I haven’t seen Chef James Won since the Hennessy dinner (Post here –> Year 2014 – My 6th Hennessy X.O Appreciation Grows dinner) and wow, Chef James is certainly a chef – celebrity now.
Swiftly since he had cliched himself the honour of being named the Krug Ambassade for Malaysia
as well as an ambassador for the entire Moet Hennessy Diageo stable.
What’s even more impressive is that Enfin houses the only Krug Chef’s Table in Asia; the others being in Poland, Germany, Brazil, Mexico City and the United States.
A triple wow, and kudos to Chef James who obviously had been working hard (and smart) judging from the attained stature and his handsome fine dining space at Menara Hap Seng – rich wood furnishing, warm ambiance, clever use of steel and copper fashioning a futuristic look at some corners so all in all, a plush place indeed.
I was particularly enamoured of the rose gold metallic vertical ‘curtain’ circling a spiral staircase that is oh-so glamorous and Instagrammable.
What could have been a rather pleasant meal was slightly marred from the start when Chef James welcomed the media in attendance that afternoon.
Perhaps it was only me, but from thereon I chose to say little as my enthusiasm had dampen somewhat.
While I can’t speak for other bloggers, it bothered me.. well the long rationale of thought HERE, as I wish to keep this review to the food and about Chef Won.
Anyhow I digress.
In 2016 and 2017 I found myself shunning fine dining in favour of local food. Moreover I’ve been bored of the dining scene locally.
If you are in a similar state of despondency, perhaps a DINNER at Enfin is worthy of consideration. What you can expect is an interesting meal where every dish is constructed from a myriad of techniques and ingredients. All in all, a meal here has the makings of an impressive experience.
But let me start with lunch. And you should read this, especially if you wish to experience Enfin by James Won, but is restricted by a budget of <RM150 (inclusive of tax, for one pax).
Lunch was educational and it was heartening to hear of Chef James’s continuous efforts to elevate the local fine dining scene. He spoke passionately of his Cameron Highlands farm and how 60 – 90% of the fruits and greens the restaurant serves are direct from his biodynamic farm to his kitchen. The greens are grown in soil (Chef James had scoffed at the hydroponics technique) and all are naturally harvested at its peak. You can’t attain such flavours from vegetables bought at the supermarkets, he assured us.
I find myself agreeing with him once the salad was served. Simple yes, but such intense flavours and textures from our humble local vegetables – romaine, beetroots, heirloom tomatoes was refreshing.
Chef was particularly smug of his heirloom tomatoes and I had to admit, they were bursting balls of juicy sweetness!
Entree : RM38++ – Prawns, romaine, beetroot textures, heirloom tomatoes, herbs.
The follow up was an excellent soup with the intriguing components of 2 varietals of local tuak – wild bario grains and glutinous rice.
Though tuak is considered a humble and cheap alcohol, it can be refined if you know how to use it, Chef had said. “We do not have wines in the kitchen anymore. For a French restaurant, this is unheard of“.
He went on to extol the virtues of our local produce and how for 5 years he had collaborated with internationals chefs in his KL restaurant and all of them have loved Malaysia and its produce, yet we Malaysians don’t.
Many of us still believe that a kitchen must have a import chef (ang moh) before it can be a great restaurant. “That’s such a misconception,” James said. “My kitchen is 100% Malaysians and and I intend for it to remain that way.”
Well, I did say Chef James was passionate right? 😉
Meanwhile, I was already looking forward to the next course as I sipped my soup. The broth was opaque with a sweet, rich milkiness. It also boast an aromatic heat from the alcohol which made it a belly warming comfort dish. This was really soothing.
Enfin Fisherman stew pot : RM28++.
Lunch was off to a good start it seems.
However when the fish and chips was served I was mind-boggled for a bit.
Granted it was moist, superbly gentle and flaky Northsea white cod coated in airy soda batter. The chips were double fried and made from scratch (non-processed/commercial) and the wasabi mayo as well as the homemade tartar were good. But personally I won’t be ordering fish and chips if I’m dining at a place like Enfin.
RM48++ – Fish and Chips.
But a king crab won’t be out of place for Enfin. And this one didn’t require much to be outstanding.
The sweet fresh flesh was simply charbroiled with butter, parsley, lemon and garlic. Abandon all cutleries and use your hands please.
King Crab – 1 segment of a leg. (RM68++).
Oh, I may have forgotten to mention that lunch is primarily seafood, and hence all the fishes you see here. There is a spring chicken option if you really must have your meat. I’ve attached the menu as below.
The next course was an example of the Enfin set ‘lunch pick & choose’ menu.
First you select a fish. Then you decide if you wish it to be accompanied with housemade pasta, cooked greens from the farm or a salad.
We had a cod that was pan seared to perfection with crispy skin with its delicate flesh intact. The greens were blanched in water and butter. There are 4 choices of sauces – Wasabi Mayo, Tartar ala Enfin, Truffle Beurre Meuniere, Sauce Vierge to go with your choice of seafood.
Why this new concept lunch menu?
“The inspiration for my new lunch menu is simple. I want to share my passion for using the bounty of our local farmers and fishermen with more Malaysians. That means offering a lunch menu at a price point that is appealing to a greater number of people. My team and I have been curating this menu over the last two months to bring together affordable, high-quality imported seafood and daily selected fresh catch from the market. You’ll taste traditional French cooking techniques centre-staging local ingredients” – Chef James Won.
Starting 1 August 2017, lunch at Enfin by James Won allows guests to choose from an expanded a la carte menu with four entrées, 14 plates principaux (mains), and four desserts. The mains include fresh fish like New Zealand Tarakihi and Norwegian salmon, seafood including whole tail lobster, king crab, and yabbies.
Each of the eight fresh fish and seafood mains may be pan seared, poached or steamed, fried in batter, or chargrilled, and each can be accompanied by one of four fresh sauces.
The menu can also be enjoyed as a 3-Course Degustation Menu. There are two non-seafood selections and one vegetarian option. Additionally, Chef James has added European lunch favourites like fisherman’s stew, butter crust pot-pie, and fish-of-the-day fish & chips.
Please refer below for the full menu:
The 3-Course Degustation Lunch Menu is priced at RM128 per person, excluding beverage and taxes. À la carte prices range from RM18 – RM138. Lastly there is an optional glass of wine and Champagne pairing for an additional RM89.
For more information please visit www.enfinrestaurants.com or call +60 10 288 7920 or to book your table online visit https://www.tableapp.com/partner/enfin-by-james-won.
** Next, dinner at Enfin by James Won.
I had refrained from posting any opinions of lunch until I’ve had the dinner (of which I was also invited for) as I had expected more from a chef of James’s calibre. I left wondering if it would have been better or more satisfying if it was the dinner menu instead.
At this point I justified that it was the strict seafood, “generally crowd pleasing” menu with price limitations and thus he wasn’t able to go all out to impress.
In conclusion I’ve had stronger expectations from the dishes we tried. It was definitely a decent meal, but Enfin by James Won is occupying the sort of space that bolsters expectations of a exceptional experience and that was missing from lunch.