Birdie Num Num Gastrobar, 54 Jalan Kembangan

A mono-taste dinner; the sort you have after a break-up when you would rather be curled up in bed crying fruitlessly; that meal a kind friend has forced on you so you are mechanically putting food in your mouth because you were properly brought-up.

Except, there had been no break-up, and all four of us were in high spirits and famished when we arrived at Birdie Num Num (facebook. 54 Jalan Kembangan).

Thus ravenous, we ordered two starters: the foie gras and scallops,
Birdienumnum Gastrobar, 54 Jalan Kembangan
Birdienumnum Gastrobar, 54 Jalan Kembanganpan-fried foie gras is hard to do well – a little overcooked, and the liver-y taste overwhelms, as it did here. The others hastily left me to finish this. The scallops, equally difficult not to render rubbery, were small but had been cooked over a well-controlled fire.

Each of us had a main course. They were, in ascending order of saltiness, the cod, the duck confit, the beef cheek, and the lamb shank:

cod fish. Birdienumnum Gastrobar, 54 Jalan Kembangan
duck confit. Birdienumnum Gastrobar, 54 Jalan Kembangan
beef cheek. Birdienumnum Gastrobar, 54 Jalan Kembangan
lamb shank. Birdienumnum Gastrobar, 54 Jalan KembanganThe cod was a little tough, the duck meat – good and moist, the beef and lamb – tender. But the salt content in the marinade/sauce/stew so dominated everything else that there was only a hint of the difference between the dishes.

We might have gotten them on an off-day.

In society, we appear to vacillate between expecting consistency from humans, and not – “oh! such a hypocrite!” we might spit at someone who has acted inconsistently, and yet “oh, he’s only human” we murmur about another who hasn’t performed up to his usual standard.

Perhaps it is in one’s character that we expect continuity and stability. Then Jonah 4 is most amusing. There, Jonah the reluctant, rebellious prophet of God has a hissy fit about Yahweh’s consistent character:

“I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster…”

We too know this from Exodus 34:6, 2 Chronicles 30:9, Nehemiah 9:17 and 31, Psalm 86:15 etc. There has never been any change in the character of God. Which is why Jonah could expect his stay of judgement, and so refused to warn the evil city of Nineveh to repent of their ways in the first place.

What a guy! What a God! You couldn’t have made this up.

Salute (not Salut) Coffeeshop, 119 Bukit Merah Lane 1, Alexandra Village, Singapore

Salut Coffeeshop, 119 Bukit Merah Lane 1 Immanuel French Kitchen, Salut Coffeeshop, 119 Bukit Merah Lane 1 Immanuel French Kitchen, Salut Coffeeshop, 119 Bukit Merah Lane 1

We were at Salute Coffeeshop in Bukit Merah for Immanuel French Kitchen (facebook), headed by Immanuel Tee.

foie gras, Immanuel French Kitchen, Salut Coffeeshop, 119 Bukit Merah Lane 1The pan-fried foie gras (“coated with black miso and served with dashi broth and daikon noodles”) was a promising concept, but lacked the crisp exterior that should have come from being in a pan, and would have helped with jer lat blandness of the liver.

French duck confit, Immanuel French Kitchen, Salut Coffeeshop, 119 Bukit Merah Lane 1Duck confit is difficult to get just right. Cooking it is easy enough – just fish out from its rendered duck fat bath, pat dry, and put on the pan. But to get the contrast of textures – the crackle of skin and the tender flavourful flesh, takes experience. One of Immanuel’s assistants cooked this dry duck leg – a pity. Also there was a lack of cohesion to the dish – you took a bite of the duck, and one of the mash, but there was nothing to bridge the distance.

pork belly cooked in kakuni style, Immanuel French Kitchen, Salut Coffeeshop, 119 Bukit Merah Lane 1Pork belly cooked in kakuni style (“served with mushrooms, onsen egg, potato foam”). I guess none of this is a reflection on Immanuel’s ability as a chef, but he might want to train his assistants better.

Two Wings (facebook) was another stall within the coffeeshop: Two Wings, Salut Coffeeshop, 119 Bukit Merah Lane 1The wings are allegedly made according to the Carona Chicken recipe from yesteryear. As fried chicken wings went, they were alright, said H, but probably not worth S$12.50 for 6 pieces. I just remember the chilli sauce being the highlight of Carona, not the chicken.

Representing the Germans was Stew Küche (facebook): stew and pretzel, Salut Coffeeshop, 119 Bukit Merah Lane 1The stew in a claypot accompanied by a pretzel, wasn’t anything to write home about, said B. And the pretzel was more hard than chewy.

avocado shake! Salut Coffeeshop, 119 Bukit Merah Lane 1Dismissive of the beer and the exorbitant prices of other drinks, B brought over some avocado shakes from the Alexandra Village hawker centre.

A coffeeshop filled with un-coffeeshop-like food isn’t new but is something fun that we’d like to see more of. While Singaporeans love to flock to the newest eating place, quality and value-for-money are what will continue to draw returning customers once the shine (and instagram-worthiness) was worn off.

Where to find good reasonably-priced French food in Singapore?

Before I left Singapore, there was a good and cheap French stall in a kopitiam at 269 Queen Street called “Le Cuisson”. Sadly for fans of French food in coffeeshops, they are now “La Cuisson” at Prinsep Street – proper French grammar, proper restaurant space, and proper bistro prices.

And there was the reasonably-priced Le Bistro at the Singapore Indoor Stadium – that’s closed shop as well.

Le sigh.