SINGAPORE - (THE BUSINESS TIMES) You don't normally think of a witness protection programme when it comes to restaurants, but we can't get rid of that thought at Jean Dore - which is the not quite new, same-same but different iteration of culinary stalwart Saint Pierre.
Perhaps he's on the run from Mike "The Easily Bored" Mobster, but sticking to one style of cuisine has never been Emmanuel Stroobant's, well, style.
For all the years he has been at the helm of Saint Pierre, he has taken on multiple guises as he manoeuvred from classic to avant garde, fine dining to not even cooking (when Saint Pierre briefly went through a period of hiring executive chefs).
He went back into the kitchen again when he decided to go semi-casual for the restaurant's relocation to Sentosa, only to segue back into fine dining and now, he's waiting to embark on yet another identity when Saint Pierre moves to its new location at One Fullerton on March 14.
31 Ocean Way, #01-15
Open for dinner only
Mon to Fri: 4pm to 10pm.
Sat:10.30am to 11pm.
Sun: 10.30am to 10pm.
Until then, chef Stroobant is technically between restaurants but you're likely to find him in the kitchen at Jean Dore - which is the new name for the Sentosa restaurant that used to be called Saint Pierre but whose name has been translated from French into English but is meant to be pronounced with a French accent.
What? Yes, we don't really get it either. But let's try. Saint Pierre is the French name of the fish known as John Dory in English. If you pronounce it with a French accent then it becomes "Jean Doray", get it? But pronounce it with a Singapore accent and it becomes "Gene Door".
All Jeans aside, this new-but-not-new restaurant is now serving classic French bistro fare. It is very decent food if not exceptional, with a comforting familiarity about it. Although it feels a little weird to pretend that this is no longer Saint Pierre, the food and the view of the marina eventually distract you.
The first dish to arrive after a little amuse bouche of cauliflower mousse is beef tartare (S$26) - a simple yet satisfying mound of hand-chopped raw tenderloin with just the right bite and smooth, clean flavour of fresh meat.
The condiments of pickles, capers and onions add enough tangy distraction while the raw egg yolk binds it all into a silken mixture to be spread on warm toast.
French onion soup (S$18) is another heart-warmer despite its stingy portion - clear broth full of oniony goodness and bubbling cheese toast stuffed into a tiny tureen that only gets you a few precious sips.
On the plus side, the richness of the cheese does not weigh you down, thanks to the lightness of the consomme.
The Moules Mariniere (S$32) passes our mussels test with fresh shellfish swimming in its own juices, a splash of wine and butter. But the seafood bouillabaisse (S$32) is a deal-breaker.
A broth good enough to compete with some prawn noodle stalls is undermined by middling seafood - from mushy shrimp to a scallop that must have spent many a lonely night reminiscing about the succulent and bouncy young shellfish it used to be.
The burger (S$24), on the other hand, can hold its own, packing a juicy patty with tomato confit and cheese into a brioche bun that's just a little on the dry side.
If you're up for a half hour wait and some showmanship, the lamb shoulder (S$78 for two) is rolled and braised for seven hours to emerge as a fork-tender specimen with enough marbling and sinew to maintain its moistness and gelatinous streaks. Carved at your table, a reduction of the meat juices is all it needs.
We have no room for dessert, but our server appeals to our third stomach with a description of the giant profiterole (S$24) with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce.
We've been conned before by profiteroles - promises of delicate choux pastry usually broken with brittle hollow crust that no amount of ice cream can render malleable.
So when this giant of a puff appears, topped with a dusting of icing sugar, we have no expectations until our server carefully drizzles hot chocolate sauce all over it.
We find out later that the pastry chef used to work with three Michelin-starred Yannick Alleno who must have taught him well because we cannot stop digging into the tender pastry, ice cream and chocolate sauce in desperate over-compensation for past puffy foibles.
With chef Stroobant set to hand Jean Dore over to its head chef, the task for this eatery will be to maintain standards and build a new reputation for itself.
At the moment, it looks like a restaurant in transition - a tired version of its predecessor in dire need of a makeover. If it wants to stay a step ahead of Mike "The Easily Bored" Mobster, dear Jean has to do more than just change its name and menu. It needs a personality to match.
WHAT OUR RATINGS MEAN
10: The ultimate dining experience
7-7.5: Good to very good
Our review policy: BT pays for all meals at restaurants reviewed on this page. Unless specified, the writer does not accept hosted meals prior to the review's publication.
This article was first published on March 7, 2016.
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