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1st Anniversary, 1st Degustation, Last of Saint Pierre?

I admit, I have not had a degustation before. But that was before last Monday! For the longest time last Sunday night, I was wondering where J had reserved dinner for us to celebrate our first year together as a couple. (Yep, congrats to us; we made it through! :) He was being secretive and I was miserable (in a good way of course) being held in suspense. But come Monday evening, as he drove, I knew exactly where he had chosen. He suggested for us to indulge in the degustation at Saint Pierre and I was initially hesitant to take on the challenge of a nine-course dinner. But I was glad I did it, not only because it was my first time, but more importantly, because it was what J had in mind - for both of us to enjoy good company and good food. Wel the company definitely far exceeded "good" but the food, let's just say, "acceptable" is more like it. Lastly, I also realised that I could do it - I ate through my nine courses with minimal discomfort, accompanied by a glass of white. Now bring on the 28-courses at Alinea!

Anyway, this being a foodblog, I'll make some comments on the degustation menu, introducing each course with a picture and a description as written on the summer 2005 degustation menu.
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maison joulie salmon roe scented potato blinis with wasabi tobiko, organic lime scented crème fraiche and new harvest oscetra caviar
Our dinner started off good. The egg-coated then pan-fried potato pancake had a slight crisp and a doughy inside. The caviar and salmon roe added a little more (welcomed) saltishness to each bite and the slight hint of wasabi was refreshing and transformed the dish akin to Japanese cuisine, even for just that slight moment. But I did not know what to do with the chopped up and separated hardboiled egg at the back. J just dumped everything onto the pancake and ate it like that.

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nicolas potel japanese tomatoes crusted with fleur de sel served with gazpacho granite
The first dish got me anticipating the next. But this "organic tomato" dish is simply too simple for me. It was skewered with a bamboo stick and had some japanese herbs and coarse salt on it. The gazpacho was cool, literally, and I never had frozen gazpacho before. Overall, this course was nothing exciting and since it was rather light, my craving for more seasoned food was toned down.
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live red claw crayfish poached in chardonnay scented court bouillon
The third course was my favorite savoury dish of the night. The court bouillon was rich in butter and cream yet remained soupy enough not to feel sick to the stomach. But the chardonnay was musked and the crayfish was slightly overcooked in some areas and was in too large a piece to eat "dainty-ly". The soup spoon obviously was not designed to cut things so there was also some technical issues here.
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nicolas potel warm salad of escargot petit gris with dentelle bread, caramelized garlic and carpaccio of organic mushroom with asparagus shaving
The fourth course of snails was surprisingly good. Being a new escargot-eater, I actually wanted to get this course replaced. But since I was already replacing the lamb (as you would find out more later), I felt rather embarrassed to change the Chef's testing menu too many times. Boy am I glad I stuck with it. The snails were large and juicy. The accompanying salad was light and refreshing and much needed to balance out the heavily-seasoned snails and sauce. But the simultaneously mushy and chewy texture of the snails wore me out and I gave the last couple of them to J.
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dashi poached lobster with roasted foie gras terrine, avocado puree, green cabbage effeuillee with lobster coral vinaigrette and iced green crab soup
This would be the worst course of the night. J did not enjoy the mushy terrine, though he admitted it was his first time as well. The salad was acceptable, though a tad heavy with the lobster coral I suppose, since it was rather fishy. But bits of chopped chili helped to distract that. But the worst of the entire plate was the vile-looking green crab soup. It looked like and tasted exactly like water used to scrub clean a dirty crab! Blah!! It totally ruined my appetite at that point in time. I drank lots of water to clean my taste buds and then wine as a final rinse. I hoped the palate cleanser would be next up. But til then, J had the supplement course of foie gras (S$12).

classic pan-fried foie gras with caramelised green apples and old port sauce

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The much-needed palate cleanser was a smooth peach sherbet. It was just sweetened enough and was excellent.

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maison joulie white miso marinated cod with tomato confit, mango, slow braised organic onions, wild thyme, caramelized giant garlic and nasu in shiraz dressing

At this point, I was full so I really needed encouragement from the food to keep me going. Alas, the seventh course, which was the cod, failed to deliver. I was anticipating the dish the whole night because I had an excellent cod meal the first time I was here. But there was not enough miso (and I really could not detect any at all) to bring out the flavour of the cod, which was not really the freshest piece. The rather bland confit mixture did not help matters. There was also a couple of rubbery-looking things at about 1 o'clock, not described in the menu. I ate a piece and thought it was octopus but since we were both curious, we questioned the server who told us they were japanese snails. I had enough snails for tonight so the other piece went to J.

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seabass

rosemary scented chargrilled lamb saddle with etorki and piquillos infused fork mashed ratte potatoes, green bean flageolet and piperade dressing

The next course was the lamb. Since faithful readers know I don't take meat, the kitchen offered a seabass replacement for me. After the disappointing cod, I was not looking forward to this fish course at all. Turned out I was right. The kitchen used a cheap striped seabass. Barely seasoned, I cleverly thought the idea was to keep the fish light so the herb layer could shine and balance out the taste. But surprisingly, the skin of the fish was so dry and chewy I had to remove the skin such that I ended up with a pathetic looking piece of naked seabass. The redeeming part was the mashed potatoes which had chopped up bits of what seemed to be sun dried tomato and other stuff but really, it was salty enough to go with my fish nicely. Otherwise, I would really have to request for salt and pepper and embarass the chef.

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domaien de durban whole lemon confit filled with citrus flavoured soufflé served cold

The ninth course was the first dessert course. I enjoyed this by scraping the half-lemon hard enough so I could have a bit of the tart flesh and juice, a bit of the sherbet in the middle and lots of the sweet cream-cheese like topping. Of course, the slightly caramelized topping gave it a nice crunch too.

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grandma stroobant flourless belgian chocolate cake with acacia tree honey tuile, tahitian vanilla ice-cream and caramelized apricot sauce

Finally, we ended on a fail-safe warm chocolate cake with really excellent vanilla ice-cream. The apricot sauce was slightly tart but perfectly balanced with the chocolate sauce. The honey tuile provided the welcomed-crunch too.

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Some other points to note, selection of bread was between white ciabatta and a nut-raisin bread. Waiters were not consistent and failed to describe the dish and what the Chef hoped to achieve. They were attentive though and constantly re-filled our water. Another thing was the absence of amuse and petit fours. Granted we were the earliest to arrive but subsequent tables all had an amuse. We were not served complementary petit fours as well, though we lingered for a while. The other French restaurant we went gave us not only complimentary coffee and tea, but also a wide variety of petite fours consisting of chocolates, tarts, coffeecakes and pastries as well, and we did not even order the degustation!

Overall, I was not impressed with the menu this time around. Somewhat the standards have dropped and the impression of the bad courses are just too inked to make me want to revisit. Desserts were good and really redeemed the entire experience somewhat, ending on a sweet note (note the pun!). But I am now even hesitant to consider his other establishments. But nonetheless, I still want to credit him for making his round on the dining area.

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Finally, I just wanted to share a picture (I must add, does no justification of how beautiful the bouquet is) of the roses J sent to my work place (and I must add, drove my colleagues crazy with jealousy :).

Comments

joone! said…
Your cod was undercooked, ours was overcooked. I guess whoever is cooking the cod isn't paying much attention to this lovely fish.
Anonymous said…
Have you ever seen Asparagus this BIG
They grow up to 15in long and 2in wide.
recipe
tom naka said…
Hey, you have a great blog here! I'm definitely going to bookmark you! I have a restaurant oakland site/blog. It pretty much covers restaurant oakland related stuff.

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