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I visited a client in Singapore in January earlier this year, which was long overdue not necessarily because of my client but it has to be at least over 10 years ago that I last visited this Lion City. Fine dining will always be on my radar and seeing that Les Amis ranked #18 on Asia's Top 50 list and has the Grand Award from Wine Spectator since 1996 (of 89 restaurants worldwide), it was an easy choice to go there.
Les Amis serves classic French cuisine, which may sound boring but is surprisingly refreshing amidst the current fusion restaurants. The food was simple but done stunningly well by Sebastian Pinoy, the head chief. It is a hard juggle to create something classic yet not refreshing, refined but not archaic and in that Les Amis has perfected their balancing act. The only draw back was their truffles, which curiously enough had no aromas whatsoever – a weird dud in an otherwise great restaurant and thankfully we didn't order their Winter truffle heavy menu.
The standout of the evening was the final dessert course of Clementines, "variations of clementines from Corsica in a crisp sugar sphere". This of course props to the fine pastry chef Cheryl Koh. It was absolutely impeccable from the fragrance of the citrus to the sweet caramel flavours undercut by the tart acidity of the fruit.
The cellar impressive and gorgeous however rather placed at the back towards the WCs so you are not awed until perhaps your bathroom break at the end. I rolled my eyes at the big format Bordeaux and various vintages of DRC but never before have I seen magnums of back vintage Rousseau Chambertin/Chambertin Clos de Beze/Clos St. Jacques amongst other goodies! The sommelier was very kind to let us go through their cellar and it is indeed impeccable for even the choosiest connoisseur if they can afford it. With such a beautiful cellar it is curious that they do not make a big feature out if it. If you go through the effort to stock such beautiful bottles, why not show it off? Later we found out it was owned by the Singaporean wine distributor giant, Vinum, so okay they don't need to flex their muscles per se. But just give it a thought – wouldn't it be great to have fine dining gastro wine bar? Casual fine dining but make it all entirely wine-centric along with great sommeliers and minimal corkage. Maybe this is already the newly opened Batard but I haven't been to NYC since graduating college.
Later on the evening, I bumped into a former somm from Les Amis (who will remain anonymous). He was surprised to learn that though I am a textbook foodie through and through that I would enjoy Les Amis, which in his opinion was mundane and routine since they recycle menus every season. This made it his job, which was pairing food, boring since he had identical stuff to work with. However in Les Amis's defense, I went in fully knowing that it wasn't Restaurant André, who made weird shit with weird shit. In this day and age, with all the nouvelle cooking techniques, it is somewhat wholly refreshing that Les Amis remains unabashedly classic without being stuffy. There is a time and place for different restaurants and Les Amis has its own in Singapore.
To celebrate our second anniversary together as an a couple, the BF and I (ok just ME) decided to go for one of the first of hopefully many to come, Test Kitchen dinners to come. Test Kitchen is a concept kitchen that invites chefs from around the world to collaborate on dinners, affordable yet still delicious alternatives to expensive four hand diners at Amber or other fine dining establishments.
This dinner was in collaboration with La Bijouterie, a much buzzed about restaurant from Lyon, France that got awarded "Fooding d'amour" by Le Fooding guide shortly after opening. Described as 'le resto le plus hispster de Lyon' by City Brunch Lyon, my interest was piqued to see just how hipster a place could be coming from a city that is so representative of traditional French gastronomy.
And on that end they delivered. The food they presented was not mindblowingly original but it was a good combination of more traditional French flavours with a Asian inspired touches. It was subtle and well done even though it has been seen more many time elsewhere (Amber, Serge et le Phoque, Ta Vie etc). I had reservations against some dishes such as the duck heart but it was flawlessly executed and superbly done. I think it is a feat to have turn around diner's own preferences (albeit one relatively open minded if I could say so myself) and make them enjoy them just because of sheer skill alone.
The wine pairings on the other hand leave something to be desired. It was cheap granted ($100 ticket compared to $900+ for the dinner) however if they charged just $200/$300, they could give themselves more to work with to elevate the whole dining experience.
Ultimately you go for the food first and the wine second so while not perfect, the dinner was still pretty damn enjoyable. Until the next Test Kitchen collaboration.
For more, check out their own site here.