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Nested at Boat Quay, Absinthe is a comfortable and unassuming French restaurant. They serves an extensive selection of reasonably priced wines covering most of France and other countries as well. During out visit, we opt for the Set lunch menu ($40) which comes with a starters, mains and dessert.
The meal begins with an Assortment of Homemade Charcuterie. This was slightly salty to me, but my friends enjoyed it. For starters, we had the Australian King Prawn served with angel hair and ikura. The prawn was fresh and juicy. For mains, the Braised Kurobuta Pork Belly is served with sauteed button mushroom, savoy cabbage and polenta. The pork belly's texture is smooth, fatty and melts in the mouth. For dessert, the Menage a Trois is served. The trilogy of Valrhona Chocolate is definitely a sinful pleasure.
The place is slightly pricey but definitely worth visiting during the restaurant week.
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After climbing a long flight of stairs, we were lead to our seats on the second level, which had dark walls and contrasting white paintings illustrating the romance on French streets, complete with white pressed table cloth and plush velvet chairs. The space isn’t huge and tables are rather cramped together-you can hear your neighbor’s conversation clearly. If you prefer dining with a view, alfresco dining is available too.
Instead of Amuse Bouche, we started lunch with an Assortment of Homemade Charcuterie, gherkin and bread slices.
Australian King Prawn starter, complemented with al dente angel hair pasta and pops of ikura. The entree could have been better if the prawns were fresh.
Nesting on a bed of polenta, savoy cabbage and sauteed mushrooms, the Braised Kurobuta Pork Belly had a crispy exterior. While it did not melt in the mouth, the sufficiently tender meat had just the right amount of fat and bite. However, this dish fell slightly short as it was not as juicy as we would’ve liked.
Due to its low fat content, Halibut can easily become too dry when cooking. Absinthe’s Grilled Fillet of Halibut was skillfully prepared, retaining its moisture and mild sweet flavor. The lean fish was harmoniously complemented with zucchini ribbon, crushed potatoes and chorizo foam.
A play on textures, the Trilogy of Valrhona Chocolate consists of velvety chocolate mousse on chocolate sponge, adorned with a dark chocolate strip and crunchy chocolate bits. It may take you a few mouthfuls to fully investigate the delights of this treat. We love the fact that the chocolate isn’t overly sweet and its richness isn’t cloying in the throat.
After 2 weeks of restaurant week style dining, I would have cried if I saw another braised beef cheek, foie gras or warm chocolate cake. Thankfully, Absinthe served none of those. But the chef and staff at Absinthe did more than just save us from another mediocre meal. They rekindled our jaded hearts and reminded us of why we love eating at restaurants.
As a prelude, I believe it deserves mention that when I first tried to make a reservation for Restaurant Week (RW) at Absinthe, they were already fully booked. I called to badger general manager, Philippe to put me on the wait list and was advised to call again when RW made more tables available for booking. Unfortunately, that announcement came while I was away. To my surprise, upon my return, I found a RW confirmation for a Friday dinner at Absinthe and later found out that it was Philippe's doing.
There were many more pleasant surprises in store for us that Friday evening. Food was perfectly executed in French style, with just a slight nod to our Singaporean setting. The menu had no mention of it but, I found caviar in the scallop tartare and it gave the dish a wonderful touch of luxury. Kurobuta pork was served with a fennel salad which married well to cut through the rich pork. The pork skin was so nice and crispy that I reached across the table to fork my companion's unfinished fat off his plate. To my embarrassment, Chef Francois just happened to walk by. Wondering what was the commotion, he stopped to ask if the pork was "OK". I hope the above explanation vindicates me.
As with other RW restaurants, there was a choice of main. That night it was between duck breast and snapper. I was partial to the latter but the wife "chope" the fish first. I asked if the duck skin was going to be crispy (of course it should be crispy), and there was an ensuing confusion if I wanted my duck breast well done. In the end we decided that it was best left to the discretion of the chef. You can only make this decision in only so many restaurants, and Absinthe is one of them. The duck breast came meltingly tender, raw and almost blue but warmed through. And yes, the skin was crispy. Again, I reached over to finish my friend's unfinished duck skin, thankfully no staff saw so no need for awkward explanations this time. I can't say much about the fish, but my wife says it's very moist.
The sweet duck breasts are larger than normal which leads me to ask our waiter, Prasad where they are from. He is quick to admit that there are not from France (who cares as long as they are big and juicy). The ducks are from Malaysia, like him. In his home town of Kulai, the ducks are large and fatty which lends themselves very well to the Chinese kungfu style of the Peking duck, and as in this case, the French style too. Prasad makes good wine recommendations, works the cheese cart and also speaks mandarin.
His enthusiasm for his cheese cart is infectious and his very clever way of remembering the French name of cheeses (Forme D'ambert = phone number) is disarming and we intrepidly choose 3 unfamiliar cheeses without fear. If available, you must order the Vacherin Mont D'Or as it's production is tightly controlled and is only made in the winter months from September to April. It looks like a naked woman in a Renaissance painting and tastes even creamier. We also love the forme d'ambert and compared it to the roquefort. Prasad overhears our conversation and pounces on us with a complimentary serving of the roquefort. "Just so you can compare it with Forme D'ambert" he says with a smile.
Annoyingly, I'm sitting across this large leg of Iberico Jambon. We already had some (50g for $40) before the meal, but I keep watching Chef Francois and Philippe carve and weigh beautiful slices of the ham. I notice they put aside the fatty parts and I innocently enquire what they do with it. Philippe says they dump it. I must have had a horrified look on my face when I ask "but why?" because Philippe offers to tabao it for me if I like and I unbashedly accept.
We order more wine and port to go with our cheeses which is served with crackers, dried raisins, sultanas, apricots and more of the warm crusty bread. They ran out of the late bottled port ($15) so Philippe serves us the Quinta Do Vesuvio Vintage Port 2004 ($26) at the price at the late bottled port. The vintage is of course very smooth, and we make comments about how it is not as sweet as the usual Tawny we drink and how it has a more wine structure to us. This time, Philippe overhears us and comes along tableside. It is very dangerous to speak loudly in this restaurant. We have a jovial discussion with the man from Bordeaux about pairing wine with cheese and other after dinner drinks. He leaves us and then returns with 3 servings of Grand Banquero Pedro Ximenez Sherry. A very surprising sherry that made us as warm in our bellies as we were in our hearts.
We somehow manage to polish off the cheese course. At this point we are already stuffed and slightly inebriated, mind you we had not had dessert yet nor tried the house signature drink, the Absinthe. I ordered a Grand Marinier souffle with caramel ice cream on top of the blueberry creme brulee that came with the RW menu. The souffle arrived first. Light, fluffy and perfumed with the orange liquor it was pure harmony with the cold, salty and caramel ice cream. You would come here just for this. The creme brulee was scented with lemongrass and with more cream than the crunchy sugar topping, it didn't go well with the ladies. Definitely, no thanks to the cheese course. Still, this might have worked better if served in the traditional flat creme brulee ramekins. Perhaps, to cut the heaviness of the cream, Prasad arrived with 4 glasses of Floc De Gascogne, and despite the protests of drunkenness, we still manage to finish everything.
Through the evening the always full restaurant gets more rambunctious as the Absinthe bottle makes it rounds, but it never reaches our table (mental note: come back for Absinthe). The neighbouring table has ordered the cote de boeuf ($60 for 2 persons is incredible value) and I look at it longingly almost wishing I had that instead. Everyone else at my table declines the coffee and petit foie, but I have an expresso full of robusta goodness to wake me up just enough to get a taxi home. But that effort was not necessary as Prasad has already called a taxi for our table. We stumble out the restaurant smiling from ear to ear, bellies full and without my jambon fat. This only gives me a another fantastic reason to go back.
Just in case you were still wishing for, you know, that wonderful, friendly, feels like your good-friend's-place that served brilliant food for good value restaurant that you wish was in Singapore instead of Marais, Paris? Well it's here.
Service is very slow . Took long time to serve appetiser. and they gave us butter but not bread.
All food is avg. the wagyu beef does not taste like one. They change the chef thus past dishes are not on menu. Not worth the price.
It does take a lot for me to write a bad review, but my experience at Abinsthe left such a bad taste in my mouth that I needed to share this with more people
I did go on Valentine's day - so yes of course I expected it to be slightly chaotic, disorganised, etc.. but it was worse, far far worse
1. Upon arrival (and I arrived pretty late for 9pm dinner, not exactly rush hour) French speaking manager said wait here 5 mins and I will setup a table for you inside. 15 min later, nothing. So we just walked up to the terrace outside and said we'll sit here - no problem
2. Set meal vs A La Carte - asked for whether or not we can order off normal menu - waiter said yes, but then strongly suggested we go with set meal because the kitchen would take longer as the set meals were prepared beforehand
3. 2 courses were served wrongly and waiting time between courses was crazy - 30 min at one stage. Point in case - we arrived at 9pm and only finished dinner at 11:30pm
4. Quality of food - sub average not what I expect for someone who bills themselves as a fine dining restaurant. And very different from when they were in Bukit Pasoh
How I interpret this:
A) Profit hungry management puts on a set menu to make it easier on their kitchen to churn out food. But instead of staffing their regular kitchen staff they cut back on resources thereby slowing down service to a crawl - thereby keep costs down
B) Profit hungry management reaps more money because set means that you prepare certain ingredients and you force people to sit through 5 courses - thereby increasing profit
C) Management wonders why people don't go anymore or return and why business is worse
That's because you put profit before focusing on service and the food. Think about what made you successful before in Bukit Pasoh and focus on your quality and your service and the profit will come
My hubby took me here last night for my birthday and it was such a disappointment. The risotto starter was drenched in cheese so greasy you can't taste anything else. The baked black cod was bland and served with soggy vegetables in a tasteless watery lobster bisque. Which was once again served with a risotto swimming in greasy cheese neither of us could stomach. We were so fed up we didn't even bother ordering dessert and just paid for our overpriced dinner (for what it was) and left vowing never to go back. The waiter told us they've changed chef since last year and we're kicking ourselves for not going earlier before the place went dramatically downhill...