By TAN BEE HONG
AS I step inside Le Pont Boulangerie, I see a sign that reads: “We allow smoking inside this restaurant”.
Intrigued, I climb up to the first floor where a fire is roaring at Le Pont Smoke & Grill, a new restaurant that specialises in smoked meats and seafood.
Le Pont means The Bridge to denote Smoke & Grill as a place where people connect over good food and simple pleasures.
Flames dance on the open grill and inside the stone pizza oven. The interior is spacious, with soft leather seats and wooden tables.
It’s a hot day, so we try a cool Virgin Jungle (RM15) and Grapefruit Candy (RM14.50), two Le Pont mocktails with a fizzy edge.
If you’re sharing the All Star Smoke & Grill platter, a cool beer is perfect. I have Peroni, an Italian brew in a bottle.
Head Chef Soong Chee Heen says smoking is done in-house, including the brining and ageing. Some cuts of meat such as ribs require days of ageing before smoking to get a more intense flavour.
We start with Caesar Classic (RM18), with stalks of romaine cut lengthwise, drizzled with oil and panfried lightly.
This is served with glazed beef bacon, slivers of toasted baguette, shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and a dip made with anchovies, roasted garlic, egg yolk and mayonnaise. Since I don’t take beef, I get smoked duck breast instead.
Grilled Whole Eggplant with Garlic Butter & Chives (RM12) has amazing aroma.
The skin is slightly charred; the flesh is soft and all it needs is just a shake of salt. We pick three skewers: Chicken roulade (RM14) stuffed with finely-chopped shitake mushroom, Prawn (RM18) and Salmon (RM18).
I’m not keen on tomato soups but Seafood Soup Du Tomate (RM25) is a heavyweight soup that makes a satisfying light meal. There are mussels, clams and prawns.
What I can’t get enough of is the fillet of Norwegian salmon, panseared just before the soup is poured over so that it arrives at the table with moist flesh and crusty skin.
We ask for the All Star Smoke & Grill Platter (RM280) that feeds four. The pine box is filled with fish, meat, sausages, bread and cheese.
The Dry Aged Smoked Mackerel (RM35 a la carte) evokes sighs of satisfaction all around.
A whole mackerel is sliced lengthwise and dry-aged for 48 hours before it’s cold-smoked and grilled over on a charcoal fire to retain the flavour of the fish and the juiciness. Served with a creamy sauce.
The smoked salmon jerky is a tad salty, which is perfect with beer. The salmon is brined in salt and sugar for a day and then air-dried for three days before smoking.
There is a small saucer of delicious mackerel pate with spinach to go with Flat Bread topped with garlic and herbs.
Meat eaters will enjoy Signature Smoked BBQ Rib and Smoked Brisket (RM115 and RM36 respectively a la carte).
The rib, a signature Le Pont recipe, is marinated overnight with herbs and then smoked to get that fall-off-the-bone tenderness without compromising on flavour.
These are served with BBQ sauce and pickled vegetables.
My lunch partner says: “The rib and brisket had all the markings that denote hours of smoking with the quintessential smoke rings around the edges. Tender and succulent, both have good notes of smokiness and spices. While the rib is leaner, the brisket has a juicier, melt-in-the-mouth texture.”
There are house-made sausages – Beef, Lamb and Chicken (RM17, RM17 and RM15 respectively a la carte) – and Smoked Wings (RM20 a la carte) that are finger licking good and even better when dipped into the pedas house-made BBQ sauce.
I save the Smoked Edam cheese for last. While most Edam is mild, the smoke treatment adds a rich sharpness to the flavour.
There’s a daily set menu of appetiser, main course and iced lemon tea.
Mains range from pasta and pizza to pilaf rice. These include Spaghetti Aglio with Mushroom Papillote (RM20) pizza of the day (RM25), Braised Beef with mashed potato or pilaf rice (RM30), House Carbonara with Chicken Sausage (RM26) and Pilaf Rice with 9 skewers (RM45).
Dessert is Pina Canelle (RM16), a quarter pineapple, grilled and dusted with cinnamon sugar. It could do with a few more minutes on the grill.
Bailey’s Tiramisu Tango (RM26) is a better bet. Finger sponge, mascarpone cream and broken chunks of dark chocolate come in a glass, with a shot of Bailey’s Cream on the side. To eat, pour the Bailey’s into the glass for a satisfying, sweet ending.
Le Pont Smoke & Grill is located at Lot 6, Jalan 1/137C, 5th Mile, Old Klang Road, Kuala Lumpur. For reservations, call +603-7783 0900.