Black iron letters spell out ‘Cabaret’: it’s a grand sign for the Central Market surroundings. Few choose the area for a high-end night out. But speaking earlier this week, less than a month after the French-Asian fusion restaurant opened, Cabaret’s experienced manager Gwenaёl Lescutier said the customers who do will make a point to return.
When I visited earlier this week, it looked like he might be right. The place is beautiful, and vast. From the sultry red and black colour scheme apparent from the entrance to the live jazz played within, Cabaret oozes 1920s glamour. Black birdcages filled with lighted lanterns hang from the ceiling. A pool of water stands beside the tables, complete with lush greenery. I chose a seat in the courtyard: the centre of it all.
Like the space, the food menu is expansive. French dishes are best accompanied by something from the expensive wine selection, or a cocktail. To start we tried “Le Cabaret”– the house specialty. It’s a childish delight, served in a champagne flute with a cherry at the bottom, and with the sweet taste of a Shirley Temple. Vodka adds a naughtier kick. The trouble is it costs $11, and is not worthy of the splurge.
The prices here aren’t cheap but the extra $3 to $5 you spend on a main is almost compensated for by the excellent presentation and pleasant ambiance. Some of the dishes, however, fall badly short of the price bracket and the service is shaky.
You won’t make a false start with the goat cheese puff pastry appetiser: the golden, flaky pastry gave way to a creamy cushion with hints of thyme. It’s a shame Cabaret don’t deliver: platters of these would make for an indulgent but classy Saturday night in.
Pasta dishes came in around $8 to $12 while the seafood and meat main courses ranged from 9$ to $26. The large filet portion of salmon was faultlessly moist on the inside but covered with an inelegant tangy ginger sauce that overpowered the flavour.
Mounds of mashed potatoes were tasteless. Don’t bother with salad: the Nicoise was ordinary. You’d do better to toss out the lettuce and garnish and sink your teeth into the tender peppered and seared tuna.
The zucchini bell pepper Tagliatelle we ordered as a wild card was the big surprise – and I’m not a pasta girl. This nearly turned me: the velvety sauce clung to the pasta and the vegetables tasted fresh and zesty.
Sadly we had to send back the lamb skewer – the most popular item on the menu, according to the chef. The presentation was superb. Thick cuts of lamb were saddled between vibrant roasted peppers. A generous portion of creamy parmesan pasta was served on the side. But to no stretch of the imagination could the meat be described as cooked medium well. To their credit, the staff was quick to remove the dish and take it off the bill.
As for dessert, the chocolate tart was the size of a small pie and too rich to eat without water close at hand. I had to remind the servers to keep our glasses full. The small scoop of strawberry basil sorbet that accompanied the dish was delicious, however, and should be a standalone dish.
We had a large group so the courtyard table was the perfect spot, but the space is large enough to cater for any party. For intimacy, escape to the corner where the lights are dimmed.
If you’re after a few drinks and a jazz soundtrack, the bar is the perfect backdrop. The polished dark wooden shelves are fixed onto red brick and the bottles are poured by a mixologist talented enough to warrant the title.
How about Cabaret, does the place merit its glitzy title? Almost – and it’s certainly trying. Remember Liza Minnelli: “What good is sitting alone in your room? Come hear the music play. Life is a Cabaret, old chap.”
Cabaret Restaurant can be found at #159 Street 154.