Move over celebrity chefs, Singapore's homegrown restaurants are staging a coup

Move over celebrity chefs, Singapore's homegrown restaurants are staging a coup

Talk about a revolution, Singapore's local restaurants have undergone a flurry of changes in a bid to outshine their star-studded counterparts
Restaurant André: Order the snacking plate for a snapshot of Chiang's version of haute cuisine.

The recent onslaught of star-studded celebrity chef restaurants has given Singapore's dining scene a glamorous boost. 

The hive of culinary activities is not just abuzz in kitchens helmed by chefs with star pull. A crop of fine-dining restaurants in Singapore have gone on the offensive, re-shuffling their kitchen line-up, culinary concept or moving to swankier premises.

Here's what's happening and where.

Jaan

Jaan: Expect the freshest ingredients to come out of Ebbe Vollmer's kitchen.

The move: When Andre Chiang, Singapore’s culinary poster boy-of-the-moment, left Jaan in May, the restaurant industry was awash with speculations about the right candidate to fill Chiang’s shoes. All the talk was quashed when fresh-faced Swede Ebbe Vollmer took charge and did so in true Noridc style: with an eye for detail, style and perfection.

What to expect: Vollmer believes that less is more and his "essentialist" culinary philoshophy demands pristine ingredients; kinki fish from Japan and scallops from Norway. Vollmer has chosen to put the a la carte menu on hold till he secures an ensemble of suppliers who meet his stringent ingredient selection critiera. So for now, Vollmer’s Scandinavian-influenced eight-course tasting menu rules.

How it fares: In one word, unique. Avocado is done carpaccio-style topped with exquisite Atlantic caviar pearls and almond clumps. Vollmer also serves a sausage-like pheasant meat pudding in a Madeira sauce with morel mushrooms that leave us begging for more.

What’s the damage?: Seven courses at S$240 (S$390 with wine pairings), five courses at S$200 (S$340 with wine pairings).

Level 70, Swissotel The Stamford, 2 Stamford Road; tel+65 6837 3322

Click to page 2 to read about Les Amis, Restaurant Andr
é and Iggy's.

Restaurant André

Restaurant André's scallop ravioli is almost too pretty to eat.

The move: A joint project between boutique hotelier, Loh Lik Peng, and Andre Chiang, the 30-seater Restaurant André is Chiang’s stab at raising the bar on Singapore’s haute cuisine, and it rocks. This is one restaurant that will make all the celebrity chef restaurants sit up and watch.

What to expect: A throwback to Chiang's glory days at Jaan, the Menu Classic features a “Forgotten Vegetables” and “Snickers Bar,” while the Menu Octa reflects Chiang’s take on his culinary principle based on eight characteristics: Unique, Texture, Memory, Pure, Terroir, Salt, South and Artisan. For both menus, expect top-notch ingredients prepared with Chiang’s artistic streak.

How it fares: Menu Octa showcases Chiang’s no-holds-barred nouvelle cuisine at his best. Reflecting the pure element, fresh Hokkaido scallops are sliced carpaccio-style and served as a ravioli embracing dill in a delicate savory consommé of purple basil flower, blue shiso flower and purple cauliflower. The baked foie gras mousse -- representing the memory element -- crowned with pureed black truffles coulis is one of the best foie gras preparations we’ve had.

What’s the damage?: Eight courses at S$198 and S$288 (add S$150 per person for wine pairing)

41 Bukit Pasoh Road; tel +65 6534 8880

Iggy’s

Iggy's charcoal grilled baby pike served on olive rice and laced with thyme oil.

The move: The multiple award-winning restaurant found a perfect new location when the former Harbour Grill at Hilton Hotel decided to close its doors after 40 years in business. In September, Iggy’s offically debuted at Hilton Hotel with a matt-black zen façade and an understated interior accentuated by designer lamps and stunning art pieces.

“The celebrity chef restaurants have propelled Singapore onto the radar of international media, foodies and high net worth travelers,” says Ignatius Chan, proprietor of Iggy’s. “Singapore is now positioned as a playground for the rich and the famous. With the move, we have a better location, an expanded kitchen and a purpose-built restaurant to accommodate these guests.

What to expect: While the slick new space is double the size of its former location, Iggy’s continues to seat 40 guests -- the same capacity as before -- in order to maintain a consistent, top quality level of service.

How it fares: Food wise, expect owner Ignatius Chan’s exacting standards to shine through in the tasting menu, executed by a cosmopolitan cast of kitchen crew. For Iggy’s November gastronomic menu, jade tiger abalone is char grilled and served with artichoke and sunchoke while tajarin pasta is tossed simply in poultry jus and generously crowned with Alba white truffles.

What’s the damage?: Eight courses at S$250++ (S$345++ with wine pairing)

Level 3, Hilton Hotel, 581 Orchard Road; tel +65 6732 2234

Les Amis

Not brekky but dessert: Daniel Texter's sunny-side egg at Les Amis.

The move: To stand out from the fine dining crowd, and now celebrity chef restaurants, stalwart Les Amis is sparing no expense at making an impact. In August, it recruited Daniel Texter, who cut his teeth as head pastry chef at Noma, in a newly created role of pastry chef.

“With competition intensifying, we want the desserts to take center stage with the rest of the cuisine. We want our desserts to create a wow,” says Raymond Lim, spokesman for Les Amis.

What to expect: Texter has a light touch and loves to work with fruits, herbs and even vegetables when creating sweet treats. Expect Texter’s course of desserts to share the center stage with the rest of Les Amis' cuisine, for instance a pre-dessert of Laurent Perrier rose champagne sorbet followed by your choice of desserts.

How it fares: Texter’s avant garde desserts -- such as “sunny side up” with pineapples and chili, and “blackberry and bubbles” with manjari chocolate and blackberry sorbet -- will shift your paradigm of a traditional sweet ending.

What’s the damage?: S$180 for four courses (S$260 with wine pairing), S$220 for five courses (S$320 with wine pairing) and S$320 for a six-course degustation menu (S$500 with wine pairing).

1 Scotts Place; tel +65 6733 2225


Evelyn Chen traded her frequent flyer miles from her jet-setting corporate days for a critic's pen, and has been eating and drinking on the job ever since. She is a former Time Out food critic and current editor of Zagat Guide; her food and travel features have published in Destin Asian, Travel + Leisure SEA and Conde Nast Traveller. For a collection of her gourmet jaunts, visit www.bibikgourmand.com.

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