You know in movies, there's always that stereotypical French restaurant, that the guy takes the girl to in order to impress her with his worldly ways? You know the one - the lighting is mellow and muted, the only sounds you hear are to soft rustle of napkins and the melodious clink of cutlery, waiters in stiffly pressed suits wheel cheese trolleys around, and you're requested to adhere to the dress code.
The Raffles Grill is just like that. They even have their own piano player, tinkling his soul out on the ivory keys while you enjoy your dinner.
The Raffles Hotel is truly an impressive venue for dinner. As you walk into the main foyer, the splendour and history evident in every nook and cranny of this grand old dame cannot fail to arouse your admiration. Even the massive floral arrangement exudes a welcoming perfume as you walk past.
See what I mean about the lighting? I was forced to turn off my flash, so the quality of the following photos may not be fantastic. There is a dress code at the Grill, as well - no slippers, short-sleeved shirts or jeans, and socks are compulsory.
The new chef is French and knows his craft well, so there were many in-between courses and palate-teasers; which in addition to whetting your appetite for the main event, helped you feel as if you were getting your money's worth. In this case, the amuse-bouche was a salmon tartare served with a sweet melon gazpacho. Very light and understated, the smokiness of the salmon certainly did its job well, my two dining companions began craving a fish course.
My starter was a warm lobster and asparagus salad ($43) that, in addition to the heart-stopping price tag, was very enjoyable. The amount of lobster given was generous, cooked to that elegant state of firmness yet not rubbery, and the fat asparagus spears were crunchy to the bite and delicious.
An intermezzo followed, a lovely moulded foie gras in a mushroom emulsion. The foie gras was smooth and velvety, well complemented by the robust emulsion, with a thoughtful slice of biscotti for you to enjoy your liver with.
Coming to a restaurant like this, I can never help but order the lamb cutlets ($69), which generally can always be found on the menu. Lamb cutlets are so emblematic of fine dining that they're a fairly reliable yardstick of a chef's haute cuisine capabilities. Thankfully, I wasn't disappointed - the cutlets were meaty and tender, done exactly medium with a bashful rosey blush suffusing the young meat. Served with figs and stuffed pastry, as well as some asparagus tips, this dish was very satisfying indeed.
The pre-dessert was a layered affair, of custard, a fruity (strawberry) chocolate ganache and yoghurt espuma. Light and tantalising, my only caville is that the jar it was served in was too small for the spoon to fit comfortably.
Enticed by the pre-dessert, I was looking forward to the actual desserts, but this was where the restaurant faltered. My peach confit ($22) was a rather forlorn looking peach half in a pool of white chocolate sauce, which seemed rather bereft of the imagination present in the other dishes, and not at all worth the cost.
I was utterly astonished when my god-sister's souffle emerged, because instead of the towering triumph of French dessert cuisine I was expecting, the result was ruptured and dismal-looking, hardly recognisable as a souffle.
Service is naturally impeccable, with the maitre-d personally serving and looking into your every need. You can't get a better ambience than this, though the air-conditioning is rather chilly, and most people may baulk at having to dress up just for dinner.
Raffles Grill (French)
1 Beach Road
Tel: 6431 6156 / 6331 1612
Closed for lunch on weekends and closed for dinner on Sundays
Overall: A good place for that special night out. Be prepared to spend, though, but skip dessert.