Italian heaven

D’CEILO
57, Jalan Bangkung
Off Jalan Maarof
Bukit Bandaraya, Bangsar
Tel: (03) 2095 3739.

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A Malaysian chef with an orange goatee offers up Italian perfections at D’Ceilo in Bangsar, KL.

RED sea prawns served on a bed of ice and prettied up with lemon twists. Alaskan crab in a creamy cheddar, parmesan and mozzarella sauce with a sprinkling of basil. Pan-seared foie gras paired with bananas and sweetened with wild honey… Feeling hungry yet?

These are just some of the chef’s specialties at D’Ceilo, a new Italian restaurant to grace Bangsar’s Jalan Bangkung in KL. But first a little history.

D’Ceilo, meaning “heaven” in Italian, was formerly Tea For Two. Back then, it was owned by the Mah family, who ran it for 22 years. According to Jay Raaj, 33, the owner of the new establishment, the old restaurant was a gift from the husband to the wife.

Alas, tragedy struck when the husband was murdered during a robbery in 2009. That spelled the end of the restaurant.

“I was not worried about the owner’s unhappy end when we opened in May. This was because when I first entered the place, I could feel a good energy. The former owners had spent a lot of happy times here,” says Jay.

Just last week, on Friday the 13th, one of their regular guests, Dennick Pheah, proposed to his girlfriend here. He had six of his best buddies deck their bicycles with LED signs reading, “Jasmine, Will You Marry Me?” When the cycling buddies made their entrance, it took the woman a good 10 minutes before she recovered from the shock and finally said yes.

“It was a beautiful moment. He cried. She cried. Even I cried,” recalls Jay.

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Jay Raaj and Trina toasting to a wonderful future for D’Ceilo. –Photos by Grace Chen

The chef, Azizan Shukri, 43, with his signature orange goatee, is no less interesting. Having cooked for Bill Clinton during his tenure at the Grand Hotel in Dublin, Ireland, this Taiping native has also catered to the likes of Datuk Michelle Yeoh and former prime minister Tun Abdullah Badawi.

Beginning his culinary journey as a roti canai and chicken rice hawker at a roadside stall in Malacca, Azizan stepped into the professional kitchen at the Ayer Keroh Country Resort in 1990 before later joining Bologna, the Italian fine diner in Istana Hotel. Since then, he’s worked in the kitchen of almost every notable Italian restaurant in Kuala Lumpur – Modesto’s, Piccolo Mondo, Fratello, Toscana, Vincenzo, Bella Italia, Cava and Opus.

The last two are dangerously located just a few doors away from Azizan’s current work place.

Now we come to the food. We start with the Pan-Seared Foie Gras (RM58). It’s very inventive of Azizan to offset the gamey flavours of goose liver with a sweet tropical taste. By inserting slices of Montel banana slices under each sliver, he gives a rich velvety sensation to every bite. This is further helped by the silky characteristics of the wild honey sauce in the tomato and peach salsa topping.

According to Azizan, the honey is harvested from the jungles of Riau, Indonesia. It is brought in batches by a friend who hand-carries it on his flights here.

Next is the Pan-Seared Black Angus Steak which comes with truffle sauce (RM81). The grain-fed beef on the palate is like chocolate doing a slow melt on the tongue. This luxurious sensation is heightened by the presence of gorgonzola cheese, whose sharp notes zest up the meat and envelop it like an extravagant sauce.

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The flamboyant D’Ceilo chef, Azizan,with a plate of juicy Red Sea Prawns.

We would have liked to taste more of the truffle, dubbed “black gold” in culinary circles, but there are just too many overpowering elements at work. The first villain is the gorgonzola. The other is the baked vinegar shallots. On their own, they are absolutely delicious but they just don’t allow the most expensive star in this dish, the truffles, to shine.

But life is too short for petty grievances, no?

Those who love their seafood should give the Alaskan King Crab a try (RM183 per kg). Diners can opt to have it cooked thermidor-style or with tomatoes. We have ours done thermidor, and are thankful that Azizan included a generous twirl of spaghetti for us to lap up the creamy cheese sauce with.

It’s a wonder how Azizan manages to achieve such a robust flavour from the cheese sauce. Relying only on three different cheeses and offsetting the taste with salt, pepper and basil, he says he had to eschew the use of stock, using only plain water as a base!

We suspect that Azizan is trying to keep his recipe a secret. Even if it were true that he had started the sauce with plain water, we think there’s a high possibility that he might have boiled the Alaskan crab in it.

The Red Sea Prawns (RM118.80) are also a great treat. Poached with herbs and served on a bed of ice, this is a dish that you will have to eat with your fingers for that lip-smacking feel. The trouble is, prawn lovers tend to be fussy when it comes to doneness. So, make sure you let the kitchen know if you like them cooked just so because Azizan likes his prawns well boiled.

For the perfect ending, there is the Chocolate Volcano (RM20), an orchestra of dark and white chocolate given the soufflé treatment. Topped with vanilla ice-cream and almond sprinkling, and garnished with strawberries, this dessert is not unlike wading through a thick lake of cocoa soup. For the chocolate lover, it is a dessert worth making space for.

Oh, yes, the Caesar’s Salad (RM21.90). This is a lunch crowd favourite. We especially like how Azizan added in strips of fried egg to the romaine lettuce. If you are feeling peckish, try adding salmon or chicken breast. Scrumptious to the last bite!


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