The Michelin Guide in Asia is a real mixed bag. Aside from things like the $2 Michelin star hawker stall and a range of Bib Gourmands in Singapore food centres, there’s a perception of some of the awards at the starrier end being rather misplaced.
This was backed up entirely by my experience in Seoul’s Pierre Gagnaire at the Lotte Hotel. Previously awarded two stars, I visited after it has been closed for extensive refurbishment and found a spiritless restaurant not operating anywhere near that standard. Perhaps the refurb signals a change of direction but the pricing didn’t suggest so.
It was with a degree of trepidation that I booked a couple of Singapore’s two star places with the first of these being Les Amis. I headed along to Shaw House, just off Orchard Road, and crossed the threshold of a very stylish and elegant dining room.
I was warmly greeted by the first of a battalion of team members. Front of house service was absolutely exemplary throughout – warm, personable and quite the best service I’ve experienced in all of my restaurant days.
Much in the same way as at Restaurant Tim Raue, the whole atmosphere of the place was carefully considered to make you have the best experience possible. How was this done? Well, my main waiter called me Mr Robertson throughout; when I showed interest in the wine producers, the sommelier gave me excellent detail on each glass, including insightful personal reflections; the chap in charge of the bread trolley (of which more later) checked back with recommendations for good choices to mop up sauces or offer good flavour matches; and as a solo diner they left me a book to read during my meal and made sure I took it with me at the end, as they thought it would prove handy for me. It was 2018 Les Grandes Tables du Monde Guide, in which Les Amis features, of course. It will indeed come in very handy.
But let’s get to the food. Upon arrival, the menus were brought along with outstandingly light puffball gougeres topped with aged comté. I added a glass of their “lightest” Champagne to aid my consideration of what I might eat.
While I considered, the bread trolley made its first appearance. A cheese wagon is a pretty regular item in Michelin places but never have I ever seen an equivalent vehicle equipped solely with bread in a range of different styles. It brought great theatre and all the bread I sampled – elegant brioche twirls, mini baguettes and sourdough – was excellent.
Apparently chef Sebastien Lepinoy had to send his CV to the producer to prove his credentials before he was allowed to get his hands on the unpasteurised butter from Brittany served to accompany the bread. It was an endeavour worth the effort for supremely creamy stuff, served both salted and unsalted.
We then had two amuse bouches featuring tomatoes. First was a tomato tarte tatin riff then a twist on gazpacho served foamy on top with a cucumber gel in the depths, accompanied by a basil bread bite. Both were excellent extracting the last molecule of goodness from the tomatoes.
The first course proper had flair from a glass cloche and platform plate showing a brik pastry cyclinder filled with crab topped with caviar. It was fresh and delicious.
Next we had a delicate ball of lobster mousse wrapped in baby spinach, topped with salmon roe and served in a fish bone sauce. It was classic cooking of the highest order with the lobster beautifully sweet.
The seabass to follow showed real presentational flair with discs of oyster mushroom topping the fillet in the style of scales. I was accomapanied by a garland of mussels and a good mussel sauce which I mopped up with sourdough.
The main was a veal thymus gland served in its own jus with side dishes of mushroom-topped mash and orange carrots. It was one of the richest dishes I’ve ever encountered and was profoundly satisfying. The floral red wine pairing really came into its own to balance the richness, particularly of the buttery mash.
The pre-dessert was a classic religieuse au cafe with excellent pastry and a good coffee hit.
The elegant dessert was an apricot tarte topped with a sugarball-encased almond ice-cream. It was quite fresh and savoury but beautifully balanced with the apricot sweetness. It worked very well with the paired sauterne.
Coffee was accompanied by premium quality petit fours, with the little raspberry tarte a blindingly good end to a fantastic meal.
So overall, Les Amis was up there with the best meals I’ve ever been served. As you will see from below, it was not cheap but it felt worth every penny, particularly given how good the service was. It was a joy from beginning to end and one worth saving up for to give yourself a considerable treat.
Blythe scores Les Amis
5/5 for food
5/5 for presentation
4.5/5 for setting
5/5 for service
giving an overall 19.5/20
I ate: gougeres with aged comte, tomato tarte tatin, gazpacho twist, classic tasting menu ($215)
I drank: paired wines ($120), Champagne, sparkly water, coffee
I wore: linens
Total bill: S$456.60
Address: 1 Scotts Road, #01-16 Shaw Centre, Singapore 228208