La Formule Bistro
Pictures by Gisele Soo
SeeFoon has nostalgia for France and finds it in La Formule
A Formula for my Parisian blues? Perhaps. La Formule Bistro, a newly opened French restaurant near Symphony Hotel just may assuage some of that yearning of sitting at a sidewalk cafe sipping a Pastis, eating Croque Monsieur, or in a bustling bistro tucking into escargot or beef bourguignon.
While the sidewalk sitting is out of the question in our tropical heat, the connected bar next door is a very conducive location for intimate tête-à-tête (s), albeit drinking only beer as they haven’t yet got their liquor licence, which they hope to get shortly.
Opened in December 2019, La Formule suffered the usual fate of closing down during MCO and is now slowly getting back on its feet to welcome customers.
Sam Chin, an Ipoh girl who has spent 20+ years living in Singapore is no stranger to the F&B business, having owned and managed two French restaurants in Singapore which she sold two years ago to return to Ipoh to be closer to her parents.
Imbued with a passion for French Cuisine, Sam wants to share her love for French food with the people of Ipoh. Bringing with her all the skills she garnered while running her own restaurants in Singapore, she is all set to woo Ipoh diners with French dishes cooked the traditional way.
And served in a setting that pleases the eye as well as the palate. In fact I found the decor warm and welcoming, elegant and very pleasing to the eye. In warm shades of tangerine and reds, the walls adorned with framed labels and corks of some great French wines and vintages, the whole ambience is French Bistro style, an enveloping cocoon that beckons.
And the menu is French Bistro for sure. All the items you would look for in an authentic French Bistro.
Like French Onion Soup, chock-full with onions and topped the traditional way with a piece of toast crusted with emmental cheese—umami and satisfying.
Next came the Burgundy Escargots with parsley butter and bread toast. Now these are the French snails that you either love or hate. Most people shun them purely based on conjuring up visions of slimy slithering creatures but actually, they are delicious and here in Asia they come out of a can, then seasoned and served. Eschewing the snail shells and paraphernalia that come with eating escargot (the snail tongs are notoriously difficult to manage and many a snail have ended up on neighbouring tables!!), La Formule serves their snails on special plates which come straight from the oven to the table. Each snail is smothered in garlic butter and chopped parsley, topped with a round of crispy toast which is used to “mop” up the sauce at the bottom of each indentation where the snail sits. The snails were tender and for me six was not enough!!
Another starter was the Croque Madame, one of the most ubiquitous snacks you can find all over France. Cynics may disdain this as ham and cheese toast but a good ‘Croque’ (meaning crunch) has quite a few steps to its preparation including good French ingredients. Sam told me that she only uses the best authentic ingredients for all her dishes and this includes French butter, French imported ham, homemade Bechamel sauce, emmental cheese and her homemade sourdough bread. Compared to a Croque Monsieur, the only difference is the addition of a fried egg on top with oozy egg yolk serving as a bit of sauce.
The result? A savoury crispy bite of French deliciousness.
We were four persons and we all chose different dishes to share, which meant that we had the final starter which came in the form of Chicken Liver Pate with Toast. This was made with pork belly and hand-chopped chicken liver redolent with herbs. This is the type of farmer’s pate that I personally enjoy instead of the spreadable paste variety, the liver and pork bits still visible and crumbly, the belly fat lending smoothness and the herbs imbuing its aromatic touches. Robust and hearty, it was complemented with the homemade sourdough made by Sam herself using a sourdough starter which she had kept from her Singapore restaurants.
For mains, we shared a Pork Loin with a homemade lemony mustard sauce and french fries, the fries crispy and done just right.
This was followed by Pan-fried Sea Bass paired with mango salsa and flavoured rice, served with vegetables laced with a tangy touch.
My favourite main course was the Beef Bourguignon with dill, microgreens, carrots and button mushrooms and served on a bed of yummilicious mashed potato, creamy and irresistible. Bacon bits rendered its smoky saltiness to the sauce and the meat was juicy and tender.
Then we came to the desserts, one of which was to me the highlight of our meal.
The Creme Brulee which appears to be easy to make—just a custard with a caramelized sugar topping using a blow torch—was spectacular. I have had Creme Brulee innumerable times around the world but this one is one of the reasons I will come back for more at La Formule. It was smooth and velvety, the French cream which Sam uses distinguishing it from others and the sugar topping crumbly and light.
Chocolate Lava Cake made with 61% dark chocolate was served with a strawberry sauce and homemade vanilla ice cream. A tinge of Grand Marnier (sweet orange liqueur) lifted the flavours even further.
The last dessert was the Coupe Colonel, a refreshing lemon sherbet and if a shot of vodka is added for an additional RM6, the lemony tartness juxtaposed with the bitterness of the vodka will lift it to new dimensions.
La Formule works from two Set menus only, one at RM68+ and one at RM98+ per person. There are ample choices in each of the categories and I found that sharing the dishes gives you an opportunity to experience more variety.
Sam has given much attention to detail in the decor and her love of all things French, coupled with her desire to share her culinary knowledge to people in her hometown Ipoh, makes this a restaurant that we Ipohites must help support. Don’t let the per person price for the menu put you off. In some other restaurants in Ipoh that I have experienced, just one dish can cost you RM68 or even RM98!
I love their Vision and Credo (printed in their menu) which states:
Our company aims to provide customer service that is not just the best, but legendary.
Customers are the most important resources in the service industry. Striving to provide the best service along with a relaxed yet refined ambience is our topmost mission.
I hope they will live up to it.
17 & 19 Lapangan Symphony Business Park, Jalan Raja Dr. Nazrin Shah, 31350 Ipoh, Perak
For the bistro:
Tues-Fri from 6pm, last order at 10pm
Sat-Sun from 12pm, last order at 2.30pm; 6pm, last order at 10pm
Closed on Mondays
For the bar lounge:
Tues-Sun from 4.30pm, last order at 11pm
Closed on Mondays
*Takeaways available but not recommended
*Deliveries not available