Friday, March 23, 2007

My Kind of Extra-Value Meal

It's ironic that although I've been more of an eastie, my place of work (camp and now campus) seems to be drifting me off to the West. Even still, I feel that the East has more charm, and better food places. But I have to concede that places like Holland Village, Chip Bee Gardens and, not too recently, One Rochester are thriving and injecting a positive energy boost in the West.

That energy attracted me to travel all the way from the East for a weekday lunch with my parents. I rarely give up a rare chance of eating a weekday lunch out especially when there's no school that day. And we decided on Au Petit Salut.

Au Petit Salut is a French restaurant which is very popular for their set lunches. Diners get to choose either a Set Lunch ($22) or an Executive Set Lunch($38), both of which comprises an entree, a main course and a dessert. The main difference is that the Executive Set Lunch has 'pricier' items like Lobster Bisque with Lobster Ravioli, Red Wine Braised Beef Cheeks and a deliciously-sounding Warm Melted 70% Chocolate Cake with Dark Chocolate Sorbet and Redcurrant Jam.

But the Set Lunch offers more choices and varieties. While we were thinking of what to order, a waitress brought a basket of warm bread and butter to the table. Water was also poured into wine glasses. That definitely made a good start to the meal and a positive sign that service here was way above average.

Dad surprised me by picking the Mixed Green Salad with Fresh Herbs in a Walnut Dressing for his entree. Not that he doesn't like his greens but just that he generally prefers them cooked and in an oriental style. The mesclun leaves tossed in a walnut oil dressing was delicately light yet at the same time full of flavour. Large pieces of walnuts provided a crunchy counterpoint.

Mum had the Half Dozen Baked Burgundy Snails with Tomato and Garlic Butter which was well executed. The shelled snails were cooked in chopped tomato, minced garlic and butter. The butter imparted a savoury salty taste which was balanced with the tart and sweet tomato and the fragrant garlic. Again, while I'm no hardcore fan of shellfish or snails for that matter, this could change my preference in due time.

For myself, I chose the Home-Cured Salmon served with Couscous Semolina, Humus and Rocket Salad. It sounded interesting enough for me to pick it. Three thick slabs of salmon were cured (as in tasted like smoked salmon) and plated on a bed of couscous. A small handful of rocket set atop the salmon and a few swirls of humus encircled around the sides. The fish tasted relatively bland though firm and juicy. The couscous had a really fresh, herby taste that was uplifting. And the humus, with its assertive dose of cumin and spices added another dimension. I felt that all this worked beautifully together to produce an entree that whetted my appetite.

For his main course, Dad had the Crispy Duck Confit with Mashed Potatoes and Green Salad. What? Another serving of salad for Dad? Maybe the Health Promotion Board's efforts have not gone to waste after all.

I tried a piece and wondered which aspect of it was crispy. It was a tad dry and generously salted but through that a pleasant gamey taste made it nice. In fact the saltiness seemed to enhance the taste. I like the mashed potatoes too, with their small chunky bits.

Mum went with the Pan-Seared "Onglet" Beef served with Confit Shallots and French Fries (this is a French restaurant, no?). The tasty pieces of beef were not as tender as expected but this slight resistance to the teeth provided a pretty enjoyable texture and chewiness. The beef had an intense, almost concentrated taste. A pity the french fries were disappointing.

My main course of Seafood Risotto with Scallops, Prawns and Clams fared well. The creamy risotto had flavours of seafood and the rice grains were bound by butter and cheese. Quite a lethal combination. Though small in size, the scallops and prawns tasted fresh. Thankfully, the rocket leaves did help to cut the richness of this dish.

Desserts came after all three finished our main courses. Dad being old-fashioned nostalgic, decided on the "Banana Split" Coffee Ice Cream, Chocolate Sauce, whipped Cream and Hazelnuts. It certainly did not look like the banana split I had in mind. I found it pretty ordinary but the few whole pieces of hazelnuts were a plus point.

The "Petit Pot Au Chocolat" 72% Dark Chocolate Ganache with Whipped Cream went to Mum and what a sinfully rich dessert it was. The ganache was thick and smooth, dark and rich. The whipped cream softened the chocolate's bitter edges nicely and the chopped pistachios and crunchy chocolate balls added, for a lack of a better word, crunch.

I opted for the Passion Fruit Souffle which turned out to be like one of those Chinese steamed egg custard (minus the pork) which had a sourish tinge that was countered by the icing sugar sprinkled over the dessert. The light passion fruit taste was not over-whelming but was instead pleasant.

All in all, I really think the Set Lunches here at Au Petit Salut are really valued-for-money. Though it seems like essentially a 3-course meal, consider the basket of bread and either coffee or tea thrown in and it works up to a bit more. Don't expect refined French haute cuisine here, you're not going to get any. Instead, the charm of Au Petit Salut lies in their hearty Southern French cooking which has more of a rustic, countryside warmth.

I have to highlight and compliment the excellent service here. Water was consistently topped up and the cheerful staff appeared knowledgeable with regards to the food served here. Recommendations were made when it seemed difficult to choose which dish to select. Efficient but yet remaining unintrusive, the service is one of the best I've experienced around. While the restaurant exudes elegance and understated classiness, it certainly is not one of those chi-chi places that makes me uncomfortable with an air of fake superiority and pretence.

Suddenly the West doesn't seem that bad.

Au Petit Salut
Blk 44 #01-54
Jalan Merah Saga
Tel: 6475 1976 (Reservations recommended)

Chew On This: The chef behind Au Petit Salut is Patrick Heuberger who hails from Switzerland and began cooking at the age of 15. He has worked in a number of established restaurants, including a few Michelin-starred ones in Europe.


Peishan Y. said...

Seafood risotto with scallops, prawns and clams?!! That coming from whom i known as a non-shellfish fan... your choice for main course certainly surprise me! like how your dad surprised you! Hurhur!

And yay! Finally the west did some proud! ;D

~¤º°Håñ¥¦°º¤~©® said...

mooo~ stop making me hungry!!!!!! hehe.. hey add a tagboard to ur bloggy!! i wanna moo you somemore! =P

Neil said...

I've been walking past that place for years and i've nv gone in. Hahaha, that's for the head's up now. Always wondered what their food was like

The Hungry Cow said...

Peishan: Haha. Maybe it's in genes. I felt like having a change from my norm that afternoon.

Hanyi: I fear some skinny giraffe may end up moo-ing the whole tagboard. May consider next time. :p

Neil: That's one of the aims of my blog. Hopefully it can shed some light on places that people may have heard of/passed by/read about but never tried. Informative I hope.