Monday, 22 November 2010

Binge – Just Want A Good, Old Fashioned Steak?

I received an email from a PR friend recently about a new steak restaurant in town, and she asked if I was keen to check it out. Of course I was. How often have I been asked where one could get a ‘good steak’ in town….and it’s a classic dish. Can’t go wrong with a good steak and sometimes, you just feel like having some….

However, there aren’t many ‘steak houses’ around anymore since the demise of Emerald Steak House – remember that old institution? Sure, there are a number of restaurants that serve up really excellent ones these days, but how about one that does nothing but?

L’Entrecote, opened barely 2 weeks ago, is a fun experience. It’s tucked up beautiful little Duxton Hill, opposite Broth, along its cobble stone, tree-lined street, all nice and quiet and quaint. You’ll probably stumble upon the restaurant rather than spot it as the façade is understated. Walk inside and you’re transported more or less to a traditional Parisian bistro – cosy, a little rustic with lots of wood, and without the glitz and sparkle of ION Orchard.

Tables are a little small and tightly packed, but you are given a complimentary glass of kir and all is well with the world. Owners Loic Martenot and Olivier Bendel say it is to set the mood, and even kids get one too – virgin, of course. That they welcome kids so warmly gives them several points up in my books.

It’s all about traditional French fare here. We started with homemade duck rillettes served with grilled crusty bread – deliciously chewy, not so smooth until you can’t feel a thing, and delicious with its shreds of pork all nicely mixed with herbs. I couldn’t help but order sardines in their tin ($16) served with coarse salt, bread and lemon. I initially thought the name was a gimmick, but no – they were indeed tinned sardines swimming in oil, served up literally in the tin just as they were packed in B complete with curled, half opened lid! That was a shocker, but Loic potters over to tell us they are the best tinned sardines in the world because they were rendered such that you would not be bothered by annoying little bones. Olivier also says these little fish are not caught by nets but individually and painstakingly hand-picked from the sea. So indeed, they were delightful, especially with a sprinkling of the salt and a ladylike squeeze of lemon….and indeed, I enjoyed them….but I couldn’t fight off the nagging whisper at the back of my head that they were really, truly, deeply, profoundly….tinned sardines.

There is only one choice of main course at L’Entrecote – ‘Trimmed entrecôte steak drizzled in our secret sauce with golden French fries and a green walnut salad’ ($29). The words sit primly and starkly alone in the middle of a page! Strictly speaking, I suppose you do have a choice - bleu (rare), saignant (medium rare), à point (medium) or bien cuit (well done). I asked for medium rare – nicely pink and much less bloody than what you see on this picture, rest assured.

It is a thin steak, served sliced for you (the traditional way, Olivier insists) in a creamy, tangy ‘secret sauce’ of which the owners will say nothing more than that they are the ones who prepare it personally every day. It is not a dark steak, quite pale in comparison to that served in other restaurants; the flavour is pleasantly hearty, quite discreet (not the in-your-face-meat sort of steak) and not over-salted as some tend to be. But the texture was not quite as juicy…. perhaps the latter is on account of its thin disposition. Overall, it was enjoyable, and I nearly finished the two steaks (as each order comes in) that were served, one after the other.

An old fashioned dessert of Floating Islands came next, a dessert of poached egg white mousse on a light custard cream, decked with caramel and grilled almonds. It was delightfully light and just sweet enough – a good choice after a heavy meal. I also tried the Lemon Tart (“A must” says the menu) which carried a thick, citrusy, moderately rich curd on a lovely crumbly, thin pastry base. This was absolutely lovely. Other desserts include traditional profiteroles and waffles, crepes suzette and of course tart tartin (all $14). Unique on the menu too is a range of sherberts served with a choice of liquor - Sorbet Pear with Poire William, Sorbet Lemon with Limoncello, Amaretto Ice cream with Amaretto…I will try that next time. You will find some good quaffing bottles of wine (eg Mischief and Mayhem Chardonnay, Leeuwin Estate, Arte Series Riesling, Woodstock, Cabernet Sauvignon, McLaren Valley) below $100 on their wine list, but I always say to bring own premium wines….

All in all, it was an enjoyable meal, in casual, unpretentious surrounds that makes a nice change from the glitzy stylishness of contemporary restaurants. It’s fun to take in some tradition sometimes, especially in the pretty location of Duxton Hill. (In case you are wondering, no this restaurant is not part of the famous L'Entrecote in Paris.) The only downside to me is that the restaurant will not take reservations – because that’s how they do it traditionally, says Olivier again. While that may be perfectly fine for customers in Europe, I have my doubts that people here would be willing to venture all the way there only to be faced with a long wait, pretty cobblestoned street and free kir notwithstanding. Still, that remains to be seen. In the meantime, I will leave it to a quiet weekday for a return visit.

L’Entrecôte – The Steak and Fries Bistro
36 Duxton Hill
Singapore 089614
Tel: +65 6238 5700


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