Brasserie Balzac, Singapore

I really, really want to love Balzac but somehow it always just manages to fall short of my expectations. I suspect maybe I am setting them too high which is why I have returned on several occasions to see if it has improved, ever hopeful it will be the experience I want it to be. It opened a few months ago and the traditional French Brasserie exterior immediately caught my eye, nestled in the Rendezvous hotel next to the Singapore academy of the arts or SOTA. My first visit saw me enjoy a well made lillet fizz and some asparagus with hollandaise along with a charcuterie platter which I enjoyed well enough but my second visit where I ordered brandade de morue was disappointing, the brandade was tepid and very mild in flavour, lacking the richness of a good brandade. When friends stayed at the Rendezvous they suggested we meet there and I was happy enough to give it another try. The quiche I ordered on that occasion was pretty good and the shoestring fries very tasty indeed. So when caught in a torrential downpour near Dhoby Gaut it seemed as good a place as any to meet up with a friend for a glass of wine and bite to eat and with a $25 set lunch menu, not bad value to boot. Pumpkin veloute with smoked duck breast and brioche crouton’s was a thin watery, yet flavourful soup. I loved the idea of a smoked duck garnish, however two long, meaty strips of duck in a bowl of soup is hardly easy to eat and I ended up having to fish them out with my knife and fork and cut them up on the soups under plate in order to enjoy them. Pan seared Norwegian salmon with sauteed zucchini and arugula salad followed. The salmon was cooked beautifully although I wasn’t quite sure why it was served skin side down when the skin was crisp and golden brown. I would have preferred foregoing the arugula for some more of the zucchini too but this was a minor quibble for what was overall a very pleasant dish. We ordered a portion of their shoestring fries ($8) to share between us too as I simply cannot resist them and again, a success. We could have had the set menu dessert, taking the set menu up to $33 as opposed to $25 but chocolate creme brulee didn’t really appeal. I chose a scoop of salted caramel ice cream and one of milk chocolate ($5 a scoop) and my friend had a very tangy lemon tart which she also enjoyed. With a bottle of sparkling water, coffees and a bottle of (the cheapest) wine the bill ended up coming to $100 each which I suppose is the price you pay in Singapore for 3 courses with wine but it did seem a bit steep. There were highs and lows to the meal but Balzac still remains in that grey area, somewhere I will probably go back to on occasion even though I am not really sure why, I am sure there is better French food to be found in Singapore than here and TFS, the journey continues….

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