Okay, so JR. As you can tell, I've been dodging this one for a bit. It's hard to be too harsh on a place when you got pretty much what you expected, the food was generally well executed and you had a really nice conversation with the chef and the somm (who was, I should add, awesome. Self taught, spot on palette. We ordered the Damaine Vacheron 2009 Sancerre - a red, quite a reasonable mark-up, but it's Singapore dollars. The first bottle was corked and, in a great education moment, he let us compare side-by-side the old and new bottle. How often do you get to do that kind of direct comparison? Almost never). Plus it's, you know, one visit. So I won't be too harsh.
Partially because I figured a restaurant in Resort World Sentosa would be a like walking into a restaurant in Vegas without the casino floor. And yeah, I did know that the point of JR is to create a restaurant that's replicable all over the world. Even still, my expectation for the room was something that had a shade of personality, that allowed me, for a second, to forget that I was sitting, not in a restaurant, but in a concept, in a mall, on landfill. At least we were at the counter.
Anyway, service was competent to very good, prices were high though less high when you did the conversation and the person next to us was chowing down on a lame steak. Once again, the sommelier was excellent (Comp disclosure: a couple pours at the end of the meal). Bread, of course, was strong. Better was the Bordier butter, next to the Manresa butter, the second best of the year. Amuses were, I think, a standard JR amuse - parmesean foam, reduced red wine, foie. Good enough to make us forget the room and, frankly, good enough to get me pretty excited for the meal.
First courses were fine. The missus's spaghetti with clams (because you start to crave Western style pasta, believe it or not, after a few weeks in SE Asia) was very satisfying with a great umami hit from some very good parm. My foie raviolis in chicken consumee were good, I guess. It was a funny dish; the consumee was technically on point, clear as day with a subtle chicken flavour. The raviolis were thin and delicate, filled with an airy foie mousse. Ethereal is a terrible word to use in a food report and, in another context, it would have been accurate. Here, the contemplative nature of the dish fell flat. The few raviolis were lost in too much broth. As an amuse, in a quieter room, in a smaller bowl, this is good stuff. As a first course in a red and black room, it's so light it dissolves.
Mains reverse things: I win, she loses. Her John Dory is a well cooked piece of good fish with some provencal vegetables. It's the kind of dish that goes nowhere. It's competence without interest. Were I to be nasty, it's food as accounting - it's nice that both sides balance, but I'm not going to celebrate it. The kind of dead dish that drains a room despite the fact that it's, I guess, kind of flawless. Worse, and revealingly, I fear it may have been a conceit to the calorie counters. I got, of course, the famous quail with foie. The portion is small, the quail is perfect. It's delicious. I guess. There's also not enough of it, the jus is nice but sparse and the salad is a thimble. A bigger portion, more jus, less white plate staring me in the face and I'm raving about this. It's technically better than that chicken with lobster and foie and sausage at Cabane A Sucre but if feels more like a dish I should like more than I do. The original, I'm sure, was magnificent.
And now a word on the potatoes. They do know where their bread is (Bordier) buttered. These things are good. Which is nice until you realize that they're plying every table with refills of the potatoes. Why am I being uncharitable about this? A few days ago at Schwa, I'm sure everyone got the truffled uova ravioli and I'm not holding that against them. But it didn't seem so studied there, it didn't seem so much like a veteran rock band playing their One Big Hit night after night, while you sing along and they fall asleep.
Pre-desert was something.
Desert was a yuzu souffle with raspberry sorbet. Technically correct, of course.
We had a great chat with the somm and chef after the meal. The chef's a German expat, doesn't love Singapore. He's very talented - you can see that, this stuff comes out well cooked, ingredients are good. It's just that this is a restaurant from limbo, located in limbos all over the world; I half expected to walk out the door and find myself at the MGM Grand. There's no dialogue between the restaurant and the place or, more precisely, there is - except the place outside is a luxury mall, filled with luxury goods that are nice and pretty but no nicer or prettier than they have to be to justify their price given their name.
We mentioned we were transferring flights in Hong Kong.
"There's a L'Aterlier in Hong Kong as well!" they said.
And that, I think, is precisely the problem.