It’s almost like Paris!
Darren and I had arranged to have dinner at Bar-Roque Grill, a lovely restaurant tucked at the corner of Amara Hotel. We met at Tanjong Pagar station, and made our way there. Unusually, I didn’t read up on the restaurant prior. I had no time, literally. After months of email exchanges, lackluster responses and sometimes, no replies, I gained a freelance position. Then, I took up a position with a media public relations firm. In hindsight, all the events leading to the latter happened so fast that I really barely had anytime to think. The next thing I knew, I was in, meeting with a potential client, discussing and doing proposals and all. Maybe the firm misjudged my personal interest in the client as a defacto acceptance of the position, or perhaps I agreed to the stint with a misguided confidence that I could juggle both freelance and public relations. Regardless, an hour into the job – no contract, no terms discussed, nothing signed nor in sight – it dawned on me that this aching feeling inside me was more than just first day jitters and anxiety. I left.
Therefore, when we turned up at Bar-Roque Grill, I was not expecting to spend on what would’ve turned out to be an extravagant dinner that I was neither in the mood for nor financially prepared to spend. We could just have the Roasted Free Range “French” Chicken only as Darren suggested, sure, but Bar-Roque Grill’s a restaurant through and through – the menu’s designed to slowly assimilate your palette, not dive right in. I wanted to give Bar-Roque Grill its proper justice, not jump right into the main course and exit. So, we diverted to L’Entrecôte at Duxton Hill.
If you’ve been to Paris, you’d have undoubtedly either walked by or dined at L’Entrecôte. While there are chains like Le Relais de Venise, L’Entrecôte and Le Relais de l’Entrecôte, all of which are run by the various descendants and departments of the Gineste de Saurs family, the term, “L’Entrecôte” has since transcended branding to reflect a style of Parisian steak frites served developed by Paul Gineste de Saurs. L’Entrecôte comes from the word entrecôte, which refers to a premium cut of beef for steak. In France, the cut in question is the sirloin which is properly known as contre-fillet. While L’Entrecôte Singapore is not a franchise of either of the three chains, it preaches the same formula as its French counterparts – lettuce and walnut salad as a starter; steak frites with the same butter sauce as the main course, presented in two services; and the same assortment of desserts. The butter sauce is also key, and depending on where you read, the general recipe may or may not be in the public domain. In addition, the interior adopts the look of a French brasserie with wood paneling and wall mirrors, closely spaced tables. All the servers are women and dressed in black uniforms, and no reservations are allowed.
Despite being halfway around the world, with nary a word of French spoken by the mix of local and non-local Asian servers or the diners, L’Entrecôte Singapore manages to capture the spirit of a Parisian brasserie, completely. I felt like I was back in that same restaurant in Porte-Maillot, Paris – I wanted to relive that lovely, agreeable atmosphere and experience, so I chose to completely replicate my experience at Le Relais de Venise.
L’Entrecôte is an ode to Parisian steak frites, so if you don’t eat beef, there’s really no reason why you should come here. There’s only one main available, and that’s the steak. There’s an array of typically French starters including Foie Gras with toast, as well as beef bone marrow with toast– seeing as I missed that California Fitness’ Raffles Place was closed for maintenance today and subsequently wouldn’t have time for a decent workout, I skipped all those. Interestingly, the restaurant also serves an alcoholic aperitif and the lettuce and walnut salad (free of charge) to get you into the mood for food, so even if you don’t order the sides, you’re pumped up for the main course.
As for the steak, what can I say? It definitely hits most of the points that L’Entrecôte wants to hit. I go for a rare steak this time, although perhaps I’d recommend retarding back half-a-notch to medium-rare. The cut isn’t too gamey in itself, so at rare, the consistency is closer to that of a premium tuna belly sashimi. Make no mistake, it’s not the best steak in the world, but it does its job. In my opinion, it’s a little on the light side, which meat lovers may miss. I know now to have it medium-rare the next time I’m in a carnivorous mood. Compared to France, where the flavors are strong and heavy, L’Entrecôte exercises a little more restraint, which isn’t a bad thing in itself. Still, the flavors are never too discreet that you lose the essence of it all. As is in Paris, the french fries are quite similar to MacDonald’s on a good day, but it’s that rich, overpowering Dijon mustard (available on the table) that helps the fries share the stage with the steak.