“A gourmet is a being pleasing to the heavens.” – Charles Pierre Monselet
It was sheer culinary pleasure that sent my palate to an epicurean heaven, if there is any, as I dined at Garibaldi Restaurant and Bar in Bangsar Village last night. The ambiance and vibe was opulent yet warm. The warmth was created by the olive green walls, soft-lighting, beautiful Italian melodies, shimmering trees outside the large windows and most importantly by the staff. Nestled in the leafy part of Bangsar, Garibaldi restaurant is perched atop Garibar, away from the maddening crowd, beeping horns and the rush of life. A high-end dining experience whose motto is luxury personified by simplicity; a restaurant experience that is not solely based on food but on fulfilling the needs of each diner; an environment that is opulent yet homely; most of all it is an experience that will never be forgotten. Greeted by my host for the evening Elaine, we set out to embark on our culinary odyssey.
We had the option of being seated in the large dining room, overlooking the scintillating fauna or in the private dining area. Fit for a romantic evening out, the private room is dimly lit through the floral murals on the wall, while you spend your evening admiring the jewels in the wooden wine cabinet. With your own waiting staff, it is premier restaurant dining with a private touch. Another private room next door is larger and can accommodate private parties for a number of guests.
Attention to detail is evident from every aspect of this restaurant. The crisp white table-cloth is adorned with a small candle to enhance the atmosphere, flutes for wine, impeccable cutlery and an eye-catching olive-oil and balsamic vinegar dispenser. Before you can start to order, the waiter will courteously place your napkin on your lap and present a glass of freshly baked herb grissini. As we sat down, we were warmly greeted by Chef Andrea and manager Sam, who were to be our gourmet guides for the night. Having experienced many restaurants in my life, it was a pleasant surprise to see the chef being so hands on with the guests. His explanations, little anecdotes and constant attention enhanced the dining experience multi-fold. There was not an iota of pretension, the focus was simply on food.
Andrea simply asked me whether I had any dietary requirements or any preferences and then headed of to the kitchen to stun me with an astounding 7 course gourmet meal; a dining experience synonymous to food bon vivant. We were left in the capable hands of Sam who amazed us with his mixology prowess. After starting us off with a glass of Prosecco, it was suggested that we pair our food with cocktails instead of wine. Immediately, thoughts of sweet, sugary drinks with savory food did not seem palatable. But before I could express my feelings, Sam explained that these were not ordinary cocktails and since he had heard during our conversation earlier that I was averse to sugary drinks, he knew exactly what to pair with our food. This was a challenge I was eagerly looking forward too.
Andrea emerged from the kitchen with what looked like shot glasses. They were the Amuse Bouche or what Andrea termed as palate teaser. And that is exactly what they were; a portent for the courses to come. Served with freshly baked focaccia bread, which was crisp on top yet moist in the center, the amuse bouche comprised of cold tomato soup with olive oil, tarragon juice and caper dust. It was a reflection of Andrea’s belief that food should be well balanced, it should appeal to all our taste buds. Hence in this creation the sweetness came from the tomatoes, the bitterness from the olive oil, the sour taste from the caper dust and finally the freshness from the tarragon juice. It was a small gulp of gastronomical delight.
Paired with the amuse bouche and the first course was Sam’s very own herb-gin creation. A very unusual rosemary and violet gin. The earthiness of the flavors emanated by the herbs and flowers went beautifully with truffles that adorned our next course. There was not a hint of sweetness in this cocktail, the aromas were created by the pungent rosemary and subtle violet. A perfect start to the evening.
Explaining what Branzino was, Andrea presented to us his next creation. It was a sea-bass carpaccio marinated in white wine with potato parmentier and parsley cream. To finish off this course, Andrea bejewelled it with a generous shaving of black summer truffles. Each component of this dish had its own distinct flavors, yet it infused together beautifully. The flavors seem to explode in my palate with each bite.
Along with the branzino, there was scallop with sevruga caviar. Caviar is one of Andrea’s favorite food, hence it had to be on our menu. In fact he created an entire menu that was based around caviar for the month of August. There is so much attention to detail in each dish which enhances its beauty to beguile the beholder. This dish is simply just seared scallop with caviar and herbed omelet, but the detailing lets the diner imagine that the scallop is sitting atop a series of waves from the sea.
Our imaginations were treated just like our appetites were. There lay on our table a large portion of black summer truffles emanating a heady aroma. By just taking one look at it, no once could imagine the bold flavors it would emit and how by just adding a few shavings, the composition of any dish’s taste can undergo a metamorphosis.
Andrea’s savoir-fare was evident from his dishes. Each plate was like a canvas painted with his culinary creations; each dish was akin to Matisse’s Red Room. The only difference; it did not just satiate your sense of sight but appealed to the appetite as well. For our next course we were served Panissa Novarese a combination of two famous Italian dishes. The story behind the creation of this dish simply led to Andrea’s desires; since a traditional Panissa is made from pork, he had to modify it to suit the local needs. Hence he created his own version made from over-cooked rice which has a porridge-like texture with borlotti beans and langoustines. The journey of its flavors were further enhanced by a cinnamon-infused red wine sauce. I am not a fan of rice, but honestly had I not been told it’s base was over-cooked rice, I would not have been able to tell. This was a true mastery of technique and flavors.
As I would put my spoon down and take a sip of my musky cocktail, Andrea arrived with yet another course. By this time I had lost count. Essentially baccala is just salted cod which has been partially dried, but Andrea’s predilection towards gourmet cuisine took this dish to the next level. Stuffed in purple dough ravioli, the flavors of the baccala were brought to the fore by the parsley sauce. This course was a play on textures, the ravioli was slightly al-dente and the baccala was soft as it was stewed in milk before being stuffed into the ravioli.
Along with the ravioli was probably Kuala Lumpur’s most expensive pizza. Garibaldi had decided against serving pizza in the restaurant to maintain its upmarket brand. However, this exception is any connoisseur’s dream; Italian pizza with fois gras and black summer truffles. Each succulent bite would make its price-tag worth it. The soft fois gras emulsified the taste of the pizza, a means of refining our taste buds. In, short it was a culinary artistic expression of the chef.
Paired beautifully with this course as well as our main course was another of Sam’s creation; a Frangelico and dark rum cocktail laced with basil. Hailing from Northern Italy, Frangelico is a hazelnut liquer which was combined with dark rum and basil. The best way to enjoy this strong yet full-bodied flavored concoction was to sip it with your meal. It added a nutty taste to each bite.
As soon I the main course was placed in front of me, I instinctively reached for my knife and fork. To my sheer astonishment, Andrea suggested I eat it with a spoon. I thought he was joking, but as I delved into the Angus beef belly with my spoon, it slowly broke into a morsel. Whoever could imagine a piece of beef to be so sensuous. The secret was that the beef belly was marinated for a few days and then braised in Chianti wine for 8 hours. It was soft, had absorbed all the flavors yet it maintained its identity. Eating with a spoon helped to combine it with the broccoli flan and celeriac cream. To me it was the magnum-opus of a brilliant gastronomic mind. With a sip of Frangelico, an adventure of epicurean magnatitude continued.
The appetite was winding down but curiosity and enigma of what was to come next kept it alive. To sweeten our palate, Sam presented us with a crushed apple cocktail, simply made from crushed apples and gin. There was no ice used to prevent it from diluting the flavors. Using green apples helped in controlling the sweetness, hence making it a dazzling concoction.
Sugoli was our final course; a red grape pudding with fruits cooked in wine. The dinner started with incorporating all the flavors into one dish and ended on the same note. The dessert had the fundamental tastes, the sour berries, bitter almond cream and the sweet pudding. Presented on a white plate, the bright shades were exacerbated to please the eyes.
Just when I thought the magic was coming to an end, Andrea has another mystery remaining. Placed in front of me powder and a straw, confused I looked towards a smirking chef. I was told to swoop it up through the straw. I agreed and a minty sensation entered my system through my mouth. Within seconds my mouth and palate were refreshed. This was Andrea’s ingenious palate cleanser and a bewitching way to end a gourmet 7 course dinner.
The creations Andrea served were part of the September specials. The menu at Garibaldi is divided into four parts; chef’s special which changes every few days, monthly themed menu for which the theme of September was dishes cooked with wine, a degustation menu and finally an ala-carte menu. You can choose from whichever tantalizes your palate. To me, my meal was a reflection of the soul of the chef. Each creation was a symbol of his heritage and a means of telling a story. Garibaldi can be considered one of Kuala Lumpur’s best kept secret, a hidden them that must be discovered by those with a penchant for good food and an even better night out.
Garibaldi Restaurant and Bar
Jalan Telawi 1, Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur.