This almost ended up being our most expensive meal (top honors went to Mortons in HK) at $150, half the bill coming from a pricy (for us) bottle of wine. And we almost didnt find the place. I dont know what it is with Malaysia, Singapore and directions. No one seems to know street names or addresses. They tend to go by landmarks. Our cab driver dropped us off randomly in the Bukit Bintang shopping area, which isnt the same as Changkat Bukit Bintang, luckily we were able to track that specific street down (we were standing right on it, but had no idea because signage is severely lacking in Malaysia. And on top of things, the public maps You Are Here dot was completely inaccurate) despite addresses not being in chronological order.
This was Merdeka, Malaysias Independence Day , so half the city was out and about celebrating. (I swear, if you squinted and ignored the lack of blaring salsa and reggaeton, youd think it was Puerto Rican Day.) The atmosphere was hot, steamy, chaotic and overwhelming– the dead opposite of Frangipani. Two different worlds, for sure.
Even the crappiest NYC restaurants are full any given night of the week. Not so, in Asia. There was huge rigmarole with reservations, needing a number to confirm and reach us when we didnt have one. I think they just like following rules (same thing happened in HK). I'd counted on crazy fusion and high for Kuala Lumpur prices. What I hadnt expected, and encountered numerous times during our travels, was that wed practically have the entire restaurant to ourselves.
When we arrived, the entire lofty space was occupied by a one couple. The modern opulence almost feels wasted by the silence and lack of audience. Frangipanis centerpiece is an enormous, dark, reflecting pool surrounded by tables with plush chairs. You are reminded not to step into it, as its so still and glassy. It did indeed look like marble, but I couldnt help wondering who would dare step out of bounds in such a sterile, reserved atmosphere. Service is big in S.E. Asia. Too big for me. You are constantly being watched from angles and corners, hovered over while eating and stood behind while paying the bill. I'm not sure if its part of the culture or a lack of patrons for the staff to attend to.
I'm embarrassed to admit that I cant really remember what I ate, which is absolutely no testament to the forgettable-ness of the food. It was just complex in comparison to much of the hawker food we ate, lots of ingredients, unusual pairings, the menu descriptions consisted of large (intentionally) humorous paragraphs per dish, which would likely draw criticism in NYC. I do know that my entrée involved tea smoked duck breast, I had caviar on my appetizer and the dessert contained chocolate and banana mousses. Frangipani would really benefit from having a website (Malaysia stuck me as lacking in web presence).
The dining experience left me feeling a little traumatized. I remember from visiting Bangkok in 03 that I vowed to avoid upscale restaurants if I visited again, despite their good value. Mainly because of the stifling vibe and suffocating service. I wonder if Europeans get off on this, theres something old world and master/servant about it all that I cant get comfortable with. Youd think after being annoyed by NYC attitude–pointless posturing, velvet rope culture–that I'd enjoy being treated well. But what I used to think of as noise, crowds and obnoxiousness actually feels more like energy in comparison. This passion and verve is what I found lacking at Frangipani, despite the creative cooking.
Frangipani * 25 Changkat Bukit Bintang, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia