Les Amis

1 Scotts Road, #01-16 Shaw Centre, Singapore, 22820, Singapore

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Les Amis was established in 1994 as a fine dining venue in central Singapore, on the ground floor of the Shaw Centre. Since 2012 its head chef has been Sebastian Lepinoy, who worked for seventeen years with Joel Robuchon, dating all the way back to the original Jamin in Paris, where Mr Robuchon gained three Michelin stars within just three years and carved out his stellar reputation. After his time with Robuchon, Mr Lepinoy moved to the Les Amis group in Hong Kong before coming here. The restaurant was given two Michelin stars in the inaugural guide here in 2016, which it retained in the guide released in 2017.

The dining room is a long, narrow room with a high ceiling, carpets and velvet panels on the walls. Jazz plays quietly in the background, but the carpeting means that the noise levels are low. There appears to be no menu choice, just a tasting menu at S$225 (£121), though the kitchen will try and adapt to reasonable dietary preferences if notified in advance. Apparently though, a la carte is available on request. The wine list is vast, with just under two thousand separate references listed, with particular depth in Burgundy and Bordeaux. The wine list offered labels such as Honig Sauvignon Blanc 2016 at S$95 for a bottle that you can find in the high street for S$28, the gorgeous Egon Muller Scharzhofberger Riesling Kabinett 2012 at S$180 compared to its retail price of S$104, and Giuseppe Quintarelli Valpolicella Classico Superiore 2005 at S$400 for a wine that will set you back S$168 in the shops. For those with the means, there were plenty of prestige wines on offer too, such as Vega Sicilia Unico 2004 at S$700 compared to its retail price of S$598, and Chateau Lafite 1986 at S$4,000 for a bottle with a current market value of S$2,405.

An impressive looking selection of bread was presented, the loaves and rolls made fresh for each service in the kitchen. We tried sourdough, brioche with sea salt, baguette and rye and raisin bread, which all had very good texture (18/20). The butter used was Le Ponclet from Brittany, a boutique producer who used milk from rare breed cattle. Apparently the farmer is very fussy about who uses his butter, and demanded the CV of the chef before he would sell it to him. Very nice it was too.

An initial nibble was fondant of tomato and bell pepper presented on a Parmesan cheese sable biscuit. This was gorgeous, the biscuit base meltingly delicate and the fondant having excellent flavour (19/20). Also on the table were cheese gougeres made using Comte, and again these were very high quality, the choux pastry lovely and having just the right amount of cheese flavour (19/20). A further amuse bouche was salmon that had been cured, inside which was salmon mousse, with horseradish cream, parsley puree and a little flower of tomato imported from the Loire, along with extremely delicate mini croissants. This was enjoyable, the gentle bite of the horseradish working well with the salmon, though I didn't think the tomatoes had particularly remarkable flavour (17/20). 

Little potato discs topped with creme fraiche and shiso (perilla) were next, surrounding a heap of caviar. The potatoes had very good texture and the caviar, sourced from sturgeon in China, was of high quality (17/20). This was followed by blue lobster from Brittany, steamed and wrapped in slices of black Perigord truffles, topped with salmon roe and accompanied by a fish sauce. The lobster was very tender and had a pleasing sweet flavour, contrasting nicely with the fragrant earthiness of the truffles (19/20).

Next was a little tart of truffles with a centre of egg yolk confit, on a base of filo pastry, with a layer of sweet onion steeped in Madeira set upon a display of sorrel leaves. The pastry base was extremely delicate and the sweet onion excellent, providing a good foil to the earthy truffle, the slight acidity of the sorrel leaves providing balance to the richness of the egg (18/20). 

This was followed by a large langoustine tail that had been pan-seared and wrapped in courgette, with a sauce made from extract of olive oil with butter, white wine, fish stock and mussels. The Brittany shellfish was top notch, with superb sweet flavour, the courgette a pleasing gift-wrapping for the langoustine, which is such a great ingredient that it needs little in the way of distraction (19/20). 

The main course was line caught sea bass from the Atlantic, topped with discs of celeriac and black truffle, a bed of glazed leeks and a buttery Nantes sauce i.e. a beurre blanc. The fish was precisely cooked and had very good flavour, the beurre blanc rich but with sufficient sharpness, and the celeriac and truffle brought earthiness (18/20).

We skipped cheese and moved straight to a sequence of three desserts. To begin with was a “religieuse”, a pastry made of two choux bun cases, the smaller one placed on top of the larger one, sometimes with a collar of whipped cream to represent a nun in a habit. The variation here had the lower choux pastry stuffed with creme patissiere, tipped with coffee cream. This was a stunning dessert, the pastry dazzling, the coffee flavour deep and beautifully balancing the cream (20/20).

This was followed by a clementine dessert. A shortbread biscuit base supported candied clementine peel topped with clementine segments and clementine curd, all topped with a sugar sphere containing clementine sorbet and a little Earl Grey foam. This was dazzlingly good. If you eat a clementine from a UK shop it can be a sad, bitter little fruit, but the ones used here had deep luscious fruit flavour along to balance its characteristic bitter note. The balance of flavours and textures in the dessert was a case study in design, there being just enough sugar to counter the sharpness of the fruit, but no more, the delicate biscuit base combining with the crisp coating of the sphere and the smoothness of the sorbet. This was a thing of beauty (20/20).

To finish was the deceptively simple classic, rum baba. Inferior versions of this are too dry, but the best are light and fluffy, traditionally served with Chantilly cream and moistened with rum. Louis XV does a famous version that I have eaten many times, and I thought that this was the definitive version, at least until today. I am not sure by what witchcraft the pastry chef applied to the bread base but it was extraordinarily light, like eating a cloud. The Chantilly cream used here is slightly less airy in texture than usual, and when talking to the chef he explained that he wanted the base ultra light and the cream a little heavier than usual as a contrast. This was a remarkable tour de force of pastry skills (20/20). The pastry chef here is Cheryl Koh, who worked at Raffles hotel and Lasserre in Paris as well as at Don Alfons 1890, both in Hong Kong and the Amalfi Coast. Based on these three samples of her work I would say that she is one of the most talented pastry chefs working in the world today. She was voted best pastry chef in Asia in 2016, and it is easy to see why. The meal concluded with some smooth Brazilian coffee from a Nespresso machine, and a few further petit fours, including a chestnut tart, whiskey chocolate and canelé. 

Service was excellent, the staff friendly, knowledgable and attentive. The bill came to S$371 (£199) per person, including some lovely Egon Muller Riesling. Overall this was a thoroughly enjoyable meal, with attractive and carefully prepared dishes using top notch ingredients, culminating in one of the best sequences of desserts that I have eaten anywhere.

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