Back to Les Amis – still a bastion of Singapore fine dining
For our final foray in this most recent Singapore sojourn, we decided to treat ourselves to lunch at Les Amis. This extraordinary restaurant has been operating since 1994 at the back of the Shaw Centre on the corner of Orchard and Scotts Roads.
For a long time, it was a shining beacon of gastronomy. In more recent years the owners have developed a range of eateries and bars in this strip, a narrow street leading up to the Claymore Hill area of Singapore.
In the 2017 list of Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants, announced mid-February, Les Amis was ranked a very respectable 16. Heading up the kitchen is Joel Robuchon protege Sebastien Lepinoy, who has been there for quite a few years now. He serves elegant French food with a few twists and keeps packing in the clientele at lunch and dinner.
Oddly, Greedy Girl and gluttonous husband have never been to Les Amis for dinner but we’ve enjoyed some stellar lunches over the years. This was no exception.
The dining room here is a long narrow space at street level, plus a mezzanine. The restrooms and kitchen are in the basement; when you visit the former be sure to bow your head. Gluttonous husband didn’t have any clearance room at all.
The interior hasn’t changed in all the years that we’ve been dining here. Comfy upholstered chairs, starched white linen, knowledgeable staff who are passionate about the food. It all adds up to a splendid way of whiling away a few hours.
Tasting menus are available at lunch and dinner and we were momentarily attracted by a black truffle themed special degustation. But we needed to keep ourselves reasonably nice, having only a relatively short time before we headed for the airport and a seven-hour flight home. We opted instead to choose four courses from another special menu, which was very fairly priced at S$98++. Greedy Girl asked for a glass of champagne, which turned out to be a delicious Delamotte blanc de blancs and gluttonous husband treated himself to a Bloody Mary. He enjoyed it; which was all good because the cocktail proved to be more expensive than the glass of champagne which we certainly didn’t expect. Ah well, c’est la vie …
First up were some treats. Delicious little savoury pastries, plus three amuse bouches on a separate platter. They were a Mediterranean vegetable tart with bacon and olive oil pearls, sardine on toast with chives and a dried beef and cheese baton. All were hoovered up and pronounced excellent.
This was followed by a vivid lobster soup, featuring big chunks of the meat, celery oil and a black truffle custard underneath. Again, very yummy, although we both commented we weren’t getting a huge flavour hit from the truffle.
And so we moved to the menu proper. Greedy Girl started with the pate en croute. This was a terrine studded with slices of duck foie gras, pistachio and black truffle, encased in pastry, served with a splodge of hollandaise sauce on the side. It was delightful. Served with a small side salad, the dressing and crunch of the leaves was very welcome after the richness of this.
Gluttonous husband took ‘le crab en frivolite’ – crab prepared au court-bouillon (in a flavoured poaching liquid) served with a roll of feuille de brick (the pastry) and caviar. It was possibly the prettiest crab dish we’d ever seen, plated with precision. It was a triumph. Light, fresh with a little salty pop from the caviar. Excellent.
Our hot ‘entree’ was next. Greedy Girl took the ‘Erquy’ scallop and caviar served in a juicy clam and scallion sauce. It was topped with a couple of fine slices of black truffle. The scallop was cooked to perfection. The truffle, while luxurious to have, again didn’t impart a lot of flavour. The biggest wow here though was the sauce – every last skerrick was mopped up with bread.
Gluttonous husband spied a combination he was particularly eager to try – seared duck foie gras with French river eel, a citrus fruit compote and dashi. The foie gras was sublime, served with a very yummy sesame seed crust, and while gluttonous husband enjoyed the eel with it, Greedy Girl felt it was too strong. Still, it all went down the hatch.
We decided to take a half-bottle of champagne to accompany the rest of our meal, choosing a Bruno Paillard premiere cuvee. We were very happy with it. Champagne is generally a very good option to take you through a variety of ingredients.
It was time for the mains. Greedy Girl took pork – a charcoal grilled Mangalica pork loin with whipped potato puree and slow-cooked carrots with cumin. It was, again, a very attractive plate. The carrots were arranged as a retaining wall containing the soft buttery puree. A slight downside – the pork was a bit tough.
Gluttonous husband took a dish that isn’t terribly common on menus, pheasant. This was served on a bed of fronds; the waiter opined that this was the bird hiding in its natural habitat. Sadly, our little feathered friend didn’t manage to hide all that well – he’d been diced up inside a pastry case with duck foie gras and a divine jus (pictured at the top of this post). Gluttonous husband loved it – while Greedy Girl enjoyed a taste but found it rather rich.
And so we moved on to desserts. Greedy Girl took the signature Grand Marnier souffle, while gluttonous husband enjoyed a selection of cheeses – he left the choice up to the wait staff apart from requesting a good blue. The souffle was nice although didn’t have the sweet hit Greedy Girl expected.
Draining the last of our champagne, we prepared to depart but, of course, not without the customary petits-fours – these were canele de Bordeaux and whipped chestnut pastries.
Done. We headed into the warm afternoon and a short wait before heading for our flight home.
There’s a very solid reason Les Amis has survived in Singapore when a host of great establishments have come and gone – it knows what it’s about and executes exceedingly well. The lunch special is also great value fine dining.
1 Scotts Road (at the back of the Shaw Centre in the side street)