Getting to Le Saint Julien is quite a challenge lor, and I’m a lorry driver!! I’m suppose to be good at navigation and reading maps. If you’re taking a cab, tell the uncle or Miss (cannot call auntie ok!!) to go along Fullerton Road towards Suntec but do NOT go into Esplanade Drive. Enter the slip road BEFORE going on Esplanade Drive. Alight at the side of Fullerton Hotel beside the canal. Waterboat House is just across a small road from Fullerton Hotel. If you drive, park at One Fullerton, walk towards the Merlion, past the underpass, and climb up a flight of stairs.
The entrance is an unostentatious small door without any signboard – woah, very celebrity hush-hush kinda of place. The decor is mostly a lavish deep-red (my favorite color!) and black with brown leather armless chairs. I joked to The Endangered Sartorialist (TES from now), whom I was dining with, “I’ll title my review ‘A Meal Without a View.” Because the view is quite pathetic, facing a canal and a highway (Esplanade Dr.). At the most, you see the towering Marina Bay Sands. I’d suggest to seal up the restaurant like Privé Restaurant so that it maintains an exclusivity, like “hey, superstars dining here! don’t look in.” One other thing is that the space felt cramp because there were a number of tables and chairs; I suspect the restaurant accepted more patrons because Restaurant Week, so on a normal day, the place should be more spacious.
Like the Restaurant Week menu at Salt Grill, the menu here didn’t leave much choice. Entree and desserts were fixed; a choice of fish or duck confit for mains. What to do, paying only $40++ for 3 courses. Lorry Drivers can’t be choosers. We ordered an extra foie gras ($32) because the server told us it’s their specialty and the usual price is $48.
Entree: Terrine of foie gras and chicken with mushroom and watercress. “Terrine is like a pate, right?” I asked TES. I must have eaten terrine many times before, but I think terrine is just meat on bread while a pate is more like meat jam on bread. He replied, “I think so?” OMG, two food reviewers didn’t know what a terrine is. So when it came, the server suggested that we should eat it on a brioche. So we’re right? Heng lah, at least I know what a brioche is.. it’s ya-kun bread.
TES said it was comparable to the entree at best restaurant in Italy. Wow, very high praise leh. Last time, I ah beng followed my Big Brother to Italy for Gangster International Conference, we only know how to eat pizza. Anyway, the food. At first, it didn’t give the WOW factor because the taste was very light and subtle. But as we ate more, it slowly dawned on us how excellent it was. The buttery foie gras provided a textual contrast with the roughness of the buttered broiche. The mushroom enhanced the dish with a good muskiness while the watercress gave it a crunch. The sauce–TES said it was balsamic vinaigrette but to me, it wasn’t as tart and was sweeter–was savory with the bread. But there were flaws too. I didn’t like the other counterpart, the layers of chicken with vegetables inside. Bland for me. The brioche was too thick and cold–my mama tells me eat cold food no good for tummy. I iz good ah beng.
But eating it felt like a common movie scene. It starts off with the actor walking, thinking, looking sad, then she gets happier and happier, and starts skipping, running, big grin on her face, signifying hope for the future. This was the feeling the dish gave me.
When TES asked me how the pan-seared foie gras with caramelized apple and caramelized onion in balsamic and honey sauce was, I replied, “Competent lor.” The two types of apple–green and red–cut in two different ways, cubes and slices, provided layering textures. The sweet-sourness of the apple, the sweet-tartness of the sauce, the sweet-smelliness of the onion and the sweet-buttery of the foie gras – you can see where Chef Julien is going. Using common taste (sweetness) but also complicating it with other flavors. But I thought it was competent lor. Didn’t disappoint but didn’t quite surprise either.
Main: The manager, Edith, whom we later found out is the wife of Chef Julien, told us that Crispy Rice Risotto with duck confit and truffle oil emulsion with smoked duck breast sauce is a new creation. Wow, very brave to push a new menu for Restaurant Week which is usually used to showcase and introduce the best dishes to the public.
My view of the dish changed after TES told me his theory of eating. Usually, I’ll just eat the dish part by part, using my mouth as a blender for the food. TES believed that a good chef will take all the flavors on the dish into consideration so each mouthful you eat must consist of the same proportion of ingredients on the plate. For instance, in this case, every bite I must take in the duck meat, the rice and the salad. Times like this, I wish I am Julia Roberts or Angelina Jolie… big mouths.
Eating piece by piece, the taste was so-so but using TES’s theory, the taste improved tremendously. But while the taste was good, I didn’t like the toughness of the duck, or the hardness of the rice. It was difficult to cut the duck. However, towards the last two bites–I remember very vividly, two bites–strangely, the feeling of the common movie scene came back to me.
For dessert, French tradition Strawberry custard cake with “Signature” caramelized chocolate mousse with a coconut waffle didn’t pass TES’s theory. The three ingredients, tiny strawberries imported from Australia, cake and mousse, had distinct, conflicting and competing favors that didn’t go well together. But eaten on their own, one after the other, they were excellent, especially the chocolate mousse. If you notice I seldom or never use “to-die-for” to describe food. Seriously lah, need to die for food meh? But woah! was the mousse a relentless intensity and bitterness. Like love. It made me think of 14K. Good job.
Service: A Pinoy waiter, who spoke American English, was attentive and sweet, providing me a bag holder for my camera bag. But for the rest of the servers, while the service was efficient, they needed to smile more and be more friendly. Edith the Manager told us that two of her regular servers were ill, and some of these were newly employed to handle the Restaurant Week crowd. So perhaps that makes the difference in attitude.
Overall, good food approaching greatness, but still lacking in that elusive WOW-ness I’m searching for; efficient but perfunctory service; and I suspect the ambience will be better at night.
$132 for two, including foie gras $32.
Le Saint Julien
3 Fullerton Rd
The Fullerton Waterboat House
M-F: 12-3pm; 6.30-10pm
Sat and PH: 6.30-10pm
Close on Sundays.
T: 6534 5947
Rating: 3.602/5 frommage
PS: See TES’s review on Le Saint Julien. Still owe him money for the meal, thanks for the treat, TES! Thanks, thanks!