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Restaurants & Bars 5

Les Amis, Singapore

Bu Pun Su | Feb 19, 2014 12:47 AM

Les Amis is a name which Singaporean old school fine dining lovers should be familiar with. This legendary institution has been existing for 20 years – a unique feat given how tough gastronomy competition is in the island (Guy Savoy and Kunio Tokuoka could not even last 2-3 years). My first meal here could be traced way back in 2006 when Gunther Hubrechsen was still acting as Chef de Cuisine. Ever since, I’ve been dining here in 3 other separate occasions, 2 of them was a treat from good friends. For my latest visit earlier this month, I felt obliged to (finally) write a review and share some pictures about my meal at Les Amis. Actually, I have not been here for nearly two years. A new but capable chef (Sebastien Lepinoy, a former leading chef of l’atelier Robuchon HK) and ‘cheaper’ tasting menu, especially during the black truffle season, managed to persuade me to re-visit this prominent restaurant, located at the Shaw centre.

The meal began with an offering of several different kinds of bread and butter. My favorite bread was ham & mustard; the rests (orange brioche, mini baguette and sour dough) are ok. I could not recall I was offered more than 5 types of Bordier butter (among them were seaweed, spicy and vanilla ‘flavor’) during my previous visit; I tasted salted and lemon olive oil butter. Les Amis served 3 tasting menu for dinner and I picked Degustation menu – the one in which the dishes having the most Tuber melanosporum on them. In total there were 7 courses; it’s funny that somehow I loved the items served at “even” number – meaning my favorite dishes were the 2nd, 4th and 6th ones. What were they?

2nd: pan seared Hokkaido scallop, prepared until brown on the exterior and slightly raw in the middle, was sweet, tender and delicious. The earthy black truffle brought pleasant aroma and the caviar added some briny element. The “clear sauce” (probably from the scallop’s juice and seaweed butter) below was tasty
4th: onion tart with black truffle and quail egg was Lepinoy’s re-interpretation of his teacher’s famous dish. It did not disappoint at all – the onion with its thin crust was balanced & flavorful; the pungent ‘black diamond’ was very good while the egg white of the quail was creamy and a bit salty. Though not as perfect as the one I had at Robuchon, it’s still a good and interesting dish
6th: Osaka beef cooked medium and perfectly prepared was simply marbled, juicy and pleasantly rich. I could easily ate lots of this tenderloin by itself even without the shaved truffle. On the sides, I quite enjoyed many kinds of vegetables prepared by the kitchen: green+white asparagus, carrot, spinach and daikon.

The rest of the dishes were also fine but not quite at the level of the 3 things I savored above. In fact, some of them could be considered very luxurious. For instance,
1st: salmon tartar with generous serving of Caviar on top from Kaviari Paris (using a little amount of additional salt). The caviar was among the finest quality I’ve ever had in Singapore. The salmon tartar was alright – fresh and not too rich. Again, I had to admit that it was not as versatile as the one I ate at Robuchon (RWS)
3rd: slow cooked Boston lobster covered with thin “pasta” was tender & quite tasty; it went well with the ‘wine sauce’ (Chateau Chalon). A small amout of caviar had little impact but acted nice as a decoration. This dish also came with a few dice of carrot and zucchini.

Before the beef main course, I was served an intermezzo – a silky daikon soup, a Japanese inspired dish that turned out to be decent. The soup looked thick but it tasted light and smooth – it worked well with bread too. It’s a comforting dish especially when the outside temperature was 20 C or below (certainly it’s not happening in Singapore)
Then come the desserts created by a talented and experienced local pastry chef, Ms. Cheryl Koh. Apparently, the sweet of the night was Millefeuille with vanila cream and strawberry sorbet. The sorbet was weak and rather meaningless. The napoleon was actually nice – the most outstanding available in Singapore. But then, it could be better - the fragrant puff pastry was too thick and the pastry cream was too little, so it’s not that balanced. The Robuchon’s version I tried in Macau was better with more generous chantily cream and lighter texture. Please click here for the picture:
My idea of perfect millefeuille is this (by Alain Passard):
After that, the kitchen provided ‘chou’ with hazelnut cream. It was big and looked appetizing but not in anyway better than the millefeuille.

I skipped the wine pairing option and went along with 3 glasses of wine. The opening aperitif was a glass of champagne as expected. It’s 2002 Bruno paillard that went well with some caviar items, my favorite alcohol for the meal – fresh, creamy, good texture and harmonious with mineral finish. The 2nd glass was a 2011 Muller-scharzhof riesling – easy to drink but focused; mainly to accompany the onion tart with truffle dish. Lastly, a glass of 2012 Matchbox wine Clare valley syrah for the main course – not too sweet, slightly thick and in medium bodied palate. It would be better to drink this wine 2-3 years later when it’s more matured.

The dining room had a comfortably high ceiling with a bit formal atmosphere by the island standard. Less than half of the seats were filled; there were 2-3 groups of regulars in the evening. I was not too familiar with the staffs – the Japanese sommelier had left, the 2 Chinese big dudes were no longer there. It could be the reason why the waiter was not too attentive to me – I had to waive my hands a few times when I needed something despite a slow night. The waiters liked talking among themselves near the kitchen door. The most decent hospitality delivered by the sommelier. Of course, they’re friendly when they (finally) approached me.

This dinner was the most satisfying one I’ve ever had at this restaurant particularly the food; my meal scored 93/100. In my notes, it’s about the same level as Amber HK and slightly above Jaan under Royer. The recent 4-star award bestowed to Les Amis by Forbes travel guide is well deserving. Please check the following link for the pictures,

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