least) with a side of toasted bread.

Unfortunately, there was no bread to be had, but again — a small suggestion, Chez Gaston — you could make a couple of eaters very happy with a thinly toasted slice to lay all of that goodness on.

via Coconuts KL
via Coconuts KL

How were they? Amazing. Truly, the pork iteration (RM16) was aggressively seasoned in a very appreciated way — garlicky, herby, with just the right amount of toothsome texture. Caramelized onions and gherkins came on the side to cut through its porcine richness.

The salmon one was a mousse variety (RM22) — so if fish mousse freaks you out, look away now, and order something else. We happen to love that sort of stuff, served with a side of what tasted like Marie Rose sauce — a light tomato and mayonnaise concoction. It would have been a lot cooler if there was some toast tho, you know what I mean?

As much as we love a mouthful of salmon mousse (we actually do), it needed the bread for balance.

via Coconuts KL
via Coconuts KL

A lovely salad came next, with a piece of goat cheese on top (RM24/RM34)– our date was very, very happy at the amount of thickly cut cubes of bacon that were dotted between the leaves. Truth be told, we never really understood what the big deal was about bacon — but we are assured that it made the salad infinitely more palatable to the vegetable-challenged. Lovers of all things ovine will appreciate the cheese, bold and robust in flavor. We’ve mentioned before that we are more of a mild chèvre type of eater, but we were not offended by this cheese in the slightest — which is the best you will get from us in the goat-cheese department.

Next came the mains, and at about this time we the eaters began to seriously question our unflappable adulation for all things yeasted: We were getting full.

Food reviews are not a place for the faint of heart, and we pressed on, eager to try the fish and pork rib that came next.

via Coconuts KL

Reader, we took on the fish (RM38), and it was executed with finesse. Poached in a flavored water that included, and was not limited to, wine and herbs, it absorbed these aromas without overpowering the delicate nature of the white fish fillet. Served on a bed of black rice, and a cream sauce, it was perfect, light, and precisely what we would order again when we return for dinner.

Our date tackled the pork rib (RM46), impressively blistered and shining. It was curried, we were told.

via Coconuts KL

“How is it?,” we asked.

“Hmm. A bit dry — it has nice flavor, but it’s dry. Here, try some.”

And there you have it — sometimes the world’s most succinct descriptions are the most accurate: It had nice flavor, but it was unfortunately, dry.

At this point, all of our stomach’s faculties were being actively used to digest or store food. We were ridiculously full, and were at that stage where you start breathing deeply. We knew dessert was coming, but we weren’t exactly sure how we were going to handle it.

Two dishes appeared in front of us, both classic features of better bistro menus: A chocolate mousse and a floating island.

We loved the terrines. We loved our fish. We bow before these two dishes.

First, the mousse (RM12): Honestly, we could write at length about this, and have our own patented technique to elicit the richest flavor with nary a meringue texture on the tongue. To say that Gaston’s mousse is quite possibly the best we’ve had in Kuala Lumpur is doing it a disservice, we’re willing to wager that Gaston has Southeast Asia covered by a safe distance.

via Coconuts KL
via Coconuts KL

Rich, deep, and without any cloying sugared flavors you get with lesser versions, it was love at first bite. Many times, where decent flavor exists, texture will fail you. Gummy, too light, too heavy — there are a million ways to be wrong with mousse, and only one to be right. Gaston is right.

via Coconuts KL
via Coconuts KL

Our second dessert was a childhood favorite, if only because the impressive cloud of cooked meringue appears like a larger-than-life dome on your plate. The îles flottantes (RM11) was served with a side of crème anglaise (essentially, runny custard), dotted with tiny flecks of real vanilla bean. Eating up every last morsel of “island”, and dregs of sweet soup, we felt like a kid again.

Très Bien.


Chez Gaston is at 12, Jalan Bangsar Utama 9, Bangsar, KL
Lunch: noon-2:30pm; Dinner: 6-10:30pm, closed Monday
Reservations: 011-3993-0036
LRT: Bank Rakyat Bangsar

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