before we start – les amis has long been the stronghold of bankers and businessmen, and all the suited-like. the place has a reputation for consistency and assured service – and rather surprisingly value-for-money lunch sets (with options to go much more expensive, of course). it’s an institution in this genre of fine cooking – and lord only knows why it took me so long to get here.
but now that I’ve been – it lives up to its reputation of pleasant fine dining without being particularly outstanding (I hear it’s pretty consistent in this regard) – and if you can look past the intimidatingly quiet space filled with suits and sparsely laid out tables, you’ll get a decent (and more, perhaps) meal at this bastion of the local fine-dining scene.
I have instituted a tradition of doing a big lunch on my birthday every year – and this meal celebrated my first quarter-century. I eat with higher expectations than normal – primarily because it’s a celebration – so everything matters: service, food, and ambiance (especially since I relax the usual additional clause of price).
and did les amis pass? pretty much – though it certainly didn’t beat my previous year at jaan. the food is decently – and might I say, perhaps technically – perfect, but there was nothing particularly surprisingly or wow-ing; service is efficient if a little intrusive, since they belong to that class where waiters are aloof and almost slightly standoff-ish (how they manouevre around my photo-shooting also tells me a little of their skill); and the restaurant is lovely, if a little too cold (feel rather than absolute temperature) to be celebratory.
I expect this plays up to their clientele – who might be there for their version of a quick lunch and want to be left alone, or are there to intimidate/ impress, and for whom food is rather a means than an end (even if their means garner a higher standard than most).
we took their lowest-priced lunch set to see what it brought us – with the supplement that came with our dish of scallops.
the bread basket arrives with an array of carbs that brought variety rather than any particularly impressive taste – the sugared orange brioche was best. this was followed by a foie gras mousse-type with mackerel and my garlic-spicy gazpacho – small portions but well judged so, for it tempered the strong flavours (and richness of the foie gras). oh, and our amuse bouche was a deviled egg livened up by plump ikura – perhaps the most surprising dish (though still a deviled egg).
two scallops in their shells made up the best part of the meal – seared lovely and topped with soft chopped mushrooms and a lovely jus – and were definitely worth the extra.
and our mains of a shrimp-topped pasta and seared beef continued the theme of good-but-not-special – it’s all decently done, as the photos show very well, but we still waiting for the oomph (so ephemerally delivered by the scallop course).
dessert was a play on mangos – a shortbread base topped with ripe cubes and puree, as well as a thick mango lassi topped with pistachios. pretty good – but there was such a savoriness about the tart that completely defied its status as dessert (and made me have an ice cream later for my sweet tooth).
and to finish it all, we were brought a complimentary dish of madeleines and lemon curd – utterly delicious. buttery, crusty, and soft with fine crumbs, these are spectacular specimens of the french confectionary.
this is a tempered review if nothing else – I would certainly return, though most likely only if I weren’t paying – because I like my food (especially when expensive) to be spectacularly good, or at least interesting. but it well deserves its status as bastion of fine-dining traditions in our tiny country – and would serve your purposes best (if you find them aligned to those of busy businessmen).
#02-16 Shaw Centre
1 Scotts Road
tel +65 6733 2225
$$$$: 100 (onward) per person
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