Not all French fine dining is pretentious—head to Absinthe for honest-to-goodness fare.
A seafood bar on the ground level of the 1930s shophouse at Boat Quay introduces diners to the deft movements of Chef Francois Mermilliod as he goes about preparing our entrees with a finesse—Wild Oysters ($6.60/piece) served with fresh lemon and three other dressings.
We were there for a lunch media tasting one day, almost two years after it shifted from its previous location at Bukit Pasoh. Headed by Chef Francois and general manager Vincent Jaureguiberry, the restaurant is known for its classic French dishes, albeit with a dash of Mediterranean influence here and there.
The next entrée was the Légine de L’Antarctique (Carpaccio of Antarctic Toothfish with Pear, Pomegranate, Pomelo and Yuzu Dressing ($27), which features a burst of jewel-like colors atop a dark grey slate—almost too pretty to eat, but we were glad we did; the toothfish has a milky, chewy taste akin to swordfish, balanced beautifully by the citrus drizzle.
With the palate primed and prepped, we adjourned to one of the dining rooms on level two, where the décor pays homage to the green spirit after which it is named, with soothing pastel green couches, bare brickwork, dark wood panels and chic industrial-looking lightbulbs. Occupying two adjoining colonial-era shophouses over three floors, there is no shortage of space, with differently themed private rooms and dining halls.
A three-course Lunch Set ($38) offers good value with a selection of five dishes each under the entrées, mains and desserts, while the seven-course Degustation Menu ($108) is available for order at lunch and dinner. Both are updated every three months.
Our ala carte tasting menu started with the Saint Jacques (Seared Hokkaido Scallops with Green Apple and Vanilla Beurre Blanc) ($27) jazzed up with tangy green apple slices, which provided a good contrast against the white butter sauce and the light scallop flavour.
The Foie Gras Terrine Layered with Smoked Duck Breast, Warm Brioche and Beetroot Confit ($30) is definitely a highlight, being sweet, savory, creamy and flavorful. The Canard (French Duck Leg Confit, Sarladaise Potatoes, Mushrooms and Madiran Wine Sauce) ($42) is equally well-executed, as befitting any establishment that prides itself on classic French fare with no pretensions. Alternatively, diners can opt for the stuffed Loin of Rabbits ($48), Wagyu Rib of Beef ($188 for 2) or Whole Boston Lobster ($62) from the main course.
Our lunch tasting ended with freshly baked-to-order Madeleines ($15) served with Valrhona chocolate mousse. Madeleines typically are nothing to shout about really, but the ones here—let’s just say it made me forget about the deadlines back at my cubicle for a while. As I bit into a bronzed, crisp nugget, the sweet, outer crust gives way to soft vanilla sponge on the inside, every bite full of flavor and texture.
Other choices on the dessert menu include the more exciting fondants, crème brulee and cheese trolleys. But we’re still glad we had the madeleines.
71/ 72 Boat Quay,
Tel: 6222 9068