Monday, October 24, 2016

Les Amis (Singapore, SINGAPORE) ★★★★★

It's been more than 7 years since I last visited Les Amis, the iconic French restaurant at Shaw Centre who first opened doors back in 1994. A lot has changed over that 7-year span. At the helm of this fine dining stalwart is now executive chef Sebastien Lepinoy, a long-time Robuchon protégé who left L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon Hong Kong to join the Les Amis Group in 2010. After having a cup of coffee with Cépage, the group's fine dining restaurant in Hong Kong, he returned to Singapore as their flagship restaurant's chef de cuisine in 2013. Under the guidance of chef Lepinoy, Les Amis is fresh off their first two Michelin stars in the inaugural guide for Singapore which was just released this July.

The staff here was kind enough to arrange a private dining room for us with front row seats to the kitchen. Hopefully I can steal a thing or two from pastry chef Cheryl Koh and her team who are working hard behind that (sound proof) glass window.

Les Amis offers a number of options during lunch service, including le menu express (3-course set menu at SGD65 but with fixed items only), le menu formule (3-course + 1 dessert at SGD90) and le menu automne (6-course degustation menu at SGD155). We all decided to go with le menu formule since it's the only one that gives us the flexibility to choose our own appetizer, main and dessert.

Our amuse bouche was an entertaining set of small nibbles starting from right to left, Mediterranean tart with zucchini, eggplant and olive, melted cheese on top, comté cheese with air-dried beef and last but not least, sardine rillette.

That was accompanied by a homemade sea salt brioche. This was pretty flaky but when it comes to brioche, nothing beats my favorite brioche from La Maison Troigros

A further amuse bouche, Lobster Royale, soon followed. Here we have poached lobster meat and shittake mushroom sitting on a bed of egg custard and finished with lobster bisque foam atop.

We were finally ready for our cold appetizers and starting things off for me was duck foie gras terrine which was dry aged for 10 days. This was beautifully decorated with quince compote, edible flower and as usual, served with slices of pain de campagne (country bread) on the side. Pretty good start.

Equally elegant was the other cold appetizer, crab prepared au court-bouillon served in a roll of feuille de brick (copying directly from the menu here). I like the way they complemented the crab with salmon and caviar to give it slightly different texture and flavor to work with.

I couldn't wait to get started with my hot appetizer here and judging from its presentation, it's going to be another nice treat for my palate. The steamed lobster was neatly hidden underneath the turban of spaghetti and it was topped with seasonal truffles and simmered in a fairly intense Americaine sauce.

Unfortunately, this didn't taste as well as it looked. The lobster, in particular, tasted a little more like minced lobster which was disappointing, especially considering that there was a supplement of SGD10 tagged on this dish.

But other than that little blemish, the rest of the warm appetizers were simply perfect. The seared scallop with caviar, clams and scallion sauce was spot on and well executed.

Same goes for the pan-seared duck foie gras and French river eel with citrus fruit compote and dashi. Love the sesame crust on the thick slab of duck liver giving it some extra bite to go with the savory river eel and citrus fruit.

For the first time all afternoon, we all agreed on one thing and that's our main dish, ballotine of pigeon breast from Anjou with duck foie gras, wrapped in a tight piece of lardo di colonnata and cabbage. This has a lot of "Robuchon" in it. We all learned how well pigeon breast meshes with duck foie gras from our days at the Robuchon restaurants. I did my best to lose the fatty lardo di colonnata just to cut down my consumption of cholesterol from this meal.

Dessert provided yet another highlight for everyone. Behind the masterful work of pastry chef Cheryl Koh, we were presented with two gorgeous desserts starting with this crisp sugar sphere filled with Sollies figs.

Inside the hand-blown sugar sphere was delicate fig and raspberry sorbet, perfectly matched with caramelized figs, mascarpone cheese and a touch of rosemary on the bottom. Superb dish.

I was looking for something a little more refreshing and fruity and the poached williams pear in an infusion of star anise, bourbon vanilla with a light caramel sauce turned out to be the perfect choice for me. 

Les Amis looks like a much improved side since my last visit. I was amazed with how chef Lepinoy put his stamp on his brand of French haute cuisine with a bit of modern twist. From what I've seen this afternoon, they are well worth their two stars.

Food Rating: 8/10
Price: $$$$
Address: 1 Scotts Road, #01-16 Shaw Centre, Shaw Centre, Singapore
Closest Metro Station: Orchard
Tel: +65 6733-2225
S. Pellegrino Asia's 50 Best Restaurants: 12th (2016)

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