May 18, 2013

The best in Asia?

Pin It

It was an itch I had to scratch.  For far too long, eating a meal from André Chiang has been on my to-do list.  Ever since his arrival in Singapore a few years ago, helming the kitchen at Jaan par André.  Then he opened his eponymous restaurant, and still I did not have a chance to visit.  The main reason, of course, was that I have been in Singapore only once since the end of 2008.  Pathetic…

Well, I ticked this one off the list tonight.  I knew I was coming in town for business, and booked a table at Restaurant André 6 weeks in advance.  I figured that the one person in town who would appreciate this as much as I do would be Mr. Ho.  After all, Mr. and Mrs. Ho were the other couple who traveled to elBulli with me, besides Mr. and Mrs. Locust

The evening got off to a good start at the Ho residence, when Mr. Ho uncorked a bottle of 2010 Roulot Bourgogne Blanc.  Yes, it's a lowly Bourgogne Blanc, but I'd be happy drinking anything made by Jean-Marc Roulot!  Beautiful toasty nose with lots of corn and ripe on the nose.  Nice acidity balance here, with an acidic finish.  Yum.

Then we kinda hit a bump.  There were accidents on the highways in Eastern Singapore, and traffic was horrendous.  When we finally arrived at the restaurant an hour late, it was the biggest taxi fare either of us had ever paid in Singapore.

We were led to our table by Sudarampai who, as it turns out, is André's wife.  I didn't know that until later in the evening, when she blurted out something like: "…even though I'm André's wife, he doesn't tell me EVERYTHING…"

André has developed what he calls octaphilosophie - with 8 different facets/elements.  I must admit that it's been more than a year since I last watched his talk at TEDxTaipei, so my memory is a little hazy…  I guess we'd have at least 8 dishes tonight!

A bunch of snacks hit the table in one go, so we started nibbling…

Vanilla popcorn - this was a little soggy, but I wonder if it was due to the fact that I spent a couple of minutes snapping pics of all the snacks.  This had a creamy center and was tasty.

Cylindrical lobster sandwich - this was definitely tasty, with chopped chives on top.  Unfortunately the wrapper wasn't made of rice paper and was inedible.

Masala spiced chicken skin - paper-thin, with that hint of spiciness.  Yum.

The box came bearing 3, no, 4 different snacks.
Porcini crêpes - Oh, definitely porcini…  Also paper-thin.  Sweet-tasting.
Patata bravas - pretty yum for a small bite.
Deep-fried amaebi head - what's not to like about deep-fried prawn head?!

But the real star here was the "soil" in the box… Mr. Ho and I were trying to figure out the ingredients, and managed to guess the obvious one.  The other one, though, turned out to be a surprise…

Puréte: a plate of assorted seafood showing their pure flavors.
Japanese amaebi (甘海老) - barely cooked sous vide, with a sprinkle of black olive powder, and a leaf that tasted like a very mild sansho leaf (木の芽).
Salmon – served with some perilla flowers.
There were some pieces of cucumber and a quenelle of red cabbage cream, which was right up Mr. Ho’s alley.

Abalone – this was OK, with a piece of pickled shallot.
Spanish Palamós prawn - lightly torched, with dill flower on top.
Bouchot mussels – from Normandy, served with a nice, wild herb coulis.

Sel: the “coral reef” was constructed with a layer of tartare made from Gillardeau No. 1 oysters, topped with a disc of Granny Smith apple mousse. On top there were Russian golden caviar (whatever that is), mushrooms, olive oil caviar, Granny Smith apple and chives.  On the side we've got seaweed and salt water (or was it sea water?) foam.

Mr. Ho was blown away.  For a Frenchy, it may come as a surprise that he actually doesn't care for the briny taste of oysters.  With this dish, the normally strong and briny flavors were tempered by the acidity of the apples, resulting in a perfect balance of flavors.  Very delicate and lots of finesse.

Artisan: eggplant from Kyoto (forgot to ask which cultivar), with a layer of finely chopped cockscomb, and finally crispy duck tongues on top.  On the side was a pile of deep-fried salsify, with shaved macadamia nuts and eggplant crème anglaise at the bottom.

Not having done much reading about André's signature dishes, this was completely unexpected.  When we were asked at the start of the meal regarding what we don't eat, I joked with our waiter that I even got Mr. Ho to eat chicken feet for the first time at elBulli…  And now we've got not only duck tongue but cockscomb, too!  But it was all very yummy.  Nice, smoky and roasted flavors on the eggplant.  The crème anglaise + macadamia + salsify combination was pretty awesome.

Sud: this came in two parts:
Risotto with greater amberjack (勘八), mackerel and sea bass.  The greater amberjack was thinly sliced and raw.  Mackerel is always tasty, and it's got some crab and Palamós prawn foam on top.  By contrast the sea bass seemed to be to boring one.  Oh and the risotto was very tasty.

Persimmon, heirloom tomatoes with flounder (平目), pink radish, tomato sauce, hijiki (鹿尾菜) - pretty tasty, especially the persimmon sorbet.  Our waiter didn't tell us the identity of the fish, so we flagged down the Frenchy and asked him.  He hesitated and answered "kisu" - Japanese whiting (鱚).  As he didn't seem very confident, we figured that he didn't really know the answer, and decided to flag down our Chinese (from Singapore?) waitress.  This time the answer was flounder, and this was an answer that made sense.  I guess not everyone in the front of house know what's on the menu today…

Texture: homard bleu from Brittany, Saint Jacques crème anglaise, flour-less gnocchi, shallots, parsley oil, black caviar, peas, black truffle with pear - this was absolutely awesome, and the favorite dish of the evening for both Mr. Ho and myself.  It was, quite possibly, the best homard bleu I have ever had.  This was barely cooked sous vide, creating a crunchy, springy texture that was just perfect.  Sudarampai did say that "it was more than just sous vide" but André "does not tell me everything even though I'm his wife"...

The gnocchi and the crème anglaise made a perfect combination.  The finely diced truffle and pear worked very well together.  The dish looked very busy, but the different flavors and textures were surprisingly complementary.

Unicité: espelette with baby barracuda, artichoke, green apple, black olives, beurre blanc foam - the baby barracuda was torched and tasted wonderfully sweet.  The piment d'espelette was slightly spicy.

Mémoire: warm foie gras jelly and black truffle coulis - O.M.G.  What's not to like about a foie and truffle combination?!  It's a warm foie gras custard, almost like a chawanmushi (茶碗蒸し).  Even the wooden spoon we used to consume the dish looked like something we'd find in a Japanese restaurant.

On top of the foie was a layer of finely chopped black truffle, chopped chives and a drizzle of olive oil.  When mixed together, the contents of this bowl were simply unbeatable.  I wanted to do an ILL and use my index finger to wipe the bowl clean…

Terroir: tri-tip with braised Dijon mustard, butternut squash, burnt leek, black olive speckle and garlic soil - I'd never had the tri-tip before, and we were told that this was the beef equivalent to sot-l'y-laisse in chickens.  The mustard grains were pretty tasty after braising...

While tri-tip is meant to be a pretty lean cut, our piece must have come from wagyu or something… just look at the marbling!  And it was done perfectly… charred on the outside with that wonderful flavor, and melt-in-your-mouth tender and succulent.  Sinful.

Now comes the assault of the desserts…

Wild berry mousse, honey ice cream, fig and freeze-dried berries - nice and refreshing, cleansing our palates for what's to come.

Deconstructed Snickers bar - ooooooh boy!  Definitely a fan of this one!  We were picking apart the sprinkle and figuring out all the different components - as we tried with the "soil" earlier.  Interestingly the tiny cubes of gelée were made of caramel.

Strawberry sangria "Chupa Chups" - frozen exterior with a liquid center.  Awesome.

Black cherry madeleine

Licorice and coffee marshmallow

Earl Grey crystalline with green apple

White chocolate popcorn with pop rocks - yup, felt like a kid again with pop rocks in my mouth…

Mr. Ho very kindly brought 2 bottles to dinner with us:

2000 Pol Roger - toasty, yeasty on the nose.  Smooth and round on the palate.

1995 Cos d'Estournel - smoky, minty, brett, a little floral, coffee.  Drank after at least opening for 5 hours…

I'm not sure what the staff thought of us - two guys who kept bombarding them with questions about ingredients for every dish… and always wanting to know what the secret ingredients were that we were tasting - but couldn't quite figure out because our palates just weren't sharp enough… At least they were patient with us, and tried to recite the ingredients slowly as I frantically typed away on my iPhone...

This was an absolutely amazing meal…  This year, I've had the pleasure of re-discovering Richard Ekkebus' beautiful creations and the playfulness of Uwe Opocensky's deconstructions… but I can't help but feel that tonight's dinner may be even better!  Most of the dishes were beautifully presented, technically correct in execution, and delicately, perfectly balanced in terms of flavor.  This could very well be the best meal I've had in Asia… although it probably just edged out my dinner at Amber by a nose…


Big Gyy said...

I was there a couple months ago and while I thought the food was good I was not blown away. One major complaint, my son had a chicken spaghetti and was charged the whole whole prix fixed cost. We did not discover this until later as my friend picked up the tab. My friend who was there 2 night previous also was charged similarly as they discovered later as well. While I understand this is a "fine" dining establishment, many of us on holidays do bring our children, they should have at least made us aware of this, some of the less adventurous items would have been fine for my son's palate. Most expensive chicken spaghetti ever!


Will not be back.

Thanks for the great blog though, keep up the great work, hard to keep up...


Peech said...

Thanks for the compliment. Sorry about your experience… I do think that restaurants should make it clear upfront, whether at time of reservation (if you tell them you are bringing children) or upon arrival. Not cool to charge the same amount while serving something else.

Wonder if this is something that is also done in France? I got no kids so no experience w this kinda thing.


Related Posts with Thumbnails

TripAdvisor Travel Map