Thursday, July 9, 2009

Les Amis

The recession is good news for foodies like me who like to eat at nice restaurants but yet don't want to spend astronomical sums of money. Even the local stalwart of fine dining Les Amis has had to lower her prices in recent months, after the fat expense accounts of corporations and bankers dried up.

Ever opportunistic, we seized the chance to try out their set lunches, priced at a very value-for-money level of $38 for 2 courses or $48 for 3 courses. We were initially rather awed by the restaurant décor, which was in a fairly severe and formal fashion. Tables were placed a little bit too close to each other than ideal, but it’s great for eavesdropping on the rich tai tais and businessmen dining out. Service was extremely excellent – warm without being overly effusive, attentive without being overly fawning, with waiters that have the uncanny knack of knowing what you want, at the exact moment you want it.

As we sat down we were given a choice of warm bread with a pat of butter (no fancy spreads here! It’s real traditional). This was followed quickly by the amuse-bouche of smoked salmon on crispy pita bread squares. For starters, E had the B.L.T of Hokkaido scallop, with marinated heirloom tomato and Iberico ham. He pronounced it delicious, while I wasn’t so wowed by it since good quality ingredients will give you a good result any way (the mark of greatness is to rise above your ingredients!) My starter of cream of morel mushroom soup with sautéed quail breast and ramp leaves ravioli was interesting but tasted fairly normal.

The good stuff started coming out with the main courses. E ordered the slow-cooked Atlantic salmon with home-made farfalle – I guess it was cooked “sous-vide” or under very slow controlled heat conditions in vacuum, to have achieved that kind of melty smooth texture. But in my opinion, it was my choice of main course that really took the cake. Many customers had raved about the crispy skin pork leg (sounds terribly Chinese doesn’t it?) and wow, wow, wow, was it really good! The skin was crackling crisp, with a layer of soft melting fat, and perfectly seasoned soft and tender meat underneath it. A mélange of flavours and textures exploded in my mouth – salty, savoury, crackling, unctuous…. Served on a bed of sauerkraut. I honestly didn’t want to share any at all with E but eventually had no choice. This is a MUST order if you see it on the menu at Les Amis.

If that isn’t enough incentive to get you down to Shaw Centre pronto, ladies who lunch on Mondays or Tuesdays get to enjoy a complimentary glass of champagne (moet & chandon!) with every 3 course or 4 course lunch ordered. What a perfect start to the work week.

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