Cocott’ makes a very strong argument for taking your time.
It applies to a leisurely lunch or a relaxed dinner in the pretty, light-soaked dining room artfully surrounded by greenery in a TTDI enclave in Kuala Lumpur.
Quick lunch sets are available and the efficient kitchen lands its offerings on your table with speed. Nonetheless, Cocott’ is a place for elegant, un-stuffy chilling over well-made French bistro fare.
And general manager Rui-Yang Monico and executive chef Geoffroi Herin took three years to create their passion project, which allowed them a sound baseline from which to grow Cocott’. Monico and Herin met while working at a catering company in Switzerland, where the former was finishing up his hospitality studies.
“We always knew we wanted to start something together, but we took a bit of time to discuss it,” said Monico, whose father is Swiss and mother Malaysian Chinese.
It’s apparent that much thought has been put into every aspect of the operation, from the multi-purpose wine glasses to the kitchen aspiration of zero wastage – all of which translates into the authentic French food at accessible prices, the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow of a shared dream.
“We wanted a straightforward concept that would take French food out of the realm of fine dining, and make it hearty and affordable instead,” said Monico.
Part two of that dream will soon see them branching out into catering.
To create a menu to appeal to locals, the duo scoured regional dishes from France that have more robust flavours – especially the south of France, where the Mediterranean sun holds sway, entering the kitchen to meet French culinary sensibilities – and then added contemporary touches.
And Herin and Monico conceptualised an entire menu served in the charming cast-iron cocottes – which evoke notions of slow, rustic home cooking. Every dish is meant for sharing – a very Asian approach.
It’s a small focused menu, because that is how you “ensure consistency, quality and freshness”, according to Monico.
A few dishes rotate monthly, and a new lunch menu is on the cards for the constantly-evolving restaurant. Set lunches range from one main and one side for RM34 to three mains and two sides for RM96.
Start with the bread, a little orb of crunchy-crusted goodness with a fluffy, slightly chewy interior, baked en cocotte. The first is complimentary, with subsequent orders being RM5 each – it’s highly recommended, both on its own virtues and for mopping up the lovely sauces and gravies from other cast-iron pots of treasure.
These include the deeply-flavoured savour of the beef bourguignon (RM48/RM91), soaked in its red wine bath overnight before being slow-cooked over another night. The result is tender meat that yields meltingly to the touch of a fork, and root vegetables with an earthy sweetness, in a dish both sensuous and comforting.
The ratatouille (RM24) is another dish which is an exemplary showcase of flavour and texture – and is also deceptively simple. While the traditional dish has all the vegetables slow-cooked together, Herin puts a twist in this tale.
He retains the slow cooking methods, but stews each vegetable separately with the aromatics. “Every vegetable – the zucchini, peppers, etc – has a different cooking time, so this way, I get to retain the crunch and colour,” he said.
He also sautees them with the tomato concasee a la minute to add a smoky edge. The involved technique results in a wonderfully fresh-tasting, flavour-forward dish which is a main attraction rather than a side.
For a light bite, the Malakoff (RM32), crumbed balls of Raclette served with a red wine and onion chutney are popular. This Swiss dish of mild, melting cheese with a slightly briny-bitter edge takes on added pungency when the cheese skin finds its way into a cheese ball.
The piquant flamed and cured mackerel (RM28) is also laden with character and flavour – brined with local seaweed from Sabah, then torched and served with a sweet-sour shallot and cucumber dressing, the tender fish takes on a nice sweetness.
The classic French onion soup (RM24) was enjoyable, topped with gratinated cheese croutons hiding buttery-sweet onions and broth – but the base flavour note should have been more pronounced.
I’ve saved the best for almost-last though – the potato and cheese mousse (RM24) has a prosaic name that belies its gorgeousness. Tender confit potatoes are submerged in a siphon-created creamy froth of potato and cheese – comforting, but with an ethereally light mouthfeel. It’s the kind of dish you order another of, right after the first spoonful.
The Valrhona chocolate and passion fruit molleux (RM22) is faultless and decadent, with house-made vanilla ice cream marrying the tangy passion fruit puree and dark chocolate. But the mango tatin (RM20) shines even brighter, with sweet mango given a slight char with a blowtorch, sitting on buttery shortbread biscuits, and topped with house-made mango sorbet and coils of salted caramel sauce.
The food is complemented by a small wine and beer list, and the coffee – as distinctive as anything served in a cocotte – a smoky roast of Arabica from Sumatra and Brazil with a savoury, almost meaty edge. It’s exclusive to the restaurant, from the The Roastery PLT in Penang.
Cocott’ is the kind of place that selfish foodies keep secret – the kitchen’s attention to detail, mastery of technique and embrace of slow, thoughtful cooking turn the simple into the special, prices are attractive and ingredient quality commendable. This is a place where you can really feel that time is on your side.
Level 1, Unit 1, Greens Terrace, Jalan Wan Kadir 3, Taman Tun Dr Ismail, Kuala Lumpur.
Tel: 03-2712 4481
Open Tuesdays, 6pm to 10pm and Wednesdays to Sundays, 12pm to 10pm (opening hours may expand in a few weeks)