The subject of Saveur (translated into flavour or taste) first appeared during a dinner at Santi (I think it must be only foodies who will talk about food elsewhere while still in the middle of a meal, or the terminally gluttonous). My fellow dining companions had already sampled Saveur and were voicing their support for their efforts in bringing modern French food to the common people. You see, the unique thing about this food outlet is that it’s based in a kopitiam (coffee shop), one of the cheapest options a food purveyor can get.
Both young chefs are Shatec trained and have experience in local French restaurants. Interestingly, they are also keen on cooking using sous-vide , which is essentially cooking of a food product in a vacuum-sealed bag then usually cooked for a long time in a low-temperature water bath (e.g. ~60ºC). The most obvious effects of this is the very even heat distribution to the food product but other secondary effects are also noted sometimes such as textural alteration.
Anyway, Saveur is to be found in a little corner of the Ali Baba Eating House coffee shop right opposite the new mall of Katong 112. Its worth noting that the online menu is at best, a rough guide and hasn’t been updated recently; my uncle who has been there on 5 separate occasions now but never got a chance to eat their pork belly as they have limited supply of each item a day.
Foie gras served with lentils. We chose the 60g version for $14 which sounds incredibly cheap. Yes I know it is still ridiculously cheap at $14, but I can’t help but feel that the portion size still looked a bit small although I accept it may be because it’s in two halves instead of a whole. Anyway the duck liver itself was not bad but didn’t feel as decadent and rich as the better goose variety. And a pice we had had some chewy bits.
Angel hair pasta. We tried both versions they had: with kombu ($4); with tiger prawns and lumpfish caviar ($7).
Angel hair pasta with kombu
Both pasta dishes were actually very good, perfectly cooked and brilliantly seasoned. There isn’t a huge difference in taste between the two dishes, so it really depends on whether you want to pay an extra $3 for the tiger prawns. I think a little bit more olive oil would have helped make it just a little bit smoother though and some dried chilli flakes would’ve been nice to give it a little kick.
Tiger prawn angel hair pasta with lumpfish caviar
Duck confit ($8.90).
The duck had a great crisp outside but was still juicy within. Meat nicely seasoned. The mash was a great supporting character as well, wonderfully creamy and smooth, with a hint of orange flavour. Quite a simple dish here but very well executed.
Beef. We tried both versions they had on offer today, a plain medallion ($13.90) and a bourguignon ($13.90). Both beef were were very tender and can be easily eaten without using a knife. However, the bourguignon was a little on the dry side (weirdly given the cooking method).
The medallion was better as it had more flavour from the sauce and the meat was more juicy and tender.
Salmon confit with apple and fennel salad ($8.90). Again the method of cooking is sous-vide but it worked much better on this fish than the beef earlier. The salmon meat had that characteristic feeling upon biting where the flakes all fall apart individually while chewing. The kombu topping was full of umami flavour while the fennel and apple salad gave the dish balance via not just its sweet/sour juxtaposition but also the mild crunch.
Altogether, we shared 4 plates of starters and 3 mains between us 4 people for a total of $80 (no wine available!). So yes, it is definitely cheaper than eating out in a “proper” restaurant, but then again the food quality still isn’t quite up there as well. Also, you are missing out on the other side comforts of eating in a restaurant such as air-conditioning and clean tables for example. If however, you’re a bit like me where the food comes foremost and other aspects are secondary (I’m quite happy eating good food at roadside stalls), then Saveur is probably worth a shot for decent cheap French food, if only to tell your friends you had foie gras in a kopitiam.
Best bit: the salmon and pasta are easily the best choices here.
Worst bit: the foie gras, even at only $14, feels like such a letdown. Menu is limited too. I think we've tried almost everything there on the menu.
Ali Baba Eating House, Foodstall No 3
125 East Coast Road, Singapore 428810
(located at the corner coffeeshop of
Joo Chiat Road and East Coast Road)
Tel : +65 91250124