Hidden in a small but vibrant street in Tanjong Pagar, is this reasonably priced modern French restaurant. Looking at their dinner menus, priced at $48++ for 3 courses and $58++ for 4 courses, I decided to go and check this place out. The ambiance is modern, elegant and very softly lit (which made taking pictures a challenging affair). The kitchen is visible through a window at the end of the dining room. The service was professional and friendly. As we were shown to our table, we were given the menus together with verbally described daily specials.
The menu included a variety of extremely appetising dishes. Rarely I came across a menu with such a great selection of dishes, so much that choosing my courses was a bit problematic. For this reason, I opted for the 4 courses dinner menu, which entitles you to a selection of 2 starters.
On top of the usual bread and butter, we were soon served a complimentary terrine with salami and French bread. A nice and tasty opening.
Following that, they served the first couple of starters. The first dish to arrive was the 'Seared hotate scallop'. I am not a big fun of this new trend of repeating the same thing twice in Japanese and English. Hotate means scallop, so why write 'scallop (Japanese) and then scallop (English)'? I say make a choice and stick to it. Besides this digression, the dish was phenomenal. The scallops were juicy, accompanied by small tortellini with kaffir lime and coriander, served into a saffron emulsion sauce.
The Traditional beef tartare 'Au Couteau' was also very good, served with a meslun salad and parmesan chips. The meat is roughly chopped so you can still enjoy its texture, and it's marinated in what I think is a red wine sauce, which adds a sharp and distinct aroma. It felt like I was eating at some rustic trattoria in the middle of France, despite the elegant presentation. What more can you ask from a French restaurant in Singapore?
The dish that I found most memorable was the Strozzapreti pasta, with grilled kurobuta (there is a mistake on the menu, as it states kurabuta) shoulder and Morel mushrooms emulsion. I have to say that the only complaint I had about this dish is that it's too good to be served as a starter. I would have wanted it to be my main! The delicate emulsion fantastically brought together the flavour of the mushrooms with the rough homemade texture of the strozzapreti and the juicy pork shoulder slice. I will go back for this.
The last starter was a special of the day. Linguini with clams and mushrooms in an asparagus sauce. The taste of the asparagus was very distinct. I didn't really taste the clams, which I thought were a bit redundant, but overall this pasta was very well done as the sauce was creamy without being rich. Although I am generally not a big fun of creamy sauces, I could make an exception for this.
The first main dish was a Braised Victoria lamb shank with 'couscous style' rosemary jus.
This dish initially tasted slightly under salted, but after having a few mouthfuls of the tender meat accompanied by the grainy texture of the aromatic couscous, it tasted just perfect. This dish wouldn't have normally been my first choice, but I wanted to try something with couscous as I haven't been having it for a while.
The Rack of lamb with blue cheese mousse was beautifully presented and cooked to perfection. A perfectly carved rack of lamb, tender and juicy, was served on a bed of lamb jus and accompanied by a cup decorated with mixed herbs and filled with a smooth mousse that had all the aroma of the blue cheese without being as overwhelming as the original product. Unfortunately there was an extra charge for this dish, but then again the meat itself is so expensive in Singapore (as I noted in one of my previous recipe posts), and the dish was worth every penny.
The Warm Guanaja Chocolate Fondant with Vanilla ice cream was another one to die for. Both the ice cream and the fondant were so light they were unbelievable. The ice cream had this mild flavour that tasted beyond a common vanilla ice cream, while the fondant was fluffy and rich, mildly sweet just the way I like it, and it really didn't feel heavy at all. We also ordered a Creme Brulee' (not pictured as I was unable to take a decent shot of it due to lighting conditions) which was as good as the fondant. Once again, great textures, creamy and light, sweet to perfection.
The total bill for 2 people with 2 bottles of water was $179. This included $5 extra for the scallop and $15 extra for the rack of lamb. Choosing regular dishes that carry no extra charge would bring the bill down to about $150, which is very reasonable for a 4 course meal of this calibre.
I will go back for more, and I will also try their lunch menu, priced $34++. The service was also friendly and efficient, although I was a little disappointed by the fact that when the specials were announced, they didn't clearly state that there was an extra charge for the rack of lamb. I highly recommend that you explicitly ask if there are extra charges for the specials offered on the day to avoid disappointment when you finally receive your bill.
Overall, considering price and quality, compliments to the Chef. I am extremely excited about this restaurant and I highly recommend it to all the fans of traditional French cuisine.
This place was also reviewed by a fellow blogger here.Website: http://www.restaurantnicolas.com/thebistrot.html