Flam’s, Orchard Central

Orchard Central’s not your average midtown mall.

From new-to-market designer haven Blackmarket and homegrown labels Reckless Erica and Sabrina Goh, to the communal sensibilities of Ootoya and the refined touch of Jewel Artisans Chocolate, the tenant mix feels curated, even if it isn’t pulling in the crowds. They’re not hopping on the hipster bandwagon like much of the youngsters these days, who climb upon what hipsters already knew – Orchard Central just is, and I think there’s an appeal to that that is positively charming.

Joining the rat pack is Flam’s, a popular restaurant chain from France. The diner on the second level, a first outside France, is famed for its Alsatian flammekueche which comes from the German word, “flammkuchen” meaning flame cake. Not surprising really, considering the historically strategic region of Alsace-Moselle, famously formerly known as Alsace-Lorraine, sits in between France and Germany. While Otto von Bismarck and Hitler have never succeeded in taking the region, the area still retains its Prussian German influence. More than just wieners and sauerkraut, flammekueche is a tarte flamee, which is a bread dough rolled out very thinly in the shape of a rectangle and covered with cheeses, thinly sliced onions and lardons (known to you and me as bacon bits), and cooked in a wood-fired oven. For the lay, it’s basically a thin crust pizza except the base is cheese instead of tomato, and there isn’t an additional layer of melted cheese to top it all. It’s an interesting concept, and considering the uncertainty of mixed performances of mid-ranged French chains (I’m looking at you, Hippopotamus), Darren and I decided to give it a go.

Unsurprisingly, the restaurant was barely filled despite well into dinner service, and whatever diners present were mostly large families and couples of non-Singapore Asian and Caucasian decent.

There is the “Traditional” which are more or less the ones you’ll find if you happen to be in Strasbourg, and the “Signature”, where the regional specialty’s given a more international flavor, like less region-specific ingredients such as beef, et cetera. The first thing that caught my eyes however, was the French Onion Soup. Despite being a poor man’s dish, which more or less consists of chicken stock, all the different types of onions, stale baguette and a touch of cheese, it has been surprisingly hard to recreate. I was first introduced to the comfort meal at an event at one of the island’s top French restaurants, and I’ve been hooked ever since. From the canned versions available at Fairprice Xtra and Marks & Spencer to Hippopotamus, I’ve not had anything close to the perfection and simplicity. I could prance into St Julian’s, but it wouldn’t be appropriate, and worse still, I’m surprised neither The Soup Spoon nor Saybons, particularly the latter, actually has it. It’s criminal!

The French Onion Soup at Flam’s was hardly anything worth raving about. It tastes exactly like the canned versions I’ve had, but to be honest, since I’m such a sucker for French Onion Soup, I’m just happy to have it, no matter the quality. WAIT. Hold it there. I draw the line at Swensen’s version – that one’s nasty.

Your flammekueche is served the traditional way, on a pan, and the staff do offer to cut your flam with a roller-knife. I declined their gesture. I mean, I wasn’t gonna pass up on any chance to play with my food. I got really obsessive with mind, and cut them into pieces no bigger than a single alphabet keyboard.

I ordered the Gratinee (SGD 14), which is one of the traditional flavors. The Gratinee is marketed as the one for cheese lovers, but alas, this uses French cheese, which tends to be a lot richer and stronger than the more common cheeses such as Parmesan and Mozarella, so if you, like me, isn’t too big of a fan, this could turn out to be a fluke. Having said that, I was really surprised by it. The portions are huge, but it is sooo thin and light that if ladies can finish breakfasts at Wild Honey, this should be a walk in the park.

It didn’t make sense for us to eat all of our orders by ourselves, so we shared half. I much prefer Darren’s The Parmentiere, which at SGD 19, is the most expensive flammekueche in the menu. It’s essentially the same thing as my order of The Gratinee, except grilled potatoes and sliced onions are added, and minced beef are put in place of the bacon which I had. This one was just amazing!

In short, if you love thin-crust pizza, don’t want to eat a lot, but love variety, come to Flam’s. A group of four could come here and easily share two if you just want a tapas-style light meal, or share three or four if you want a real meal.

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