Les Amis has been tour de force among the French gastronomy establishment in Singapore. For me, I knew it not only for its classical French cooking, but its impeccable service. And what better place to spend an important evening with the family. (Updated after they have got their Michelin stars.)
Chef Sebastien Lepinoy
Born in France, Executive Chef Sebastien Lepinoy is a protégé of legendary chef Joël Robuchon. Widely recognised as Chef Robuchon’s right hand man, Chef Sebastien first joined the Les Amis Group in 2010 as the Head Chef of CÉPAGE in Hong Kong where he helped maintain the restaurant’s Michelin star.
Chef Sebastien had his first peek of Singapore’s food scene back in 1997, when he and Chef Robuchon worked for a week at the luxurious Raffles Hotel. It was a wonderful experience for him which speared him to jump at the chance in September 2013 to relocate to Singapore and helm Les Amis kitchen as their fifth Chef de Cuisine in almost two decades.
Chef Sebastien uses classical French technique with Modern aesthetics when he cooks. He always tries to incorporate elements of what he has seen and tasted during his stay in Asia into his menus so that it will complement the local climate and palates.
Prior to joining the Les Amis family, Chef Sebastien has worked in Michelin-starred restaurants since beginning his career in 1990 at the one-star Chateau de Noirieux in Briollay. This was followed by his stint at the three-star Jamin (renamed as Joël Robuchon in 1994) that marked the beginning of his chapter with Chef Robuchon. He has also cooked at restaurants such as Restaurant LAURENT in Paris before coming back to work closely with Chef Robuchon at Societe de Gestion Culinaire. In 2002, Chef Sebastien was sent to to Le Grand Café in Ukraine where he was awarded the “Best Chef in Ukraine”. During his stay at Hotel Metropole Monte Carlo in 2006, in collaboration with Chef Robuchon, the restaurant received 2 Michelin stars in 2007. At the end of the year, Chef Sebastien moved to Hong Kong to hold the fort as Executive Chef at L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon. The restaurant attained 2 Michelin stars in 2008 and was later ranked 55th Best Restaurant in the World by San Pellegrino and Acqua Panna.The restaurant was also later awarded Best Restaurant in Asia by Miele Guide in 2009.
The Les Amis Group
Les Amis, the French translation of ‘The Friends, is the sophisticated first-born of the Les Amis Group, founded by four partners who wanted to bring the finer aspects of French cuisine to Singapore. Over the years, the restaurant has earned itself the reputation of being one of the best classic French restaurants in Asia, hence attracting food connoisseurs from around the world since its inception in 1994.
Through the years Les Amis has always strived to maintain its philosophy, delivering the ultimate fine-dining experience through attention to detail and dedication to sourcing and serving the finest ingredients. Besides having carefully curated menus driven by premium seasonal French produce, personalised service is also a key emphasis at Les Amis. Every team member strives towards the common goal of providing a comfortable and seamless dining experience for all guests.
Designed by local architect Tan Kay Ngee, the 2-storey restaurant exudes an air of sophistication and grandeur with its high ceilings, lush velvet walls, beautiful chandeliers, and the prized artworks by renowned Chinese artists such as Wang Kun and Tang Zhi Gang adorning the walls.
Degustation menu by Chef Sebastien Lepinoy
Daily Bread Basket – the first test of the Michelin star is the bread basket. This is usually the first thing that is served after you have placed the order. The bread basket of Les Amis consisted of the standard rolls, pumpernickel, baguettes and savouries. The butter was softened to ease spreading. Most other places have flavoured butter, Les Amis used very good unsalted French butter. I would consider the baguette the best among the batch.
Amuse bouche/ Special Selection of Kristal Caviar, cold angel hair pasta in harmony with black truffle & caviar balanced with an exquisite aroma of kombu & chives. I did not know if the highlight was the caviar or the angel hair pasta, but the pasta stole the show. The angel hair pasta was flavoured with black truffle oil, celery vinegar and sprinkled with caviar and edible shiso bloom.
Course 1/ Foie Gras & Eel, pan seared foie gras and french river eel in combination with citrus fruit compote and dashi. The duck foie gras was caramelised on the outside. The piece of eel was smoked and placed on the compote.
Foie Gras & Eel – It was a rather small piece of foie gras and even smaller piece of eel. But it packed a lot of umami. The eel was deboned that even a small child can eat it. Sesame with foie gras did not really worked, but the yuzu compote was sufficed to cleanse the fatty liver.
Eel Liver Dashi is usually served at specialised Unagi restaurants in Japan. I was pleasantly surprised that they replicated the dashi in this course. The light dashi was a palate cleanser for heavier dishes to come.
Course 2/ Steamed White Asparagus, white asparagus from Provence, served with a traditional mousseline sauce – every spring, white asparagus comes into season. I am not a white asparagus fan, but gourmands have forked out a lot of money for this once-a-year treat. Now, you’re probably asking yourself, why is white asparagus so hard to find, so elusive? It’s because there’s a demand for it, especially from restaurants, which buy up the vegetable as soon as it hits the markets.
Chefs consider it a rare spring delicacy (among the likes of ramps and fiddleheads) and appreciate it for its mellow flavor. In Europe it’s treated like a king of vegetables, typically simmered and topped with hollandaise or vinaigrette. But what really makes white asparagus unusual, so weird, is the fact that it’s grown in complete sun deprivation, making it the vampire of the vegetable world!
Other than color, there’s no difference between green and white asparagus — white asparagus is simply green asparagus that hasn’t been allowed to turn green. The way white asparagus is grown is that it’s covered in a thick layer of mulch and dark plastic so that no sunlight reaches theway the vegetable never gets a chance to turn green because no photosynthesis takes place. This process, termed etiolation, creates pale white asparagus spears that have a more delicate flavor than their green cousins.
And there’s a bit of a difference between white and green asparagus when cooking. An important preparation must not be skipped: Make sure to peel the bottom two-thirds of each spear because white asparagus tends to have a thick and bitter skin.
A mousseline sauce is a luxurious, light, smooth and very rich version of a classic Hollandaise sauce. However, the classic has a very generous helping of whipped cream carefully folded into it, making it just gorgeous.
The mousseline is also called a sauce Chantilly, reminiscent the favorite dessert sauce, Chantilly Cream, because of the airy cream component. But these two should never be confused and are not substitutes for each other. The mousseline is for savory dishes, the Chantilly, sweet. So, perhaps best to skip the second description.
Course 3/ Warm Lobster Rouelle, lobster mousse encased within the baby organic spinach & placed on the bed of classic fish bone sauce. The highlight of the dish was the fish bone sauce. The creamy sauce did not have the ‘fishy’ taste that was usually associated with fish stock, but complimented the rouelle perfectly. But there was so little of the sauce.
Lobster Mousse was made up of chopped lobster tail, lightly cooked, and wrapped in a ball (rouelle) made of baby spinach. The amount of work put into making the roelle was tremendous. Would it have worked if it’s just a lobster tail on a bed of charred spinach and the same sauce? Yes, but then it would not have showcased the artistry of the kitchen. Gone are the days where you would be satisfied with only the choicest of the ingredients. Now, not only each course must demonstrate artistic plating, complex choices of ingredients, the chef must be good looking too.
Course A la Carte/ Cadoret Oyster N.6, warm cabaret N.6 oyster with asparagus soup and ikura. We wanted a soup course, and the only soup on the menu was an asparagus cream soup with a slightly poached French Cadoret oyster.
From the house of Huitres Cadoret, this family owned oyster producers specialises in the Belon and their own speciality, the Cadoret. When they are mature, the 4 years oysters are transferred on discovering oyster beds subjected to the magic of the flow and the ebb, in waters softened by the river during several months. Oysters get more and more fine and subtle. The firm, crunchy and very thick flesh, becomes velvety under the tooth, with its taste of hazelnut and this tiny defers sweet touch, which give them a very special style.
N.6 is not suitable for shucking, so they were perfect for adding to a soup. For me, the oyster stole the limelight from the very delicious soup.
Course 4/ Pan Roasted Sea Bass, line-caught sea bass from Vendreé Coast of Sant-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie served with petit caviar and crispy leek. Chef Lepinoy loved the Mediterranean Sea Bass. He featured this particular fish in almost all his menus. For me, growing up next to East Coast where fishermen brought their freshest catch, this dish was underwhelming.
Course 5/ Japanese Omi Beef, grilled Japanese beef with asparagus and traditional “poivrade” sauce. Japanese Omi beef had the perfect marbling, and a simple sear on a super-hot pan would do the trick. Poivrade sauce was basically a pepper sauce, but the pepper bits had been filtered off, leaving only the rich, buttery, peppery sauce on the melt-in-your-mouth beef. The fave beans, asparagus and a simple ratatouille totally lost their place on the plate.
Course 6/ French Cheese, fine selection of imported French cheese from Bordier House – a Fontainebleau blue cheese and a Camembert.
Course 7/ Rum Baba, with a light creme chantilly and blackberry coulis. Rum baba is a shortcake soaked in rum. In the good old days, they would flambé the rum onto the plate for added theatrics. But now, the plating takes precedence.
Alternative dessert/ Bourbon Vanilla Ice Cream – I loved this ice cream. They said it’s house-made. I was sure it was sourced from a really good creamery.
Alternative dessert/ Summer Fruits Platter – Just a simple plate of Alphonso mango and summer berries to go with the ice cream,
After Dinner/ Mignardises – We’re always a bit sad to see a great meal come to a close, but we can count on the arrival of mignardises to lift our spirits. This parting gesture from the kitchen—usually an artful arrangement of confections like gemlike pates de fruits, say or tiny macarons—is a tradition that dates back to 18th-century France. Miniature sweets were de rigueur then: Once pastry chefs had finished their work for the day in their brick ovens, they placed small treats inside to bake in the low, residual heat; the name mignardise comes from the Old French word for “precious” or “cute.” Nowadays, chefs dazzle us with their stunning array of after dinner sweets: It’s a chance for them to show off their skills, create a final impression that embodies the spirit of the restaurant, and more important, extend the pleasure of the meal.
We were served two types of magdalenes, one with chopped pistachios and the other with chopped Moschino cherries, perfect with the coffee.
After Dinner/ Camomile Tea – it was too late for coffee so I opted for the Camomile Tea.
It may seemed to be a heavy dinner with so many courses. But if you zoomed out and saw the portion for degustation menu, it was rather small. It was around $250 pax for dinner, now with the Michelin stars, it would be around $400 pax excluding the drinks.
The restaurant boasts one of the most extensive wine lists in Asia, with more than 3,000 bottles housed in a temperature-and-humidity-controlled wine cellar. The restaurant’s award-winning wine list, made up of both Old and New World wines mainly from Burgundy and Bordeaux, is designed to complement the classic French cuisine at Les Amis.
1 Scotts Road, #01-16 Shaw Centre, Singapore 228208
(Opposite HSBC Bank, Tanglin Branch)
Tel : (65) 6733-2225
Date Visited : Apr 2015
Awarded Michelin 2* 2016, 2017