Monday, 22 September, 2014

Published September 23, 2013
A little more spice please
To stand out from the crowd, Fleur de Sel needs to offer more than safe and predictable French fare, says JAIME EE
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Clean flavours, dainty portions and pretty platings: The beef tenderloin gets a lift from a simple jus and briny olives (above); the seared Atlantic cod is let down by the quality of the fish; the deep-fried frog's leg croquette is a good foil to the savoury watercress puree; and the chopped up lobster tartare in the lobster bisque is a nice touch.

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Fleur de Sel

64 Tras Street, #01-01. Tel: 6222-6861

Open for lunch and dinner Mon to Sat: 12pm to 2.30pm; 6.30pm to 10.30pm. Closed on Sun

AT the rate chefs are coming out of hotels and big name restaurants to strike out on their own, the need for personal expression must be greater than the fear of going belly-up in the cut-throat F&B industry.

The latest chef to give up the security of his day job is Alexandre Lozachmeur, whose last gig was at the St Regis's Brasserie Le Saveurs - although he's also paid his dues at the Hilton Singapore and Au Petit Salut. Perhaps inspired by chefs before him who have settled down in the ubiquitous restored shophouses in Chinatown and Tanjong Pagar, he's carved out his own space in Tras Street - practically next door to fellow St Regis alumnus Frederic Colin's Brasserie Gavroche.

But rather than serve up bold, rustic flavours reminiscent of traditional French brasseries, chef Lozachmeur has opted for a lighter touch - with clean, almost shy flavours, dainty portions and pretty platings. It's all safe, standard fare, served in a generic restaurant setting with the requisite bar, warm brown tones and open kitchen concept.

If you don't want any surprises and are happy with reliable, classic-leaning French cuisine, Fleur de Sel will not disappoint, with its friendly pricing and personable service. Despite there just being two people on the floor - one manager and another motherly server who offers more warmth than a glib young upstart - your food comes fairly efficiently, and chef Lozachmeur himself lends a hand while gathering feedback from guests at the same time.

The set lunches - $38 and $48 - offer a taste of what's on the ala carte menu, so they make good options if you want a little taste of everything. The lobster bisque is a lighter version of the original where the lobster base provides the bulk of the flavour with just a little bit of cream to add texture, while the idea to add chopped up lobster tartare is a nice touch. Also interesting is a deep-fried frog's leg croquette - the juicy morsels of meat encased in a slightly too thick batter that's nonetheless crunchy and a good foil to the savoury watercress puree and the saltiness of black Spanish caviar.

The seared Atlantic cod is let down by the quality of the fish, which the pleasant waxy potatoes and beurre blanc sauce cannot mask. The beef tenderloin, in contrast, gets a lift from a simple jus and briny olives.

For dessert, plain cake is jazzed up with a boozy shot of Grand Marnier in the Le Baba, plated to look like a profiterole stuffed with cream and drizzled with chocolate sauce. A composition of chocolate ganache and praline with chocolate ice cream and sea salt caramel is a failsafe choice.

Safe, predictable, pleasant seem to be the key words to describe Fleur de Sel - a name that seems to be chosen more for its pleasing tone than for any significant reason. There are a couple of salt varieties offered with its sourdough bread but neither make an impression. If anything, it's still a work in progress and chef Lozachmeur probably needs a bit more time to deliver a memorable dining experience. He's certainly working hard at it, given his quick response to diners' feedback.

What he needs is to find his own voice, rather than stick to textbook conventions of what French food should be. Success doesn't come from blending with the crowd but on standing out with the courage of one's convictions. What Fleur de Sel needs, then, is a bit more spice.

Rating: 7


    10: The ultimate dining experience

9-9.5: Sublime

8-8.5: Excellent

7-7.5: Good to very good

6-6.5: Promising

5-5.5: Average