Mission: To respond thoughtfully and responsibly to my experiences of drinking and dining at restaurants with regard to the quality, service, preparation, presentation and overall experience received thereat. The standpoint is one who respects the crafts of the chef and sommelier and who seeks to understand their choices in the kitchen and cellar and grow in knowledge. In this, I will seek to be fair, reasoned, direct and constructive and aim to keep my ego in check on our mutual journeys through the worlds of food and wine.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Soleil in DC Mall - excellent food, but is anyone home?

January 4th 2017

Aren't expectations a pain? Especially when you have a previous experience at a previous venue with previous people to compare with? I think it's best to preface this report on the new Soleil by bearing this context in mind when reading and assessing. It's always tough moving to a new gaffe and with pretty much a new team in situ. Read with caution. Yes. 

The new Soleil in DC Mall
We recently found ourselves having been set up for a dinner at the new Soleil. We knew that our old favourite would be opening in a spanking new Mall in what was being called Damansara City and had been wondering when we would get the chance to visit. It came sooner than expected in the form of a hastily rearranged IWFS Committee meeting equally hastily organised by President David to let Committee members try out the new Soleil with a view to having an event there for the members at some near future date.

Soleil entrance with the steel and glass wine cellar
Short version - overall, the food remains the quality it used to be, and if anything has improved in tongue titillation terms. Chef Evert has clearly been busy researching and has assembled a darned good team there in the kitchen. In contrast, the service appears to need large and quick attention and determine single chains of command in both food and wine service terms. There seemed to be a lot of staff on our night (perhaps stops had been pulled out in an effort to impress President David) so whilst food serving and clearing were generally swift I got a sense of an occasional lack in confidence and a bit "straight out of college" feel in the staff.  They just need a bit more time. And it was good to see that the ladies got their food first. The food prices look fair, though I did not get to see a wine list and couldn't find one on the website (which was still showing photos of the old PJ venue). I have been trying to check corkage policy and pricing and have been waiting for an email reply for seven days and counting - I went through the general email line. I then messaged through Facebook on Day Five of the Wait and got a response saying someone would reply to my email. Still waiting three days later. Hmmm.....   

Soleil Bar
At its previous venue in Section 17 PJ,  Soleil had been a default restaurant of choice pretty much since the time it had opened in 2013. Warm, quiet, with exquisite dishes and exceptional wine service, it was a destination when you needed that special place with that special person and could be confident of a superb evening. Lenglui and I have had many memorable evenings there with different friends and foodies. It was when we learned that the founding staff were moving on that slight misgivings started to rumble, and indeed in the later visits it felt that something quintessential was missing. Not that the staff were anything less than equally friendly and efficient, just that… well, Yuhei and Fendi were the heart and soul of the place and with them not there it wasn't quite… Soleil. So it goes, but we continued to patronise because Chef's Tomahawk Steak was the total business and the new staff were still some of the best in the city. Then mid 2016 we heard the Soleil was scheduled to move to the newly built DC Mall at the end of the year, which made us a bit sad - I think that despite all the corporate mantras that we all should joyfully embrace change, no one really likes it, especially when it is a favourite food place where (to steal a line from the song) everybody knew our name and were always glad we came. So we crammed in a few more Tomahawks with the Rubber Baron ahead of the move and supped our wonderful wines and hoped that the new Soleil would rise to shine as brightly as the old. Then we heard that some of the existing staff would not be joining the new place, which always give pause and raises the question "why?" Often it is transport issues - if it is a hard slog (which it is most times) to get in and out of town for work and parking for a new job compared to the existing job then people often prefer to find a new job closer to home. Maybe…  but the new is barely a mile up the road from the old, though the DC parking charges would probably make a dent in the gaji (ie wages - staff could probably get away with parking free around PJ). It had also felt that a slight hike in pricing had crept in to our later meals at the old Soleil. The Tomahawk had become a little less than competitive vis a vis other eateries offering this cut. The service aspect can often be put down to the transition and people's minds being in two places rather than just the one in which we were eating. The pricing could be the slow relentless decline of the Ringgit. It happens. Nevertheless, we were hopeful that not too much would be different in the new, and that the food and service be as good, the prices would not have gone up too much to pay the new rent, and that we would like it. Whatever, it was certainly a ballsy move by management to upgrade as they did so kudos for that. Got to hope that it all works out. 

Getting to the DC Mall entrance proved a bit roundabout. On driving there from KL, we had to do the round of the Damansara City - coming from Jalan Semantan (ie SPRINT) or Jalan Maarof, cars cannot seem turn into the Mall, though coming from PJ SPRINT seems okay (it may be that we can turn in from Semantan, but I didn't see much direction signage - will take another look next time we are in the area). Equally, the main entrance proved elusive in signage terms as did directions to the Car Park. We passed one entrance claiming Jockey Park which looked more office than Shopping Mall so we drove on. We stopped at a second entrance at which the Jockey Boys said this indeed was the entrance to the Mall and that Parking was somewhere "around the back, Encik". Okay…  Given Lenglui's continuing issues with stressing out her healing broken toes, we opted to Jockey and go up the escalator to the restaurant (Jockey was RM14 and they came to deliver the keys at the restaurant when they were closing - the car was parked right outside the escalator. Champion.) 

Table setting in Private Room One
Lenglui wandered off for some shop research and I went up the two escalators to Soleil. The new place takes up a whole corner of a floor, all shiny and open plan looking. There is an open island style bar along both the inside Restaurant and the Mall walkway and the entrance opens into a cafe style layout of chairs and tables that lead toward the kitchen. At the entrance is the Glass and Steel Prison that is the Wine Cellar, housing a lot of mostly high end Bordeaux lovelies (at least that was what was visible). High ceilings and towering steel and glass gave a modern Steampunk feel for me - bit of edge, bit of art, but ultimately lacking warmth. Perhaps there was too much space, though this was in early evening light and perhaps the dark would offer a less stark feel. 

Service Window into the Kitchen
Our meeting was in one of the private rooms at the back which would also be our dinner seating. Initial impression of the room was… "cool" in ambiance terms. A bit like modern office board room with panel boards parked together that opened or closed out depending on how many were wanting to seat together. Also, oddly dark in the growing gloomy daylight which was masked by a large artsy photo print of a crystal decanter pouring what looked like Gin or water and taking over the whole back wall. And at one far end was a mirror wall - not sure what the Feng Shui folks would have to say about that, though at least it wasn't facing the door like the twin infinity circular one in the other private room. Table and chairs also felt functional rather than grand, though they were comfortable enough. The lighting was soft, with bare-bulb-on-wire style light shades and low wattage halogens. Seems that the room for us fifteen could extend to the other private room and take a total forty, though my feeling was that it might not leave much room for the waiting staff to get around with the food, water and wines. Their initial squeezing through the doorway and around the chairs was already proving a bit tight. 

But it was functional, and there were wine glasses and water on the table, so I plugged in my old Sony laptop of 12 years service and we did our meeting business.

Looking along the table...
After the meeting, we vacated the room to let the staff work their table setting magic and repaired to the reception area to sip on some fizz and relax with the squeezes and friends who would be joining. President had negotiated a special price for the five course dinner with corkage waived - goodwill is a wonderful thing. I took a brief wander to find the bathroom (note - fewer restaurants in the newer malls seem to have their own toilets; all now require you to exit and wander off to where the general tandas is located, and Soleil DC is now added to this list). On the way back, there was a promising looking Indian cuisine restaurant downstairs so I detoured to grab a look at the menu and steal a card. Going back up the escalator, Soleil had gained a slight sense of less imposing Emerald Palace feel about it. I needed to rush as everyone had seated themselves and were waiting on me to help cheer the New Year. 

On getting seated, first thing to see was the absence of tablecloths and a fairly bare setting with cloth napkins and two sets of cutlery. In fairness, there was not a lot of space on the table for much else in the way of fighting irons. There was a side plate for bread and butter which was of the same magnificent standard as previous - warm, soft crunch with that good doughy miel - the omens were good. 

The Barramundi Ceviche
First out was the Ceviche which was excellent. The Tomato Salsa and the melting pineapple crystals made for a fabulous vinaigrette with the pepper and fish juice - almost like a fish and fruit sorbet. The coldness of the ice crystal lent a pleasing contrast to the room temperature fish as well as each providing a texture counterpoint to the other. Very nice way to start indeed.

Given that I had brought two bottles of the same wine Casa Yin How Spanish Albarinho, it was decided to start with that, so as to give everyone a glass of the same. Well, and okay, though this went against my guess that the wine would be a gangbusters match with the upcoming Octopus and Paella. But no point to be too precious over these things - everyone getting a first glass of the same made sense. I would set a glass aside for the Ocky. As it turned out, the Casa Yin How fared nicely with the Ceviche, with that slightly oily consistency in the Albarinho helping to offer a velvety ripe persimmon mouthfeel and a rich chewy finish.

The Octopus and Paella was well prepared and darn tasty, with that chewy rubbery tentacle texture giving good firm bite to the well tasty rice Paella. The addition of the peppery Chorizo spiced the thing nicely and the whole ensemble blended well for a good whack in the cheeks. Though I did feel that perhaps the portion could have been slightly larger to let the whack in the mouth get matched by a similar one in the belly. 

Someone had decided to pour out the Markowitz Pinot Noir brought by The Money to go with the dish which worked beautifully. There was enough cherry and acidity to tame the fats in the food which led to a great sense of complementarity between both. The Markowitz is a wonderful wine both on its own and with most forms of food - sweetish and cherries and understated power on the finish, I have drunk this on many occasions with delight. Not sure how many The Money has left in her cellar - have to see if she is up to flogging some off. 

Incidentally, my glass of Casa Yin How was indeed magnificent with the Ocky Paella. I have found that to drink the Albarinho alone is not altogether good - it is not at its best as an aperitif or a nightcap. But with food the boy does come beautifully into focus. Its slight industrial whack got diluted by the Chorizo fats and the wine's natural acidity lifted the edge off the somewhat dry-ish oily texture of the rice (regret no photo). Good match, this one. 

The Baby Emperor
Next out was the Baby Emperor. This was one where all the various elements came together to make for a wonderful salty mouthful of tastes and textures which hit most of the buttons and bases - salt, sweet, umami, and a wonderful crispy soy sear on the fish - so, so good. For me, the genius was matching the Apple with the Shallot - we had the sourish apple against the oily sweet onion to give a weird and wonderful sweetly sour undercoat and overcoat to everything. At the same time the textures matched brilliantly. Wicked good. There was a Chablis doing the rounds to pair with it, though I can't remember if any made its way to my glass. I was very happy to see off the remains of the Marko. 

The veal came out to great fanfare, though for me it did not sadly match this entrance. Looking very good on the plate, I found it a bit chewy and somewhat of a mouthful to bite through. it tasted very good, but it seemed to be a bit of a fight to chew it. Everything else was on point - great Jus, excellent artichoke and croquettes - but for me it just felt a bit more beef than veal. But bear in mind I am not a great fan of veal, and there were no complaints from the table. There was also a bit too much of it on the plate (Ed: Whaaaat?? You complain earlier of not enough, now is too much? Aiyoooooo….) and much of mine went back to the kitchen. Too much work to eat this puppy cow. 

Doc Su and Allie Tan with the Gin pouring in the background
The Kiwi shared a bit of his specially prepared Duck. It was done well, tender and excellent quality meat. Worth to try on a return visit (also no photo - we will have to go back. David, are you reading this?).

The wines were coming out at various times and in such various orders that I think most people had decided to just go with what they preferred. A Hugel 2013 Gewurtz was doing the rounds so I opted for it. Classic Gewurtz, lovely sweet and spice and Turkish mouth. Wonderfully easy swig, this one. I have a memory of the Kiwi opening a secret Red which would turn out to come from Georgia. Impressively structured, rich in deep fruit, drinking like a well made North Italian with excellent length and full on finish. 

Dessert was…   my note says "odd". It was a very good mix of tastes and textures, and way less sweet than I expected from the visual. It was good but…  somehow not quite "dessert". Maybe it was Chef's challenge to the expectations of sweetness by the general foodie. Certainly worked from that perspective if so. I didn't eat it all. 

The very not sweet Dessert
We would finish off with a Sauternes which would prove delightful. Clean and sweet, crunchy and crisp, not too bold but with lively and lovely chewy dancing in the cheeks and on the tongue. One of those where all the elements balanced nicely and made for a charming end to the evening. 

Service was a bit….  not the standard I have come to expect from Soleil. Odd little lapses which seemed to suggest that the waiting staff have not quite been trained up enough and as a result are not yet quite as refined as previous. Either this and/or they were confused by the presence of a General Manager helping on the floor and wondering whose orders they should follow - their Boss, his Boss, or someone else stalking around who looked like they might be another Boss. There was one occasion where one waiter was laying our cutlery and two minutes later another was coming round taking it off. This was then followed by a third coming back to lay it out again. And all three pretty much doing this particular round all at the same time. Felt a bit blur, though as said it is well early days and the new staff need time to embed and gain confidence in both themselves and their new surroundings and compadres. Nothing that clear lines of communication and command can sort out. In contrast, the wine service was not bad. President David had determined a wine theme of "Old World" and the wines brought were in the end quite broad and challenging given the food. Our Sommelier had been given some initial direction as to what wines to pour and when, but when the sequence seemed to evaporate, he was sussed enough to bring everything and ask which of the available wines we preferred with the dish before us. Some lovely wines on show, though I didn't get much in the way of photos thereof. Hope the Kiwi did. 

Doc Stephen and Doc Su Kim. You sit opposite me, you get a photo in the blog. Yes.
Would I go back? Not immediately, though probably soon enough. Whilst Chef Evert is clearly still on form, the floor staff need to settle in and proper lines of reporting need to be nailed down. There is also a warmth and a soul that have yet to get established at the new venue. I got a sense of professional friendliness seeping in rather than the efficient warmth that was Soleil in the heydey of Fendi and Yuhei. 

Also (as said) the ambience needs adjusting for me - bit too open and bright and shiny with all the glass and steel and lacking a warmth in which to relax and chill. And feeling a bit more cafe than restaurant Maybe I'm getting old and this bar and cafe style is what the young folks want or is what is felt necessary to compete with the other eateries in the Mall. Fair enough. But then it will be a different Soleil and I will need to adjust and be romanced sufficiently to embrace it as a continuing favoured destination rather than the present fond memory of how it used to be. 

But it is the lack of communication with me that I find a bit troubling. Feels like the lights are on but it doesn't seem like there is anyone home. This is a Serious Fail. Come on, guys - Communication is KEY. You surely got to respond to us punters, yes? If you can't respond, then just SAY you can't and say that you will when you can. But silence? And no follow up? Aiyo...... 

It seems Soleil does a Chef Table degustation which Lenglui is keen to try at some time. Though her getting stiffed for RM50 for a glass of pre-prandial house white will need a darn good reason to go there. Might have to go teetotal. Alamak…

Even more alamak - Lenglui advises that she heard anecdotally that corkage is apparently now RM120 per bottle. This naturally assumes that she heard right (and I have only ever known Lenglui to hear wrong on a rare occasion). Seems also that wines can be bought at Soleil but if consumed at the Restaurant then the RM120 also gets added. Which feels a bit ouch. Actually, it feels a LOT ouch. Will DEFINITELY be teetotal if this be the case. Will let everyone know when Soleil confirms. 

NB Soleil has now confirmed, corkage for BYO is RM100 not RM120 - buy at the restaurant, the premium effectively becomes RM85 - see next posting.

PS - Also hearing a whisper that Cilantro has increased their corkage. Possibly a trend is forming - squeeze the wealthy for wanting to enjoy their luxury booze at a restaurant. Not for long, boys, not for long - my money is on chefs doing more pop ups at people's houses. Rent the chef rather than pay for the restaurant and sup your own booze with friends whilst chef prepares the delights and the maid serves. Or rent the restaurant and bring your own food, chef and booze. Watch this space.

The second Private Dining Room. With Infinity Mirror.
Facing the door. Good Feng Shui? Hmmmmm.... 
Soleil Restaurant
DC Mall Plaza DC, 
Lot 7 & 8, 
Jalan Damanlela, 
Damansara Town Centre, 
50490 Damansara City, 
Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Hours - Weekday 10am to 10.30pm, Weekend 9am to 10.30pm
Telephone +603 2011 8261; +6012 612 5989
email enquiries@soleil.my


Pequillo Pepper, Tomato Salsa, Coconut, Pineapple Crystals

Paella, Turkey Chorizo, Black Garlic Aioli

Baked Apple, Shallot Jus, Sake Cream, Fennel Chlorophyll

Jerusalem Artichoke, Sweet Corn Croquettes, Foie Gras

Caramel Cremeux, Tonka Ice Cream, Dark Chocolate


  1. 2 bottles of Markowitz went faster than fast:)

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  3. hey brian mack...how are you? long time no see...i will send you an email to gwailoah@gmail.com, want to discuss something with you. Sincerely, Jessica aka Suki