Saturday, 7 March 2015

French Cuisine in Toots Brasserie

Ada got Groupon for Toots Brasserie last time we dined there. Since we were satisfied with our last visit, we thought we check out a couple more dishes.

The Vibe:  The brasserie is part of the Sultan boutique hotel located in pretty much the heart of Kampong Glam.

The Sultan Hotel, Kampong Glam, Singapore

This is a cosy, casual dining atmosphere. The hotel is put together with 10 traditional shophouses. While the facade of the hotel is charming enough, there's really nothing in the restaurant's decor that reminds you of French culture.

The Food:  We dined here once, and Ada was taken with its beef cheeks. And so I was taken here (not entirely against my will).

Baguette:  9.5 / 10. Warm and soft on the inside, crunchy on the outside. The best of yin and yang. Yummy. I'm not ashamed to admit that the best thing I like about French cooking are the sides: soup, pâtisserie, etc, more so than their mains. I'm a simple man with humble taste. I can resist a pièce de résistance with ease. Just keep the French stick coming, garçon (well, it's free).

I could quite happily just munch on baguette with either Camembert or brie (sometimes I eat brie with banana. Try it before pooh pooh it). They didn't give us cheese, they served us butter instead. Only English speakers (Yanks, Pommies, and Aussies) eat bread with butter. So we asked for olive oil and vinegar. When in French restaurant, do what the French (and Southern Europeans) do.

In any case, it was probably the kind of butter made for Singapore weather with a high melting point (probably 28°+). So it was too hard to spread in this soft baguette's centre. I remember back in Sydney, restaurants served butter that needed to be refrigerated because it melts at room temperature. If you don't spread it on your bread ASAP after it was brought out, it would turn runny, and you have to dip it instead of spreading it just as you would with olive oil. Still, it works. This hard butter wouldn't budge. If you try, you end up poking holes in the bread. Not what butter is designed to do. It's a minor nuisance (that has been overlooked).

French stick, Baguette

Beef Cheek:  9 / 10. Ada would probably give it a higher score. I think this is their signature dish, if I'm not mistaken (it should be). This is the reason we came.

Butchers wouldn't normal sell this cut. If you look at the Beef Cuts posters in butcher shops, you wouldn't see a cut of beef cheek shows on such a chart.

Of course, they exist and quite tough. Not that because cows smile all day and lead to this tough muscle. They spent all days chewing grass. Some people insist on eating the part of fishes near the gill areas as that are the parts working the hardest. By the same token, the muscles of the cows' cheeks would get the most exercise.

To turn such tough meat into tender ones takes hours and lots of work. Much like ox-tail stew (my fave French dish. No, they don't have it).

Beef cheek, Toots Brasserie, Singapore

Pan-Fried Frog Legs:  9 / 10. What could be more French than beef cheek? I think you know the answer.

Maybe because I grew up in Vietnam, and so developed a taste for frog legs (French, Chinese or Vietnamese style. I don't play favourites). People say frog leg tastes like chicken (hence Chinese call them field chicken). I prefer frog legs over chicken drumsticks any day (not that I don't like chickens). Their meat are chewier because frogs leap while chicken walk (with occasional flights that shorter and lower than the Wright's Bros).

Having said that, this is certainly an easier dish to eat for beginner of French dining to get a taste of French food. Beef cheek, on the other hand, requires more acquired taste where its sauce is a complex brew of beef stock, red wine, onion, etc. Ada loves my French ox-tail stew, and so naturally, she would enjoy eating beef cheek. Yeah, she has a French palate, I don't know where she gets it. From moi?

pan-fried frog legs, Toots Brasserie, Singapore

Crispy Pork Belly:  6.5 / 10. The "crispy" adjective refers to the skins, which isn't thick or crispy enough. The meat is slightly dry (just slightly). I expect the fat melt in my mouth. It didn't. I'll take a good Chinese roast pork over this any time. The mustard is too sweet for my taste.

crispy pork belly, Toots Brasserie, Singapore

Overall Score:   8.5 / 10 (for the price we paid). Since we paid $30 for the $60 deal voucher, so the damage came to a total of $43.1, which was little cheaper than we would expect to pay for such a meal. But we wouldn't eat here if we had to pay the full price. If they don't have discounts, I'll just have to cook French for Ada myself. Nah! I'll look for another affordable French restaurant.

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