Bistro Du Vin
I love surprises.
I really do!
Especially if you say you’re going to surprise me with food.
But – and I know you’ve been expecting a ‘but’ – here’s where I stop getting giddy and giggly and springy and skippy, and where I show you that I am fully capable of doing a one-eighty and turn homicidal in the blink of an eye.
I very much appreciate the quaint French bistro decor, charming and homey with deep-red walls covered with framed pictures, low-hanging cafe lights above marbled table tops with jet black finishing, handsome wine bottles reclining comfortably on racks…
Which is when it hit me that it’s French and there isn’t such a thing as cheap French food anywhere, and heaven forbid it actually, since any native French wouldn’t hesitate to try to bring the place down if it’s the last thing he’ll do just to uphold the integrity of French food. Even the tiny things are pricey (that is not to say that they aren’t worth the price though). When was the last time you bought a croissant? Hmm? Which is probably the reason why everyone just heads for Breadtalk now anyway.
Ok, so I’m joking about turning homicidal.
I’ve wanted to try French for the longest time but haven’t because of the hefty price tag that comes with it.
This, in hindsight, was truly a surprise and certainly didn’t warrant my pouting and whining about how a main starts from $22 onwards. I apologise, Oliver. But it was either French, or the Italian to its left, or the mysterious looking Japanese to the right with no view of the restaurant from the outside and just a door curtained by heavy cloth leading into the darkness…
Bistro Du Vin
The entire row of restaurants along Scotts Road at the side of Shaw Centre are all under the Les Amis group of restaurants which started out from a single French fine-dining establishment, Les Amis, before expanding into other cuisines. The aforementioned Italian and Japanese restaurants are La Strada and Aoki respectively, and are only two of the seven outlets that make up their mini empire occupying Shaw. Did you know that Canele was under them? I didn’t. Talk about marking your territory – yummy territory at that.
I had expected this, you see, a huge hunk of bread as an appetizer before the big French guns start rolling out of the kitchen, which is one of the reasons why I was a tad more willing to seat myself down among patrons uncorking one wine bottle after the other like it was their lifeblood. I will be forthright by saying that I stay well clear of butter unless it has to do with my baking. If I am to dunk my bread in anything, it’ll be olive oil and balsamic vinaigrette, because I’ve been more exposed to Italian than anything else. But here! Here is where you do as the French do and be liberal with the slab of butter you’re given (No dunking!) and slather up your bread good and well, banish all thoughts of myocardial infarction 40 years down the road, and wave an attentive waiter over for seconds. And when you’re eating French bread, pinch a little off the large chunk one at a time and never attempt to devour it in its entirety because you’ll be gnawing at it, lactic acid gathering in your jaws as you degenerate into caveman snarls and noisy chewing. I had the misfortune of sharing a table with said caveman. This is ingenious though. Nothing gets the appetite going like vigorous chewing. Kudos to chewy French breads.
Filet de bar au beurre blanc a l'estragon - Filet of sea bass with butter, white wine and tarragon sauce ($24)
I’d have ordered this if I wasn’t entirely convinced that Oliver wouldn’t want anything else, and because I’m inherently against having the same order as another person I’m dining with, I relinquished this dish to him. I haven’t met anyone more picky, so I was pleased that he completely fell in love with the crisp, pan-seared fillet, the skin crackling like music to the ears, perched atop a colourful tumble of roasted zucchini, carrot, celery and what I think are pommes noisette - hazelnut-shaped tiny balls of potato sautéed in butter, crisp on the outside and fluffy soft on the inside. The tarragon white butter sauce was rich and flavourful on its own but the herb failed to shine through the thick, aromatic blanket of butter. That said, the sea bass held its fort by being unbelievably fresh and flaky. But as usual, the boy pushed most of his veg to me, although I must applaud the fact that all he left for me were the celery and zucchini. The wonders of butter.
Confit de canard des Landes - Duck Leg Confit ($28)
It was either this, or chicken or beef for me, and since I’ve only ever had duck (the tough, gristly, roast version drenched in thick sauce atop equally soaked rice) at hawker centres and never at a restaurant, this was an obvioius choice for me. I wasn’t too keen on having french fries on the side because, well, I’m wasn’t easily amused by french fries accompanying my french main. That and I’ve never been a fan of frenching fries. It’s a little phobia perhaps, and a good dose of stereotyping, because all the fries I’ve had were all oily, boring and weakly spiced (if at all), and they’re the partners in crime to ghastly Western fare, aiding and abetting the Chicken Chop and the Steak into brainwashing the good majority of the world’s population into thinking that ‘This is good food, doood’. I still am not thrilled thinking I’ve been shortchanged somehow, that my otherwise atas sounding, pricey choice didn’t deserve a better side dish. How about those pommes noisettes eh? Or perhaps more salad? How was I supposed to know my frites were going to look and taste just like plain, deep-fried, pre-cut and pre-packaged, frozen potatoes?
On the bright side (because I’m giving optimism a try again), the duck leg was TO DIE FOR. Now, I don’t italicize and capitalise words at the same time, because I find it rude and uncouth to seem like I’m doing virtual shouting.
But I am – shouting, that is.
This was, by far, the best duck I’ve ever had. Perfectly pan-seared, splinteringly crisp skin that reveals melt-before-it-reaches-your-mouth duck fat and the most gorgeous rosy hue I’ve ever seen on normally grey and listless duck meat. It was as though the tender flesh shyly peaked out from beneath the cover of the skin, made eye contact, blushed a deep burgundy before ducking (no pun intended) back under bashfully. And as if I’ve not gushed enough, the moist duck meat literally fell apart and off the bone in fine strips under the slightest of pressures. If I wasn’t fully aware that I’d ordered duck, I wouldn’t have believed it was duck. It was on the salty side as expected, since a confit is and was, afterall, a method of flavouring and preservation, where the meat could keep for months while submerged in its own rendered fat. Yes, submerged in fat as in buried, covered, to disappear from sight completely. But that didn’t bother me. I was simply so taken with the outrageously, fantastically, thick sauce in the tiny pitcher, which I think is a reduction of duck juices, fat, butter, herbs and wine, that I very enthusiastically tried to wipe up every last drop with my bread. I only wished they’d fried the damn frites in duck fat (Atas fries. Très bon!) I’d rate the dish 10/10 if so, and that is saying a lot. Superb.
- Oh Crumbs!
I was pleasantly surprised that the waiter helpfully pointed out that there was an extra chair at the table for which I may rest my bag. My tiny bag, which could have sat just fine on my lap. I placed it on the chair anyway. Attentive waiters, thoughtful offers for more bread, I had a fine time there.
And as a result of having taken more bread and always receiving the leftovers from Oliver’s plate (as you can see, this relationship is severely backwards), I couldn’t have dessert. Not that I was planning to actually. Although that cheese selection looked very attractive, and the crème brûlée, and the lemon meringue tart (!!!!!), and the profiteroles, and the soufflé of the day…
Looks like a return visit is in order.
Just for dessert.
Anything, for dessert.
1 Scotts Road
#02-12 Shaw Centre
Tel: +65 6733 7763