Bistro du Vin!
I used to shun set lunches like Singaporeans shun the sun (say that ten times fast). I mean, nondescript “Soup of The Day”s, “Garden Salad”s, and “Dessert of The Day”s? You get what they’re trying to do after a while – Cost cutting. You know, things that the chef or the kitchen needs to be rid of in a manner to avoid any wastage. Isn’t it perfect then, to feed the sorry souls hungry for a break from sitting at the desk who brighten up at the mere thought of a ‘3-course set-lunch’ the chowder from yesterday’s dinner rush, and a fritatta of last night’s leftovers?
Oh lordie, am I jaded much?
Right, enough of the mopey grousing over all the times I’ve been hoodwinked into forking out cash for crummy food. I should make it clear though, this does not mean I condone the fact that just because it is a set lunch and not an à la carte order for lunch/dinner, it is an excuse for serving less-than-excellent food. Nuh uh.
That being said, I declare that I am now a convert.
I now order set lunches with wild abandon. So shoot me.
Interior. Complimentary bread.
Bistro du Vin swept me away from my first visit about half a year back. It was dinner that I had then, and their rendition of the timeless Duck Leg Confit (confit de canard) had me weeping at the table with how delicately it literally melted off the bone, yielding to barely a prod of a knife, and had skin so fine and thin and crackly it was like a single, most intense moment of self-revelation – that it put the french in French cooking that I’d never realised before.
So then I heard that they offer equally, if not better, 3-course set lunches at $30++ that could potentially make me burst into tears, I had to go. I needed a good cry.
Salmon Trout Gravadlax with Dill, Citrus and Radish.
And let me tell you, there is nothing like going for set lunch with a group of friends, and nevermind that you’re not quite dressed for the typical Les Amis restaurant because Bistro du Vin’s quaint, parisian bistro charm and astonishing selection from its set lunch menu will give you that bang to your buck that you’ve been waiting for. Think about it. Even if some dishes do require a supplement of $3 or more, if you’re sharing 4 different appetizers, 4 different mains, and 4 different desserts, the only thing that you’ll be focusing on is the fact that you can’t see the tabletop anymore underneath the stunning array of dishes in your face.
Just a word of advice though, before you go trigger-happy with the free flow of crusty bread and butter, you might want to reconsider how effective carbs are in ballooning in your tummy from the first sip of water. Besides, the bread is passable, though warm.
The Salmon Trout Gravadlax was quite the beauty with its glossy, vermilion sheen and tumble of sweet citrus fruits. Now a Gravlax/Gravadlax is a dish that consists of raw fish, usually salmon, that has been cured in salt, sugar and dill. I’m not particularly well-read in the art of curing meats, but I can say that the salmon’s springy flesh and subtle sweetness boasted of its freshness, which could suggest that it was cured more for developing its flavours than for preservation purposes.
Pan-fried Foie Gras with prune compote (supplement $6)
We had a double order of the Foie Gras, because we figured that one wouldn’t be enough to go around and that three would just be pushing it (out of our stomachs, perhaps). The foie gras came with an intense whiff of offal-ly pan-seared goodness. It parted easily under my knife and was every bit as rich as it looks. The fatty liver threatened to overwhelm at times but the sweet prune compote rounded it out perfectly. This is one sizable cut of foie gras for sure, and is definitely recommended for sharing, and even then, it may feel too heavy for some.
It just melts..
French Garlic Sausage and Celeriac Remoulade on Toast
The one thing that I couldn’t wrap my head around as we were eating this was: Why are the breads so unremarkable for a French restaurant? The toast was like a giant crouton (read: dry and hard). The adorable cornichons were probably what delighted me the most. That aside, this was my first time having celeriac, or celery root, and I’ll say that if it didn’t cost so much in the supermarkets, I’d be experimenting with it at home. It’s got a firm crunch and refreshing, earthy taste that just begs me to make a coleslaw out of. I’ll keep that in mind.
Duck Leg Confit served with Choucroute.
There we are. A perfect glistening golden-brown, pan-seared mind-bogglingly evenly to a crisp. The meat was a deep burgundy and the leg bone simply gave way from the moist meat, clean and easy, with a gentle pull. The duck leg confit was less salty and flavourful from the last I remembered though, but perhaps it’s because there wasn’t that fantastic jus reduction that came with mine that time. Boy was that good. All in all, hands down, this is still the best Confit de Canard I have had in Singapore.
Pan-fried Red Snapper served with Lentil Vinaigrette.
Do give the rustic blackboard adorning the side of the cafe a good glance when you’re at Bistro du Vin, and if you happen to miss it, the friendly wait staff will point it out nevertheless. They have frequent specials, off-the-menu items, and in this case, a pan-fried Catch of The Day that took the form of a gorgeously pan-fried Red Snapper fillet.
I’m seeing a trend here. I don’t know if it’s just me of Bistro du Vin’s pan-searing is some culinary Mount Olympus-worthy stuff. The Duck Leg Confit skin, the Foie Gras, and this Red Snapper…it makes me want to take a peek into the kitchen because I just can’t fathom how excellently each pan-seared dish is executed. This is as fresh as a Red Snapper fillet can get, I believe, the flesh not too firm yet tender, perfectly seasoned and accompanied by a piquant dollop of sauteéd lentils in a zippy vinaigrette.
Guinea Fowl Confit served with Choucroute
The Guinea Fowl Confit was yet another special from the board that we picked, mainly because this particular poultry was something none of us had tasted before. I don’t think I have to delve into the details of the splinteringly crisp skin again do I? The Guinea Fowl bears close similarity to chicken taste-wise, not as moist as the duck, but still flawlessly seared and delectable.
Braised Pork Belly with Lingot Bean Stew.
It didn’t seem to boast much on the menu, but I think the chef must know of my swooning weakness for Le Creuset cookware (or how much I actually want one), so when the Braised Pork Belly arrived in that flaming red pot, covered first and then removed with dramatic flourish, I was sold. I don’t know what can be more hearty and homey than a pot of stew, with sweet carrots and a generous moat of beans. The pork itself was a smokey thing of wonder. Granted, it isn’t the most tender of pork bellies, but the thorough penetration of its seasoning completely made up for it. And if the meat had actually been falling apart with an oven-long slow cook, I’d be scrambling for a recipe. Oh psh. You know what? I’ll start searching for a recipe for it anyway. Move aside beef stew!
Banana Crumble with Coconut Ice Cream. Crème Brûlée.
By dessert time, we started to wind down, ordered ourselves a cup of tea each that comes with every set lunch and took our time with the sweets. I remember remarking how oddly exotic and tropical the Banana Crumble combination sounded and tasted, but hey, it was either that or the Layered Indonesian Cake with Rum (Kueh Lapis with Rum?!). I haven’t had Crème Brûlée in a long while, but this could have been made in a shallower, wider dish, with that ideal ratio of crackly burnt top to creamy custard below. It’s burnt sugar that I can’t get enough of, and not so much the deep, thick custard. I still can’t figure out why all the vanilla bean pods were at the bottom of the bowl though.
Profiteroles. Lemon Meringue Tart.
You can’t go wrong with Profiteroles. Really, you can’t. It’s chocolate, slivered almonds, vanilla ice cream and choux pastry. In fact, swop the choux pastry out of this one and it wouldn’t have made that great a difference. The halves were pretty dry. And I hate to have to say this but the Lemon Meringue Tart was abysmal. The tart base was soggy and the filling could have done with one less egg yolk. But I must admit that making a good lemon custard filling is quite the elusive art. It never tastes all that good with the lemons we get from the supermarkets. Maybe if we started importing Meyer Lemons…
Desserts were a tad lower than average, but that certainly didn’t dampen my elation at discovering my very first true value-for-money set lunch (no gimmicks, no disguises), at my favourite French bistro restaurant no less. Our meal was less than $40 each, and considering the attentive service, company, full-to-bursting stomachs, and charming ambience, it doesn’t get any better. The very moment they change their set lunch menu, I’m making a reservation. I can’t wait!
Bistro du Vin
1 Scotts Road
#02-12 Shaw Centre
Tel: +65 6733 7763