Bistro Petit Salut – Le Affordable Authentic French

22 12 2010

Bistro Petit Salut holds a dear place in my heart because as far as I can remember, it was the very eatery that got me madly in love with French Cuisine. At that time, I was a newly initiated foodie convert and French Cuisine was unappealing to me with its high barriers to entry, being seemingly perched up on a pedestal with it’s sophisticated sounding dishes and unaffordable cost.

A visit to Bistro Petit Salut changed this presumption. It made me realize that authentic French nosh can be sought at a friendly price and that French Cuisine is not synonymous with Fine Dining.

Wanting to share this experience with my SMU bidding group, which we have aptly named ourselves The Humbled Group after getting pwned and humbled in class participation during our first class by some North Indian students, I suggested celebrating S’s birthday lunch here.

3-Course Set Lunches here goes for $25++ which is also inclusive of coffee, making this one of the most affordable set lunches around in my book.

For Appetizers, we had the Salmon Tatare in Lemon Dressing, Basil and Arugula Salad (more commonly known as Rocket Salad). To put it more simply, this was just Diced Raw Salmon with Rocket Leaves, with the Lemon Dressing used to lend a brighter and cleaner flavour to the fish. Sashimi lovers would love this.

The Homemade Pork Rillettes, Mesclun Salad with Walnut Dressing and Toast wasn’t as well received. Think of it as canned tuna soaked in brine in where the tuna was substituted with pork instead. To be used as a spread for the toast, the cured pork was not very agreeable with our Asian palates.

The Appetizer I would definitely recommend ordering is the Half Dozen Baked Burgundy Snails with Tomato and Garlic Butter. After all, where better to eat Escargot then at an established French bistro? There aren’t many places in Singapore that serve escargots so having it here would set a good benchmark at a very reasonable price.

The last of the Appetizers we tried was the Prawn Salad with Vine Ripened Tomatoes with Aged Balsamic Vinaigrette. I’m not sure how restaurants do it but there’s definitely a secret in how they manage to make their prawns taste so fresh and crunchy. I don’t cook so this question has always eluded me but I have heard soaking prawns in sugar solution before cooking makes it more springy.

For Mains, we tried the Catch of the Day with Mixed Garden Vegetable and Nicoise Vinaigrette. If I’m not wrong, the fish used was Treadfin and it was cooked in a healthy manner with minimal use of spices, allowing the natural flavours of the fish to be accentuated.

Good Risottos are hard to make, and even harder to find in Singapore restaurants. It’s always a challenge to balance the right amount of cheesiness and viscosity of the cheese and Arborio rice but Bistro Petit Salut seems to have gotten it just right with its Mixed Mushroom Risotto with light Cream Emulsion & Parmesan Cheese.

MZ was quite unlucky, having chosen the Pork Rillette which we considered a miss. Unfortunately, her unlucky streak continued in her choice of main, the Braised Lamb Shoulder “Navarin” Style with Carrots and Potatoes. The meat was utterly dry and tough and subsequently left unfinished.

I was really pleased in my choice of Chicken Leg Confit with Sauteed Potatoes, Bacon & Mixed Green Salad. Lightly crisp skin and tender flesh, with fried cubes of bacon soaking up all the chicken fat, utterly utterly sinfully delicious.

For desserts, J had the Classical Creme Brulee. I felt that it had the perfect consistency and sweetness but with the large portion that was given, a risk factor would be “gelatness” so this would be best shared.

Having had a great experience with the Choux Bun at Au Petit Salut, I decided to get it here as well, the Choux Bun with Vanilla Ice Cream, Warm Chocolate Sauce & Slice Almonds. I definitely didn’t regret it. The closest resemblance I can link to the Choux Bun is the push cart ice cream served with bread. Of course, there is a much higher satisfaction level crunching on the Choux Bun here than a $2 ice cream sandwich.

Normally cheesecakes in set lunches are shams, but I really savoured the “Gateau au Fromage Blanc” aka Homemade Cheesecake with Madagascar Vanilla Beans here which I found surprisingly not too cloying after the rich and oleaginous mains.

Wanting something lighter, you might want to consider the airy Homemade Strawberry Shortcake. Both the Strawberry Shortcake and Cheesecake came with a scoop of Sherbet (forgot what flavour though) which I thought was very generous given the already reasonable price of the set lunch.

Having a penchant for Chocolate Lava Cake with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream, S decided to supplement an extra $5 for it. I thought it was fairly decently executed, nothing you can’t get in other establishments. I really like how Bistro Petit Salut is so flexible in terms of set menu item changes, maybe I should try switching to a Foie Gras appetizer next time.

Compared to sister restaurant Au Petit Salut, I would prefer the latter for its location amidst a lush landscape and classier ambience but if you are just looking for no-frills authentic French food, Bistro Petit Salut would be slightly friendlier on the wallet.

Bon Appetit!

BISTRO PETIT SALUT

44 JALAN MERAH SAGA

Tel: +65 6474 9788





Barracks Cafe II – Up-market Casual Dining

14 11 2010

I seriously cannot stand pretentious and arrogant people who seem to have a hobby of flaunting their wealth, grades or achievements. It is damn irritating. On the other hand, it is the minority of individuals who dwell in humility despite their social standing or achievements that really impress me.

In the same light, my view of Dempsey veers towards the former. Catering to the young, flashy and wealthy, the days where Dempsey used to be a secluded and romantic getaway are no more, leaving behind instead what I feel to be a superficial shell of its former self, where food and drinks are heavily overpriced. Ok maybe it isn’t that bad, one might still encounter an ambience of tranquilness and serenity at Dempsey but it’s mainly limited to weekday lunches. However, I tend to avoid going over there for dinners, especially on Weekends, where parking is always a problem and where rave parties seem to be going on at every corner.

Anyway, fellow CCA-mate and long time friend GR really wanted to have the Truffle Fries (which I think is highly overrated) at Barracks so despite it being a Friday night, I obliged, though rather reluctantly.

Barracks is a up-market casual dining restaurant, which to me just means less bang for your buck. Like most Singaporeans, I believe in getting a good deal, so while I don’t shun spending on food, I do believe in getting the most value of my dollar.

C had the Lobster Linguine($29++), which was essential a Half-Lobster Linguine, Crabmeat & Prawn Bolognese tossed in Black Pepper Sauce. This reminded me much of black pepper crab, which I thought took surprising well to the linguine.

S & GR both had the Fish & Chips($27++). Apparently, Cod fillets are used which explains the price premium. One good point is that the chips served for this dish are the highly raved about Truffle Fries, one bad point is that GR had a tummy ache after the meal and I do feel that battering a cod for fish and chips is soooooo wasteful don’t you think?

Adwyn had the Jamaican Jerk Pork Tenderloin($24++), which rested over a bed of Fruity Peach Cranberry Chutney, Garlic Roasted Potatoes and Grilled Vegetables. While the Tenderloin was nicely seasoned, I thought it could have been done a bit more tenderly. But if you want a recommendation for Pork Tenderloin, my suggestion is to go for the awesome Yorkshire Pork Tenderloin at Perle Noire, a humble Oyster and Grill Bar in the Siglap area. It’s been more than a year since I last patronized and I’m still hankering over it which means it must be good! (Perle Noire so happens to have a 1-for-1 main course for Citibank Card holders currently, though the condition of the promotion is to make a purchase of a dozen oysters). Ok reverting back to the Jamaican Jerk Pork Tenderloin, what I thought really stood out was the Roasted Garlic Potatoes, which had a soft texture (from cooking and not from being overripe) and very palatable. If Barracks offered this as a separate side, I would definitely order it on my next visit.

Finally, I had the Moroccan Spiced Baby Chicken($19++). Fancy euphemisms apart, this is just a forgettable Roasted Baby Chicken with Yam Crisps. The Chicken isn’t particularly tender, moist nor succulent but the Yam Crisps are a well deserved change from the usual fries.

2 Hits and 2 Misses for dinner, but one thing good about the thriving superficiality in Dempsey, it ensures a constant supply of good eye candy!

Bon Appetit!

BARRACKS CAFE

8D DEMPSEY ROAD

TEL: +65 6475 7787





Au Petit Salut – An Initiation Coverage

30 10 2010

Life is all about work-play balance so while food gastronomy more or less depicts the play-side element of my life, I believe in a strong work-side element comprising of academics and understanding the workings of the financial industry(more specifically equities) so bringing both of my passions together, I shall initiate a coverage call on Au Petit Salut.

First step in analyzing a company would be to identify it’s core business segments. For Au Petit Salut, it is a semi fine-dining French Restaurant located in the heart of Dempsey, with its humbler sister restaurant Bistro Petit Salut located at Chip Bee Gardens.

To address consumer demands, there is the choice to dine indoors (with air-conditioned) or al fresco. And if any of you are thinking about the risk of excessive humidity and heat while dining al fresco, fret not as these risks have been mitigated by the installation of many cooling fans.

I’m not sure if the 2 for 1 promotion for their smoothies($9++ for 2) is only available on weekday lunches, but unlike a conventional 2-for-1 stock split, there wasn’t any dilution in smoothie value which makes this deal ever the more sweeter. I found my Peach Smoothie really refreshing but if you are more into sour than sweet smoothies, the Passionfruit Smoothie would be one to consider.

To capture a larger market share and target a wider consumer base, apart from the “normal” 3-Course Set Lunch($30++), there is also an “executive” 3-Course Set Lunch($48++), catering to the rising opulence of the premium diner. C and myself shared 1 set of each.

From what I have read on fellow food blogger HungryEpicurean’s review on Au Petit Salut, apparently the complimentary bread served there comes from Delifrance. Could this be a case of divesting or outsourcing non-core businesses to low cost providers? Still, I appreciated that at least the bread arrived warm and crusty.

For the “normal” Set Lunch($30++), we had the Half Dozen Baked Burgundy Snails with Tomato & Garlic Butter. If you like the texture of clams, you would definitely like this. I prefer well-executed escargots over clams because I find it less chewy and tender, probably because snails move around quite a lot compared to its water-dwelling cousins, albeit at a snail’s pace(pun intended) and this possibly makes its meat more tender. And seriously, what can ever go wrong with garlic butter?

For Main, we had the Red Wine Braised Beef Cheeks, Carrots, Mushrooms & Parsley Potatoes. To me, beef cheeks are an affordable alternative to the ostentatiously priced and highly revered Wagyu. Juxtaposed to the red wine braised beef cheeks I had over at Bistro Du Vin just 3 days prior to this meal, I found the beef cheeks at Au Petit Salut more suitable for my palate as it hosted a milder flavour with a less pronounced hint of red wine, in addition to being more tender.

For Dessert, we had the Choux Bun filled with Vanilla Ice Cream, in warm Chocolate Sauce and Sliced Almonds. Just a heads up to the pronunciation of Choux, it should be pronounced as Chou rather than Chox. I made that mistake when ordering and felt a bit sua-gu after hearing the waitress repeat back my order with the correct enunciation.

Now for the Executive Set Lunch($48++), for Starters we had the Pan Seared Duck Foie Gras, Baby Spinach and Onion with Xeres Sauce($5++ Supplement). For the foie gras, I found it a bit overcooked and somehow not as fatty as most foie gras I have eaten, lacking the “oomph” factor. That said, I liked the complementary nature of the sweet Xeres Sauce(aka Sherry Sauce) which formed a nice pairing for the rich liver.

For Main, we had the Crispy French Duck Leg Confit with Sauteed Potatoes, Bacon, Mixed Green Salad & Walnut Dressing. Well executed crisp duck skin and moist succulent meat, the only downside was the excessive saltiness that accompanied it though I quickly got used to it. The bacon came as chunks of pan-fried belly pork which I felt was a little bit out of place.

For Dessert, The Warm Melted 70% Chocolate Cake served with 64% Dark Chocolate Sorbet and Red Current Jam and Pistachio Nuts, in short Chocolate Lava Cake. This Chocolate Lava Cake is definitely one of the better ones around but I would have preferred a non-chocolate Sorbet since I couldn’t really taste the dark chocolate sorbet over the sweeter decadent Warm Melted Chocolate Cake.

In conclusion, I reiterate my Buy Call on Au Petit Salut for 3 reasons; it’s uncompromising quality in French Cuisine which allows it to entrench its foothold as a key player in Singapore’s French Cuisine market segment; it’s classy yet back-to-nature ambience and fine service standards; and lastly the fact that most of the items on the menu are undervalued and being sold at  a discount compared to it’s peers (Gunther’s, Saint Pierre etc).

Bon Appetit!

AU PETIT SALUT

40C HARDING ROAD

TEL: +65 6475 1976





Barracks @ House

1 06 2010

A short stroll from Jones the Grocer led us to House. I was actually quite surprised when I read on House’s website that it’s under the Spa Espirit Group(which also manages STRIP, Browhaus, MASK, Qi Mantra, Skinny Pizza & Tippling Club) since I normally associate Espirit with the Hong Kong apparel brand. Consisting of a Beauty Emporium, Barracks Cafe and Camp Bar, House embodies the trinity of therapies that every girl (and me) dreams of; a lifestyle of decadance and hedonism. Imagine kicking off a lazy Saturday afternoon(or better yet a weekday) with a relaxing massage, spa and facial, followed by an awesome dinner and chilling out with a fresh cocktail thereafter. It’d be difficult not to feel at home in the lap of such luxury. 

A teeny bit of history lesson for those who don’t already know, Dempsey used to house the former British army barracks as well as the Central Manpower Base of Singapore(CMPB), thus giving rise to eatery names such as CMPB, Barracks and Camp Bar. SW had mentioned to me that the truffle fries & skinny pizzas here are to die for and that was my main goal today!

Unsure of what to do or just plain bored, here are 100 things to do at House while waiting for your nosh to be served.

It looked like the fries next door but the fragrant aroma gave it away, the purportedly legendary Truffle Fries($9++). Is this how truffle oil smells like? A wiff similar to fried garlic but not as pungent and much more desirable. Definitely a joy to pop even without any condiments, it does live up to it’s reputation. A common misconception about Truffle Oil is that it’s made from truffles. It’s  not! Most truffle oils are actually just olive oil combined with a synthetic odorant found in truffles, and from what I remember there’s only 1 brand that produces AUTHENTIC truffle oil. 

I’m sad to say nothing comes close to dethroning Laurent Bernard’s Dark Chocolate Tart, not even the one at Barracks Cafe. The chocolate was just not as rich nor fresh.

The Mango Crumble was a most welcome change of pace from the heaty fries and chocolate. Chopped nuts, crumble and sweet mellow cubes of mango makes for a pleasant dessert to cool off in Singapore’s perpetual summer heat.

Too full for skinny pizzas, guess a return trip is inevitable…

That said, I can’t wait to grow up(and not rely on father-mother scholarship), where I can guiltlessly savour life in it’s fullest, rationalizing that a hard week’s work(with uncorrespondingly pathetic paycheck) justifies a whole Saturday at the spa, at the cafe and at the bar @ House.

Bon Appetit!

 

 

HOUSE, BARRACKS & CAMP

8D DEMPSEY ROAD, #01-01 to #01-06

TEL: +65 6475 7787





Jones The Grocer

31 05 2010

You know what’s better than dining at Jones The Grocer @ Dempsey? It’s dining at the original flagship Jones the Grocer @ Woollahra, Sydney! And fyi, I’m travelling down to Australia(Sydney & Adelaide) in the later part of next month and that will definitely be one of my stops, along with Pancakes On the Rocks which I heard serves the most awesome pancakes.

Anyway, T, R, S and myself(all going for the Australia trip) were having our routine Saturday cohesion activities which led to brunch here. Functioning both as a grocer(albeit atas one) and an eatery, Jones boasts a spacious interior, high ceilings and diverse clientele.

Hungry people should get The Jones English Breakfast($20++). T opted for his eggs scrambled(other choices include fried or poached) which turned out slightly runny and creamy(just how I like it). I also liked the toast which was very light and crisp. Apart from that, the bacon & sausages, sauteed mushrooms and grillled tomato was rather run of the mill, but still delightful. 

The Leg Ham Sandwich($13.50++) was served with a bed of salad with balsamic vinegrette dressing. I really don’t recommend getting this here since it’s so easily replicable at home and I’m not a fan of leg ham anyways.  

For myself, the Smoked Salmon on Sourdough Toast with Asparagus & Poached Eggs aka Salmon Benedict($17++ I think). Not very well executed as the eggs were overcooked. The limited amounts of Hollandaise provided was easily overpowered by the smoked salmon and the petite portion was hardly filling in any case.

Imo, Jones the Grocer is one of the more affordable eateries in Dempsey and serves up a decent but unspectacular brunch menu. I’m not complaining about the small portions though, it just left more space in my tumtum to go over to House for dessert!

Bon Appetit!

 

 

JONES THE GROCER (DEMPSEY)

9 DEMPSEY ROAD, #01-12 DEMPSEY HILL

TEL: +65 6476 1512





Cafe Hacienda

19 04 2010

If you have read Freakonomics, you would realise that the Universe is governed by the fundamentals of Economics. For foodies, this is evident with every meal, the weighing of opportunity costs between dining at different venues. Today specifically, this came in the choosing of a brunch place. My thought process was as such…Rider’s Cafe was on the top of my list but on a Saturday morning with no prior reservations, getting a seat could prove to be an arduous undertaking. Likewise with Spruce, it’s equivalent to going all in in Poker, an all or nothing gamble. My previous visit to Epicurious was just last week so wasn’t too keen on going there again. Hence Dempsey it was to be, after all with the potpourri of brunch places there(Jones the Grocer, Cafe Hacienda, Au Petit Salut etc), getting seats would be easy peasy. Hmm settling for something less so as to ensure a greater chance of success sounds oddly like Game Theory to me…

Gambling is the opposite of Economics. In Economics, it all comes down to organised and logical thinking whereas in gambling, everything is left solely to chance. Coincidence or not, this brunch was actually the result of a gamble. My buddies T, K, R and myself were going on a holiday together to Australia(Sydney’s Tetsuya I’m looking at you) with R’s mystery friend S, whom  T, K and myself had no prior interaction with. So, this was kind of our introductory meeting to get to know one another. It was a gamble that our new found buddy would be interesting(chio would be a bonus and a separate gamble in itself), without any attitude problems.

Yet another FnB undertaking by Michel Lu, Cafe Hacienda is a sister restaurant of Prive @ Keppel Bay, hence the similarities within the menu. My last visit here left me cosying up among tai-tais on a weekday brunch, no doubt I left with a good impression with an undeniable fondness for their Sticky Date Pudding

It’s such a common sight at brunch places and yet it never fails to pose for a great picture…the Eggs Royale($13.50++) aka Salmon Benedict.

S couldn’t decide on what she wanted, so she ordered Eggs Any Style($13.50++). She was taken aback when she was asked what style she wanted, alas she thought that Eggs Any Style was really a dish’s name which could save her from making any choices. Well, normal unbimbotic people can also make such mistakes…NOT! Served with a sole Pork Sausage, Scramble Eggs(choice of poached, scrambled or sunny side up) and 2 Triangular Toasts, it really makes for quite the unworthwhile brunch meal since S ate something similar to that during her self-made breakie. It didn’t help that the Sausage was bland and reeked of an overdose of herbs. The Scrambled Eggs was creamy but average at best.

 

T had the Seafood Aglio Olio, a Today’s Special not found on the menu. On his request for less oil and salt, it was just barely passable and I found the spiciness a bit too strong for me.

  

For myself, I had the Spicy Crabmeat Linguine($22++). I found the rendition here a bit too dry and not creamy enough. Not as good as the other same price-ranged crabmeat pastas I have had recently at Riocotti and Etna’s.

I’m glad everyone loved my recommendation for the Sticky Date Pudding with Butterscotch & Vanilla Ice Cream($10++). It’s quite foolproof actually, I haven’t eaten a bad tasting Sticky Date Pudding yet, especially when it’s doused with Butterscotch and Ice Cream. The warm pudding here is the totally moist kind, if you prefer the kind with a crisp outer layer with a moist interior, I would recommend the one at Chalk @ Mount Sophia Old Skool.  

R took a fancy to the Chocolate Tart($7++). Having eaten at Laurent Bernard’s Chocolate Bar @ Robertson Quay last week, I dismissed this one rather quickly. I felt that the bittersweet dark chocolate here lacked fluidity and the tart base wasn’t buttery and artery clogging enough.  

I had the TWG French Earl Grey while T had a Cappuccino. According to T, the proper way of drinking of Cappuccino is to first sprinkle sugar over the froth and eat the foam and sugar together using a teaspoon. New day new discovery indeed…

 

Sometimes, Economic reasoning might not triumph gambling in attaining the best results. Cafe Hacienda was sorely disappointing this time round while S proved to be the Jackpot. Let’s pray our lucky gambling streak continues in Australia’s Casinos…and I can use the winnings to eat more yumyums!

Bon Appetit!

 

 

CAFE HACIENDA

#01-07 BLK 13 DEMPSEY ROAD

 TEL: +65 6476 2922








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