Battle of the Michelin Stars - Les Amis vs. Gucci Osteria by Massimo Buttora

Growing up, I was raised on street food. Yup that’s right. Crispy and deep fried, all costing less than a dollar? That’s my jam. Long queues, questionable hygiene and cranky stall owner, even better. As I get older however, my youtube binge led to learning about Michelin stars restaurants. Compared to hunching over hot fires and steam, dining at a Michelin restaurant seems like a grand affair. Because of the price of such dining experience though, the closest that I got to eating there is through my ipad screen. Little did we know we were about to et at not one but two Michelin starred restaurants in the course of 6 months.

A little note before we get started, we’re not some bougie ass people traipsing around Michelin awarded restaurants and throwing money around. We’re two poor foodies that thinks $18 for an avocado toast is a bit too much. Dining at these establishments is definitely a luxury, which is why I thought this article would mean so much for people who are also saving their hard earned moolah to try the same experience and wanted to be a bit more informed.

Which brings us to:

The Lead Up - How did we end up at these two restaurants?

December 2018

Last December, my dream came through more way than one. My boyfriend aka my partner in crime, proposed that we go to one of the Michelin stars restaurant for our engagement celebration. I looked at him and knew there’s a reason why I’m marrying this man. True to our form, we went to full on nerd mode and researched our asses off.

Honestly, Singapore is filled with a plethora of famous restaurants. So many nooks and crannies of this beautiful island is filled with Michelin Guide and Michelin Awarded Restaurants. In the end we settled with Les Amis because one of my boyfriend’s friend worked there and he told him so many kitchen confidential stories. At this point in time my boyfriend is fully convinced that Les Amis must be one of the best restaurants there is in Singapore.

Established in 1994, Les Amis gained fame and trust of the food connoisseur community in Singapore and South East Asia. Like many other Michelin awarded restaurant, they strive to deliver the ultimate fine-dining experience through attention to detail and sourcing the best ingredients. Currently Les Amis is helmed by Executive Chef Sebastian Lepinoy. Lepinoy joined the Les Amis restaurant in September 2013 and have since then created an experience where foodies can enjoy modern and forward looking French cuisine.

May 2019

Fast forward 5 months later, as I was scrolling through my instagram, I saw an ad for Gucci Osteria. To be honest I wasn’t that interested at first, I love fashion but not to the point that I’ll attend a food pop up done by them. It was only when I saw that it is conceptualised by Massimo Buttora himself that my heart skipped a beat. To my boyfriend and I, Massimo Buttora is like a superhero for us. When we first saw him on The Chef’s Table about 5 years ago, my boyfriend and I already started dreaming about being able to eat at his restaurant.

Here it was, the chance to taste even a little bit of what his restaurant would serve, and we couldn’t possibly miss it. I booked the reservation as fast as my fingers would let me and we both sat at the edge of our seats waiting for the day to come.

The Restaurant Vibe

French Modernity vs. Italian Extravagance

As a thought alone, pitching two such distinctly different type of aesthetics is very interesting to me. Les Amis is touted as a modern French restaurant. The clean and sleek interior of the restaurant was designed by local architect Tan Kay Ngee, filled with high ceilings and velvet walls the vibe of the restaurant screams elegance. It’s the kind of place where you stand a little bit taller and sit a little bit straighter. The restaurant itself is very spacious, there’s quite a bit of distance from on table to another. The guests spoke in low, hushed voices in between their bites. I guess in a way it felt a little bit like theatre and the food are the actors, the guests enjoying and observing each performance quiet reverence.

Gucci Osteria, much like the fashion house that birthed it, was the complete opposite. The pop up restaurant was hosted in The Arts House. Don’t be fooled by white walls and the wooden staircase that leads up to the restaurant area, once you stepped inside you’ll be immediately greeted by the floor to ceiling red patterned wallpaper and lush green velvet chairs. The dome area next to our seats were painted a bright lime green and standing tall across from it is a large panel of mirrors. It’s fashion pop up after all, everyone wants to be seen (and look at themselves) throughout dinner. The moment the restaurant filled up everybody sort of burst into a feverish pitch of conversation and laughter. As the wine continue flowing and the night gets a bit late, everybody relaxed into their chairs. Admiring the fashion pieces that people from other tables wore and passionately discussing each course of the meal.

Now, which one of these two did I prefer? Les Amis was everything I imagined a Michelin restaurant would be like. Proper and perfectly choreographed, you’re well taken care of and the whole place just feels expensive. I did feel a lot more relaxed at the Gucci Osteria though, I felt like I could enjoy myself better there. But all in all, I thought that Les Amis was more of once in a lifetime experience for me, though to be fair it was my first time and I might be a bit biased.

Les Amis - 1 x Gucci Osteria - 0

The Menu

When it comes to our dining experiences at Les Amis and Gucci Osteria, the biggest difference obviously comes from the fact that we had the Lunch Menu at Les Amis which includes a mere 4 courses. In comparison, the dinner at Gucci Osteria consists of 7 courses and a champagne welcome drink in the beginning of the course.

The benefit of dining at Les Amis though, is the fact that their menu is not set. Which means that if you plan strategically and carefully enough, you can actually end up trying about 70% of their entire restaurant menu (about 8 different dishes) with just 4 courses.

At Gucci Osteria however, the menu is set, so if you’re going with someone, both of us will end up only trying 7 dishes.

Now, how does that matter Sarah? Isn’t it better than both of you have one portion of the food served? Well I think it really depends on what you’re looking for. As I’ve mentioned before, I’ll probably only go to these places only once in my life, so I would want to try as much of their menu as I can. I think in a way it’s also safer, if you don’t like one of the appetisers for example, you have another one to look forward to. When a menu is set, what they’ve prepared is pretty much what you get. Based on this I think Les Amis wins hands down in this category, we ended up testing out more food than what we had in Gucci Osteria for less amount of money.

Les Amis - 1 x Gucci Osteria - 0

The Bread Basket

Ah the bread basket. Now that I’ve been to two such luxurious places, I’ve learned that you can predict a lot of how the dining experience is going to go based on their bread basket. Les Amis bread basket is wonderfully conceived by their in house pastry chef, Cheryl Koh. She’s also the brilliant mastermind behind the gorgeous Tarte by Cheryl Koh, and the bread that she created simply speak for itself.

After we’ve settled in, our waitress wheeled over the pastry tray, which was insanely filled with so many varieties of breads. We settled on some croissants and buns, to pair with the butter. The butter that is served in Les Amis is a legend by itself. It is said that the Executive Chef had to send in his portfolio in order to procure the famous Ponclet butter, which is produced by a near extinct breed of Celtic breed of cows. The butter is washed by the earby Arree mountain water and developed naturally by hand, giving it an exceedingly creamy texture and a burst of flavour.

Was the butter worth procuring? Definitely. Paired with the most beautiful, fluffy croissant I’ve ever had in my life, the bread tray alone knocked me off my feet. My boyfriend and I pretty much ended up fighting for the butter because it was so damn amazing. Since the pasty tray is always available, if you’re feeling super hungry you can actually get a second round, but we decided to just had a few because we were too excited to try the next few course.

In Gucci Osteria, the bread didn’t come in a cart but rather on a beautiful porcelain plate. The patterns on the plate matches the snaking flower patterns on the walls of the restaurant, complimenting it perfectly. There were two buns on the plate, one multigrain and one white. I split the multigrain bread in half and inhaled the smell. It was fresh, warm and buttery all on its own. The butter that was served looked like a miniature creme brulee. My boyfriend and I split it into half and dug in.

Oh. My. Goodness. The damn butter blew my mind. It looks small and relatively normal, but it was one of the most flavourful butter I’ve ever tried in my life. Have you guys tried Werther’s Original Butter Candies? Well this butter tastes exactly like that. Sweet caramel and toffee flavour filled my mouth, the crunchiness of the sourdough bread contrasting it. “If only I can have this butter everyday” I told my boyfriend.

So who wins in this battle of bread and butter? Well I gotta say that Les Amis still comes out on top. Their butter, though not as sweet as the butter at the one in Gucci Osteria is still really amazing and it comes with an amazing story. The bread served there is also of a much higher range and quality. Though the butter is Gucci Osteria is the winner in my heart, as a pairing they didn’t perform strong enough.

Les Amis - 1 x Gucci Osteria - 1

The Appetisers

Much like everything else in Les Amis, the whole appetisers experience started with a show. A dark brown wooden case was presented to us and when it was opened, a whiff a beautiful aroma filled the air. Displayed inside was a luxurious pile of black truffles, especially flown in from Europe. We were told that it is currently truffle season there now and that these carefully selected range will be incorporated into various parts of our meal.

Our first brush with these truffles came sooner than expected in the form of the amuse-bouche. Though not listed in the menu, we were served this special dish as a part of our appetiser.

Black Truffle Tart (canapé) with a pearl onion confit

Hailing all the way from Provence, the black truffle is served on top of a thin fill pastry, with mushroom and onion confit in the middle. I think this canapé was a good introduction (at least for me) to the concept of fine dining. Even though the individual ingredients are deconstructed, the burst of flavours that are introduced on that first bite tastes like a collection of extremely fresh mushroom. The onion, rather than being overwhelming actually brings it together.

The delicious canapé is followed by another amuse-bouché,

Daikon Truffle veloute with soft pain au lait

When I saw this dish, honestly I was a bit skeptical. I’ve tried a tofu foam before, placed delicately on top of a piece of sushi, but not a whole dish that is made of foam. Amanglingly though, the rush of flavours that comes through with one light spoonful is simply mind boggling. The fact that this dish was topped with the same black truffle from Provence didn’t hurt either. The pain au lait, a soft sweet bread served with the daikon provides a nice counterbalance to the pairing.

Le Homade Bleu en Salade

Here comes one of the most photogenic dishes of the whole collection. There just something about the head of a beautiful lobster sourced all the way from Normandy that just says, “Wow”. The lobster is presented on a bed of pearled vegetables. I’ve heard that the reason why these places are so expensive is because they source all of the ingredients that they use from the best places. The lobster was so flavourful on its own and the additional sauce served with it (also presented in the form of beautiful graphic like dots around the plate) enhances the flavour rather than hide it.

Roasted foie gras from vender served with a classic light celeriac and truffle buillon

The second foie gras dish was richer than the first one if it’s even possible, sitting on light celeriac, the fatty, creamy flavour flavour is contrasted with the bite that the broth has. The black truffle on the top of the foie gras provides a nice infusion of umami to the dish instead of overwhelming it. I think it was overall a really nice dish to have, but because we’ve just polished off another foie gras, this dish felt a bit too much for us.

Goose foie gras terrine dry aged for 14 days paired with Williams pear infused in sauterne

We definitely had to order foie gras when dining in a French restaurant right? The first of the foie gras of the lunch, this foie gras was paired with a crunchy brioche and pear. The pear provides a really nice counter to the fatty foie gras. With the acidic infusion inside it balances out the rich, creamy flavour of the other elements in the dish.

Gucci Osteria

Crab Tostada

Yellow corn tostada a hint of spice and citrus

The first dish that was served in our Gucci Osteria experience was also one of the prettiest ones. The yellow corn tostada perched beautifully on top of the extremely fresh crab that is mixed a delicately citrus sauce. The seasoning and spices that decorated the tostada not only serve as a beautiful graphic element to the presentation, but also add an extra depth the flavour profile. I would recommend putting the crab on top of the cracker and spice to enjoy it fully.

Holy Cannoli

Cucumber, fennel and green apple

Though the second appetiser that was served was almost as beautiful as the first one, this was a dish that I didn’t understand at all. The cannoli is originally a Sicilian dessert. It’s a sweet cheese wrapped in light pastry. In contrary however the dish that were served that night had a bite and was fresh for sure, but the combination of cucumber wrapped around the feta cheese and the acidic green apple tasted very cold and odd to me. My boyfriend suggested that it may have been something of a palate cleanser, but I thought it was still strange nonetheless. Anybody have tried this dish and thought otherwise? Let me know what you think!

Taka Bun

Pork belly, cabbage and coriander

Ahh, the pork bun. I’m always very excited whenever there’s a potential of a fusion dish on table. Firstly, I’m curious to see how a dish that I am familiar with is interpreted through another’s eyes and secondly I love to be surprised when the dish is paired with interesting new ingredients. The Taka Bun, with the pork belly nestled inside it, served with a heap of cabbage and coriander however had nothing new or exciting. It was nice for a pork bun for sure, but other than that it was, dare I say, normal. I was pretty disappointed with this one since I expected so much more.

Who won the appetiser round?

Les Amis - 1 x Gucci Osteria - 0

I’ve gotta give it to Les Amis once again for their beautiful array of appetisers. In terms of price not only did we get more options, that simple canapé in the beginning of the dish changed my life forever.

The Mains

Scallop from the port of Erquy, lightly seasoned with herbs and aromatics

I’ve always loved scallops, whether it’s a Japanese dish or blow torched in the Thai market, the fresh ocean flavour and tender flesh gets me every time. I was doubly excited when I read that the scallop served at Les Amis was of a special grade on its own. Only 3% of scallops worldwide is accepted as pearl grade, which is what they serve at Les Amis. The herbs seasoning on the scallop was light and brings out the oceanic salty quality of the dish.

Tender Omi Beef served with pomme soufflé and a deconstructed Bernaise sauce

The star of the entire lunch menu for us was definitely the Omi beef. Though technically this particular dish wasn’t a part of the lunch menu, our maître d was kind enough to check with the chef for us if we can swap one of the mains for this. Fortunately for us, they were able to spare one of the steaks and we got to try it!

Omi beef originates from the Shiga prefecture in Japan and is ranked as one of the top three brands of Wagyu in the world, along with Kobe and Matsusaka beef. As a range of beef, it is known to be one the oldest in Japan, going back as far as 400 years and is said to have been enjoyed by the samurai class in Japan.

In Les Amis, the Omi Beef is accompanied by the pomme soufflé and a deconstructed béarnaise sauce. Instead of the traditional mashed potato however, the potato has been fried and made into puffy little heavens. Giving an interesting mouthfeel to the whole dish.

Le chevruil de la forêt noire

Last but not least in main dish category is the succulent and tender venison all the way from the Black Forest in Germany. Served with juniper berries, burgundy sauce and the highly prized black truffles, the meat was so tender and juicy. The burgundy sauce provided a little tartness to the otherwise sweet meat. Another thing that I loved about the presentation of the dish is the fact that they were so synchronised during the presentation of the dish, taking the experience to another level.

Gucci Osteria

The Crunchy Part of the Lasagna

Ragout and bechamel

Here’s the dish that simply made the night worthwhile. When we watched the Netflix show for the first time five years ago, I was so amazed that a dish that as simple as lasagna could be interpreted into a fine art. When the dish arrived on the table, I must’ve spun that plate at least three to five times to admire the crispy portion.

The ragout is coated with the bechamel sauce, and as I took a spoonful of the meat and pair it with the crispy part, the rest was history. I truly meant that, I had one of those Ratatouille movie scene where I flashed back to the first time I’ve experience my first, best lasagna ever. Finally I understood the beauty of a deconstructed dish, something that has been taken apart and learned over and over again, and then put back together in an extremely unexpected way. If there’s a dish from the night I could’ve experienced again, I’d wish it’ll be the Crispy Part of the Lasagna. A signature dish of Massimo Buttora.

Meet The Meat

Wagyu tenderloin and roots

What could have followed a dish as legendary as the crunchy part of the lasagna? Well, Meet the Meat certainly managed to hold their own. The Wagyu tenderloin was so flavourful and juicy, paired with beautiful smoky leek mixed with black garlic. The meat was so packed with such verdant intensity that the smokiness perfectly brought to the foreground the meats own charred profile.

Who won the battle of the main dishes?

Well this is definitely a tough one, the Omi Beef served at Les Amis is probably one of the many reasons why Les Amis has been awarded two Michelin stars. Their dedication to sourcing the best ingredients and presenting them in such a new way is another level on its own. But the first bite of the Crunchy Lasagna was like a punch to the gut, in an amazing way. Something that I won’t forget that soon. I think I have to give both of them a fair point of one esch.

Les Amis - 1 x Gucci Osteria - 1

The Dessert

Les Amis

Williams pear tart poached in star anise once tender they’re assemble to sorrowing a caramel core

If you were to ask me which of the two desserts that we ordered was the best one, I’d say it’s a pretty hard choice. The Williams pear certainly live up to its reputation, sweet and juicy when poached, the crunchiness complimented the caramel core extremely well. Each slice is extremely rich and plump, with a subtle taste. It’s a perfect dessert to have after an amazingly rich courses of meal.

Freshly baked thin crust with 72% dark chocolate

Though this was not listed in dessert menu that we’ve ordered from, we were given an additional chocolate tart with a thin crust and made from 72% dark chocolate topping. The chocolate was very rich and not bitter at all. The thin crust was also perfectly baked and buttery, perfectly balancing the chocolate flavours at the top.

Baba cake with rum

One word to describe this dessert: Decadent. Baba au rum or rum baba cake is a small yeast cake saturated with syrup made with hard liquor, in this case rum. Baba actually originates from the word “baba” which means “Grandmother” in the Slavic language. Eating this dessert do kinda feels like being smothered with love. The rum soaked pastry is both sweet and just slightly bitter. The cloud like light cream provides a decadent sweetness that ties it all together.

Petite Fours

Gucci Osteria

Strawberry Fields

Strawberry, Lychee, and meringue

This dessert was not only pretty, but tasted pretty amazing as well. The meringue was light and expertly flavoured to have the lightest touch of lychee. The strawberry hiding underneath the fluffy construction are plump and juicy, giving bursts of sweetness and bitter notes to the entire flavour combination.

Charley Marley

Chocolate, hazelnut, and kaya

I’ve gotta confess this dessert was really disappointing for me. When I saw it on the menu I was actually pretty excited to see how this traditional dessert will be interpreted. The packaging was definitely beautiful, gold dusted with the word Gucci embossed to the bread. The taste however was another story, I could’ve ordered this from the road side and it would’ve tasted the same, and not in a good way. I had expected Gucci Osteria to take the idea of kaya ice cream with bread and bring it further, this just felt a bit too straightforward for me.

Les Amis - 1 x Gucci Osteria - 1

Which meal ended on a sweeter note?

Definitely Les Amis hands down, not only did we get an extra dessert which was amazing, I think Les Amis really pushes the idea of the desert forward. They also used the best possible ingredients for the pieces, making it extremely memorable.

The Winner

In the end I think it’s pretty conclusive that Les Amis is the clear winner in this battle. Though to be fair, the Gucci Osteria was actually helmed by Karime López, I think once Massimo Buttora name is put on it, people do expect a certain standard. I might also be biased since my experience in Les Amis by Lepinoy was one of my first Michelin Star experience. I do look forward to dining in Osteria Francescana in Italy one day and taste the dish crafted by the man himself, but at the moment, Les Amis have won the moment I took a bite of their canapé.

Restaurant details

Les Amis

1 Scotts Road, #01-16 Shaw Centre, 228208

Open everyday for two services:

12 - 2 pm and 6.30 to 9 pm

Gucci Osteria

The Arts House, 1 Old Parliament Ln, Singapore 179429

Reservation for their lunch & dining experience can be made online through Savour

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