It has been quite a while since I’ve last done a review, but my recent meal at Les Amis sparked memories of why I started this blog in the first place, and why Instagram just doesn’t work as a direct substitution for a blog sometimes.
Long before it was cool to take photos of your food and post them on the internet, Les Amis was the place to go in Singapore for fine dining. This would be my first visit to Les Amis, although I have been to their more casual establishments(under the same Les Amis group) like Au Petit salut, I like Au petit salut, its casual fare done with a bit more finesse, braised beef cheeks on a smooth pommes puree, food like that, homey, comforting, but delicious.
The meal started off with a bread basket, one of the better ones I’ve had. Served with a salted and unsalted pyramid of Bordier butter. I’ve had a recent unhealthy obsession with Bordier butter, and I knew from previous photos that the bread is usually served with more kinds of bordier butter. When I asked the server about this, he explained that they had run out of stock, but returned 5 minutes later with another splate of chilli butter and black pepper butter, a really nice touch to the meal, especially so because the chilli is the best flavor that I’ve tasted from bordier thus far, nicely seasoned, and spicy, but not so much so that it lingers on the tongue, and you get wisps of smokiness as the salt from the butter disspates on the tongue. A nice start to the meal
Lobster salad in classic Bolero style
What on earth is Bolero? I do not know, and a google search doesn’t seem to clear things up either. But this was basically a cold dish of Lobster, mayonnaise, and parsley puree. Cute, plating is very robuchon, and the dots pass my OCD test. Mayonnaise and lobster isn’t a very inspired flavor combination, but it is one that works, hard to fault. Okay-Good
Foie gras custard served warm with a lightly smoked french eel and a touch of sesame
There were also cherries in the dish which played quite a big role, I’m not sure why they weren’t included in the description. I loved the combination of the foie, the eel, and the cherries. The smoke from the eel was very delicate and played off the tongue nicely with the freshness of the cherry. And the foie added body and brought all the components together. I could barely get any sesame from the dish, although there was an almond that added much needed texture. One gripe I had with the dish was the way they had served the dish on one of the most beautiful Bernardaud plates I have ever seen, and then completely ruined it with the cheapest, tackiest looking paper coasters that looks like it would actually go on sale at a $2 Daiso store. Good
Black truffle in perfect harmony with quail egg over sweet onion tart
I have not had the original from Robuchon, but I know that this is an almost exact replica of a Robuchon dish, sans the addition of the quail egg, and the truffles being sliced much thinner(And because they were sliced so thin, they lost their shape, which to me made the tart look… not quite so appealing). I’m not particularly crazy about truffles so I was glad that the truffles weren’t too overpowering. The tart was made from phyllo and provided a nice base to hold the confit onions. The sweetness of the onions went nicely with the earthiness of the truffles. Was the egg necessary? I don’t think so, but the yolk did add an interesting element of creamy richness to the dish. Good
Spring cep mushrooms in a duo with green pea in a hot soup
The soup was very intensely flavored despite having a touch too much cream, but for me it was over seasoned and became very heavy and cloying when you got to the end. The peas would’ve balanced out that richness nicely but they were not sweet enough and the dish ultimately fell flat. Okay
French duck breast from Burgaud with cherry and Piedmont hazelnuts
I believe the duck breast was cooked sous vide, very nicely in fact, soft but still retaining a good chew. The Hazelnut is encapsualted in a hardered dark caramel, I thought the bitterness and crunch of the caramel was a nice touch to the dish, but my gripe with the dish was that the exact same almonds, cherries, and garnishing herb(sorrel?) was used in this dish as it was in the foie starter. Moreover, this was a very small portion considering that this was the only main course of the night. Again, nothing particularly bad about the dish. Good
Fresh white peach from the Rhone valley with late season lychees and raspberry sorbet
I love ending meals off on a lighter note, something fruity, something with herbs. I was expecting to enjoy this but I thought there was too much acidity from the raspberry sorbet and the lychee granita, it needed a bit more body for me, maybe a curd or a sabayon would’ve helped. But the peaches had great flavor and the dish was beautifully presented. Okay
Dark chocolate souffle and praline ice cream
This has actually been taken off the menu recently but a friend had told me that this was one of the highlights of her meal. Not seeing this on any of their menus, I asked the server and he responded that he would check if the kitchen was able to make one as a substitution dessert for me. They were, jackpot! This ended up being the best dish of the whole meal, its not a souffle per se, it is a whipped chocolate souffle batter(?) on a pre baked tart shell, a freeform souffle if you will. But the real kicker is the texture of the souffle, almost liquid inside, very aerated, yet still retained a lot of chocolate flavor. The tart shell was rolled thin enough so that it never took away from the souffle, although I am not entirely sure why the praline ice cream came as though it had already been sitting on the pass for some time. Very good
It was also a birthday celebration so we got an extra cherry tart and an opera cake
People always seem to have this misconception that if you go fine dining, you’ll end up leaving hungry and unsatisfied. While the food at Les Amis wasn’t bad, there were definitely issues with the menu. Portions were actually startlingly small, and portions sizes seemed to stagnate, instead of gradually increasing and peaking during the mains. As mentioned before, there was only 1 main on the menu that the portion of that was quite small. It is almost as if the restaurant is encouraging you to load up on bread and (very delicious) butter, otherwise you’d still be hungry at the end of the meal.
There was no amuse bouche, no palate cleanser, and if we weren’t having a birthday celebration, we might’ve only gotten a tiny cube of opera cake. For a menu that cost $220SGD, I felt that this was poor value for money. With meals like these where the chef essentially chooses what the diner eats, the meal is like having a conversation with the chef; and given the similarity of the foie and duck dishes, does that mean that the chef doesn’t have that much to say? Using the same garnishes on two dishes at a fine dining restaurant, especially one as established at Les Amis, feels a little lazy and uninspired. On top of the fact that one of the dishes essentially came from Joel Robuchon.
It sounds like a lot of criticism, but the food at its core tasted good, service was beyond excellent, and one of the most impressive plate collections I’ve seen in Singapore. But would I return? The simple answer is no, I expected more for what I was paying, and I expected more from Les Amis