We’re off to Bangkok for a short break tonight, so we decided to start our holiday early by having lunch at Nicolas, after hearing good things about it from W, S and Y. Nicolas is just down the road from Ember along Keong Saik Road, and serves traditionally French food – of the finer dining persuasion though, not the rustic and heavily-sauced variety.
Just like almost every chi-chi restaurant these days, Nicolas has a weekday lunch set that’s very good value - $38 (this seems to be the magic number for executive lunches) for an amuse bouche, starter, main, dessert and coffee/petit fours. You have about 4 items to choose from for each course. The interesting thing about this place is that they don’t have an a la carte menu, not even at dinner time. In the evening, they have a 6-course Tasting Menu at $98 (or $175 with wine pairing), or if you want the chef to ‘surprise you’, you can opt for the $125 8-course Surprise Menu which subjects you to the chef’s whims of the day. Kinda like a French omakase.
Amuse bouche was a soft-boiled egg served with parma ham and a dollop of balsamic reduction. This was pretty good, and set the tone for the rest of the meal. My starter was superb – Tagliolini Pasta with slow roasted quail and morel mushroom emulsion. This was quite a substantial portion compared to A’s), and everything was perfect, from the tender quail down to the heady aroma of the truffle oil that was drizzled on the pasta.
A’s starter of Grilled Scallop with a tomato espuma (foam that’s been slightly gelatinized, I think) was really good, except that there was so little of it. Just one scallop! But it was a damn good scallop – firm, meaty and juicy. The espuma essentially tasted like gazpacho, just with a different texture.
I went for the organic pork tenderloin, and initially I was a bit concerned to see the pink and almost rare center, but remembered that organic pork is not meant to be cooked to death. In fact, because of how the pigs are reared, they can apparently be cooked like lamb or beef. This was definitely one of the most tender pieces of pork I’ve ever had, given that it didn’t even have any fat to help it along its flavourful way.
Unfortunately mine completely paled in comparison with A’s. He ordered the slow-roasted rack of lamb (there’s an additional $8 for this), and again we were apprehensive when they recommended medium rare because we’re used to pink but certainly not rare lamb. And again our fears were unfounded. The meat was of really good quality, and really sweet and flavourful without being lamby.
There are only 2 desserts to choose from, so we ordered one of each – the Orange Panna Cotta with an almond tuile, and the Chocolate Fondant with mango espuma. The chocolate fondant was alright, but tasted like something you could whip up at home. I much preferred the orange panna cotta, particularly how the fresh orange flavour made an otherwise rich dessert a lot lighter and more refreshing.
I’m very impressed with Nicolas, and while it’s a fairly chi-chi place, I didn’t find it overbearingly stuffy. I’m now quite keen to come at dinner time for the full tasting menu, but $98 is still a bit steep so it’s going to have to wait for a special occasion.
Excellent food and service. It’s not cheap but it’s pretty worth it, especially for the lunch set. The only problem here is the parking. Finding a place along the road is nearly impossible. C and I went early and found one but ended up getting a ticket for “Parking in the wrong direction.” Who the hell ever heard of that rule?
35 Keong Saik Road
Lunch: Mon to Fri 12 noon to 2 pm
Dinner: Mon to Sat 6.30 pm to 10 pm