Beautiful restaurant, better food at Racines

The wagyu beef cheek is cooked for 48 hours, leaving it tender and juicy.
The wagyu beef cheek is cooked for 48 hours, leaving it tender and juicy. TNP PHOTO: YEOH WEE TECK

SINGAPORE (THE NEW PAPER) - I have been tracking the progress of Sofitel Singapore City Centre.

I have been dying to take a dip, and at last, the hotel is open (my gym uses the hotel pool).

I went for a preview and was awed. The interior is so beautiful. Getting to have a look at the entire hotel was a thrill.

The beauty extends to the hotel's only restaurant, Racines. The decor is classy and bright, with a lovely view of the city.

The menu, conceived by executive chef Jean-Charles Dubois, is a mix of French (his speciality) and Chinese (a nod to our heritage).

Don't think it is fusion though. These are two separate menus, with separate cooking stations.


Lobster bisque. TNP PHOTO: YEOH WEE TECK

Do not miss the lobster bisque ($28) from the French menu. It is as traditional and expected as it gets, but very well balanced.

Creamy but not overwhelming, it has umami notes but does not leave you feeling like you need water to wash it down.

It is simple yet luxe, and a warm, comforting way to start the meal.

Also excellent is the wagyu beef cheek ($38). Other dishes on the menu may border on expensive but this is great value.

The beef is cooked for 48 hours, leaving it tender and juicy. The truffle mashed potato is also good, but the spotlight belongs to the meat.


Cuisses de grenouille, or frog legs, from Racines. TNP PHOTO: YEOH WEE TECK

Frog legs are hardly my first choice to order but the cuisses de grenouille ($28) is actually quite good.

As expected, the meat is tough, almost chicken breast-like in texture.

I usually don't like it when the protein is smothered in fussy layers of garnishes, sauces and foam, but it works here.

The mushroom emulsion covering the frog legs is a great addition too.


The Sichuan-style frog. TNP PHOTO: YEOH WEE TECK
 

The Chinese version of this, named Frog ($58, for two), is less successful.

A take on Sichuan cuisine, the dish looks and smells incredible, and there is an initial rush from the burn on the tongue. And then it just stops.

The heat does not continue and the slow burn associated with Sichuan cuisine is missing.

I ate at Racines at the restaurant's invitation before it opened.

A couple of friends tried this dish a few days later and found it appropriately fiery. Perhaps there was a tweak between dinners.


Sweet and sour crispy kurobuta pork. TNP PHOTO: YEOH WEE TECK

Racines' take on a zi char classic is sweet and sour crispy kurobuta pork ($38).

Such a price for sweet and sour pork deserves a raised eyebrow, but it is kurobuta and the taste makes you fork out the money willingly.

The meat has enough fattiness, and the sauce is not too sweet.

I would have liked it a touch more tart, but it is still worth recommending.