Category Archives: French

Olivia Cassivelaun Fancourt (OCF) – charming French fare in Singapore

The divine “Black Forest” dessert 

The name of this restaurant is definitely a mouthful. Thankfully, the restaurant with the name of Sir Stamford Raffles’ first wife, has been shortened to a much easier to remember, OCF.

Set in the beautiful Arts House in central Singapore, Chef Jonathan Koh brings sophisticated French dining in the elegant ambiance of the restaurant.

During weekdays, they serve an executive lunch set, which changes according to seasonal produce. You can select from three entrees, three mains and three desserts.

Our amouse-bouche was egg tartare (a combination of all the elements of a classic tartare sauce – think a softly tangy egg salad), ratte potato and smoked trout, topped with Kristal caviar. From our counter seat, we could see the kitchen is relaxed, but focused. An explosion of complementary flavours in a spoonful that really set the tone for the rest of the meal.

Foie gras terrine with heirloom beets and chervil root

Starters was a foie gras terrine, with heirloom beets and wafer thin slices of chervil root and a hint of truffle oil to tie all that earthiness together. The terrine was dense and smooth and rich and so full of flavour, with the fresh chervil root adding a light balance to the dish.

French seabass, artichoke barigoule

Second course was a pan-fried French sea bass, served with the scales still on, with artichoke barigoule (artichokes braised in a white wine broth). The texture of the skin is thicker than you expect with the scales on, but the scales add a crunchy texture which contrasted well with the lightness of the sea bass.

Iberian pork saddle, parsley root, yellos chanterelle

Next up was a true revelation. Iberian pork saddle with parsley root and yellow chanterelles. Looked like beef, smelled like beef, moist and soft and tender like beef, but the flavour of pork. Just simply pan-fried with a thin drizzle of jus, the pork is cooked so that it is juuuuust cooked, which keeps the texture unbelievably tender. This is the dish that I had high expectations for, given that my friend had shed a tear the week before when he had his first bite – and it didn’t disappoint.

Dessert was chef’s “Black Forest” – black cherries and balls of chocolate ganache on a dense layer of cake, topped with a crisp layer of caramel with cocoa nibs, served with vanilla ice-cream and luscious salted caramel cream.

The wait staff are friendly and competent, and maître d’, Nova, will happily talk you through all the food, and will also share his crazily detailed knowledge about the selection of wine offered.

OCF are opening up another restaurant at Boat Quay with a different menu to cater for the lunch crowd, and so lunch at the current location will stop (good to know why – they struggle getting good staff, and don’t want to spread themselves too thin). No firm date given yet but will be close to Chinese New Year (end Feb 2015). I’ll definitely be visiting them again before they close to catch the lunch menu.

Olivia Cassivelaun Fancourt

The Arts House
1 Old Parliament Lane
#02-02
Singapore 179429

Tel: 65 6333 9312

info@ocf-singapore.com

Lunch from 12:00 to 2:30pm
Dinner from 6:00 to 10:30pm

Advertisements

Septime, Paris, France

Octopus with oxalis, green beans, anchovies and pumpkin seed puree

In the 11th arr, near Bastille, Bertrand Grébaut brings together this food training (he was trained by Alain Passard and Joël Robuchon) and his passion for design (he was a former graphic designer) to Septime.

They are meticulous about ensuring their diners have a great experience at Septime – the ambiance in the brasserie is one of friendly, super-efficiency. The decor is all concrete and bare wood, with the diners sat close together, and with a view of the open kitchen, where there is some serious cooking going on.

Pan-fried cod with a lardo and a red wine jus with cauliflower, dill and chervil 

It’s all about the freshest ingredients that Chef Grébaut can find on the day, meaning the menu changes daily, challenging them to create new dishes to delight diners. The flavours are pure, clean and fuss-free, ensuring the ingredients shine for themselves, yet work together in surprisingly harmonious combinations. Fish with lardo and a meat jus ? Totally worked.

The menu being in French, and us having no prior experience there, we left it to the restaurant and ordered the carte blanche. The meal started with a fresh veal tartare with pear and turnip, followed by octopus with oxalis (a wonderfully lemony herb) green beans, anchovies and pumpkin seed puree.

A perfectly cooked piece of cod with a slice of lardo and a red wine jus with cauliflower, dill and chervil was next, and the last savoury course – venison with toasted butternut quince puree with a meat onion jus.

Sicilian lemon cream with an almond crumble, lime and lemon verbena sorbet with marinated citron slices with thyme and lemon balm

The final dish was a refreshing Sicilian lemon cream with an almond crumble, lime and lemon verbena sorbet with marinated citron slices with thyme and lemon balm.

Adding to the wonderful food, the wines are non-sulfite made by small producers, available for sale across the street at their new Septime Cave – which is a popular neighborhood canteen for drinks & nibbles.

Septime
80 Rue de Charonne
75011 Paris, France
Tel: +33 1 43 67 38 29

Open: Monday – Friday 12.15 – 2.00pm, 7.30-10.00pm


La Table D’Aki

Restaurant kitchens in Paris are small. And La Table D’Aki is no exception, with just one man behind the kitchen. Akihiro Horikoshi (Aki) shops, preps, cooks, bakes, cleans dishes – everything – in this tiny 16 seater restaurant in the Seventh Arrondisement.

Chef Aki, a L’Ambroisie veteran, works in an open kitchen, where he prepares a prix fixe seafood meal. Japanese precision with French training – could not be a better pairing.

First course was a single seared scallop on pureed pumpkin with a cauliflower foam that teased our palettes with it’s silky textures. Entree of poached langoustine on top of roasted rhubarb was a perfect harmony of delicate langoustine served with a glossy drizzle of veal jus. The final savoury course was delicate cod fish and braised endive with a wonderfully tangy citrus sauce.

Dessert – simply described as “chocolate tarte with vanilla bean ice-cream”, made me marvel that something that delicate with contrasting crisp and velvety textures could be made by the same man who brought us the earlier three dishes, and not a patisserie chef.

Elegant dining. Delicious, clean flavours. Perfection.

La Table D’Aki
49 Rue Vanueau
Paris, France

Tel: +33 1 45 44 43 48
Bookings highly recommended
Closed Sundays and Mondays


Truffle Gourmet, Monte Carlo, France

Fresh white truffles over fried eggs

What’s a trip to the French Riviera without a visit to Monte Carlo in Monaco ?

Living in Singapore where it costs US$60-70K to just have the right to own a car, we haven’t driven in the last seven years. So how better could I surprise D for our tenth anniversary than to book D in for a few hours of driving around the French Alps in a Ferrari ? (And yes, I scored massive brownie points as “best wife” for this one ;))

Full disclosure – I am such a non-sports person that I didn’t even know that the hotel where we would be picking up the car was the famous Fairmont Hotel, over the Monaco F1 track !

OK so I’m going off topic here.

More truffly goodness over a simple homemade pasta

The other thing that we wanted to do while in Monte Carlo was to visit a place called Truffle Gourmet. The name says it all, really, doesn’t it ?

At the tail end of the white truffle season, we figured, if we were going to get truffles, it would be there.

I had a slight case of initial confusion (happens more than I’d like to admit) when we started to chat to the chefs: why are they speaking in Italian ? Then my brain caught up and realised how close we were to the Italian border.

The best way to enjoy truffles is to let them shine. Simple food, with fresh truffles shaved over always makes me smile. So when the recommendation of “over some eggs, and maybe over some fresh pasta ?” came, we just nodded vigorously.

The eggs were a little overcooked – the yolks had almost cooked through, but the pasta was just perfect. The aroma of the generous shavings of white truffles filled the air. Bellissimo !

Truffle Gourmet has coincidentally recently opened up a branch in Singapore. It’s a restaurant more than a counter-cafe but at least we will be able to enjoy truffly goodness locally.

Truffle Gourmet
15 , place d’ Armes, 98000 Monaco
Tel: +377 97 77 19 19


La Ramade, St Tropez

 

Saint Tropez is just a short bateaux ride across the bay from quiet Sainte Maxime. We wanted somewhere to enjoy some rosé after spending the morning at the Saturday markets, and we chanced upon what has to be the prettiest place we visited during our entire trip.

I felt like I had walked into one of Wonderland’s tea parties. Each table was decorated with enormous vases of blooming flowers. Sunlight peeked through the leafy trees onto our tables. Colour. Everywhere.

We were lucky to see a delivery of edible blooms – stunning yellow zucchini flowers (in the hands of a camera-shy chef), that would later be stuffed and deep fried.

Provençal tomato tart

Even the tomato tart seemed too brightly coloured to be true.

Grilled local sardines

Amongst all of that, the food at La Ramade is simple and rustic – think grilled fresh sardines and coq au vin. A little oasis from the hustle and bustle of the outside Saint Tropez.

La Ramade
3 Rue du Temple
Saint-Tropez, France

Tel: 04 94 81 58 67


La Maison Bleue, Sainte Maxime, Cote D’Azur

 

Moules mariniere 

Last year we spent our vacation in France – in the French Riviera and Paris. This is the first time that we have been to the South of France and we were looking forward to indulging in their famous hospitality and wonderful produce and food.

One of our favourite places to eat was in Sainte Maxime, where we were staying a quiet seaside town across the gulf from the glitz and glamour of St Tropez.

La Maison Bleue is charming and bustling at the same time, with sun-dappled seating, just behind the main street of Sainte Maxime. The few waitstaff are busybusybusy – but still are able to say “bon appetite” with a smile, and pause long enough to explain what was on their cheese plate that day (and why they loved it).

They have a limited menu of simple dishes, spectacularly made.

The standout of our visits – we loved it so much we went every few days for a light snack (and maybe a bottle or two of the local rosé wine) between meals – was the moules mariniere. A big steaming bowl of mussels in white wine, served with (what else in France) a deliciously crusty baguette to mop up the sauce at the bottom of the bowl.

I have made moules marinere before – but they have NEVER tasted this amazingly good. The mussels are much smaller than ones I am accustomed to. Around Australia and Singapore we have easy access to the much larger New Zealand mussels. And as with a lot of shellfish, I find a lot of times the smaller they are, the sweeter their flavour. Even D, who usually immediately zooms in on the meat part of the menu, favourited this dish. Each small mussel filled your mouth with their juicy sweetness.

La Maison Bleue’s fish soup, served with the traditional rouille, croutons and cheese, was also superb. Make sure you book, as this gem fills up quickly.

La Maison Bleue
48 Rue Paul Bert
Sainte Maxime, France

Tel: +33 4 94 96 51 92


L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon

The awesome amuse bouche – foie gras custard with a port wine reduction and a parmesan cheese foam

I have to be totally honest, I went to L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon with no expectations other than I was going to get a pretty great meal – after all, this legendary French chef has been awarded more Michelin stars than any other chef in the world.

Yellow tail tuna tartar with spicy tomato coulis

Being unable to find the right exit from the carpark at Resorts World wasn’t a good start. And then completely losing our bearings once we were in Resorts World didn’t help. The place is just a huge, poorly signaged, kids-running-everywhere-shouting-and-screaming, un-airconditioned mess to people who were both hungry and lost.

We finally found the restaurant tucked away from the melee these. On the right, the full-on Joël Robuchon dining experience – luxurious neutral coloured interior, high-backed chairs, straight-backed waiters, and on the left, L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon – like some evil twin with completely stark, black and red interior, super dim lighting, lounge music and high bar and counter seating, looking in to an open kitchen.

(I think we chose the better of the twins)

We sat at the counter and ordered from the tasting menu – which basically meant we could sample more dishes. I won’t go into too much detail other than:

King crab on thin layers of turnip with a sweet and sour sauce

THE GOOD:

  • Being able to watch how the kitchen operated was an absolute joy. The attention, skill and precision of the staff as they created the dishes was marvellous and as always it is a real treat to be able to watch them prepare your food
  • The amuse bouche – meant to tantalise and stimulate your senses, giving you a small taste of the meal to come. And it sure delivered on all of the above with a foie gras custard port wine reduction with parmesan foam
  • The souffle – couldn’t have been more perfect
  • The stunning presentation of the food
  • The relaxed atmosphere – makes dining so much more fun

Soft boiled egg with chanterelle mushroom and parsley fricasee

THE NOT SO GOOD:

  • The secondary waitstaff – you really expect them to be able to serve the right food and drinks to the right people
  • The rest of the food we ordered. Not that it was bad, it was just disappointing after that amazing amuse bouche. Many of the dishes we had sounded traditional but ended up being fusion and just confused, with so many flavours we had to keep eferring to the menu to remind ourselves what we had ordered

Beef and foie gras burger with caramelised peppers

OVERALL

I might be tempted to visit Joël Robuchon next door (although it might be a bit too prim and proper for us – we tend to get a bit loud after a few drinks) – I don’t think we’ll be rushing back to L’Atelier again in a hurry.

Hot kirsch soufflé with almond sorbet

L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon
Sentosa Gateway  Resorts World Sentosa – Festive Hotel Singapore, Singapore 098269
Tel: +65 6577 7888

Open: Daily 6.30pm – 10.30pm


La Maison Fatien

Delicious charcuterie plate at La Maison Fatien

Tucked away in Duxton road is La Maison Fatien. Serving French bistro classics like French onion soup and steak frites, the restaurant is cosy enough for an intimate dinner for two in the nooks and crannies (it’s in a renovated shophouse) with rooms that would also make it perfect for a group dinner. On our first visit, while we enjoyed the food, it seemed every part of the experience that night had its ups and downs.

The French onion soup was thin in consistency – usually the soup is thickened by cooking flour into the onions before the stock is added. Oddly, this made a difference to my enjoyment of the soup, despite it’s deliciously robust flavour.

The selection of cold meats on their charcuterie plate was also delicious. I get excited when a charcuterie plate offers me something I cannot find myself and this board had three of these – all tender and tasty – it was just a shame that the waiter could not actually tell me what each one was…

The steak for my main which I asked for medium rare came out a little too red even for me, although my experience with the French is that in general, they prefer their steak less cooked than most other nationalities. I’ll have to remember this the next time and order my steak medium.  The fries were excellent – hand cut, crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside and full of potatoe-y flavour rather than just deep-fried bland potatoes.

The service there is sketchy – they have a French maitre D who is excellent but the rest of the staff seemed intent on filling our wine glasses each time we had a sip, and managing to do it with such a lack of smiling that they looked downright annoyed to be working.

With new restaurants still cropping up all over Singapore, and with always-great French alternatives like Bistrot du Sommelier and Brasserie Gavroche, it would take a “sorry we are already fully booked” from these two for me to go back t0 Ma Maison Fatien. But at least I would go back !

La Maison Fatien
76 Duxton Road
Singapore
Tel: 6220 3822

Open:
Mon-Fri
12.00 – 2.30pm
6.30 – 10.30pm
Sat 6.00pm – 10.30pm
Closed Sundays


Waku Ghin’s signature sea urchin with botan shrimp and Oscietre caviar

Tetsuya Wakuda is one of my favourite chefs from my visits to Tetsuya’s in Sydney – back in Rozelle and also when it moved to Kent Street. I have always admired his ability to pair pure and distinct flavours so beautifully. I finally got to go to Waku Ghin at Marina Bay Sands this week, and what a treat it was.

Your meal is served primarily in small 8-seater rooms in front of a teppanyaki grill and with your personal chef for the evening. Counter seating is always my preference – it gives you an opportunity to talk to the chef, see the produce, watch him cook, and also sneakily take a peek at what others are ordering to inspire you to try new things.

With a set 10-course degustation menu, you don’t get the chance to do the latter, but we did get a preview of the first course from the other couple who were seated in our room and who had arrived before us. By the third course, the team at Tetsuya had deftly managed to catch the four of us up so we were all served the remaining savoury courses at the same time.

Chilled white asparagus soup with white miso and Oscietre caviar

We started with a chilled cream of white asparagus soup with white miso cream and Oscietre caviar. What a way to start a meal. The soup was so silky and so full of flavour of the delicate white asparagus you really wished there was more (that was the common theme for all the dishes during the evening, actually).

Second was Waku Ghin’s signature dish – marinated botan shrimp with sea urchin and Oscietre caviar, stunningly presented in a half shell of sea urchin. To be eaten with a mother-of-pearl spoon, you are recommended to eat every mouthful with a bit of all three, and with each you get the sweetness of the prawn and sea urchin and the explosion of saltiness from the caviar. This has got to be up there as one of my favourite dishes ever.

Slow-cooked John Dory with roasted eggplant

Third course was slow-cooked John Dory with roasted eggplant and a chicken stock reduction. Our chef explained to us how they made the chicken stock and the laborious and complex processes to ensure only the clean flavour of the chicken was extracted and reduced. An odd pairing with fish and eggplant, and I think the chicken stock reduction tied the dish together well.

Australian abalone with fregola, rocket, seaweed and tomato

Next up was fresh Australian abalone, simply seared on the teppan and served with fregola, tomato, rocket and seaweed. This was about as rare as I have ever had abalone, miles away from the more chewy abalone you usually get at Chinese banquets. This was fresh and succulent and sweet and presented in this way almost was like eating it straight from the sea.

Braised Canadian lobster with tarragon

Braised Canadian lobster came next, quintessentially French-style, in a stock made from the lobster shells, finished with butter and tarragon. Again, the lobster was cooked so that it was just to the point past being raw, allowing the sweetness and the tenderness of the lobster to shine.

The beautifully marbled Japanese Ohmi wagyu roll

Two beef dishes followed. The first was charcoal grilled fillet of Tasmanian grass-fed  beef with Tetsuya’s own-brand wasabi mustard. The chef seared these in front of us on the teppan before slicing them into bite-sized pieces of beef so tender you felt that you could cut it with a butter knife. Nothing fancy here, just a fillet of beef on your plate and tasted great with or without the wasabi mustard.

Japanese Ohmi wagyu roll with wasabi and citrus soy

Japanese Ohmi wagyu roll from Shiga Prefecture came next. Just looking at the gorgeous marbling on the raw beef filled the room with oohs and aahs. I think it was because we knew that that marbling would be melt-in-the-mouth flavour once cooked. It was served with freshly-grated wasabi, fried garlic slices, thinly sliced Japanese negi and a citrus soy dipping sauce. Similar to the fillet, I tried the beef on its own and then with a little bit of all the condiments and in this instance, the inclusion of everything made the marvelous wagyu sing in your mouth.

Consommé with rice and snapper

Final savoury dish was a consommé with rice and snapper followed with a palate-cleansing cup of gyokuro, tea made from green tea that has been grown in the shade. A touch of yuzu zest to the consommé lifted the dish making it a clean and refreshing end to the meal. And the tea, which was brewed with water at just 40C had a distinct savoury, seaweed flavour. Absolutely perfect example of umami.

Selection of exquisite petit fours to end a perfect meal

We were almost sad to be moved out of our private dining area to a more traditional dining area to eat have our final two courses of dessert – mostly because it was an indication that the meal was coming to its end. I have to be totally honest and say that Tetsuya’s desserts have never wowed me the same way his savoury dishes do, and this was no different. We were served a cold soup of strawberry with lychee and coconut and what turned out to be my birthday cake, a milk chocolate cake with caramel and citrus. Both were delicious – as were the petit fours, but my memory of Waku Ghin is firmly, and happily, within the walls of the private dining room.

Waku Ghin
Casino Level 2
Access lifts located:
B1 & Opposite ArtBox at Level 1
The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands
Tel: +65 6688 8507

Open for lunch on Fridays 11.30am – 1.30pm
Dinner two seatings 6pm and 8.30pm


Beef Bourguignon

In the mood for comfort food, I made beef bourguignon the other day – a wonderfully rich stew of beef braised in red wine, with garlic, mushrooms, potatoes and pearl onions. This bistro favourite is adapted from Delia Smith.

Ingredients serves 4-6

  1. 250g streaky bacon, cut into lardons
  2. 1 kg chuck steak, cut into 2″ squares
  3. 1 medium onion, sliced
  4. 1 heaped tbl plain flour
  5. 425ml red Burgundy
  6. 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  7. 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  8. 1 bay leaf
  9. 3 large potatoes, quartered
  10. 100g mushrooms quartered
  11. 350g shallots, whole, peeled
  12. Salt and pepper to taste

Method

  1. Fry the lardons over high heat in a large, heavy-based casserole dish. Remove bacon and set aside
  2. Brown the chuck steak in batches in the rendered bacon fat. Remove from pan as they brown
  3. Add the onion to the pan and fry for a few minutes
  4. Add the flour to the onions and stir well
  5. Add the beef back to the pot, along with the Burgundy, garlic, thyme, bay leaf and bring to boil
  6. Reduce heat to a slow simmer, cover and cook on low heat for 2 hours, until beef is tender
  7. Add the bacon, potatoes, mushrooms, shallots to the pan, season to taste and simmer for a further hour
  8. Serve with steamed green beans