The last time we dined at the space that is now Brasserie Les Saveurs, it was still the trés upscale dinner buffet at the St. Regis. Now, this former all-you-can eat shrine for gastronomes has been reinvented as a classic French restaurant. While not the most exciting culinarily-wise, it’s a solid choice for a date night or a special occasion. This particular evening, it was S & L’s anniversary, and they invited a group of us along to help celebrate. Overall the food was not too bad, with the highlights being a made-to-order steak tartare, dessert, and the Michael Buble-esque lounge singer that kept us well-crooned all evening.
If there is one must-try restaurant in Singapore, it’s André. Do yourself a favor and eschew the fine-dining “chain” establishments at MBS and RWS. Instead, try a place that is uniquely Singaporean and deservedly world-class. The New York Times recently listed Restaurant André as one of their 10 restaurants worth a plane ride, and it is also one of only 3 restaurants from Singapore on the top 100 list. Despite having been opened for some time, the restaurant still commands a 4 week reservation time. The wait however is more than worth it as André is the epitome of what fine dining should be – personal, flawless, and memorable.
The restaurant is a cozy 30-seater that only accommodates one service each evening since the 10-course meal can last 3+ hours. There are no set menu options, but as our party of four experienced, dishes can be substituted or adjusted quite radically on demand. The service here leans more towards warm and casual, always present but never a distraction. Towards the end of the evening, Chef André makes the rounds, spending time chit chatting with the diners and happily answering questions. Even though there were other diners around, the personal attention from chef and staff made us feel like we were the only guests that evening.
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.
G and I were in the mood for French when I remembered a tucked away restaurant near my old office. The lunch menu looked interesting and the reviews generally positive. Curiosity is as good a reason to try a restaurant, and voila! A new (old) place that we can recommend for lunch. It’s always a treat to dine at places that for one reason or another are no longer in the limelight, but still produce good meals. The crowd wasn’t in force when we visited, perhaps a victim of location, but it was nice to have a cosy lunch for two.
Our visit to Le Bistrot du Sommelier began as a mission to try tête de veau, a dish that we learned was rarely available as a special. Fortunately, this rustic French bistro offers a number of other dishes that were all enjoyable, making a second (or many more) visit a certainty. Since it was an impromptu family dinner with G’s brother M and mom A joining us, we were able to sample a variety of starters as well as take on the côte de boeuf, a signature dish.
True bistros are great finds in that they offer delicious and unpretentious food in a casual environment without breaking the bank. There is also the added benefit of being able to order and enjoy wine without the need to have Parker’s latest wine guide handy. Le Bistrot du Sommelier is a fine example of what I mean. Other than the prices (it’s Singapore after all), this really is a welcoming place to enjoy a good rustic French meal without worrying about which fork to use.
While the printed menu options are limited, if you look on the walls, you’ll see the giant blackboard of beef-related offerings as well as seasonal specialties. The Mont D’Or cheese high season had just ended in February, but they still had some in stock, so we ordered a 500 g serving along with an order each of the goat cheese salad, foie gras terrine, and escargot for our starters.
I should also mention that bistro food tends to be very rich and hearty. The foie gras for instance came in a generous block that even for four liver lovers was quite plenty. Similar with the salad as there was a bed of celeriac hidden beneath the greens. Only the escargot came in a measly half dozen serving, but I can forgive them because of the wonderful accompanying sauce. Our downfall though, was the Mont D’Or, baked with onions and ham. Think fondue, but a mild taste and velvety creamy texture with a hint of pine.
By the time we finished appetizers, the women were ready to call it a day, but the heaviest items had yet to arrive. Our mains were a shared 1 kg côte de boeuf that was beautifully cooked medium rare and smothered in onions and whole garlic cloves, and a classic steak tartare that was easily the best I’ve had in Singapore. My only quibble was that it had a bit too much mustard and rough cut parsley. The tartare beef was incredibly fresh with a great texture that would have been more apparent without the over-spicing.
We were all so stuffed that we passed on dessert. Along with the tete de veau, desserts are also on our list of to tries for our next visit. Le Bistrot du Sommelier is reminiscent of my favorite bistro that I always visit when I travel to Grenoble for work. I don’t know or care if it’s the best in town or just average, all I know is that the service is friendly, the food is tasty, and experience memorable.
Le Bistrot du Sommelier
46 Prinsep St #01-01,
+65 6333 1982
G had a craving for a croque-madame and suggested that we eat at Hediard, a cafe and fine foods boutique that feels unabashedly old world with its dark interior and reserved upscale decor. It was already 2pm by the time we sat down, and the lunch rush (if there was one) was well over. Other than the Asian bohemian contently sipping coffee by the windowsill, the place was completely ours. While an empty resto-cafe could have been a warning sign that the food wasn’t up to the standard of the prices charged (the food was great), at least the ambiance was worth it so far.