Sunday, July 12, 2009

Review: Absinthe

When restaurants move, it can be a sign that they're doing well. Sage now occupies new premises, and is still going fairly strong.

Oso has not only moved but has expanded and diversified, and the ground floor is now a dedicated French restaurant called Absinthe.

I came for lunch on a weekday, and Absinthe appears to be a popular spot for City boys who come to discuss bonds and stock splits in the midst of white tablecloths and moss-green walls, the latter inspired by the eponymous spirit.

Given Oso's reputation, I came expecting the same attention to detail and high standards in terms of food. Upon entering, the first thing I saw was a well-stocked cheese trolley, and a dedicated cheese section is definitely a Good Sign that we can expect great things from Absinthe.

Service is attentive and unstinting; manager Philippe Pau is always on hand to address every request and query, while Chef Francois Mermilliod puts in a personal appearance to obtain feedback (though he seemed less than pleased when I suggested a lighter menu for lunch).

Speaking of the menu, Absinthe's website does not appear to be operational just yet, and I didn't bother to take down exactly what I was having, so this is purely from memory. The goat's cheese starter that my mother had was not out of the ordinary, but pleasantly presented; the cheese curving across the toasted bread in a delicate, serpentine form.

My father had an order of mushroom soup, which I thought was rather too creamy and thin, though it did not lack a suitable burst of earthiness from the porcinis and truffle oil.

With St Pierre currently non-functional (I have yet to find out the story behind this; has it closed for renovations, or is it actually shuttered?), the new place to go to for foie gras is apparently Absinthe. Carrying an $8 supplement to the prix fixe, the foie gras is lovingly caramelised, creamy inside, paired with a blini and little wild hibiscus flowers that cut through some of the fatty, sweet richness.

Absinthe only offers a meat or fish dish as a main course in its set lunch menu, which (as mentioned) I think is rather too heavy for lunch. I don't understand how all these executives can wolf down a three course menu with a substantial sirloin and still remain awake for the afternoon meeting. While the sirloin was delicious, I would have preferred a poultry option as I'm not a great fish fan.

For some reason I was very full after my steak (it might have had something to do with having some of my parents' starters), but I can never bring myself to order a fruit salad as a dessert (which my father did), as it always seems to me a great waste of money: cut fruits and some syrup.

While my father had the fruit salad, I ordered a creme brulee tart, which unfortunately I was slightly too full to do complete justice to, but I did not quite enjoy the presence of berries within the custard filling of the tart. The mango sorbet that the tart was served with was also surprisingly rich and sugary; I would have preferred something more tart to balance out the sweetness of the tart.

Complimentary chocolates from Valrhona in place of fancy petit-fours round off a very satisfying lunch at Absinthe, and it doesn't take a visit from the green fairy to see that Absinthe, like its parent Oso, will remain on the food radar!

46 Bukit Pasoh Road
Tel: 6222 9068
Mon-Fri: 12pm-2.30pm, 6.30pm-10.30pm
Sat: 6.30pm-10.30pm
(Closed on Sun)

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