A Casual Lunch with Darren Chin

It started out over a text from me asking for some thoughts on what would be on trend in 2020. Instead of a lengthy answer, I got a simple reply from Darren saying, “Let’s have a simple makan and chit chat.” And if you are familiar with the dining scene in Kuala Lumpur, you would never pass up an opportunity as such. In all honestly, I thought we were going to have a simple casual lunch with an expectation of fried noodles or something simpler, and obviously that was never going to be the case.

Chef Darren Chin | A Casual Lunch with Darren Chin | Food For Thought

A reminder text came in on Sunday asking me to bring a friend a long and I invited Tien of Robb Report, who I was meant to have a catch up with, killing two birds with one stone. We arrived at his home, one you would only expect of a professional chef, complete with an open kitchen with an island chef’s table.

Darren is a chef whose career progression I have been following for the past 5 years, and has been an utmost pleasure to see how his cuisine has evolved and grown. He was letting us taste some of the new dishes he will be serving at Café-Bistrot David, a project that he is working on with his father David Chin, developing hearty recipes.

“I wanted to create a croissant that would have to beat what I do at DC.”

We started the lunch with a simple croissant with shaved pecorino romano, easily the best croissant I’ve had in Kuala Lumpur, extremely fluffy and buttery with a nice contrast from the umami of the pecorino. I have always been a fan of his croissants at DC Restaurant, but this version has elevated the ever so technical pastry.

Battaglio Barbaresco | A Casual Lunch with Darren Chin | Food For Thought

“I chose this wine to pair with the first dish, you’ll see why.”

The Battaglio Barbaresco leaned towards the tannic and acidic side, and made perfect sense with the first dish, a pasta.

He then served us a Tagliatelle Guanciale with Sarawak black pepper and pecorino. The fattiness of the cured pork jowl added a very umami heavy flavour, but was perfect with the broad strips of tagliatalle. A few shavings of pecorino and it was done.

“The guanciale has a strong flavour which I felt would go well with this red wine. You should try the wine with the ribs, it works too.”

He next served some simple barbecue ribs. The ribs tasted like a modern take on the Chinese barbecue rib, but with less of the sweetness, and leaned towards a more savoury side.

American Oysters | A Casual Lunch with Darren Chin | Food For Thought

As we caught up and chatted about the new opening and concept of Café-Bistrot David, one which revisit old recipes from Dave’s Deli, with some of their classics planning to appear on the menu. Darren next grilled up some American oyster with parsley, garlic and olive oil.

“This is no special dish, just the typical French preparation of how you would with escargots.”

But it was not typical at all. The very simple dish was executed well, with a nice sizeable oyster cooked with the right amount of parsley oil, and not overpowered by garlic as many places usually do. This was when he next introduced the Antinori Pian Delle Vigne Rosso di Montalcino 2016, a more structured red compared to the previous one.

Antinori Pian Delle Vigne Rosso di Montalcino 2016 | A Casual Lunch with Darren Chin | Food For Thought

“This wine is quite different to the previous one, try each with the pasta and let me know want you think.”

This wine did have more structure to it, and paired better with the following, less fatty dishes. In contrast to the tagliatelle, the cacio e pepe with its smaller surface area worked better with the less tannic wine.

Cacio E Pepe | A Casual Lunch with Darren Chin | Food For Thought

As we helped ourselves to a glass of the latter wine, Darren prepared the Cacio e Pepe, served with Sarawak black pepper, pork sausages and Perigord black truffles, with the black truffle happening to be in season.

“I found that the Sarawak black pepper works well with the cacio e pepe. If you were to use another black pepper it may be too overpowering, whereas with the Sarawak pepper, you get to really taste it.”

The dishes served at his home may have used pork as ingredients, but it will not be the case for the café-bistrot. The dishes served there will be Muslim-friendly and pork-free. The best elements about the lunch was that Darren added truffles to the dish because he had some leftover from service the night before. Something you should never argue with.

Squab, Burnt Cabbage, Tamarillo | A Casual Lunch with Darren Chin | Food For Thought

We were next served with a Squab, burnt cabbage and a tamarillo sauce. The squab was very flavourful and although small, had very tender and juicy breast meat. The flavour mostly comes from the herbs used to stuff the bird before cooking. The simple burnt cabbage added a nice contrast in flavour and added a crunchy texture, with the tamarillo adding a slightly piquant sour note. And yes, the second more structured wine worked better with this dish.

“Up next is the squab, a bird that not everyone can easily accept. It’s very similar to the quail we can find here, but it’s really not for everyone. We will be serving some hearty café food at the new place. Some that people will know.”

He was referring to the roast chicken that Dave’s Deli was so famous for, as he preps us for our sweets.

We eased out of the meal with some servings of pain au blueberry and pain au raisin. I always tend to forget that Darren had once won the Best Sandwich in the World at the Delifrance Sandwich World Cup competition in France so this was really no surprise. We ended the meal in the most Asian way possible, fruit. And right before taking our leave over a very long 3-hour lunch Darren quipped at the end in answering my initial question on what will trend in 2020…

“To answer your initial question, we will be going for simplicity and letting the ingredients speak for itself.”

Very succinct. After this very “casual lunch”, and if this was really a pre-teaser of what’s to come, we really can’t wait to see the full offerings that will be available at Café-Bistrot David.

For our previous reviews, see DC Restaurant.

Café-Bistrot David
135, Jalan Aminuddin Baki,
Taman Tun Dr Ismail,
60000 Kuala Lumpur
+603 7732 0332
Opening Hours:
Mondays to Mondays, 10.00 am to 6.00 pm
Closed on Tuesdays


Nicholas Ng

Nicholas Ng is a restaurant critic and drinks writer and is the editor of independent publication Food For Thought. He has been a freelance journalist for the 15 years and has previously worked as a lawyer and in digital marketing. He currently is the Principal Consultant of A Thought Full Consultancy, a food and beverage marketing consultancy.

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