Tag 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


Chez L’Amis Jean

Oh that cote de boeuf !

Wow, that previous post was a ramble – which needs to be quickly replaced with FOOD.

The photo of the food in this incredibly busy and cramped restaurant came out pretty horribly – the light was so dim and the place literally had barely any elbow room at all. But that’s not at all a reflection of the foodfoodfood of this wonderful bistrot.

Chez L’Amis Jean is in Paris, and it’s very firmly in the anti-Michelin realm of Parisien eats. Rather than three waiters per table, it’s three waiters for the entire restaurant, and I kid you not, when I say it’s cramped, believe me. Essentially the restaurant is one long banquette, with lots of little tables that are joined to make one long table. Each party is sat opposite each other, and as you are seated, the table is pulled out so that one of you can sit before being wedged in. Don’t drink too much water if you’re sitting inside 🙂

The good thing about this cozy atmosphere is that you almost feel like you are at a wedding. You get to know the people sitting on either side of you, and everyone’s friendly and just happy to be inside (and on the night we were there, out of the lashing rain outside) with the warm hospitality of the staff.

And despite it being insanely full, the waitstaff were all blazingly efficient and always, always (and I truly adore this part) able to pause and wish you “bon appetite” with a smile – they truly want you to enjoy your food here. From the start, as you are waiting for your table, they serve up sharing boards of charcuterie. While you sneak looks at other tables to see what looks good (don’t tell me I’m the only one who does this), a large shared terrine with a big knife is presented to you to “have some”. It’s little touches of warmth and generosity like this that for me makes this such a memorable restaurant.

Ruiz au lait with praline and salted caramel

Not only is the food phenomenal – classic French bistro at its best, but the portions are enormous.

Knowing the portions were big, didn’t deter us from ordering what we wanted though – luckily we were happy to wander around the close-by Eiffel Tower after to walk some of our dinner off. Tres romantic !

We started our gargantuan meal with soup de Parmsan. A large bowl with crispy bacon bits and delicately sliced chives is filled in front of you with a creamy, rich, cheesy soup from a large(r) tea pot. Ridiculously delicious, and followed with the cote de boeuf – thick juicy slices of rib-eye, cooked on the bone, with generous shavings of black truffles. mmmmm…And because we truly have eyes bigger than our stomach, we ordered dessert ! Which was rice pudding served with praline and salted caramel. Rich, creamy and decadent, it was a perfectly balanced dish to balance out our dinner. Again, LARGE, again, superb.

They almost had to roll us out of there ! If you do want to go (and if you are in Paris, I really think you should), two things I would strongly recommend. First, make a booking, or don’t even bother to turn up. Secondly, go hungry.

Chez L’Amis Jean
27 Rue Malar, 75007 Paris, France

Phone:+33 1 47 05 86 89

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


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


Roasted potato salad with bacon and spinach

A delicious salad that would make a great lunch or as a lighter side to a juicy steak or roast, rather than the usual roasted vegetables.

Fun fact: I think potatoes have had a bit of a bad rap with their high GI. However, if you dry cook potatoes (ie roasted vs boiled) and also allow them to cool, their GI actually lowers. It has to do with the effort your body has to expend to digest foods and increasing their resistant starch. I won’t go into the details – you can do more research if you want, here is a nice quick reference if you’re interested.

Keep the potato skins on for added nutrition. The skins have B vitamins, vitamin C, iron, calcium, potassium and also provides lots of fibre. Be sure to wash the potato well and remove any obvious blemishes before cooking.

Ingredients serves 2 as a main or 4 as a side

  1. 750 g new potatoes or if using larger ones, select a waxy variety, like the red potato, so they “hold together” when you mix them
  2. *optional – rosemary
  3. 4 rashers of streaky bacon
  4. 1 bunch of spinach leaves
  5. 1 clove garlic – skin on
  6. 2 tbls red wine vinegar
  7. 1 tbls dijon mustard
  8. 3 tbls olive oil (see note below)
  9. *optional – squirt of mayonnaise
  10. Good handful of grated fresh parmesan cheese
  11. salt and pepper

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 200C/400F
  2. Place the potatoes in a baking tray
  3. Drizzle olive oil and season with salt and pepper and rosemary if you have it
  4. Bake in oven for 30-40 minutes
  5. Pop your clove of garlic in with the potatoes 10 minutes before they have to come out
  6. COOL YOUR POTATOES TO ROOM TEMPERATURE
  7. Blanch the spinach leaves until wilted, drain and squeeze out as much liquid as you can – you don’t want a soggy salad !
  8. Pan-fry or microwave the bacon till their nice and crispy
  9. Make your dressing
  10. Remove the skin from the garlic and either mince/mash into a jar with a tight fitting lid
  11. Add the red wine vinegar, mustard, oil, mayonnaise (the mayonnaise makes the dressing a teeny bit creamier – use as much or as little as you like but add that in a little at a time until you get the desired consistency
  12. Pop the lid on and shake well to mix
  13. Add the cooled potatoes, spinach, crumbled bacon to a large bowl
  14. Dress lightly – you want the dressing to just coat the potatoes, not be gluggy
  15. Top with grated parmesan and mix again
  16. Season with salt and pepper to taste

NOTE: I think anchovies are one of the best things in the world, and always have a big jar of marinated anchovies in my fridge. When cooked they don’t smell too fishy, they melt into the sauce and add a complex savoury note to whatever dish you are making. With this dish, instead of using plain olive oil, I used the anchovy oil. You’ll need to make sure you taste the final dressing and dish before you season with salt so it’s not too salty.


The Farmer’s Markets @ Loewen Gardens

We’ve been hankering to go wandering around a farmer’s market for while now. Living in Singapore – a small island where there are effectively no farms and everything is imported – it was always going to be a challenge to find true farmer’s markets.

The Farmer’s Markets at Loewen Gardens certainly has the same feel as a traditional farmer’s market (albeit a lot warmer) – with small, specialty importers bringing in produce from France, Italy and New Zealand – at least the ones we bought from.

Dinner tonight ? Oven-baked Mont D’Or with slices of French Baguette from Gourmet Shop. This seasonal cheese, which is only available from September to April, is matured in its box, giving it a uniquely woody aroma, as well as conveniently being able to stick the entire cheese, box and all, into the oven.

Just 20 minutes in a hot oven (22C/400F) from room temperature, and you have yourself a sweet, molten and quite frankly magical cheese, to smear on slices of baguette. I had roasted a head of garlic to have with the cheese, but honestly – nothing is required except a glass of wine, and a big appetite.

The Farmer’s Market @ Loewen Gardens
75E Loewen Road
Singapore

Open the first and third Saturday of every month


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


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

Brasserie Gavroche

Uncle Henri’s fish quenelle in crayfish stock

Everything about Brasserie Gavroche oozes Parisian sophistication, from the decor and the staff, including the ever-so-chic front-of-house and part-owner – Charlotte, to the outstanding food cooked by her husband, chef Frédéric Colin. Chef Frédéric – the former Executive Chef at the St Regis in Singapore has some impressive experience prior to that, mostly in France and across the world. And he brings all that together in this bustling brasserie in Tras Street in Singapore.

Brasserie Gavroche has been open just a few months and I am happily eating my way through their menu. So far every dish that has been ordered has been amazing. I’m combining my visits (so far) here in this one post, so please bear with the length, but I want to remember and savour each dish again. It doesn’t matter if you go for lunch or dinner, there is only one menu and everything competes with your brain and tastebuds crying out “choose me ! choose me !”. Making a decision is tough.

Bone marrow with garlic confit on Poilâne toast

Let’s begin with starters: bone marrow on Poilâne bread with garlic confit. Not for the faint-hearted – you get four generous globules of bone marrow with garlic on thin slices of the toasted bread, spread with a bright green parsley spread. The bone marrow simply melts in your mouth, balanced with the freshness of the parsley. All the flavours and textures combine wonderfully in your mouth.

If you fancied something fresh you could try the oysters from Brittany – shucked on premises and tasting of the sea. For something warm and comforting order the French onion soup.

In-house rotisserie French spring chicken with salsify fries

Main courses are equally as exciting. I rarely order chicken in restaurants – my only memory of that was when Chef Andre Chiang was still at Jaan and I ordered the Bresse chicken. The food at Gavroche is so good that I tried the house rotisserie of French spring chicken. French chicken seems to just have a different texture to what I’m used to – it’s slightly “springier” for want of a better word, and Gavroche uses a herb butter under the breast skin, flavouring the breast meat and keeping it moist. And although I don’t eat lamb, my Welsh friend could not stop saying it was the best lamb he’d had – ever. A chat with Chef Frédéric later and we found that the lamb was from Wales. The reason why it tasted better than the more easily accessible New Zealand lamb, was that Welsh lamb is no more than 12 months old, as compared to New Zealand lamb which can be up to 18 months old, keeping the flavour and texture more delicate.

Traditional French onion soup

My absolute favourite of Gavroche was Grandpa Henri’s fish quenelle with crayfish sauce. Almost souffle-like in texture, the light quenelles of fish float in a rich crayfish stock. Another excellent example of balance of flavours in this dish which makes you just want more.

The success of Gavroche, for me, is that only the best is selected – of their produce, their wine. There is no compromise – and the result is you get that true Parisien experience. Make a reservation if you want to go because this place seems to get busier and busier each time I go.

Brasserie Gavroche
66 Tras St
Singapore
Tel: 6225 8266