|Sebastian Lepinoy @ Les Amis|
In the hallowed world of haute dining, Les Amis is a name revered for many reasons.
Besides being a fine dining stalwart that has stood the test of time, 20 years to be precise, the French fine diner is the birthplace of many of the city’s finest chefs, sommeliers and restaurateurs (immediately Justin Quek, Gunther Hubrechsen and Ignatius Chan come to mind).
Over time, it has also spawned a series of F&B concepts locally and overseas, all parked in the stable of what is now called the Les Amis group. But its chandeliered flagship at Scotts Road, where a dinner with wines at one time commanded a king’s random (prices have been scaled down to more earthly levels of late), remains the group’s crown jewel.
In mid 2013, Sebastien Lepinoy was tasked to head up the Les Amis kitchen shortly after the closure of Cepage (Hong Kong), where the former executive chef of L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon (Hong Kong) held the reins for 3 years. We recall dining at L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon (Hong Kong) in year 2007, when the northwards-depilated chef commanded the kitchen with the keen eyes of a hawk. That austere air about Lepinoy still lingers, as does his clean-cut – almost monastic – disposition.
In the kitchen, Lepinoy’s approach is classical French with Japanese nuances, served table d’hote-style – Menu Découverte (S$160 for 8 courses) or Menu Épicurien (S$220 for 8 courses). There is also an a la carte menu made available upon request.
To begin, a solitary poached egg yolk – more dense than creamy -sandwiched between discs of Melba toast is topped with glistening Kristal caviar. The weighty yolk is not the perfect foil for the precious black pearls; and the creamy tongue of sea urchin on the side does not help to cut the richness either.
Thankfully, it gets better from here.
Briny pleasures from the same Kristal caviar sparkle on petals of crème fraiche-glazed Roseval potatoes artfully arranged with shiso flowers and petite squares of salmon.
Chunks of succulent Maine lobster mingle with a blend of chopped truffles and langoustine mousse, the parcel arriving enrobed in a layer of gorgeous-green steamed spinach leaf surrounded by fish bone sauce. Matched with ruby-red ikura pearls, it’s visually arresting and even more palate pleasing (think briny, creamy and savoury in a bite).
Lepinoy’s mushroom tart is a study in architectural restraint: a trio of mushrooms (French cep, Korean oyster and French girolle) is carefully strewed on a stubby tower of phyllo pastry blanketed with a mush of creamy mashed eggplant. There is beauty in how something so simple can taste so robust.
Macaroni en “gratin”, on the other hand, is not as straightforward as it sounds. An army of macaroni is topped with béchamel sauce, aged Comte, chopped truffle as well as bacon bits, and then caramelized from an encounter with the Salamander oven. Served with a sprinkle of chopped chives, it’s a deliciously busy dish where all the ingredients are sharing the plate in a harmony of umami.
The kitchen also has an equally winning way with mains.
Line-caught bone-in turbot fish from Brittany is pan-roasted, the stripped of its crust to reveal firm white flesh so moist and sweet that the escorting thick choron sauce seems completely unnecessary.
Grilled dry-aged Omi beef tenderloin blanketed with a cocktail of Djon mustard, butter, cream – with punctuations of extremely gentle tellecheri pepper – in veal jus is also crowd pleaser, more so when it’s served with buttery mashed potatoes.
But the rave is not without its reservation.
|Jean-Yves Bordier’s beurre|
At Les Amis, there are no canapés or amuse bouche to speak of. Immediately upon seating, you are presented with cones and rectangles of Jean-Yves Bordier’s beurre (unsalted, salted, smoked salted, seaweed and sweet chilli) arranged on a platter to go with your choice of breads. Nothing more.
Sans the luxury of snacks and all, a dinner at Les Amis can still be immensely satisfying. It’s not as elaborate as some of its peers but it’s not as pricey too. Plus, you get a French chef who’s trained with one of the world’s best in French gastronomy and who’s finally developing a distinctive style unique to himself.
1 Scotts Road, #02-14/16, Singapore 228 208 |+65- 6733 2225 | lesamis.com.sg
© Evelyn Chen 2013
Please note that the reviews published on this blog are sometimes hosted. I am under no obligation to review every restaurant I’ve visited. If I do, the reviews are 100% my own.