[SG] Vis-a-Vis French RestaurantSunday, July 07, 2013
Chancing upon this restaurant while on the search for its predecessor-tenant, and entering with no choice as it was the only eating spot around, it turned out to be the best choice we’ve made.
Sneak preview of what we're in for:
Sneak preview of what we're in for:
A cosy space with approximately 20 seats, it was nothing like those super átas French restaurant where decorum was of importance with baroque background music and quiet ambience. In fact, the staff and even the chef were so friendly that they constantly engaged us in conversations, and made it an extremely personal and casual setting. We were quite taken aback initially as we hadn’t expected the level of service to be really up there with the staff being super attentive to our requests and giving recommendations etc, but of course, enjoyed how personal each staff was and the rapport built with customers amidst the busy-ness of the restaurant.
First served with a bit of charred sides, the basket of freshly baked soft rolls reached our noses before we saw it. It was then quickly whisked away as the chef caught sight of it, and asked that they change the basket immediately due to the charred top, while we were lamenting on what a pity as we actually do love 'chao ta' bread!
The second basket that was served, was toasted right how I like it. Crisp on the outside with soft insides, match it with the slab of butter they gave and it was quite the perfect starter for us! Good even on its own, it went perfectly well with the garlic butter sauce that came with the escargots. Best of all, it's free flow and standards are consistently good!
Escargot in Garlic Butter Sauce ($19.50)
Well, I’m no expert in this, and thought that the Garlic Butter sauce was a little too strong that it kept reminding me of the toasted bread to go along. The escargots were juicy and chewy, somewhat the texture of 'hum'. I was alright with its taste, though my companions mentioned that there was still a little tinge of the 'fishy' taste from the snails that could have been better.
Lychee Fritters with Mango Dip ($10)
This came under the Thai appetisers segment and we decided to give it a shot, wanting something refreshing in our meat-overdosed mains that were to come.
Ordinary-looking, it tasted nothing like that. Crispy thin batter coating each fritters, every mouthful was an explosion of warm and sweet lychee juices! Dipped in the mango sauce, it was a great complement to the dish that wasn't overly sweet and slightly tangy. We loved it just as it is already, but later found out over a chat with the chef that there was supposed to be prawns within the lychee, so it could have been an even better combination! But we weren't complaining 'cos we've enjoyed this so much just like that anyway. Let us know if you've tried the original and if it's better!
Tom Yum Goong ($5.80)
With their staff's constant recommendation on their Thai menu, we decided to give this classic dish a shot since it was kinda our yardstick for determining if they serve really good Thai food. It was an okay-ish dish, good for those first-timers or if you can't really take the sharp spiciness of tom yum. For us, a concluded verdict was that it lacked the 'oomph!' factor from having tom yum, with missing spices to give that kick in every good Thai meal. It was also a little on the sweet side, not so much my preferred style but we'd enjoyed the generous serving of seafood and mushroom in this small bowl of soup. It easily contained 5 prawns, several pieces of squid and lots of mushrooms!
Pork Collar and Pork Ribs in Pineapple and Orange Sauce ($32)
A first cut into the collar, I wasn't exactly impressed considering the effort I had to make in order to slice it up. There were also the occasional crunches from the fats in the collar which is either a love-it-or-hate-it relationship. I found them adding on to the chewiness of the meat, making my jaws work out a little too much, and my companions found them too fat that they removed portions of it too. I found the dish a little too tough for my liking, but it was salvaged by the interestingly refreshing sauce that came on top of it. With pineapple slices and orange in it, it gave a sweet twist to the otherwise boring meat, with a refreshing citrus taste to it, yet not poignantly sour.
The ribs, on the other hand, were pretty disappointing. It was a little too dry and felt a bit dull especially after tasting the sauce accompanying the collar. For a first time try, you should probably have a taste of the ribs before the collar. Alternatively, you may also switch the ribs for 2 collars if you're looking for a more robust flavour (but of course, that's if you enjoy the fatty portions too!)
We were pretty game on ordering this since you hardly see it on normal menus and the last I'd had was a pretty awesome roast pigeon in Hong Kong. It wasn't quite a bad rendition, with crispy skin and tender insides. True that but only for the wings and drumlets. It was indeed quite shiok to hold it by the drumstick and nibble off just as what they'd suggested, with well marinated pigeon meat and nicely baked skin to go along.
The chest portion was what intimidated us as we saw bloody juices oozing out upon my first cut down. A pretty bloody scene that kinda killed our appetite, it was done too rare for our liking. The portion was also a little thick that got the bloody taste too strong in a mouthful. I've always been one to order medium rare steaks, but found this too raw as well, and not sure if it was the nature of pigeon meat, it was actually quite a tough one that got my jaws working out again.
Too raw on its own, it went perfectly well with their chef's specially concocted diable sauce. There was a distinct red wine taste that went well with pigeon meat dipped in it. It was smooth and soothing, with a slight fragrance of black pepper that didn't overpower with its sharp taste. This was what caught my attention and got around to speaking to their chef about it, who then got us to notice him with the type of fervour he speaks with and the openness in sharing his recipes.
We were pretty undecided on whether to stay for desserts initially after the not-so-satisfying mains that we've had, but eventually got convinced by the lengthy description on the seemingly unique desserts they had. With a pretty strong flavour for mains, we were looking for something refreshing to cleanse our taste buds and got to this:
Simply named, but we were all wow-ed by its presentation that came with a flambé (flaming styled). This was a trio of coconut crème brulee, honey roasted pineapple wrapped with crispy kadaifi (almond and walnut wheat shredded pastry - abit like our style of dragon beard 龙须 but in the fried manner) and mini chocolate balls stuffed with ice cream flambé with golden rum.
An ultimate combination, Chef Jeremy (in the picture) flamed the rum balls and recommended that we pair the pineapple kadaifi with coconut crème brulee, and a final shot ending with the rum balls. The crunch of the kadaifi awoke our sense and got us like excited little children unwrapping our desserts cautiously.
Cutting open to soft melting insides with roasted pineapples, matched with the smooth crème brulee - the sweet pineapple juices coated the soft pudding with slight caramelised layer and the bearded crunchy pastry, I was overwhelmed with the plethora of textures and tastes all in just one mouthful! The best part of it came when the gan-chiong kid in me decided to just pop the flamed rum ball in my mouth and gosh, the previous overwhelming senses just got levelled up! Coated with dark chocolate as its shell, it was filled with a small cold shot of ice cream and coated with rum, flamed for the chocolate to melt in slightly for a smoother taste, this was one to seal your meal with satisfaction. We were all happily contented with this that we thought staying for desserts was the best choice ever.
I'd loved the interesting combinations and and how the flavours were able to come together through different portions of the dish, blending perfectly. It would have been perfect if the pineapple fillings had been diced into smaller pieces so that you don't make a mess out of cutting the pineapple slices smaller with its fibres getting in the way, and for the kadaifi to be packed with more pineapples for a better punch. The coconut taste in the crème brulee had also been masked in the combination but perfectly good on its own with a soft aroma to it lingering in your mouth after some time. But that's the picky eater in me, though I'd been very satisfied with the dish already - finally one to up my standards of desserts!
Chef's Menu Dessert
Pineapple sponge cake served atop a roasted pineapple with homemade vanilla ice cream, it was surrounded by pina colada sauce. I'd think that this would be pineapple overdosed but the blend was just right. A light fluffy sponge cake that had a slight resemblance of texture to that of a pudding, I find it very nicely done, just lightly flavoured to go with its base with a more robust sweet pineapple taste. It was quite a chore though, cutting through the fibres of the pineapple and trying to eat all 3 layers together.
A special mention to the vanilla ice cream that my companion so silently sweeped it off, enjoying every mouthful of it with the smooth vanilla beans in the blend. It was so light that you don't feel the creamy taste lingering, with an extremely smooth texture to it, yet not too sweet that makes you feel sick of it after a while. A nicely done homemade ice cream!
While chatting with Chef Jeremy on his creations and recipes, he decided to share with us freshly baked chocolate macarons. Served with banana mousse in his previous cooking demonstration with De Dietrich, we had a try with this plain ones and this definitely changed my mind on the typical sugar shells that I'd always avoid. I'm a pretty picky dessert eater, not being a fan of chocolates nor overly sweet stuff and I was definitely skeptical when served with this plate of chocolate macarons, a combination that I'd never choose.
Slightly hardened shells, it was with the use of dark chocolates that gave its flavour yet not having the bitterness that typically accompanies. Somehow this wasn't too sweet and suited our palates perfectly, changing my mind on macarons. So good even on its own, I would presume its usual set-up would have been even more spectacular!
We're officially in love with their ice cream! Complimentary from Chef Jeremy, a sampler of 3 pretty potent flavours - Rum & Raisin, Coffee and Chocolate. My favourite out of the 3 would definitely be rum and raisin, with a strong rum flavour to it and smooth vanilla ice cream that had gotten the rum taste infused in it as well. The coffee was strong yet not overpowering, while the chocolate wasn't one that gets you jelat after a while. All too addictive to stop that we ended up asking if they sold in tubs instead! Apparently they don't sell it commercially, only supplying it to a certain places. They say once you start, you can't stop - my sentiments exactly for this!
Too caught up with our interesting desserts, we were served a plate of chocolates, with compliments again from the restaurant. Recommended order of tasting would be the Chocolate Truffles, then Peach Lavender. We were surprised by the softness of the chocolate, expecting it to be hard shelled, but it tasted soft like mochis, without the chewiness though. The bitterness of the chocolate truffles were quickly countered with the sweetness of peach lavender, with a light lingering taste of lavender as aftertaste. Best of the lot, in my opinion, would be the durian version!
The perfect closure to our meal, as Chef Jeremy tempted me with his durian cheesecake and other dessert creations, another courtesy of his as we had the honour of trying this! You'd love this if you're a durian fan, with the slight bitterness of durians and soft texture, it feels just like eating it from its flesh. I liked how it wasn't too creamy like those durian desserts often mixed with other cream-based products and it had the strong flavour of durians packed in such a small shot. Contented with my final dessert of the day!
The mains were less than impressive for us and we thought it was pretty overpriced if not for the fact that it was a French restaurant. What won us over at the end was the interesting combinations of desserts and exciting flavours that managed to really wow us and thought it was worth the effort climbing up the slope for it. A place that we would certainly go back again and again for more desserts, especially after how Chef Jeremy has tempted me with his tiramisu cake, durian cheesecake and strawberry mascarpone cheese. A quick check for 6 inch cake costs about $30ish, a price that we thought was quite affordable given the quality of the desserts we've had.
Besides the desserts, the fervour for his craft had also touched us, seeing how he's so willing to share with us and the depth of knowledge he has gained through his experience. It is quite a rare occurrence for chefs to be so personal up-close with customers, and a treasured experience in our opinion, especially if you're keen to learn more. With no airs and extremely casual staff, it has definitely changed my impression of atas French restaurants. Moreover, if you'd like any customisations, feel free to let them know and they'll most likely be happy to do it for you! A place that'd touched our hearts, and of course our desserts' stomach, I'll be back for more again!
Overall Verdict: 8.5/10
101 Jalan Kembangan