Amongst the proliferation of hipster restaurants in the gentrified Keong Siak area, Nicolas Le Restaurant, the eponymous restaurant of celebrated chef Nicolas Joanny, is an underrated gem. The hole-in-the-wall restaurant is perhaps one of the longest surviving restaurants on the block, and that's no mean feat, considering the brutal fickleness of the Singaporean palate.
The restaurant is swanky but homey and inviting, just like its elegant but unpretentious fare. You get the frills; white tablecloths, beautiful china, suited-up wait staff and valet service, sans the stuffy stodginess typical of a French restaurant like this. True to form, there's no dress code here either, and you can actually walk in with your berms and sandals.
Chef Nicolas runs a skeleton crew in the kitchen, (which may explain the
spotty spacing between the courses) but he occasionally hops out to
join the service crew, which I find to be a really personal touch.
Sketchy lapses aside, I liked the service, which was warm and intimate. I'd met the reserved, unassuming chef at ToTT's launch
of its first-ever published cookbook more than 2 years ago, so I was
very surprised that the chef actually remembered little ol' me.
It is clear, from the seasonal tasting menu (which is switched up every fortnight and now at no. 195 - that's how many iterations Nicolas Le Restaurant has had!), the influence of chef Nicolas' lengthy sojourns in Japan and Spain. Jamon is heavily featured, and the copious use of Japanese ingredients lends an Asian accessibility to the French refinement.
The first course of the 6-Course Tasting Menu ($98) was a Terrine of Duck, Pistachio & Foie Gras, smooth as silk and spruced up with a dusting of paprika, drizzle of olive oil, and thin bread crisp.
The succulent Hokkaido Scallop was seared to a gorgeously caramelized golden, and dunked with a chorizo sliver in a sweet asari clam bouillon infused with Iranian saffron, and a crunchy feuille de brick strip.
The New Zealand Langoustine, fat and juicy, was slathered with a piquant vine tomato cream, and topped with a jamon slice and cheesy fromage frais biscuit.
Up next was a Traditional Provencal Ravioli, stuffed with a velvety foie gras, and swimming in an earthy mushroom bouillon, was paired with a meaty grilled iberico pluma pork.
There were 5 options for mains, and our favourite was the Tasmanian Pasture Rack of Lamb, flavoured with a punchy ras el hanout spice, and sided by a chunkily textured lamb sausage.
The sumptuous Iberico Presa Pig , blanketed in a rose wine sauce and luxed up with a rich beurre blanc, came a close second.
The full-bodied Aged Angus Beef Tenderloin ($12 supplement) was contrasted with a sweetly tart balsamic reduction, and robust jus.
There was also a brittany pigeon, but I've since discovered that I'm really no fan of the gamey bird. In any event, I much prefer the confit wing over the sous vide breast.
For dessert, the Three Sweet Tasting, comprising a fruit tart, nougat, banana fritter and yuzu-tinged ice-cream, was wonderfully balanced.
The finisher was a platter of homemade chocolate truffles.
The Bread Basket was simplicity at its finest; freshly baked crusty bread paired with sublime French butter and olive oil. It was so good we had third helpings!
The platter of chorizo, duck rilettes and terrines were excellent when spread on the bread.
A fine cup of latte rounding off the dinner proved effective in keeping the zzz-monster at bay.
Nicolas Le Restaurant
10 Teck Lim Road
Open for lunch Tuesdays to Fridays from 12noon to 2pm;
Dinner Tuesdays to Saturdays from 6.30pm to 10pm
Closed Sundays and Mondays