The best restaurant in Singapore. Second best restaurant in Asia. Named #14 on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants. Head chef and owner André Chiang began his culinary training in France, where he worked alongside the kitchens of Pierre Gagnire, L’Atelier de Robuchon, and Le Jardin des Sens before initiating his solo career in Singapore. His restaurant is a classic white house, with a warmly decorated interior. It felt more like I was being invited to a private dinner rather than dining at a restaurant. Chef Chiang is known for his signature Octaphilosophy elements (unique, pure, texture, memory, salt, south, artisan and terroir). The lunch menu deviates slightly from the dinner menu. Instead of serving his Octaphilosophy degustation, the lunch menu features a new theme per month. This month’s theme is decreasing wastage, which became more apparent once the courses proceeded.
The kombucha was interesting. Fermented under careful supervision, it was very sour and subtly sweet. There was also a strong musty smell that reminded me of an old attic. I don’t hate it, but it’s not my choice of beverage. A selection of intricate amuse bouche was presented.
The first course evoked the feeling of spring. Visually, this was stunning. Sugar peas with goat cheese ice cream, charred white asparagus, and sea urchin. The waitress poured a pea wasabi vichyssoise onto the dish tableside. This is one of those rare dishes where everything works, and nothing could be omitted. The intensity of flavours was complex and divided into several layers. Initially, the palate gets hit with sweetness from the peas and white asparagus. The sweetness started to subside, and the sea urchin’s brine and the goat cheese’s tartness begun to appear. Last but not least, the heat from the wasabi made its entrance.
The next course exemplified the theme of decreasing wastage. The versatility of crab was demonstrated brilliantly. The innards emulsified with curry was seasoned aggressively. On the other hand, the crab cannoli was delicate. To finish off the trio, the crab claw custard was ethereally fluffy, like a marshmallow.
Steamed marble goby was exquisite. The fish itself was feather light, wrapped around a potato purée and enveloped with strips of leek. While it appears the fish is the main ingredient, the leek is actually the real star! The fried leek bundle and leek oil further aromatized the whole dish. The fish bouillabaisse, a classic Marseille specialty is the epitome of comfort food. Just a sip was enough to unlock fond memories of my mom’s fish soup. This dish, along with the previous course really exemplify this month’s theme. Every portion of the ingredient was used in versatile ways.
The pigeon, imported from Anjou, France was dry aged in hay and salt koji. The waitress explained that pigeons feed on oatmeal, hence the oatmeal risotto side. The plum sauce cut through the gaminess of the pigeon, while the use of dark chocolate was restrained and sophisticated.
The palate cleanser was a twist on the classic peach melba. An exterior of torched marshmallow conformed to an inner layer of poached pear. Stuffed with sunflower seeds, which gave off a nutty aroma. The pink finger lime caviar had a lingering citrus scent, complementing the caramel orange sauce.
Once the palate’s been transferred from savoury to sweet, the official dessert was presented. Aside from the incredible knife work, the ingredients themselves were simple. The purple shiso granita brought a refreshing vibrant fragrance, a great foil to the pickled plums and rich creme fraiche. Two words to sum up dessert; clean and elegant.
During dessert, I had the pleasure of meeting Chef Chiang in person. He’s friendly and very easy to talk to. I asked him what influences his cuisine. He replied it’s a combination of things; his childhood in Japan, apprenticeship in Southern France, Taiwanese heritage, and a Singaporean setting. His cooking style remains Southern French, yet reinterpreted with Asian influences.
One thing that really stood out was the meticulous presentation. Not a drop of sauce was out of place. Restaurant André, along with Restaurant Gordon Ramsay and Kitcho has some of the most beautiful presentation I’ve seen. In fact, rumour has it that Chef Chiang personally plates every single dish. Words cannot describe how amazing this meal was. It’s one of those meals where I’m rendered speechless, as I struggle to describe my experience in detail. You simply have to experience it in person to know what I’m rambling about. A meal definitely worth flying to Singapore for!