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Dempsey

sometimes, you just need to take a break.

guys, i was so tired after returning from italy, so jet lagged, and realizing that i had much admin stuff to settle, i decided to apply for an urgent one day leave to really rehabilitate. and… well… take the chance to go eat some nice food with my parents – in particular, nice food that is out of my price range during dinner times but manageable for set lunches.

i think au petit salut is a pretty well known, french fine-dining spot, occupying a prominent spot along harding road that’s slight off dempsey — you can’t miss it when you travel down from holland road to orchard road as its this handsome, stately building. that being said, it’s not exactly that easily accessible as you have to make some sort of detour and enter from a side road, passing through golf courses and a beautiful, well-preserved old style church building.

ambience wise, au petit salut has this laid back colonial charm. we were seated outside at the verandah which was hmm.. tad warm considering that our table was placed at a spot where the roof was not exactly completely covered and the blazing sun rays seared inwards making my mom somewhat uncomfortable. service was pretty good otherwise, with good recommendations, polite and attentive servers and fast service.

let’s get to the food.

we ordered the set lunches. there’s two types of set lunch, the $35 one is the cheaper one with more selections whilst the $48 one is a executive set lunch that presumably contains the best dishes (foie gras, lobster ravioli etc..). we settled for the $35 one since it looked pretty decent itself.

my appetizer was homemade duck rilettes served with petit salad and toast (see picture above). the rilettes (meat that is cubed or chopped, salted heavily and cooked slowly in fat until tender enough to be easily shredded) was tasty and went well with the toast, which was fresh and crispy. i mean, its your quintessential authentic french cuisine recipe executed well — the flavors are great and tasty, but they’re a little tried and tested and lack the innovation that gives it a certain oomph. hmm.. i might be making a blasphemous statement here, but perhaps the dish could have that added pizzazz if some form of sweetness could have been incorporated into the dish? (say maybe changing the toast to a brioche?)

pan seared Onglet beef served with shallot confit, pommes frittes

so thanks to wikipedia, i found that Onglet, otherwise known as hanger steak, is a cut of beef steak prized for its flavor (but apparently not particularly tender). its kinda smallish compared to normal cuts of steak, and pardon my ignorance, but i didn’t feel that this cut was particularly flavorful or tasty. it was definitely good, and the shallot confit paired well, but it was a little too expected. pommes frittes were executed perfectly – crunchy, shoe-string style crispy and delicious. i’m not really impressed honestly.

soya cheesecake, jasmine tea sorbet and green tea sauce

yay for creativity once again! french desserts rarely disappoint (as compared to italian ones) and this was no exception. this dessert won my mom’s approval for being both utterly delicious and yet obviously healthy. the winner was the jasmine tea sorbet which was light, with faint whiffs of jasmine tea and very refreshing. the soya cheesecake was very light but still held its own because the the jasmine tea sorbet and the green tea sauce were similarly light on the palette and overall the dessert was refreshing, light and yet very yummy.

so.. all in all? if you’re searching for typical, authentic french fare, then au petit salut is your place. you get delicious french cuisine at a cheap price (if you choose set lunches) that is of an unparalleled standard. however, innovation and exciting new flavors is what this place seems to lack, except perhaps on the dessert front. perhaps its only the case for set lunches, im not too sure, but i would rather head to st pierre for a set lunch because it has really unique flavors served even during set lunches. and yeah, they serve a whole range of petit fours and amuse bouche, whereas au petit salut only gave fresh bread (which is nice also lah). 7.75/10

au petit salut | 40C Harding Road, Tanglin Village (Dempsey Road) | french, fine dining, set lunches, desserts               

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lifestyle of the rich and faymous

so i had decided to take leave the past weekend to head down to hong kong to meet friends and eat a whole load of hong kong delicacies but quickly found that plan to be untenable due to my hectic work schedule in the upcoming weeks (read: i’m travelling overseas tonight.) as such, the HK trip plan was abandoned, but that left me and my friend with one free day on friday to while away. and we chose to do it the atas way, whiling away time at dempsey’s house, barracks and camp for lunch among the tai-tais and other glitterati, i kid you not.

the thing about establishments at dempsey is that their very surroundings conjures a certain relaxed colonial charm and sense of comfortable luxury. indeed, the whimsical contemporary decor (you had an oversized table placed over the actual dining table) amid the lush surroundings made for a really comfortable and enjoyable lunch location. ambience wise, the location, decor and clientele worked together to create a sense of a expensive, rustic retreat.

service-wise, im satisfied with this place. i’ve heard of pretty bad reviews from HGW regarding service, but perhaps that was due to the taxing demands of an oversubscribed brunch crowd. the service to us was sufficiently attentive and polite, and not at all intrusive/overly-enthusiastic to clear your plates type. let’s get to the food.

truffle fries, $11

the aroma of the truffle oil is indeed inviting, and the oil does wonders to enhance the flavor profile of the shoe-string fries. nice stuff. not too oily, with sufficient flavor from the truffle oil to even pass off as an appetizer without the need for any dips.

squid ink crust pizza, $25

interesting selection that turned out good because of the generous amounts of fresh seafood littered on top of the squid ink crust. to be honest, i didn’t really taste much of the squid ink within the crust because the crust was paper thin and crispy but it formed quite a nice carbs base for all the delicious fresh seafood. furthermore, such a pizza felt light and not at all jelak. good stuff.

macadamia crusted pumpkin salad, $16

oh this one’s good. the combination of flavors from the sweet pumpkin and macadamia along with the semi-salty/bitter (tbh, what exactly is the taste of veggies??) taste of the greens paired well to give a balanced and refreshing salad dish. the pumpkin was baked just right, not too flaky and dry but with a certain level of crispiness. this is a good, creative dish.

warm banana salted caramel cake, $7

again, a nice combination of flavors from seemingly simple ingredients. i mean, the cake base is a simple sponge cake with coffee accents then infused with salted caramel in the middle, topped with glazed bananas and sprinkled with popcorns. this worked, because the somewhat similar sweet flavors from the glazed bananas to the salted caramel meshed well with the coffee sponge cake base and there was a sense of an evolution of flavor. i think its a worthwhile idea to try and create at one’s own home!

i think overall, i really enjoyed barracks cafe also because i was in no hurry, and the glorious day just laid out in front of me. furthermore, with good conversation and such relaxed surroundings, one can hardly find fault with this place. might venture here for brunch one day. 8/10

house, barracks and camp |  8D Dempsey Road, #01-01 to 06 Tanglin Village  | contemporary, western, desserts

[interior of cafe hacienda – nice ambiance there]

Cafe Hacienda, 13A dempsey road

went to cafe hacienda for dinner based on deborah’s cool photos on facebook and had a really pleasant time chillin’ in this cool, understated but nonetheless stylish environment with soft girl-pop music playing behind the scenes. methinks this is quite the girly hangout. -_- service was pretty decent, youngish but enthusiastic.

[chilli crabmeat fusilli, $22]

eh.. i didnt really find this that fantastic, maybe because Italy has really upped my expectations of pasta to be skyhigh. i couldnt really taste the crabmeat, truth be told, but on the whole the pasta was tasty, hearty (since it is tomato-based) and wholesome. just that, with that pricepoint, i expected a bit more of a nuanced taste.

[parpadelle pesto, $16]

good tasting pasta that has a good combination of basil, pine nuts, pesto sauce and mozarella and is a good vegetarian option. i liked the balanced flavors in this.

[stick date pudding with vanilla ice cream, walnuts and butterscotch sauce, $10]

good stuff. you would have expected the butterscotch to send the dessert into jelak, oversweet territory but this was surprisingly just right in terms of sweet levels and the mix of vanilla, butterscotch and pudding was really good. walnuts added the needed texture to complete this dessert.

i think overall this place works more because of its nice ambience, where one can while time away in the cosy confines, having some nice coffee or such, but doesnt really impress on the food front, at least for dinner. 6/10