The real review of Saveur’s in here, somewhere, too.
Since I’ve come back from Europe, I could be described as a “Francophile”. One could suppose my change in dietary preference stem from the romance of it all – “it’s Paris, the city of love…”, but I think the reasons are a lot simpler. I ate clean, I ate less, I walked a lot, and it shows – I felt fitter and healthier. But as much as I want it to continue, it’s waning now. I’ve to do real exercises. La Petite Cuisine was something I always wanted to do, especially since they opened up a branch at Upper Thomson. However, I could never really realize my dreams, or do the things I wanted, because I was so caught up with work. I had a 9-to-5 job, well, it’s 9.30am to 6.30pm. You come back, you’re tired, and it’s late. And you’re doing something on the weekends, but in hindsight, doesn’t really seem like much. So, when Darren asked if I wanted to go, I was ecstatic.
It’s not that Saveur was bad – it is, but the execution revealed a primitive to unsatisfactory grasp of French cuisine. In the name of cost-cutting, the proprietors and/or chefs willfully committed culinary treason, sacrificing the integrity of the kitchen. Still, it could’ve been saved, but the overall lack of perception about the fusion of different herbs, spices and aroma ultimately sunk this battleship, resulting in a contentious poor imitation of the real thing. The Confit du Canard was served as if fried in the fryers of KFC next door, except it didn’t retain the tenderness of the meat on the inside, nor the crisp of the skin outside. The dried-up temple was sat in a pedestal of crummy mashed potato whose only consistency was its inconsistency. Supporting all that were two sugared up citrus slices that added no value (not even in an aesthetics manner) to the dish at all. The foie gras was absolutely nasty, tasting as if cooked in motor oil. Despite all this, Saveur will resonate with the financially challenged. I’m a firm believer in low cost, but not “at any cost”, and Saveur in my opinion, fails on many levels. So, I hoped that La Petite Cuisine could reset my taste buds.
La Petite Cuisine seems to have been around for a while, and is a stalwart of affordable French dining. Despite its longevity, it hasn’t proliferated into malls or anything big like that, as Saveur has done. Instead, it continues to linger, with two restaurants now, pulling the faithful as it has done for years. But La Petite Cuisine, at least the Serene Centre store, doesn’t quite make a good first impression. It is on the whole, in a sorry state of affairs. Red checked tables line the corridor from inside the small outpost mall leading to a common outdoor veranda makes up all of the ambiance staff appear intentionally blasé and phlegmatic who never tell you that you’ve to order at the counter, and that the water’s free – which is enough to turn most diner’s off. But there’s a sense of reassurance with the dreary eyes and Mr. Big Caslon mustache that is the French chef who wanders out from time to time. Fortunately, once the food arrives, and I’m not talking about the unripe bread (personally, I thought it could do with 10 more minutes on either side), all the worries about the lack of ambiance and poor service attitude just evaporates into thin air.
Darren ordered Choucroute Alsacienne, which translates to Alsatian Choucroute, a traditional dish from the region of Alsace in France. As many people might know, Alsace switched hands between France and Prussia (and then, Germany) several times. While it’s firmly in French hands now, and its people were and are always loyal to the French republic, Alsatian cuisine however, was heavily influenced by German cuisine. Just like how Germany became Allemand in French, sauerkraut was Francophone phonetically translated into choucroute. Called Choucroute garnie, it is a dish of sauerkraut, potatoes, sausages and other cheap meats. This course at La Petite Cuisine would be great for anybody in the mood for German cuisine, but are a little health conscious. The meats here are boiled, lightly seasoned or steamed, so it’s really very simplistic.
The magic begins with the Pan-Fried Foie Gras with Orange Confit, which touched home – every bite rich in texture and complexity. The coming together of the Orange Confit really balanced the cushy tenderness of the liver – a completely opposite world from the bitter and unfurnished stuck aftertaste that I got out of Saveur. Of course, pan-searing as L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon Singapore would’ve yielded the better result, but what I got was still rather satisfying. Prior to Paris, I’d have gawked at the rather feisty portion of the greens, but it seems there seems to be a science to all of it. Just like how Korean cuisine incorporates a substantial share of greens to counterbalance the mildly weighty bulgogi, the size of the greens is proportional to the concentration of the content. The Confit du Canard too, was good. It’s certainly not the best Duck Confit I’ve had, not even in Singapore (the name of the restaurant escapes me for some reason). Despite my praise, I’d still say that the quality’s equivalent to being slightly under average Duck Confit in a Parisian bistro or cafe, which is not a bad comparison per se, considering the price you’re paying. Saveur on the other hand, wouldn’t last a day of business in France. My only complaint (of both courses) is, well, it’s more of a minor issue than an actual problem I had with the dishes. But I’d have preferred that they cut back on the sauces – it’s not a casserole, it’s provencal French. Plus, the portions of the main courses are a little small.
But, I’ll come back.