G and I dined at Absinthe a few months after it had opened. That meal was one of our most memorable dining experiences in Singapore thus far. So, we were excited to have an opportunity to return as well as introduce T & A (A’s review here) to “that French place” that I had raved about forever.
Our second visit, while enjoyable, didn’t quite have the impact or warmth as the first. Like most other restaurants in Singapore, popularity can change a place, seldom for the better. Gone is the amazing hospitality that G and I first experienced, replaced by remarkably efficient yet cold and distant service. So much so, that the staff hardly said a single word to us the entire evening (not even bothering to explain each course), yet they diligently refilled our water and addressed our few dining issues quickly and graciously. While I can no longer recommend Absinthe for remarkable service, the food is still quite good, well thought-out and executed.
True to the website description, Chef Francois has crafted a menu that sits somewhere between a nice bistro and haute cuisine. The dishes are all very relatable yet refined with just enough whimsy to keep the well-eaten intrigued. Except for G, who wasn’t terribly hungry, the rest of us ordered the degustation menu. Our starter was an ocean trout tartare accompanied by crème fraîche and hazelnut snow. The tartare by itself was fantastic (my favorite combination of minimal spice with quality fish), and the “snow” was a delightful dry surprise that evaporated on the tongue.
Next was a chorizo and prawn salad that was probably my favorite of the night. I’m finicky about prawns and these were cooked to perfection- just a touch translucent with a full meaty texture. The pairing with chorizo yielded a wonderful touch of spicy without the usual feeling of oiliness and disdain I have for this particular sausage.
Foie gras of course was on the menu. Not much to say- well seared, meltingly tender. These ducks were not gorged in vain.
There was a choice between grouper or beef for the main course. Not surprisingly, we all went with the beef (grouper seemed oddly blasé for a menu like this). G and I once had the pleasure of taking a class taught by Chef Francois. I still remember our conversation about how he preferred beef from traditional grain fed cows because of their much meatier texture. Having had a steak prepared per the chef’s preference, I can certainly see why. The result was a juicy and tender cut of meat that easily bests many of the other steaks that I’ve tasted locally.
I had convinced G to go with the bouillabaisse for her entrée, which she unfortunately didn’t find to her liking, mostly due to the slight bitterness of the absinthe. I enjoyed the dish because of the perfectly cooked medley of seafood and the flavorful, almost borderline fishy, taste of the broth. T put it best in describing the broth as tasting like the ocean.
Dessert was a duo of mandarin sorbet and clementine (orange) crème brûlée, accompanied by dried mandarin slices. Having three different takes on dessert using essentially the same fruit really worked well. G’s “dessert” was a sampler of cheeses that we all ended up sharing. The cheese platter grew because our waiter caught in time the few cheeses already served that weren’t pasteurized and not safe for G. He instead added a few extra cheeses compliments of the restaurant to compensate. Very classy.
My only nitpick with our meal was with the petit fours. There was a mass production, out of a can feel to them (Valhrona chocolate in wrappers) that gave me a fortune cookie at the end of the meal kind of feel. It’s not going to stop me from going back again, but it certainly is an odd conclusion to an otherwise gastronomically pleasant evening.
As for seeing green fairies, you can also experience wormwood-induced visions at Absinthe. The restaurant serves up its namesake in classic fashion (slotted spoons, sugar etc..), Otherwise, a visit just for the food at lunch or dinner is time and money well spent. While not as magical of an experience as our first time, I’m glad to say that Absinthe is still overall one of the better french restaurants in town.
Absinthe (Restaurant Francais)
48 Bukit Pasoh Road
+65 6222 9068