Yesterday, my team had a farewell lunch for two colleagues. Initially we thought of going to Tamarind Hill at Labrador Park, which boss had previously raved about the food and ambience. But when we proposed to him, he advised against it after he had a negative experience the last time he had lunch there, which was a month ago. Instead, he suggested Les Amis, which he highly recommends for the good food and wine.
Well, I’m not a wine person, but I was pretty excited when I learned we were going to Les Amis for lunch since it’s an icon in the restaurant scene. Besides I had never been there before, and had always wanted to try the food. Anyway, I also found out the other reason for my boss’s suggestion: he had a 30% discount coupon from his credit card company.
The interior decor of Les Amis is simple but classy, and the staff provide bag stools for ladies to place their bags on. Both my colleagues arrived first, and they had the bag stools. When my boss and I got there, I thought I would place my bag on the stool where S had her large canvas bag. The staff seemed to assume that since I did that, they didn’t have to offer a separate stool to me. I think it must be the male mentality because the staff are all men.
The male staff are, in general, rather polite and somewhat attentive. But compared to the impressive service at the fine dining restaurant, Gary Danko, in San Francisco, it’s still a far cry. The staff here still lack the perceptive service that blew us away at GD. (Example, GD staff remembered the coat I wore despite the restaurant being full and it was brought to me after dinner at the door, and best of all a cab was waiting for us when we wanted it and we didn’t even have to ask.)
Anyway, back to the main topic, the food. It is a four-course meal and all of us chose the Menu Le Déjeuner at S$55++ each. My boss and S had a bottle of red wine between them. Since I didn’t try it, I can’t comment on the quality, but it was said to be good. The staff served us a basket of assorted bread and I only recalled the tomato bread and the bacon bread. They come with butter (in the shape of a cone) and sea salt. Though the bread is quite tasty, but what I don’t understand is why it wasn’t warmed up. Seriously, cold and slightly hard bread should not be served in a fine dining restaurant.
Next came the salad: haricot vert salad in combination with foie gras and quail egg. Haricot vert is really just a fancy name for French bean or snap bean. To be honest, I couldn’t taste the foie gras at all. It might be that it was overwhelmed by the cream-based dressing. I also find that the French beans were a little over-cooked and lacked the crunch. The only interesting ingredient is the little green apple balls, which added a slight tartness and crunch to the texture.
I like the soup, a chicken broth with foie gras ravioli and herb, garnished with cream on the side. It’s really flavorful, and the cream enhances the taste. My only beef is that the foie gras is measly.
When I was served my main course, I was struck by how small the portion was. It was Scottish wild salmon served two ways: tartare and grilled. And it was really good! The tartare was blended with chopped onion and capers, and had none of the raw fishy taste. I basically devoured the entire plate.
The other diners at my table opted for the baby rack of lamb with pommery mustard ice cream, and comes with mash potato. Because they asked for medium cooked, the meat turned out to be quite reddish. I declined to try it but my boss had no problem with that (he’s a meat lover). During lunch, he recounted that when he stayed at the Shangri-la Jing’an hotel in Shanghai last week, he went for dinner at the steakhouse there. He had finished 3/4 of a porterhouse steak when he realized that the inside was rare instead of the medium cooked that he asked for. He pointed out to the maitre’D and requested to have it cooked a little longer. When the maitre’D returned, it was a new plate of steak! My boss promptly finished it.
The dessert was supposed to be Rum baba dark rum from Guatemala, blackberry nectar, crème chantilly. But I wanted something without liquor, so I chose Granité of fresh coconut on a mosaic of tropical fruit and milk jelly. The tropic fruits are pineapple and mango, and go very well with the coconut sorbet, which tastes really refreshing.
S had the rum baba and I tried a bite. Rum baba is basically a yeast cake filled with usually rum. I must say it is good, especially with the blackberry sauce.
We were also served madeleine with a passion fruit cream. I thought the Madeleine is best eaten on its own.
So, to sum up, I find the lunch to be a little disappointing. After all the hype on Les Amis, the dining experience is nothing spectacular. I am not sure if it is because of lunch or maybe because it was the cheapest set on the menu. But I had a much satisfying experience at Buchon Bistro by Thomas Keller at Napa Valley, when we were wowed by the food, despite being a Bistro.