Tuesday, April 4, 2023

Chef Haikal's alkove: casual French Bistro/Cafe at Kovan

Chef Haikal Johari has opened a casual French-inspired bistro called alkove at Kovan. It's lovely he is bringing a slice of his fine-dining expertise from vaunted establishments like Joel Robuchon and Les Amis to the heartland crowd. You may even remember him from Alma by Juan Amador. I met him when he was making the unforgettable recovery from the accident that had paralysed him from shoulders down. But as the picture of determination, he defied the odds and started walking again. And Alma kept its Michelin star for at least three years running. 

While he's known for his exceptional modern-European dishes with Asian influences, Chef Haikal is making unpretentious crowd favourites at this bistro. Think well-executed classics. 

Our favourite dish there is undoubtedly the Wagyu Onglet Steak Frites, at a remarkable price point of S$29.90. It's Margaret River wagyu dressed in beef jus, and accompanied by watercress and scrumptious fries. This was a perfectly seasoned treat from start to finish, with every bite making you wish there were more. Too often these days, I encounter food that's a bit shy on salt and savoury notes. Not this baby, I'm glad to say!

Look at how juicy and marbled the meat is! Perfectly seared on the outside but lusciously pink in the middle. The fries were excellent. Delicately crispy and yielding! Must have taken great timing and temperature control. 

Other hearty options include Ocean Trout, and Chicken Vin Blanc, which I would be more than happy to come back and try. But ohhh, how to resist this steak and choose another meat over it?

But if you do, take the Confit de Canard (S$22.90) atop a bed of rissoni (I totally love this rice-shaped pasta). The duck confit features a whole tender duck leg clothed in crispy skin. Sweet carrots and duck jus round up the dish nicely. 


Check out the Neo-Parisian French Onion Gratinée (S$12.90) which elevates the classic recipe of French Onion Soup with a touch of miso for an additional kick of umami. 

So thick and luscious, topped with all that cheese...decadence in a bowl.

The soup did not come with bread, so I'm glad we had also ordered the Toasted Sourdough (S$9.50) with freshly churned kombu butter. 

The bakes here are the understated star of the show. The team of young bakers in the kitchen are talented indeed, churning out breads and viennoiseries using prime ingredients like fine French and Canadian flour.

The Pain au Chocolat (S$5.50) 🥐 lured us with its fine buttery layers... 

The glass showcase is a dangerous place to hover at. You'll want everything. The team created special croissants like almond-coconut and baklava, and a cardamom kouign-amann. Seriously, these photos are as is, I did not enhance them. They look this good in real life. 

I'm getting this one next time!

Fresh loaves of sourdough and Pain de Mie are available for both dine-in and takeaway, and an all-day treat is the Gula Melaka Canelés that are baked fresh twice daily using traditional French techniques.

The croissant is airy and light, but then so is the chocolate portion within. Ah well. There's never enough chocolate anyway.

And we had to go for a dessert - the Crème Caramel (S$9.90) with Tahitian vanilla, berries, creme anglaise. This was simple but very pleasing. 

Brunch is another popular event here. Eggs are served three ways, with care taken to use only Singapore-farmed Japanese free-range eggs. Egg-lovers will find the Scrambled Eggs done perfectly soft and creamy, plated with sourdough, cream cheese and smoked beef sausage. With the œufs à la coque, soft-boiled eggs are panko-crusted and fried, then placed atop ciabatta and Bayonne ham, slathered with a hollandaise sauce to finish. 

So, in all, alkove offers un-intimidating French fare that does not take itself too seriously. I like the bright, welcoming, and cosy interior. Splashes of yellow, blue and terracotta marry well with the beautiful sunlight streaming in through the large alcove windows. This is a wonderful place to catch up with friends or spend time with family over a satisfying meal or tea break. 

2 Kovan Road
01-10 Simon Plaza

Weekdays: 10am-9pm
Weekends: 9am-9pm
Closed on Tuesday
Reservations via Chope
No reservations from 9am-5.30pm on weekends

Many thanks for the invitation!

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