41 Bukit Pasoh Rd
Tel. +65 6534 8880
Food type: Modern French
Website: Restaurant André
If there was one meal that had been more hyped up than any other for this trip, it would be André. My sister who lives in Singapore has had more difficulty getting a table here than any other restaurant in the Republic. That is the effect of being listed in the World’s 50 Best list (as Singapore’s only entry in the top 50) as well as Asia’s 50 Best. No matter what your views are on the merits of the 50 Best list, you can guarantee that booking will be a complete pain in the backside. Just look at Ledbury – in the past, you could pretty much show up on the day and there would be plenty of tables available but since being listed on the 50 Best list, you have to book 2 months in advance barring any last minute cancellations.
As such, I was pretty surprised that I managed to snag a table for Friday lunch despite booking ‘only’ 3 weeks in advance. I am normally pretty organised with restaurant bookings especially when planning around my trips – I booked most of my tables for Hong Kong nearly 6 months in advance – but the decision to dine at André was made rather complicated by my parents who were not sure what their plans were going to be when they were in Singapore. Long story short, I shot an e-mail to the restaurant explaining that I was only in Singapore for a short period of time and could only do Friday lunch and was as surprised as the next person that they wrote back the next day stating that they had a table available and requesting a deposit to secure my booking.
Which brings me to my next point. I completely understand that restaurants need some safeguard to protect against no-shows. What happened to the days of simply taking down your credit card details? Nowadays, seem to get more and more complex – from signing a 2 page contract, providing enough detail for them to come hunt you down if you no-show to significant deposit for the meal up front. Don’t get me started on ticketing systems. For what it is worth, I will continue to boycott every single restaurant which practices the stupid pre-paid ticket system.
Located in a renovated townhouse in Singapore’s China town our eyes were immediately drawn to the iconic olive tree outside the restaurant. We checked in with our hostess and were taken up to the dining room on the first floor. The ground floor houses a kitchen as well as a couple of chef’s tables.
André serves lunch on Wednesdays and Fridays and also dinner every night bar Mondays. The menu format is a no choice tasting menu priced at SGD$298 for dinner and SGD$128 for lunch. You are of course welcome to inform the restaurant of any dislikes or allergies. For people travelling from the UK, please note that their version of VAT, called GST (at 6%) is not included in the menu price. Only the shorter lunch menu is available during lunch so if you want the full works you will have to book for dinner. Normally, I would want to go for the lengthy tasting menu, but as we had another heavy dinner lined up, the short menu suited us just fine. The wine list is presented in a little, miniature book with a small selection focused on biodynamic/ natural wines. Prices are in keeping with most of Singapore – eye watering.
Our meal began with a little canapé dubbed ‘Snacking’. No idea why they couldn’t have just called it canapé instead. I guess you need to be one of the cool kids because amuse bouche is just so 20th century. This was essentially a poached Kumamoto oyster and confit chicken wing with an oyster emulsion, hidden under an oyster leaf. Very tasty indeed with the sweet, briny, iodine oyster combining well with the succulent and meaty chicken wing.
I found the first course of zucchini, burrata and celeriac interesting but not really to my taste. The zucchini (aka courgette) is presented in different forms – compressed, pickled and pureed and paired with a celeriac granita dressed with a bit of basil oil. My main issue is really with the celeriac granita which came in pretty large chunky ice clusters rather than finely shaved snow which was not a pleasant texture to eat. At times it was just like biting on favoured ice cubes. Also because celeriac is such a prominent flavour, everything else just felt a bit lost.
The next course representing Autumn woodlands was much more enjoyable. Sitting on a bed of parsnip mousse were various dehydrated root vegetable chips representing the fallen autumn leaves. Hiding amongst the ‘foliage’ were some sautéed trompette mushrooms. For me, what really tied the dish together was the ‘broth’ made with Bresse chicken and smoked eel which was intense, meaty and paired wonderfully with the earthy flavours on the dish.
Moving on to a dish inspired by New York was a deconstructed bagel & lox (smoked salmon and cream cheese bagel) featuring slow cooked salmon fillet accompanied by a bagel puree, cleverly presented to resemble… well a bagel. The fish was perfectly timed with the richness of the dish was tempered by a few pickled shallots. I’m not sure when was the last time I had sea vegetables in my salmon bagel but maybe I should be doing it more often!
For our main course, we were taken to Malaysia and a dish based on Hokkien Prawn Mee. Here, Kurobota pork was served two ways – crispy belly and slow-cooked loin, paired with an intense prawn bisque similar to the broth served with prawn mee. The pork itself had a beautiful deep flavour, unlike a lot of pork served in the UK, and the pairing with the prawn bisque element a marriage made in heaven. Chef André cleverly adds some acidity in the form of fresh peaches to help cut through the richness of the dish with some peas and raw-shaved asparagus giving a balancing freshness. This was my favourite dish of the meal.
The first dessert was an intriguing take on Avocado on toast. This savoury-sweet crossover was a lot tastier than I would have though when I initially read it on the menu. An sweetened avocado parfait is partially hidden by a sourdough espuma and dusted with vegemite powder. Yes! Vegemite – the Aussie equivalent of Marmite. And you know what? That was what really made this dish. The salty, yeasty tang really brought the whole dish to life.
Finally, we finished off with André’s take on a Pumpkin Pie. At this point, chef Andre was doing the rounds in the dining room and he served us the dessert himself. This dessert features of myriad of techniques but if you closed your eyes and took a huge spoonful you are immediately reminded about the warm, cinnamon-infused flavours of pumpkin pie.
We really enjoyed our meal here at André. Ignoring the first course, all the other courses served were well thought out and showed a lot of finesse with the balancing of flavours. Of course, lunch is a much simpler affair but it does give us good insight as to the type of chef André Chiang is. It would be interesting to come back again for dinner to experience his ‘octaphilosophy’ in its entirety.