In this issue’s restaurant review, FUCHSIA will take you to a local food-haven less-known to expats and new arrivals in Singapore. Off Yio Chu Kang and Sengkang, there is a street called Jalan Kayu, which was made enormously popular about 30 years ago by the roti pratas of Thasevi Prata Restaurant. Today, there are 3 restaurants along Jalan Kayu that serve local Indian dishes, the most popular of which is Cafeela. Cafeela serves prata, mee gorengs, nasi briyanis, thosai – and has recently expanded to a Thai-Chinese menu. While the quality of the food is no longer top-notch, Jalan Kayu is still a hotspot for weekend breakfasts and late-night suppers. There is an undeniable charm in its laidback, heartland-based, roadside dining experience. Many eateries have come and gone, attempting to ride on the fame of Jalan Kayu – Mad Jack’s, Sarpinos Pizzeria etc.
There’s a new kid-on-the-block these days, called Le Steak by Chef Amri. With its quaint, charming, black-and-white decor, it stands out curiously in Jalan Kayu. I fought with Le Steak’s engaged telephone line for an hour, before deciding to take the chance and go to the restaurant itself. 35 minutes after I was told it is fully booked, I sat at my table. The 4 staff, a little overwhelmed by the 50-or-so diners, kept the dishes flowing from the kitchen non-stop. The diners were mostly finishing up with the Ramadan Menu of free-flow handmade bread and soup, a main course choice between Braised Beef Provencal, Monkfish in Dill Cream Sauce or Chicken Basquise, and a hot drink for $28.90++.
Trying not to look like the steak-idiot that I am, I gave a flick of my hand (and head too I think), while asking for the steak I ordered from the main menu to be Well-Done. The polite waiter convinced me to get Medium Well-Done instead, as Well-Done is tough and there is little ‘steak-ness’ left to enjoy.
Chef Amri, a French-cooking-enthusiast and the owner of Le Steak, observes that the Muslims in Singapore are looking for more quality Halal non-local food options. Still in its ‘probation stage’, as I call it, Le Steak is almost fully booked every day. Chef Amri recognizes that this is a result of both the support of his well-wishers, and the high quality of his product and service.
The regular menu offers the standard sirloin, tenderloin and ribeye steaks, as well as some Prime selections including USDA Prime Grade Sirloin and Rib and the Australian 45day GF Lamb Rack. There are some typically popular Italian and European dishes, and its Weekend Specials can include lobster, oysters and caviar. Seasonally, Chef Amri will bring in rarities such as sea urchin (November) and French oyster varieties, Fine de Claire and Belon.
The smoked salmon salad was refreshing, dressed in simple vinegar, oil and pepper. The salmon was flavourful and soft, but not very smoky. I loved the simple potato leek soup. This was far from the overly starchy versions I have had. It was light and slightly grainy.
The first main course that arrived was our favourite – Braised Lamb Shank sitting on Mashed Potato. The lamb shank, seared at high temperature before being cooked in a tomato-based gravy, had a good portion of meat, which fell off the bone beautifully. The lamb flavour played on the tongue as a delectable aftertaste. Wondering where the dish got its slightly sweetish tinge from, I discovered Chef Amri adds apple cider to it. Lovely.
The steaks arrived next; we had ordered the Sirloin, Prime Tenderloin and Australian Wagyu Ribeye, all in black pepper sauce.
The tenderloin was the smallest but thickest steak. True enough, it was the tenderest of the three. The way the knife cut the piece, I was excited to put it in my mouth, but a little disappointed at the lowness in flavour. All three steaks had been ordered Medium Well-Done, but the tenderloin was a ‘wetter’ pink than the sirloin and Wagyu ribeye. Owing to its mild flavour, I needed copious amounts of the black pepper sauce to truly enjoy it. Although I am sure a true steak enthusiast would not.
The sirloin steak, which was slightly bigger and less tender, definitely had more flavour. There was a layer of fat on one end of the cut, which made that end even more flavourful (and definitely more guilt-laden). Both loin steaks were served with mashed potato and steamed broccoli, cauliflower, baby carrots and cherry tomatoes.
The Wagyu Ribeye was the biggest and fattiest steak of the three, but the fat somehow didn’t present itself in a blatant, “are you sure you want to eat me?” manner. This is both because of the part of the spine it is from (the front), and also the genetic tendency of Wagyu cows to have more fat deposition within the muscles. Regardless, guilt was not a problem with this piece, owing to the juicy, flavourful and extremely buttery texture of beef that just melted in my mouth. This steak was served with vinegar-dressed salad and boiled potato-in-jacket cubes, a nice complement.
Chef Amri gave me some of the mushroom steak sauce to try; it is prepared in the kitchen with fresh shitake and button mushrooms, and cream. I usually prefer mushroom sauce to black pepper, but I couldn’t help feel it tasted similar to an instant stock mix.
Le Steak offers Waffles, Crème Brulee, Lemon Curd Tart and Chocolate Lava Cake for desert. The Creme Brulee was delicious, not too sweet, and its raspberry flavour gave me a lovely, slightly sour surprise. My first spoonful of the Lemon Curd Tart was a shocker, with sweet cranberry sauce that had snuck its way below the tart shell. After getting that sauce out of the way, the lemon curd proved to be refreshingly light, sour-sweet and smooth. It would have been a perfect experience had the tart shell been less tough, and more in sync with the curd, instead of two separate entities.
I excitedly positioned my camera to capture the liquid chocolate oozing out when I dug the spoon into the Chocolate Lava Cake, but alas! Heartbreak – there was no oozing. The cake was average, but the accompanying vanilla ice cream was simply delicious.
On my next payday, I am definitely coming back to try the Certified Angus 200 days Over-Prepared Ribs at $99 a kilo. First, I will Google it to find out what in the world it is.