The joy of being a food reviewer–some call me gourmet emeritus–is coming across people who share the same utopian version as me. This happens rarely but it happens at Saveur, an unassuming restaurant along Purvis Street. The culinary experience is magical.
A magazine wrote that Saveur, originally from a kopitiam, has “moved up” but I don’t think that’s what Saveur thinks of itself. “Moving up” implies a sort of ranking and superiority, ranking restaurants over hawkers; that is elitism and snobbery written all over the usage of phrase “moving up.” Restaurants and hawker centers/kopitiams are different realms that offer different experiences but they can be equally good experiences. The purpose of changing location isn’t about “moving up.” The chef told me, “I want to bring good food to people of all classes.” Changing location for Saveur means it can reach a larger crowd; there is no elitism here. Which is why the price of food hasn’t changed from hawker to this new restaurant. How can the restaurant survive with selling French/mod-sin food at hawker prices at a prime location?? That is why we respect and support Saveur’s idealism, that they don’t want much profit, they want to serve the people, to treat all people equally.
Pan fried foie gras with lentils and pickled onion (35g-$7.90, 70g-$14.90) must be the most affordable foie gras in Singapore. The lentils lend an Indian flavor and the pickled onion really packs a vinegary punch. While the flavors are disparate and don’t really enhance each other, the foie gras is pitch-perfect, one of the best cooked foie gras I have eaten recently, better than all the top restaurants. The chefs have expertise! Buttery, melts in your mouth but firm on the fork. It does have a bit of liver stench but, for the price I am paying, it is still within an acceptable range.
There is a fine line between blandness and subtlety; too little of something and it becomes bland; too much and it becomes crude. This Angel hair pasta with sherry minced pork and sakura ebi ($3.90) belongs to the subtle sublime: it is impeccably nuanced and wonderfully balanced. Costing as much as your neighbourhood bak chor mee and tasting like bak chor mee, the angel hair is gorgeously plated. The sakura shrimps look like they are inedible decorations. The minced pork is completely pulverized into a paste (can you see the paste in the photo?), so that when you mix the paste into the pasta, each strand is coated, giving a consistent taste. The black bits are kombu seaweed, used in many Japanese dishes and Chinese soup. There are also chili oil, garlic, lime, shallot, etc.
Though just a tad oily, it tastes like a non-spicy, beautifully subtle bak chor mee. You first taste the sweetness of wheat and then finish off with a slight undertone of saltiness of non-spicy hae bee hiam. Amazingly complex spectrums of taste in this simple-looking dish.
While the mashed potato and shitake mushrooms are run-of-the-mill, the duck confit ($8.90) is radically different from French restaurants’. Duck confit in French restaurants tend to be super, super salty because it is the French way. But here, done the Singapore way, the salt is reduced. If Old Chang Kee chicken wings and KFC have a baby, it would taste like this duck confit that is easily shredded.
Who else is sick of chocolate desserts? I am, so I ordered the textures of citrus ($6.90) which consist blood orange pudding; orange ice shaving, freeze-dried pineapple, two segments of grape fruit, a segment of lemon, a segment of orange, topped with feuilletine (those crispy biscuit bits) and chinese water cress.
The result: a symphony of refreshing variations of the citrus note. So original, so reinvigorating. What an extraordinary way to finish off a perfect 3-course meal (ok, in my instance, it’s 4-course, but hey! I need to sample a wide range of food to critique right?).
Service: Don’t except them to serve you course-by-course (hey, remember the price ok?). They serve everything at once but that’s perfectly fine with me. The server is very knowledgable and, together with the pregnant cashier, is very friendly. I feel like I am at a friend’s place, very welcoming. In fact, I think the entire team in Saveur are friends and their warmth pervades the ambience. That being said, I am slightly miffed that I wasn’t informed that water costs 30 cents. I might have ordered a drink instead of water. However, given how reasonably priced everything is, I didn’t mind paying that 30 cents. I’m just being a fusspot.
I ate two persons’ portions and paid $29 for four courses. It is the BEST $29 I have ever spent. Every dish is perfect. Theoretically speaking, a person can spend as little as $4 on a bowl of pasta but the food is so good you’ll order more. This is one of the best eateries in 2012. If RERG picks a restaurant to represent our food philosophy, it would be like Saveur, serving affordable good food to everyone, no discrimination or hate, just joy and love.
Rating: 4.293/5 stars