Afterthoughts – Rustic French Perfection at St. Germain
I’ve always had a soft spot for rustic French cuisine, partially because it reminds me of the mesmerisingly beautiful French countryside with its grand vineyards and chateaus, and partially because it’s the perfect marriage between elegance and simplicity.
Don’t get me wrong, there is a time and place for French fine dining, and going to Caprice is always a treat, but for comfort food that looks as good as it tastes, rustic French cuisine takes the cake, literally.
We recently visited such a purveyor of fine French rustic taste, and were pleasantly surprised. St. Germain is owned by the same people who opened Pastis, and although I’ve never been to Pastis (I heard the food is fantastic there), I am familiar with the massive crowds of Frenchies that pack the small venue nightly. I was half expecting the same scene in St. Germain, with French comrades leisurely sipping bottles of Bordeaux while chain smoking and complaining in typical French fashion about, well, just about anything.
Hence, it was a pleasant surprise to find adequate seating and a quiet atmosphere at St. Germain. I don’t recall hearing any utterings of “merde” followed by the classic nonchalant sigh that has made the French so endearing, and at times, such stereotypes.
We had a pretty sizable crowd at dinner that night, the majority of which, ironically, were Brits.
We started our evening with wine and cocktails. I am particularly fond of elderflower, and decided to start my dinner with this opaque refreshing libation of elderflower liquer and gin. It was a mighty strong drink, with just the right amount of sweetness.
Opting for a ‘slightly’ healthier appetiser, I chose the salade fraicheur with shrimp, avocado, and citrus fruit drizzled with a refreshing lemon dressing. The shrimps were big and plump, and the sweet tartness of the citrus paired well with the creaminess of the avocado.
The Mister went for the special of the day – duck rillette, and I managed to sneak a few bites. From my previous postings, most will know that I adore pork rillette, and the duck version was equally amazing. You can’t really go wrong with stewing quality meat in fat, and when it’s all spread over some fresh baguette, is orgasmic.
Going along with the hearty food theme, several others ordered the soupe a l’oignon with croutons and gruyere cheese. The cheese set a beautiful golden crust over the onion soup, and everyone seemed to have really enjoyed it.
The foie gras terrine with seasonal chutney was predictable yet deliciously silky. Sometimes, classics are classics for a reason.
The ravioles de Royan a la creme de truffe was also a popular choice. The smell whiffing from the dish was incredible, and I was very tempted to steal forkfuls.
Now, on to the main course! I love well marbled meat, and one of my favourite cuts is actually the tongue, as it’s got the most interesting texture. Quality cuts of steak are amazing, but cheap cuts like the tongue, if you know what to do with it, could become magical. It’s really “the diamond in the rough”, meat-style.
The beef tongue dish was one of the specials of the day, and consisted of three succulent, tender slices of robust tongue nestled in a bed of rice laced with a herby buttery sauce. It might not look beautiful, but it was a phenomenal dish. I almost licked the plate clean.
The Mister had the confit lamb shank with black olives and mashed potatoes, which was also very tender and flavourful, although I felt a tad on the gamey side. It was a huge, manly dish that is certain to put hair on one’s chest.
The beef tartar with parmesan cheese, salad and frites was quite popular amongst our dinner crowd. I don’t know….but eating raw meat always conjures up images of tigers and lions being fed at the zoo. Mm…..perhaps it was too many childhood trips to the zoo where I watched big cats lap up mashed raw meat from their feed bowls. A shrink could have a heyday psycho analysing this! Long story short, everyone who fancies a bit of raw meat thoroughly enjoyed this dish.
The dos de saumon roti, served with risotto croquette and beef sauce, was also a big hit amongst our dinner group. The salmon was beautifully seared with a nice, crispy skin.
After guzzling down several bottles of wine along with our mains, we moved on to dessert. I was very well behaved and shared my tarte aux pommes with another friend. The tart was buttery light, and the thin slices of apple complimented with light tartness and fruity sweetness. The vanilla ice cream on top just tied the whole dish together and added indulgent creaminess.
The Mister had the chocolate mousse with macaroon. I also sneaked a few spoonfuls of the silky smooth mousse. I loved how it was husky with deep chocolate flavours and not overly sweet.
Other friends decided to go with the vanilla creme brulee. My opinion is that you can never really disappoint with a creme brulee, but you can also rarely surprise with this dish. It’s one of those desserts that’s “a sure thing”.
Verdict: Tres bon, or as the French so enthusiastically put it, pas mal. This is a phenomenal restaurant to experience rustic French cuisine. Nothing fancy, nothing pompous, just good, honest food cooked with traditional ease. Friendly, helpful service, interesting daily specials, and hearty meals make this place my favourite French comfort food hangout.
1A Wong Nai Chung Road, Happy Valley
Tel: 2836 6131