Restaurant André is one of the hottest table in the gastronomy scene in Singapore. Since helming Jaan to much acclaimed, André Chiang has made a name for innovative, bold and simplicity to the core cuisine that came from his mixed background.
It took us 6 weeks advance booking to get the two seats for the evening (our visit was Sep 2016), and even the reservation process was complicated. You register on their website, you receive an email confirmation saying you are not confirmed, you get a confirmation closer to the date to ask for a deposit, you get a call two days before to reconfirm, and then the day finally arrived!
There’s only one sitting in this 40 seater restaurant. You arrived at your agreed time (you need at least 3 hours for the dinner) at a pre-war shophouse in the Conservation District at the edge of Chinatown. The decor is minimalist, classy, black and white, yet no tacky.
You are then ushered to the kitchen area to peep at the maestros at work and then quickly dispatched to your table either on the second or third story. The diners for the evening were from every corner of the world – we had a couple from Hong Kong, another from Taiwan, an old man brought a SYT speaking Mandarin in the next and another couple from Taiwan. Looked like Chef André who hailed from Taiwan has a very strong fan base from Formosa.
Quick intro to your servers, we had Ken from Japan and Mei from Johor who spoke with a Taiwanese accent. You decide your wine (from the huge collection of hand-picked wines) or let the sommelier pairs the wines for your dinner, no stress! As the dinner is 8 main courses, you will pair with either 3 or 6 wines, or anything in between. In this restaurant, you would not want to decide anything so surprise me!
The magic unfolds with a selection of Amuse Bouche, not one, not two, but eight Amuse Bouche selections before the first course appears. Mind you, depending on the time you visit the restaurant, what you experience would be different from mine.
Each of varying texture, temperature, taste and technique, they are all works of art that you would admire and then savour the tiny morsels of deliciousness. It started with a branch with wafers made from seaweed, fish skin, buckwheat that offered different taste profiles from umami to salty to sweet. Then came things from the forests – little tartlets with mushroom and seaweed dust, a celeriac miso roll with sprouts. The travels went into the sea next with a crispy prawn head and rolled squid with abalone liver on a crisp. This was followed with a salted egg yolk wafer and uni mousse. The introduction ended with a burnt “charcoal” (black Youtiao) with a Piquillo Ama-Ebi dip.
Chef André came up with this concept of the Octaphilosophy of Gastronomy. He reduced a meal to 8 elements – like a Bagua has 8 sides, his meal will be perfectly balanced with 8 aspects. “Pure”, “Salt”, “Artisan”, “South”, “Texture”, “Unique”, “Memory” and “Terroir” – each represented different techniques and phases of his experiences and training and influence.
“Beauty can be found in the simplicity of pure, unadulterated ingredients. Untainted by any form of seasoning or cooking, this dish allows the produce to speak for itself”
Our “Pure” dish was a Cucumber course with Stone Crab and Sea Urchin. Different types of gherkins, zucchini, cucumbers were combined using a variety of techniques that intensified the taste of the crisp and simple cucumber, and the original tastes of crab meat and Uni. And this was complimented by the simplest of all condiments – EVOL.
It reminded me of fresh cucumber juice that we used to get during summer in Beijing. The amuse bouche was washed away with a very crisp and clean taste. Complimented by a glass of dry Chablis.
“An ancient seasoning existing since time immemorial. Producing a taste sensation with no barriers, the flavours in the dish calls forth the briny deep and brings to the mind a hint of the ocean.”
This creation was made up of two parts – a Squid Pasta, Potato Mousse and Kelp jus and a seaweed, wild rice crisps, barley crisps that you can pour into the pasta. Ken reminded us that there was no added salt in the dish. All the brine you can taste came from the natural ingredients. Wow.
“The South of France is known for its vibrant joie de vivre, or ‘joy of living’. Capturing the flavours of France’s southern region, expect the generosity, freshness, acidity and a dose of the rustic.”
Chef André was French trained and hailed a pedigree of Southern French cuisine working with the likes of Pierre Gagnaire. To showcase his well-honed French fine-dining techniques, this course of Burnt Oyster, Scallop lasagne, Caviar Aubergine combined a superior technique combined with the freshest tastes of the ocean. Scallops were pressed and made into as thin as wanton skin and wrapped around a perfectly charred oyster with hints of caviar for bite. All these were kissed by a light dash of vinegar and watercress foam.
“Farmers and artisans deserve to be lauded for the sheer dedication they hold towards their creations. Celebrating the craftsmanship of these highly passionate artists.”
Roasted Topinambour, Aji and Palourde, Kale Puree topped with Caviar. For me this course was underwhelming as it was nice but not as innovative and surprising as the rest. But it was a true representation of the idea of artistry as it was a combination of superb French techniques. From the perfectly cooked fish, the sauce, the plating and all the rest of the techniques that made up the course.
“Layers of flavour and textural contrasts come together harmoniously in this dish, providing a delicious sensory experience.”
Next came the White Fungus Risotto, Buckwheat wafer and Cheese “Truffles”. The surprises were a “truffe” that’s not a really truffle but made of cheese and a runny egg in the risotto when you broke into the wafer. And it’s not rice but Orzo pasta that was used in the risotto. A combination of textures – soft, crispy, al dente, crumbly, gooey.
“Meaningful memories stay with you for a long time. In this case, old recipes and flavours are given a new presentation, but still retain that old-world charm you once knew.”
Chef created this dish 19 years ago when he was a trainee in France, one of his first creation. It remained in all his menu ever since as a fond memory of his formative years. Combing Foie Gras, Truffle, Chives on a bed of silky egg custard and a topped with black truffle jus, this was a nod to the quintessential French ingredient of foie gras and yet presented in a modern, Japanesque twist.
“What makes a dish unique? Sometimes, it is the possibility of experiencing a common ingredient in a different way. At other times, savouring an exotic ingredient is the key to making a dish unique.”
Chef decided on common ingredients combined in a unique way for this evening. Charred Corn, Bitter Almond, Horseradish and Vanilla Oil were all simple ingredients that you can get from your neighbourhood market. It bordered between a cream of corn soup and a chawanmushi. But the sting of the horseradish brought you back to reality that it was not either.
“Rustic, masculine and unpolished, this soulful course is rooted to the flavours typical to a specific region. It reveals the appreciation of the gifts that Mother Nature has bestowed upon the land”
The final course of the Octaphilosophy was a Wagyu beef cooked to perfectly medium rare in a coffee bean, hot pebbles bath and served on a plate of forest chips of onion, gobo, king oyster mushrooms and smoked eel jelly.
Three desserts and Petit Fours (or Five for that matter) made up Eight. The meal ended with a nectarine gelee creation that bordered an art piece. The dish was supposed to invoke a bigger appetite for more, a signature ending Chef wanted to leave behind with every diner to remember to come back for more.
The meal ended with a nectarine gelee creation (Red grapes, white peach, bergamote) that bordered an art piece. The dish was supposed to invoke a bigger appetite for more, a signature ending Chef wanted to leave behind with every diner to remember to come back for more.
A “camembert” that was not a cheese was the tribute to a cheese course in all French fine dining. However taking into consideration that most Asian diners would skip the cheese course, Chef André created this milk custard that had the texture of a camembert and tasted like a soft, cream cheese and paired with hay ice cream.
“Green Tea Ceremony” was full of Macha and other greens – green peas, Macha jelly, Macha chocolate, green pea mousse.
The petit fours consisted of jelly drops of verjus and pine floss, kaya toast macarons, “Cheery Coke” ice pop, Earl Grey madeleines, Churros with a side dip of nutella and chocolate sand.
You started with 8, ate through 8 main courses, and ended with 8 sweets. Huat-Huat-Huat (888). Despite writing such a long blog for a wonderful dinner, words cannot describe the meal we just had. You have to try it yourself. Well deserved his two Michelin star!
41 Bukit Pasoh Road
Reservation necessary. Book online.