[Edit: Au Petit Salut now operates out of two locations. This review describes the bistro at Holland Village. For a review of their flagship restaurant at Dempsey Road, click here.]
As promised, I went to try Au Petit Salut's set lunch on Friday, and was very pleased with what I found. What I found was good, solid, reliable French food at affordable prices.
For a while it had seemed that one was hard-pressed to find any decent French food anywhere that wouldn't have you mortgaging the house. Saint-Pierre, Saint Julian, Les Saisons, Vis-a-vis, all well and good, but nothing particularly budget-friendly. Petit Salut though, saves the day with a satisfying set lunch. Do not, however, expect dinner to be an equally good deal.
The restaurant itself is cosy enough, not so large that you'd be bothered by lots of noisy patrons, nor so small that you'd constantly rub elbows with the waiters.
The set lunch menu is certainly generous, with four or five choices per course, all for $22, including coffee or tea. Unlike many other restaurants that serve set lunches, Petit Salut doesn't palm you the cheapest scraps from last night's dinner. Admittedly, you're not getting foie gras, but things like lamb stew and beef cheek, while not haute cuisine, are still substantial enough for you to feel you're getting your money's worth.
I started with an oven-baked portobello mushroom with "duxelles" and mozzarella ($12). Duxelles is a mushroom stuffing, so this dish is kind of like mushroom overkill, but since I'm a great fan of mushrooms, I had no complaints. The mushroom wasn't dry, as was the case with some baked mushrooms in other restaurants, but wasn't wet either. It was moist, meaty and generally a good appetiser (4/5). I did think they could have dispensed with the cheese though, and opted perhaps for a tomato coulis or some such.
Next was a traditional French dish, navarin d'agneau, which was basically a lamb stew with a white wine and tomato base ($18). Aesthetically, it could have done with a little work, as I thought the vegetables were a little rough and ready. But since the meal was only $22, it's excusable. The lamb itself was tender, although the tomato sauce didn't quite mask the scent of the lamb, if that puts you off. Again, I enjoyed this dish (4/5), which was of a decent portion. The chef is of the "let the ingredients speak for themselves" school, and I found that that approach worked particularly well with dishes like this lamb stew and the braised beef cheek.
Dessert took the form of a classic, vanilla-infused creme brulee ($8.50). I'm not sure what they did with the caramelised top; it looks too even to have been burnt with a torch. In any case, the crust was a bit too thick and sweet for me, and the custard was kind of luke warm (3.5/5).
Au Petit Salut is conveniently located in Holland Village, although parking can be a bitch. It took me ten minutes to park, although admittedly five of those minutes were spent attempting to parallel park.
In terms of ambience, the restaurant is small, but fairly tasteful. Air-conditioning is about right, though it can get drafty if you're directly underneath a vent. Adequate, would perhaps be the most accurate term to use.
The service was quite commendable. The food was served promptly, and the staff were very friendly and helpful. This may have had something to do with the fact that the boss lady was around, but I'd like to give them the benefit of the doubt.
Au Petit Salut (French)
Bblk 44 Jalan Merah Saga, #01-54
Tel: 6475 1976
Closed for lunch on Saturdays
Overall: One of the best set lunch deals in town
Edit: I returned for a family lunch on Sunday (26/06/05)
There were some slight changes to the starter and main course sections of the set lunch menu, but no change in desserts. Disturbingly, the Soup of the Day was still Cream of Green Lentils, exactly as it had been since Tuesday. Always beware the Soup of the Day.
All prices are exactly the same, since I was having the same set lunch.
To start, I had the burgundy snails with tomato and garlic butter. I assume these are not called escargots because the were served without their shells. I was served six of these little suckers, which were very hot and smothered in butter. Perhaps it was the tomato, but somehow I felt the fragrance from the garlic and butter was somewhat lacking. Still, they were enjoyable (4/5), and it's not every day you get to eat half a dozen molluscs.
I decided to forgo my usual meat, as even though their lamb stew had been updated, it was still a lamb stew, and I didn't quite feel in the mood for a beef onglet. Instead, I had a duck confit served with white beans and rosemary jus. Unfortunately the duck meat wasn't fork tender, nor was it particularly flavourful (3.5/5).
For dessert, I had the 20-minute coconut souffle. Now, this was a really gorgeous affair, as it had risen straight and tall, right out of its cup. The coconut was mild, so it couldn't completely mask the taste of the egg whites, but it did impart an interesting taste to an otherwise plain souffle. I enjoyed this (4/5), as it was appropriately light and fluffy, but I was somewhat concerned by the fluid at the base of the souffle cup, as it looked suspiciously like egg white.
So it looks like Au Petit Salut is pretty constant in its food all days of the week, although service was somewhat slower this time around. Still an excellent place to go for lunch.