For more than three decades, Malaysians have associated 𝗗𝗮𝘃𝗲’𝘀 𝗗𝗲𝗹𝗶 with being a family restaurant chain that serves high quality yet affordable meals. Dave & Maureen Chin had started off in 1989 with a small food kiosk in a neighborhood mall’s food court, offering Western-style soups, roast chicken and meat pies. For New Zealand-educated Dave Chin, it was the culmination of his dream to offer good Western food that he loved from his college days at reasonable prices. His eponymously-named 𝗗𝗮𝘃𝗲’𝘀 𝗗𝗲𝗹𝗶 was an overnight sensation, and long queues snaked out of the food court as KL-lites couldn’t get enough of its popular spread of offerings, especially Dave’s quarter roast chicken, served with mashed potatoes, peas and gravy. It started sprouting branches all over town.
Fast forward to today, where 𝗗𝗮𝘃𝗲’𝘀 𝗗𝗲𝗹𝗶 is an established chain nationwide. Dave Chin had decided to create his own special, more upmarket eatery: 𝗖𝗮𝗳𝗲-𝗕𝗶𝘀𝘁𝗿𝗼𝘁 𝗗𝗮𝘃𝗶𝗱 in KL’s swish Taman Tun Dr Ismail neighborhood, which raised the bar and brought casual dining in Kuala Lumpur to new standards of excellence. 𝗖𝗮𝗳𝗲-𝗕𝗶𝘀𝘁𝗿𝗼𝘁 𝗗𝗮𝘃𝗶𝗱 is so popular, bookings run weeks in advance.
We were there last Saturday for dinner as Dave Chin just had a shipment of fresh seafood from Paris’ Rungis Market on Friday, and was offering seafood bouillabaisse as a weekend special. I had my first taste of bouillabaisse over 30 years ago at Alain Senderens’ Lucas Carton, and can never resist going to any restaurant offering it ever since.
Last weekend, we’d called ahead, not just to book a table, but to also pre-order the bouillabaisse as well! We arrived at a packed (as usual) 𝗖𝗮𝗳𝗲-𝗕𝗶𝘀𝘁𝗿𝗼𝘁 𝗗𝗮𝘃𝗶𝗱, but a place filled with such conviviality, we felt right at home immediately.
The energetic septuagenarian Dave Chin was his usual rambunctious self, shuttling between cooking in his busy kitchen, and chatting with diners in the boisterous main dining room.
Our dinner that evening:
Hot charcoal-baked flatbread brushed with Kulim-infused oil - the puffed-up flatbread was shiny from the oil, which also gave it a garlicky-truffle-like scent and flavor.
EVOO and aged balsamic vinegar dip for the flatbread.
Hyogo oyster, infused with wagyu beef dripping - this was a fat, luscious piece of bivalve, lightly basted with hot wagyu beef drippings from a flambadou.
Bouillabaisse - this was what we came for, and it was absolutely delish: a deeply-flavored, golden saffron-tinged fish broth with monkfish, mussels, king prawns, potatoes, tomatoes and orange zest, tinged with vermouth. It was accompanied by toasted slices of sourdough with spicy rouille.
Grilled ox-tongue - this was grilled then generously drizzled with balsamic vinegar and sprinkled with crushed red peppercorns. Sharp, spicy flavors which lifted the rich meaty grilled tongue to another level of deliciousness.
Batik clams from the Philippines - these were amazingly huge, meaty clams, cooked simply in white wine, garlic and parsley.
This was the piece de resistance for the evening: Mayura wagyu flatiron steak - the texture was to-die for. Best piece of meat of whatever creature I’d ever tasted in KL!
Side 1: Grilled asparagus spears, petit pois and broccolini, topped with crisp garlic chips
Side 2: Cooked grain-shaped orzo pasta.
Side 3: Sauteed potatoes.
Side 4: Sauteed maitake mushrooms.
Side 5: Roasted Padrón peppers.
Side 6: 8-Leaf Salad, with onions, capers & dill.
- Dessert: English toffee pudding with butterscotch sauce. A rich, traditional English sweet - really hit the spot here.
𝗖𝗮𝗳𝗲-𝗕𝗶𝘀𝘁𝗿𝗼𝘁 𝗗𝗮𝘃𝗶𝗱 hardly puts a foot wrong - stellar cooking, using the best ingredients available in KL, perhaps Malaysia. It has a compact, well-drilled team in the kitchen, complemented by a competent, very responsive wait-team upfront. Definitely the best bistro in town.
135, Jalan Aminuddin Baki, Taman Tun Dr Ismail, 60000 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Tel: +6018-912 0332
12 noon to 4pm, 6pm to 10pm, Mon, Wed - Fri.
11am to 4pm, 6pm to 10pm, Sat & Sun.
Closed on Tuesdays.