so after my disappointment in not being able to secure a table at absinthe during restaurant week, i decided to just screw it and head down there with my folks on our own account and try to food. apparently there was this OUB chef’s creation promotion with a 4 course dinner going for $64 per pax. it’s not exactly cheap, but its within an acceptable range depending on the food i suppose.
so absinthe is located along a kinda shabby portion of chinatown, along bukit pasoh street that has seen an injection of new life with swankified restaurants and refurbished hotels taking over old shophouses and sharing the same road with authentic chinese clan houses. this mix of traditional and noveau riche style is really quite something, and its obviously successful, judging by the many beautiful sleek cars parked by the roadside and just the general crowd within the restuarants. absinthe is right at the corner, and with an unpretentious storefront, it is easy to miss it.
once you step into the restaurant, you feel like you have walked into say a mid/high end east village french restaurant – the furnishings aren’t opulent nor as polished as that of say St Pierre, but there is a definite sense of luxury and french flair within. likewise, the service of the maitre de is topnotch, though my sis did complain that she couldn’t understand his french accent. lol. interestingly, patrons are given a glimpse into the bustling of the restaurant via a long horizontal window that well.. kinda diminished the illusion of transporting you away from singapore.. ah well.. i spied chef francois mermilliod bustling round the kitchen and he actually came out to serve patrons and recommend dishes in a warm, friendly and humble manner. i think that was really a cool gesture for someone of his stature. good job. ok let’s get to the food:-
our appetizer was this crab cake within a toasted brioche-like pastry paired with some garden greens, thai sweet sauce and melon candy at the side (see picture above). the crab cake was every bit the refreshing and went really well with the sweet sauce and garden greens to create this refreshing feel on your palette. i noticed that the pastry that contained the ingredients was shaped like that of a crab, which added a creative and playful nuance to the dish. however, methinks it was slightly difficult to break apart and made for not a very easy eating experience with me trying to taste all the flavors together. but overall, besides that mild inconvenience, the dish was fresh, tasty and a perfect way to start of the meal.
lol. i shall not pretend i know the cheese, but the combination of dipping the bread into the warm soup to let the cheese just slightly melt and soak up the onion soup was a stroke of genius and tasted really good. wished there was more such bread =(. found the soup otherwise nicely balanced but hmm.. somewhat not exactly out of this world. methinks soups always taste better was slurped down on a cold winter’s day.
the highlight of the night. the beef cheeks were absolutely tender and melted in your mouth upon eating. but what really made it work was the mixing of the beef cheek with pommery mustard (you must get this mustard when they ask which mustard you want) and a dollop of mashed potato. the mix of flavors is really heavenly, with the meatiness blending with the smooth mashed potato and the tangy, unique flavor of the pommery mustard. i googled pommery mustard and found a website hailing it to be truly a historic gem in the culinary world and otherwise known as moutarde de meaux. someone who is making a trip to france, please buy it for me! i savored this dish for a full half an hour or so, having every portion slowly invigorate my tastebuds. =) we paired this with a 2010 canet vallete antonyme saint-chinian, a red wine that reminded me somewhat of beaujolais as it was fruity, smooth and easy to drink.
to be honest, i didn’t get the name of the dessert when the maitre de tried to explain it to me. he explained it was a traditional french dessert that resembled that of the mille feuille but with the creme substituted with apple-creme. hmm, judging by what actually came out, i guess i heard wrongly as well. lol. what i got was a caramelized apple slices paired with vanilla creme (bottom tier) and apple creme (top tier) separated by a hard hazlenut (i think) pastry. its.. interesting, but i think it lacked the oomph i expect with french desserts. the creme layers were really good but i didn’t get the combination of the flavors. hmm it was a pity.
overall, a nice french restaurant with a few culinary tricks up its proverbial sleeves. we noted that the restaurant was completely packed on a friday night with everyone pretty much dressed to the nines which must say something about its appeal. i found the ambience to be pleasant, service was really good, and the food to be overall pretty good. of course.. with what we paid.. hmm, i conclude that this place will work wonders if you are willing to splurge on it, because the inherent creativity of the chef can be found within the dishes. so head there if you have the cash and want some innovative culinary journey eh? 7.5/10
and sadly i didn’t ask whether they served absinthe. though i spied a few bottles on display. hee
absinthe | 48 Bukit Pasoh Road | french, fine dining, creative, contemporary