La Maison Fatien – Past its Prime

31 08 2014

When French bistro La Maison Fatien first opened shop over 2 years ago, I remember how hard it was to even secure reservations. The food was great then and the setting dim and intimate, especially on the 2nd floor. So when I found out that Amex Platinum card users could get a 50% discount off ala carte items here (more details below), I jumped at the opportunity, heading down for dinner after work on a Tuesday night.

Dinner started off with a complimentary amuse bouche of what I assumed to be Pork Rillette. Didn’t really enjoy it because the fat tasted somewhat stale and left an unpleasant aftertaste. The Fatien family actually runs a wine merchant business back in Burgundy, France, so we ordered a carafe of their Pinot Noir ($68++), which equates to about 2.5-3 glasses. Sadly, booze is relatively pricey here and is not applicable for the Amex card discount.

Almost identical to the one at Stellar @ 1-Altitude was the homemade Twice-baked Cheese Souffle with Baby Apple, Gruyere Sauce and Mesclun Salad ($27++). Crisp on the outside, puffy on the inside, this was certainly the highlight of our night.

Decided to err on the side of caution and stick to a French staple, the Pan-seared Foie Gras on Brioche served with Gastrique Glazed, Apple Compote, Mesclun Salad and Nuts ($27++). Unfortunately, the foie gras was overcooked and the exterior wasn’t crisp enough either. The apple compote also lacked the tartness required to complement the liver.

The mains failed to impress as the Char-grilled Pork Rack with Lentils, Glazed Vegetables, Onion Fondue and Orange Balsamic Sauce ($36++) lacked character and flavour. The Crispy Skin Duck Confit with homemade Celeriac Mash, Fine Beans and Duck Jus ($33++) fared slightly better but better executions can be easily found elsewhere.

However, I did like our side order of the Truffle Fries ($10++). The cut of the fries was somewhere in between shoe string and chunky, so you really get the best of both worlds, thick enough to get a nice bite but narrow enough to get sufficient crisp on the exterior.

Ended our meal with a pleasant but unmemorable order of Profiteroles with Vanilla Ice Cream and Chocolate Sauce ($24++). The portion was huge and meant for sharing evidently. With more misses than hits, I’m inclined to believe that La Maison Fatien has past its prime. A friend mentioned to me that there has been a reshuffling in their staff recently and this might explain why our recent experience was so different from two years back.

To shed some light on Amex dining promotions, Amex Platinum Card holders are currently offered free memberships to two dining programs, the Classic Far Card Membership and the Palate Program. Under these two programs, card holders get the opportunity to enjoy significant discounts at over 80 restaurants and bars, such as Jaan, Mikuni, Prego, Forlino and il Lido just to name a few. Over and above the above two mentioned programs, card users will also get additional dining benefits under the “Platinum Private Deals”. Of course, terms and conditions apply. More details on the two dining programs are listed below:

palate card
 
Far card

 

In addition, from now till 9 November, 2014, Platinum card members will also get the chance to be one of five lucky winners daily to win $100 worth of Tunglok dining vouchers for the Monday-Saturday draws and $100 worth of Fairmount dining vouchers for the Sunday draws. Each receipt above $50 earns card users 1 chance to win, with doubling of chances for receipts from any The Far Card or Palate establishment.

This meal was sponsored by Amex.





[Paris, France] Au Petit Sud Ouest – Le Foie Gras & Duck Confit Specialist

26 10 2013

Thanks to JY’s recommendation, we chanced upon Au Petit Sud Ouest (google translated to mean “the small southwest”) in what turned out to be my most enjoyable meal in Paris. The restaurant specializes in everything duck, including an extensive foie gras selection cooked in 4 different ways (fresh, semi-cooked, bloc, pan-fried).

They take their foie gras seriously here and I say this because of the efforts to differentiate their goose liver dishes from duck liver dishes on the menu. Personally, I wouldn’t be able to tell the difference but I guess it definitely makes a difference to the foie gras connoisseur.

The restaurant interior exudes a rustic countryside charm and the dishes seem to reiterate this point. The plating is done simply with an emphasis on taste and texture.

We started by sharing a pan fried foie gras with caramelized apples (23.50 Euros) and a pan fried foie gras in truffle sauce (23.50 Euros). There was no clear winner between the two and I guess it really depends on the individual’s preference of sweet vs savoury. I felt that the tangy acidity of the apples provided good contrast and balance, cutting away at the cloying nature of the liver, whereas the savoury truffle sauce had the opposite intended effect of accentuating the fattiness of the liver further. Either way, they were both remarkable and left me speechless. I swear a tear was welling up in my eye. Damn ninjas cutting onions.

Most customers seem to opt for the duck confit as their main course, although other mains on the menu include a grilled duck breast and several duck stew variants. I had been going on a duck confit rampage so this was my 3rd or 4th confit in the span of 2-3 days. Glad to say that this one put the rest to shame and was easily the best duck confit I have had, though the ones at Ember and Skyve in Singapore do put up close fights.

The Duck Confit comes with either Thinly Fried Potatoes (15 Euros) or Wild Porcini Mushrooms (25.50 Euros) or both (22 Euros). Given that the duck was the highlight, I couldn’t comprehend why the mushrooms were so damn expensive. That said, there was nothing I could nit pick about the velvety porcini mushrooms (also known as Ceps in France or Penny Bun in UK) or the crisp potatoes. They were just too perfect. This dish was just too perfect.

The other mains sadly, were not as remarkable.

The Grilled Duck Breast with Fried Thin Potatoes (18 Euros) and the Duck Stew with Red Wine Sauce (15 Euros) had an unexpectedly tough rubbery texture.

As for desserts, we all adored the Creme Brulee (6.40 Euros) but I found the Thin Apple Chips Tart Perfumed with Armagnac (6.50 Euros) to possess a slightly heavy taste of flour.

Nothing I say here would do justice to such an exceptional meal. No doubt, a visit here will surely level up one’s palate for foie gras and duck confit.

PS: The Eiffel tower is just a stone’s throw from the restaurant and it makes for a lovely post-dinner stroll.

Au Petit Sud Ouest

46 Avenue de la Bourdonnais, Paris

Tel: +33 145555959





[Paris, France] L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon Etoile – A Slight Disappointment

16 10 2013

If you are on the streets using googlemaps, the entrance to Joel Robuchon Etoile couldn’t be harder to find. We were looking out for some indications of a posh looking restaurant but there was nothing that even vaguely hinted to where the restaurant was. We finally discovered it was inside a bookstore, very much like how there used to be a cafe inside the now-defunct Borders bookstore at Wheelock place. Truly an unexpected location for a restaurant holding two Michelin Stars.

Lounge area

Set lunches are priced fairly at 42 Euros / 62 Euros / 82 Euros for 3, 4 and 5 courses (exclusive of the amuse bouche course) respectively.

The kitchen operates on an open concept to allow patrons to better appreciate the efforts taken to prepare their food. It also allows for easier interaction with the friendly servers.

One of the few noteworthy dishes of the meal was our amuse bouche, a 3 layered shot of warm foie gras mousse topped with port wine sauce and parmesan foam. Definitely a winning combination with a well thought out layering sequence for a perfect transition of flavours. As the spoon entered my mouth, I first detected the rich fatty liver mousse, subsequently complemented by sweet port sauce, with the journey ending off with a savoury airy foam. One of the most blissful few seconds in recent years.

The Mackerel appetizer was one of our server’s recommendations and that’s what I got. My friends took quite a liking to it but personally, I was severely disappointed. While the flesh was rather tender, the skin lacked an adequate sear and turned out soggy. The belly portion wasn’t as fatty as I would have liked either and the fish was rather cold by the time I dug in (which could also be the reason why the skin was soggy). I guess the plus points for the dish was the delicious mustard sauce and visual vibrancy.

M got himself the Maine Lobster with Sugar Lettuce (11 Euros supplement). I preferred this to the fish but again, it didn’t stand out much.

I also had a side order of the Foie Gras with French Sourdough (29 Euros). I found the texture of the foie gras pretty smooth compared to the ones I have at more casual diners during my trip but I didn’t fancy the accompanying compote.

For main, I had the Chicken with Tuna Sauce. The chicken breast was sliced thinly and awfully tender. The tuna sauce was unexpectedly smooth as well. While the execution was flawless, it did seem a little simplistic for such a reputable French restaurant.

M had the Iberico Pork (11 Euros supplement) which was extremely tough. He feedbacked that the sauce was marvelous though.

Another well-executed but simplistic dish was the Deep-Fried Whiting Fish. It was the best “Fish without the Chips” that I have had with outstanding freshness of the fish and extraordinarily light batter.

All mains were served with a heavenly velvety mash.

Desserts as a whole was very meh, especially the Mango Mousse and Yoghurt with Papaya Coulis.

I made the correct choice picking the Coffee dessert, comprising of a Coffee Jelly base, Cocoa Crumble, Chantilly Coffee and Coffee Ice Cream. What I liked most was the playful integration of textures.

Mango Mousse

Yoghurt with Papaya Coulis

Frankly, I’m on the fence about this one. The food is by no means terrible but my elevated expectations were not met during this luncheon. In my humble opinion, for the same price paid, there are better alternatives in Paris. On the other hand, raising the pot and opting for their degustation menu might produce significantly better results.

PS: There is a small booth near the restaurant entrance selling Pierre Herme macarons which perhaps warrants dropping by if your desserts don’t turn out as well as planned. The Arc de Triomphe is a 3 minutes walk from the restaurant, so plan your itinerary accordingly if you are a visiting tourist.

L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon Etoile

133 Avenue des Champs-Elysees

Tel: +33 0147237575




[Paris, France] – Pierre Herme vs Laduree

15 10 2013

Laduree or Pierre Herme? Truly a question for the ages that I sought to solve whilst visiting Paris. There are multiple branches scattered around town for both iconic names but if you are short on time as I was, I would suggest heading to Rue Bonapart, located in the 6th arrondissement (aka district) of Paris, where both names are present within walking distance.

Inside Laduree

Flavours available at Laduree

Pierre Herme had a much longer queue

Inside Pierre Herme

I conducted a simple taste test with 3 other friends whom I was traveling with to determine who we should crown king but we encountered one problem; the 2 brands didn’t have that many identical flavours! Well, we carried out our taste test anyway with a few more commonly found flavours that both brands carried.

Rose – We voted unanimously for Laduree because it carried a more distinct rose flavor that wasn’t overpowering. We also preferred its crispier shell (which was more brittle and sadly more prone to cracks) compared to the slightly more chewy shell of Pierre Herme (shall refer to it as PH from here on).

Dark Chocolate – We voted unanimously for Laduree. We liked that both PH’s and Laduree’s macaron shells were crisp but preferred the slightly deeper flavour of Laduree’s. Overall, we still thought there was room for improvement for the chocolate fillings and their flavours could have been made more aggressive.

Salted Caramel – 3 votes Laduree, 1 vote PH. I personally preferred Laduree because the caramel flavour was way more intense with a chewy shell in this instance.

While it seems to me that Laduree does better in “common” flavoured macarons, PH stands out with its list of flavours that are seemingly more “creative”. For example, instead of having just a simple Pistachio macaron, PH has one that is also spiced with Ceylon cinnamon and Griottine (Cherries steeped in Kirsch). What emerges is a pistachio macaron that has a hint of what tastes like mocha, overshadowing the “basic” pistachio macaron from Laduree.

Other macaron flavours that we found remarkable were the Coconut from Laduree and the Jasmine from PH.

Macarons are one of the most photogenic desserts, period.

Still, at almost 2 Euros a pop, I would say that macarons are an indulgence I can live without. Give me a 50 cents Euro Magnum anyday (yes Magnums are that cheap in Germany) or KFC.

Laduree

21 Rue Bonaparte

Tel: +33 144076487

Pierre Herme

72 Rue Bonaparte

Tel: +33 143544777





Le Bistrot du Sommelier II – The Yardstick for French Bistros

16 06 2013

I was starting a 10-week internship the next day so I convinced myself that I had to spoil myself with an awesome meal. After all, I didn’t know what the workload was going to be like and when my next indulgent meal would be. The initial plan was to head for lunch at Restaurant Absinthe at Boat Quay but I guess my due diligence fell short as it was closed for Saturday lunch. But seriously, who closes for Saturday lunch?

It might not have been a bad thing though since Le Bistrot du Sommelier was just around the area. It’s one of my favourite French bistros in Singapore with food quality that had been tried and tested. I last visited them a year ago and the menu has been revamped slightly since then to my delight.

Their affordable Pork Rillette ($9.50/100g) can easily feed 3-4 people as an appetizer. It’s has just the right proportion of fats and isn’t overly salty, very much like luncheon meat in paste form.

We also had the Smoked Salmon with Sour Cream, Quinoa, Onions & Dill, which I found enjoyable as well. The Salmon is just mildly salty and blends in nicely with the sour cream.

The Beef Short Rib with Polenta Mash ($40++) was one of their daily specials but it paled in comparison to the Braised Beef Cheeks that we had as our other main, as the accompanying polenta mash was too sweet and didn’t complement the short rib much. I’m not a fan of polenta anyway.

The Braised Beef Cheeks in Red Wine Sauce, served with potatoes ($34++) is possibly my favorite dish on their menu, especially because of the hearty gravy and tender cheeks. The gravy went great with the dish of short ribs too.

As with my previous 2 visits, I had the Profiteroles filled with Vanilla Ice Cream in Warm Chocolate Sauce topped with Sliced Almonds ($14++). Not as good as I remembered but the crisp choux buns encasing the ice cream is still one of the best around in my opinion. 

I often make the mistake of over-ordering here so be warned. Portions are really huge, hence the usual 3-course meal per person does not apply here. A party of 4 can consider just ordering 2-3 starters, 3 mains and 2 desserts to share or there might be wastage and it’s just cruel to watch such awesome food go down the drain.

Le Bistrot du Sommelier

53 Armenien Street

Tel: +65 6333 1982





Saint Pierre @ Sentosa Quayside – Saturday Brunch Menu Unveiled

6 06 2013

Saint Pierre has officially moved to its new location at Sentosa Quayside last week. While you might not have heard of them before, I’m sure other names such as Brussel Sprouts which does fine tasting mussels, Picotin, SQUE Rotisserie at The Central @ Clarke Quay or Rocks Urban Grill & Bar @ The Sail might ring a bell. What these eateries share in common is their chef/owner Emmanuel Stroobant.

I tried Saint Pierre’s set lunch 3 years back when it was still housed in Central Mall and didn’t think much of it then but that visit was prompted after having the best lobster bisque I have had to date at one of Chef Stroobant’s now-defunct restaurants The French Kitchen, so I really didn’t know what to expect now.

Saint Pierre’s Saturday Brunch Menu

While primarily operating as a French fine dining restaurant, Saint Pierre additionally serves Saturday Brunch and Sunday Semi-buffet Roasts (priced at $68++/adults, $38++ for children aged 4-9), during lunchtime (11.30am to 3pm) to cater to the weekend crowd. On this occasion, I was here to review their Saturday Brunch menu.

I much prefer the setting of its new premises, which overlooks the yachts moored at the Sentosa Marina. The vibes I got was far friendlier and less stifling compared to its previous premise, so its definitely a lot more inclusive with regards to clientele now, catering to dates, family outings with kids and mere catch up sessions with friends.

As usual, I couldn’t decide which ala carte brunch main to get so I just opted for the Brunch Set ($38++), which includes a glass of Fruit Juice (Watermelon, Carrot or Orange), Homemade Assorted Breads, a Choice of Main from the brunch ala carte menu and Coffee/Tea.

Initially I thought that the assorted bread was just going to be small bread rolls but what came over was a basket of Ciabatta, Brioche and Croissants, with homemade jams and a wad of butter. Of the 3 types, the brioche was my favourite followed by the croissant, though both aren’t items that I would particularly come back for.

My favourite brunch item was the Eggs Benedict ($24++). Instead of sourdough, brioche is used instead so if you like your breads buttery, you would probably enjoy this as I did. The Hollandaise Sauce too was richer than what I have had in other places. Iberico Bellota ham is used in this dish as well and it’s a higher grade of iberico ham because the pigs are fed with acorns rather than the normal corn feed. My only reservation about this dish was the poached egg. Not sure if it was on purpose but both my eggs yolks had a similar texture to the ramen egg yolks, which was more viscous than expected. Either way, it didn’t really bother me as this rendition of eggs ben tasted great!

I wasn’t a fan of their Scrambled Eggs ($22++) topped with black truffles as it was rather salty for my liking.

The Beef Parmentier ($18++) came as a recommendation from the staff. Essentially, its thinly cut slices of corned beef with onions over a bed of mash. Personally, it felt slightly heavy as a brunch dish as the mash was rather dense. I would love to see it as a staple during Saturday evening BBQs though.

CJ was quite excited when she saw the Waffle ($18) on the menu but it was far from what she expected. Instead of the common saccharine dessert waffles, this one was a mix of sweet, sour and savoury, with the ice cream replaced by foie gras mousse, apple compote & vanilla beans. Still pondering whether the dish is creative or confused but I would probably have found the mousse and apple compote more suitable on a brioche instead.

Would I recommend Saint Pierre’s brunch? Well, the food is pretty average in terms of taste, quirky, classy but average. The main draw then would be the ambience. If you haven’t been to Quayside, please mark in down somewhere on your calendars, it’s a really awesome chill out place…think Keppel Bay but with more restaurant choices.

This meal was sponsored by Saint Pierre. Special thanks for hosting the tasting.

Saint Pierre

31 Ocean Way, #01-05 Quayside Isle

Tel: +65 6438 0887





Equinox @ Swissotel – Restaurant Week Lunch

21 03 2013

It’s Restaurant Week again and as usual, I went into a rabid booking frenzy when seats were released. It’s not like I have the time to eat 4 Restaurant Week meals but guess I’m still a true blue Singaporean at heart, scared to lose out when there’s a queue. So while I had rather hard-to-get reservations at Basilico, Brasserie les Savuers and Keystone Restaurant over the course of the week, I had to drop them all, leaving me with just a sole lunch date at the highly acclaimed Equinox @ Swissotel.

Just a bit of advice from me. While the goal of Restaurant Week is to allow would-be diners to sample restaurants’ offerings at more affordable prices, not all restaurant week menus are value for money, so it pays to do some basic research first. For example during the Oct 2012 installment of restaurant week, I actually noted a restaurant that charged $40++ for their restaurant week lunch menu, which was just a truncated version of their normal set lunch menu, meaning diners had to pay more for less choices of appetizers, mains and desserts! Thankfully, that same restaurant isn’t guilty of that this time around (but that’s because they increased the price of their normal set lunch).

Equinox is probably one of the more value for money restaurant participants for restaurant week as the restaurant week menu ($40++) doesn’t deviate much from their usual set lunch ($59++). Their lunch menu comes in the form of a semi-buffet, meaning that appetizers and desserts are buffet style while diners can order 1 main (from 3 choices) off the menu.

Given that my expectations of the buffet was along the lines of a salad bar in Pizza Hut (I do exaggerate sometimes), I was pleasantly surprised by the spread. There were appetizers like Shrimp Cocktail, Cold cuts, Proscuitto, Mediterranean dips like Hummus and Baba Ganoush, Smoked Salmon, Roast Duck Salad, Chilled Seafood (Fresh Oysters, Chilled Crabs, Clams, Mussels & Prawns), Sashimi (Salmon & Tuna), Assorted Sushi (featuring interesting ones like Hokkigai aka Surf Clam Sushi and Herring Sashimi) and unlike some buffets where the food is left in the open for long periods of time, I noticed that food refills here were carried out fairly regularly which is a good sign.

The dessert and cheese line was pretty decent too. Apart from an assortment of cakes, there’s also the chocolate fondue fountain and Ice Cream!

The sushi with bright yellow roe at the bottom of the plate is a Herring Sashimi, something not so commonly found at buffets.

M liked the Watermelon with Feta (plated on the small saucer below) so much that she took 5 servings of it.

There were 3 choices of mains available from the restaurant week lunch menu.

M got the vegetarian option of Wild Mushroom Raviolo with Vegetable Linguine & Mushroom Dressing. Raviolo is simply an oversized Ravioli and this one was filled almost entirely with Mushrooms that tasted excruciatingly sour from the excessive use of vinegar. The faux linguine made from grated vegetables didn’t help alleviate much of M’s suffering either.

I didn’t try the Pan-seared Barramundi with Sauteed Green Beans, Shitake Mushrooms & Herb Broth but G didn’t have any complaints about it.

For myself, the choice of main was a simple one, the Slow Roasted Pork Belly with Curried Sweet Potato, Roast Onion & Zucchini in Cider Sauce. It was the most unhealthy dish I could find on the menu and going by my assumption of equivalent exchange, this would prove to be the most tasty dish.

While it’s probably the best imo of the 3 mains available, it fails to impress, falling short by quite a bit relative to some of the Roasted Pork Bellies I have had. The meat wasn’t as tender as expected and slightly on the dry side. Didn’t favour the mash either since it was more chunky than smooth and the curry flavour didn’t complement the pork well.

For good roasted pork bellies, try Skyve Elementary Bistro & Bar (which does it sous vide style) or Ember Restaurant (my favourite place for set lunch).

Just for restaurant week, diners can also opt to add on a Pan-seared Foie Gras for an additional $10, which I did. It didn’t turn out too well though as it was unsalted (intentionally as I clarified later) and overcooked, which saddened me a little especially since it was M’s first time trying Foie Gras and I always believed that your first time is supposed to be special. Shall bring her to somewhere with decent foie gras next time to atone for this atrocity.

Sadly the pretty desserts didn’t taste as good as they looked. The more palatable ones include the Creme Brulee and the light Ivory Dome White Chocolate Cake.

Coffee/tea is included within the set lunch and Equinox uses TWG tea in case you are wondering.

I guess word on the street is right. Food doesn’t seem to be the main draw of Equinox. The experience of dining 70 floors up with a panoramic view of the Marina area however, is another story.

Equinox

2 Stamford Road, Level 70 Swissotel The Stamford

Tel: +65 6837 3322








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