First time I heard about Chef Julian Royer was when he was headlining Jaan at Swissotel. Then he left and started Odette in 2016, and got two stars when the first edition the Michelin Singapore Guide was launched in 2018. The only 3 stars then was the reverent Joel Robuchon.
Chef Royer’s 40-seat fine-dining restaurant Odette at Singapore’s National Gallery is known for its Asian-inflected modern French cuisine.
A table was really hard to get since its opening, and worse when they got their two stars, and almost impossible when they got their third star in 2019. However Covid struck in 2020, and all fine dining establishments got hit badly. Reservations became easier despite social distancing requirement caused the number of seats to be reduced. To celebrate Princess’ birthday, I decided to try to get a table at Odette, and I got it at first try. Hard to get the date you want? Yes. Difficult to get a table? No.
Housed in the Supreme Court wing of the National Gallery, this historical building has seen many nation building events happening here. Designed by Frank Dorrington Ward, chief architect of the Straits Settlements Public Works Department, it was the last classical building completed in Singapore and said to be one of Ward’s greatest works. So how’s that for dining in a museum!
Odette has received many accolades since its opening, including 3 Stars from Michelin, Asia’s (#2) and World’s (#8) 50 Best Restaurants, and Les Grandes Tables de Monde (the best tables of the World). I always wonder why while they are #2 in Asia, but the #1 (The Chairman in HK) was rated behind them in the World ranking. Chinese cooking not good enough? Japanese came in #11 in the World racing if you were wondering.
After we placed our orders, this round marble slab was placed in front of us. And after the amuse bouche was served, this slab was removed to reveal the round disc underneath that explained the concept behind the Odette cuisine.
Odette is named in tribute to Royer’s grandmother who taught him how some of the most remarkable dishes can come from the purest ingredients, and believed in ensuring that the fundamental pleasures of enjoying a meal are delivered in the most thoughtful, welcoming and hospitable manner.
This ethos has directed every aspect of the Odette experience. The space has been designed by London-based Universal Design Studio, with overall creative direction led by Singaporean artist Dawn Ng.
There is no a la carte menu at Odette. Odette offers only two set dinners – a vegetarian degustation menu and a non-vegetarian version called epicure. And there’s a couple of add-ons to increase the 7-course meal to an 8-course as well as a well-appointed cheese course together with the desserts.
It was definitely fine dining, featuring craftsmanship of such precision that there were surely many tweezers used in the kitchen.
The restaurant has a really impressive wine list. No wine for me tonight, I am dining with an underaged.
But still they tried to entice me with a pre-dinner drink. I have to settled, with a nice pale ale from France. Saison Dupont Cuvée Dry Hopping is a blond beer, top fermented and just as the traditional Saison Dupont with refermentation in the bottle.
Gruyere gougère | Onion tartelette | Saba taco
The first part of the the amuse bouche was a trio of small bites called grinotages. Grinotages is French for nibbles.
In Burgundy, any self-respecting meal begins with a batch of gougères. This savoury, airy little ball, which can be made in a jiffy, consists of a warm dough mixed with cooked cheese, often Gruyère, or Comté for a stronger flavour. Here, it is made into a tube like cannoli and filled with Gruyère – my favourite of the amuse bouche presented tonight. I can snack on this through the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Onion tartelette featured a caramelised onion cream on a potato crust with sprinkled spices. The onion cream was sweet and savoury, nice eat but nothing outstanding.
The term taco has been used loosely here. The shell was made from potato chip, the filling made with saba (Japanese mackerel) ceviche. Served with a shiso leaf, this was the best “fish taco” I have ever eaten.
Cep sabayon | Buckwheat | Walnut
This amuse bouche made its regular appearance. It consists of two parts – a chawanmushi like foam and mushroom consommé and a mushroom brioche, which tonight was replaced with a truffle puff pastry.
The first part consisted of a potato cheese foam with chopped walnuts and shaved black truffles.
And then, a mushroom consommé tea was added to the cup and the potato foam floated to the top like chawanmushi. This was more like a creamy mushroom soup than a tea, with butter, shallots, thyme, rosemary and so much more mixed in with consommé that screamed out flavour and complexity.
The second part of this amuse bouche was a piece of pastry with finely shaved black truffle on it.
The crispy, flaky brioche was flavoured with Bordier butter no less and the truffle added more flavours to the tasty butter.
Truffle Brioche, Mini Baguette & Rye Sourdough
Garlic butter | Extra virgin olive oil
Three types of bread were provided and can be replenished throughout the dinner if you want. But we have been warned to resist the bread as the dinner would be filling. I realised why when I bite into the brioche. I couldn’t stop and proceeded with the baguette which has a crunchy crust with warm soft inside. And finally, I had to try the sourdough that was not too sour like most of the sourdough I have tried in Singapore.
The highlight of the fresh baked bread course was the Catalonia extra virgin olive oil. Catalonia is famed for its smooth fruity oils, which are not too strong or peppery. It provided a light yet nutty contrast to the garlic butter that was blended by hand in house with parsley. The butter went well with the baguette, the EVOL with the sourdough. The brioche can be eaten on its own.
The truffle brioche was my favourite, although all three breads were delicious. The flaky brioche with the salt bits was buttery like a croissant, but at a single bite (or two) it was light enough to be dinner rolls. I had to resist asking for another round of bread as the waiter cleared the crumbs off our table.
Red Sicilian prawn | Mussel cloud | Kristal caviar
Arriving next was Marukyo uni to be partaken in two ways, with red Sicilian prawn tartare and Kristal caviar on a mussel cloud, and a wonderful piece of French toast topped with uni. I did as told – to start with the former, move on to the latter then return to finish the former.
This amuse bouche was a wonderful umami bomb. Every mouthful was a delightful mix of umami from the sea urchin, the sweetness that you get from shellfish from the mussel cloud and the briny, saltiness from the caviar. I wondered where’s the mussel? There’s tiny bits of Granny Smith apple for crunch and sourness.
As advised, I popped the Uni French toast in one mouthful and was so blown away by the satisfaction which you can only get from fresh, raw sea urchin.
Caught in Japan-Russian waters, the Marukyo uni is processed and packed in Hokkaido with great care as its roe easily falls apart. Also known as Bafun uni, it has a lighter rich yellow and orange colour with a firm but creamy texture and a sweet undertones. its taste is much cleaner and less briny compared to the other Uni making it the perfect Uni for starters.
Kaviari was founded more than 40 years ago by Raphael Bouchez and Jacque Nebot in the heart of Paris, France. The Kristal Caviar is produced from the cross-breed of “Acipenser Schrenki” and “Acipenser Dauricus” sturgeons. All Kaviari caviars are aged for a minimum of 3 months before being packed into their individually pasteurized tins.
With its stunning amber grains, Kaviari is Michelin-starred Chefs’ favourite caviar brand, used in every good ones that I have been to. A single serving of caviar (1 oz / 28 g) packs more than double our daily vitamin B12 needs, which is essential to our nervous system, as well as the production of DNA and red blood cells. It also provides DHA, EPA, selenium, iron and sodium.
I was so tempted to stick my finger to wipe out every last bit from inside of the sea urchin shell. Steady man, this is after all a fine dining restaurant.
Avocado | Nashi pear | Coriander
Cold Dungeness crab meat was flavoured with perfectly balanced avocado mousse, chopped chives and ebiko (shrimp roe), and served on a bed of cubed Nashi pear. Covered with a delicately placed coriander jelly cap.
The crab was juicy and sweet, the buttery avocado and salty ebiko provided added dimensions to the crab’s natural sweetness and umami. Finally, the use of the fragrant coriander sorbet was brilliant, adding vibrancy to the appetiser and setting the tone for a great meal. Superb
Rosemary Smoked Organic Egg
Smoked potato syphon | Chorizo iberico | Meunière
This dish has quite the presentation – a smoking carton of eggs arrives at your table, then one of the eggs is poured into the smoked potato syphon in front of you, and finally you get to mix it all together.
Firstly, a suspended cloud was presented in a clear glass bowl. underneath the meunière cloud was bits of chorizo iberico that had been panfried to a crisp on a based on smoked potato syphon. Just think of it as a really creamy mashed potato with crispy bacon bits and browned butter foam.
The star of the dish, the 55˚C sous vide organic egg was added into the mixture.
I was instructed to gently stir the egg into the mix, but not too much or the texture will be compromised.
There’s a whiff of rosemary fragrance as you eat the egg. It came from the smothering rosemary twigs cover under the glass bowl.
The signature rosemary smoked egg was delicious as ever. When I first tasted this when Chef Royer was still with Jaan. I was so inspired by sous vide eggs that I bought the sous vide machine to make my own sous vide eggs at home for breakfast. Move over, Yakun!
Raviole de Langoustine
Shiso | Black truffle | Bisque
It’s the season! The fresh black truffle, also called Tuber melanosporum or Périgord truffle, is known worldwide by fine-dining connoisseurs as being gastronomy’s “black diamond.” Fresh black truffle is undoubtedly the most famous of all truffles and everyone agrees that it is a unique, unrivalled ingredient. Black truffles are harvested in France, but also Spain, Italy, and Australia. In France. truffle hunters begin harvesting them from late November to around the end of March.
What’s the singular for ravioli? Raviolo, and that’s exactly what you get with this add-on order to the degustation menu. The plate was rather lonely with a single piece of dumpling topped with juliennes of black truffle.
One Mozambique langoustine was used to make the filling of the raviolo, and the shell was used to make the delicious bisque laced with a lavish Laphroaig whisky.
I was starting to frown as I thought the box of truffle was for presentation only. And then the waiter went on to shave the fresh black truffle onto the raviolo. It’s raining black gold, as this was a rather expensive add-on.
As I urged the waiter on with the shaving, he missed a spot before the entire dumpling was covered with the black truffle. And when you cut through the dumpling, you will find the last elusive ingredient, the shiso leaf, hiding with the langoustine in the eggy skin.
Anyone who likes crustaceans would be blown away by the raviole de langoustine. The langoustine was done perfectly, with the sweetness and crunch intact. The shiso provided the slight peppery and sharpness to balance with the umami from the bisque. The truffle was underwhelming on its own, but when you mixed into the warm bisque, it came to life and provide another dimension of nuttiness and flavour that can only be truffles.
Foie gras | Abalone | Shiitake
The first busy plate of the evening, there were many components to this single course that bedazzled the consumer. Bouillon Paysan or Peasant’s Soup is ironic play of words with a soup course that is made up of the most exquisite ingredients.
Poached foie gras in bouillon paysan is perhaps a nod to Royer’s roots, but it’s doubtful that the chef’s grandmother served it with charred abalone and braised shiitake. The pork consommé reminded me of KL-style bak kut teh, I kid you not.
I was blown away by the texture of the poached foie gras, it was so soft and light, yet with the fattiness of liver. It was an eclectic mix of flavours – the local tasting consommé that reminded me of my favourite breakfast, the tofu-like foie gras that disappeared in the warmth of my mouth, the braised shiitake that felt like a piece of gelatine with umami flavours, but that piece of chewy abalone? That was the only discord in the plate.
Wild Atlantic Turbot
Stuffed morel | Swiss chard | Vin jaune
After the soup, we were presented with the first of our two main course. It came under the glass hood that let off a cloud of smoke as it was unveiled. Lemongrass? Rosemary? Well, it did nothing to the taste of the course.
The wild Atlantic turbot was a well-appointed fish among the Michelin chefs. Pan-seared and topped with chopped stir-fried Swiss chards for greens, the fish was accompanied by my favourite fungi, the morel stuffed with mussel sourced locally from Ah Hua Kelong.
Vin Jaune (French yellow wine) is one of the rarest of French wines, representing less than 5 percent of the production of the Jura. Its complex, distinctive flavour, marked by notes of pine resin, curry, citrus, nuts, salt and anis, is anything but mainstream. But it pairs fantastically well with seafood. The tricky aspect of cooking with Vin Jaune is that its fugitive flavour tends to disappear when cooked for any length of time.
I did enjoy the stuffed morel mushroom, but the turbot was definitely too dry for my preference even though it was floating on a plate of sauce. The vin jaune sauce was not exactly helping with the lack of moisture in the fish. The caramelised onion sauce was really nice, but it crashed with the vin jaune in terms of flavours. Very experimental in the combination, but some experiments do not end well.
Kampot Pepper Crusted Pigeon
Beetroot | Black garlic | Confit leg
Chef Royer’s signature Kampot pepper crusted pigeon was full of theatrics when served. A heavy wooden chest was carried to the table by the petite waitress.
The grilled-then-smoked bird was first showcased in a handmade wooden box with a smoking chamber below.
The breast was sous vide and then Josper grilled. The heart and liver was made into a parfait wrapped a dumpling using a beetroot skin. The leg was confit’d, with a tiny note tied around one ankle (because it was a meant to appear like carrier pigeon). An oval ring of black garlic coulis was drawn to keep the boundary of the sauce to be added later.
I had no idea that pigeon meat could be done medium rare, as I am used to the HK style of roasted pigeons where the pigeons were first braised and then deep fried. But with sous vide, a lot of things are possible these days. The pigeon breast meat was sous vide to the right doneness and the finished in the Josper grill for the smokiness. And then the smoking box added the rosemary fragrance.
As a joke, a little note was twirled around the leg bone like a carrier pigeon. And every note was different which made it all the more interesting.
One was the instruction to eat the perfectly confit’d leg with your hands. We complied accordingly.
His pigeons are imported from Plounéour-Ménez, a small village in Brittany, France, reared sustainably by Monsieur Fabien Deneour. But they did not fly here on their own. There’s enough carbon footprint that made SQ very happy.
It felt as if I was eating a tender piece of flank steak that was well seasoned and crusted with very fragrant peppers from Kampot, Cambodia. The au jus sauce deglazed using sherry gave the breast meat a lot of dimension. Served with beetroots and beetroot dumpling filled with the parfait of pigeon heart and liver, it was the sweetness to compliment the savoury of the sauce.
Just before the sweets were served, the cheese trolley that is quintessential in every French fine dining restaurant made its appearance.
They had a bit of everything – Comté, Brie, Staunton, Camembert, and many other artisanal choices. Most of them were the stronger blue cheeses. It must be with age, I was less open to try them as they now smelled too strong for my senses.
To kick off the dessert section of the meal, a palate cleanser was presented.
Oolong tea espuma, lemongrass sorbet, and lemongrass and green apple granita. A really interesting combination of flavours featuring a zingy green apple paired with refreshing lemongrass, and balanced by a bit of bitterness of the Oolong tea. Lemongrass and green apple granita was strong of the distinct flavour from the herb and the sourness of green apple. It really went well as a pre-dessert overall. The fun part was the lemongrass sugar crust that was placed on top of the espuma and cracked like a creme brûlée before eating.
Culinary foam (from the Spanish “espuma”) is one of the most known techniques of modern cuisine. Culinary foam has been invented by the chef of “El Bulli” Ferran Adrià in the 90s. The density and texture can be controlled with the amount of frozen nitrogen dioxide pumped into the liquid. Nowadays, culinary foam has become an indispensable element in the elaboration of the menus of gastronomic restaurants.
Sable Breton | Shiso | Basil
This was a seasonal spin on their classic lemon tart. Deconstructed into layers, this dessert was made of piped yuzu curd on sable Breton (shortbread crust) and basil sorbet in the middle. On top, yuzu yogurt espuma and meticulously assembled drops of yuzu meringue, shiso flower and basil leaf shavings made it look like a snow-covered garden. Each element looked deceivingly simple, but packed a punch. The wafer thin sable was buttery with a caramel-like roast, complementing the smooth yuzu curd.
Sablés Bretons are traditional cookies from the Bretagne region (Brittany) in the North-West of France; a region that is famous for its high quality Salted Butter. In French, Sablé means Sandy (just like the classic shortcrust pastry “Pâte Sablée”) and Breton refers to Bretagne region.
The Birthday Surprise
And then they brought out the birthday “cake” for the Birthday Princess.
It was half of the Memory of Chocolate with Tanariva chocolate and salted caramel ice cream.
Even though this was a complimentary dessert for the Princess, they did not spare any of the pomp and circumstance in the presentation. At the table side, the finishing touch of the melted hazelnut mousse was poured onto the chocolate tart.
I really loved the salted caramel ice cream, while Princess devoured the chocolate tart. Definitely lots of memories with this lovely little treat.
And then there’s the petit fours that came as a sign of the end of dinner. I skipped the coffee order but I soon regretted it.
Right on top was lychee ice lollies made with lychee-flavoured ice ball enclosed by a frozen mochi shell. I could swear there was some yuzu in the mochi, but I could not be sure.
I first thought it was almond but chocolate tart was topped with shaved tonka bean. The tonka beans gave the tart a vanilla-almond note. To think that this bean is actually considered to be toxic and banned in the US. Maybe I should consider using it for my next longan tofu recipe that calls for almond taste.
I was actually surprise, and then disappointed, that they served cut fruits in a fine dining restaurant. And unlike those in a Japanese kaiseki dinner, they were not of the finest varietal available – Fuji apple, musk melon and kumquat. Kumquat is not that little orangey lime that you put in front of your doors at Chinese New Year. One of the most unusual things about kumquat is that you eat the peel, which is the sweet part of the fruit.
Odette’s Cannelé possesses all the qualities expected of this specialty from the Bordeaux region in France. The small and fragrant vanilla-flavoured pastry had a dark, almost-burnt, thick caramelised crust. In contrast, its core was very soft, almost like a firm-ish custard with a beautiful vanilla finish. Used vanilla pods were plated with the cannelés to emphasise the purity of the ingredients used in this restaurant.
And there you have it, my first meal at Odette.
As we left the restaurant, the manager handed over a small gift for us to continue to remember the excellent dinner we just had. The house made blueberry jam was based on Chef Royer’s grandmother’s recipe. The blueberry jam had a bit of dried orange peel 陈皮 infused in them. Not sure if that’s part of Granny’s recipe.
Many compared the meal at Odette with the meal at Jaan when he was helming the kitchen there. There’s no comparison because at Jaan, he was still cooking in the shadows of Andre Chiang. With Odette, he was free to do whatever he wanted.
Just like the smoked organic egg that he ported from his previous gig, he took a simple ingredient and made it great, and that’s his magic. Same magic with the Dungeness crab and the pigeon and the ravioli. And then there’s those with expensive ingredients that fell flat, like the turbot and the abalone.
However it was a lovely night where the service was top notch, the food was overall delicious and well thought through without any repeat in flavours or main ingredients even though black truffle held the entire menu together. If you have not been to a Julien Royer’s restaurant, I would urge you to go to one now. I wouldn’t be surprised that they would retain their 3 stars rating and subsequently raise the price.
But would I be returning any time soon? Not really, as there was too many repeats of past laurels and less innovations. I guess that is one of the main reason why chefs return their Michelin stars because in the pursuit of retaining their stars, the linearity of standards and menu has to give way to innovation.
1 St Andrew’s Road #01-04 Singapore 178957
Tel : 6385 0498
Date visite : Mar 2022
Michelin Singapore Guide 2 Stars 2016-2018, 3 Stars 2019, 2021