André, Singapore 2015
We always enjoy trying new restaurants, or visiting new places. Very seldom do we return to where we've previously been. It's more fun trying something new, than to revisit the old in our opinion.
When we visited restaurant André last year, we could only fit in a lunch-visit, and found out that the experience for lunch and dinner were very different. This wouldn't be a problem we hoped, as we would get a sense for chef Andrés cooking anyway. If you haven't read our previous review for our visit last year, we can spoil it by saying that we absolutely loved it. From the imaginative lunch menu, created from available produce on the day, we got one of our most memorable meals from last year.
As we left the restaurant in 2014, we kicked ourselves for not leaving more time to try the dinner experience as well. Lo and behold, as we were on vacation in Asia, we simply had to hop on a flight to Singapore again to experience the full dinner menu at Restaurant André.
As we enter the restaurant, we are greeted by André Chiangs lovely wife Sudarampai Chiang. With a smile on her face she immediately tells us "we are very happy to welcome you back".
One of the things we love about the restaurant is the level of detail that is put on everything — not just the food, but the personal experience as well. During the evening, basically every person in the front-of-house team tells us welcome back, which gives us a very welcoming feeling.
The dinner menu at André is based on what's called "Octaphilosophy" which is the eight themes that makes up the philosophy in Chef André Chaingi's cooking. As we experienced last year, the emphasis on these themes is what sets André's dishes apart — dishes with texture, artisanal thinking, from pure ingredients that evokes memory and more. This made us very excited for the meal to follow.
The initial finger-food is a display of beautiful crafted bites that is both flavourful and artistic in its presentation. Textures vary heavily, tastes from the sea and earth is combined; not to mention the delicious chocolate-garlic soil in the crispy prawn-head starter — where is our spoon?
The first theme in the Octaphilosophy is a dish that from the ingredients would seem to not work together, but when tasted will be all harmonious. This was truly delicious. Creamy corn with zingy horseradish and with a sense of vanilla. We're usually the first ones to point out that vanilla is hard to use in savoury dishes, but here it all worked beautiful together.
Everything on this dish was barely touched, to leave it to its "pureness". It was a very fresh dish, but maybe one of the least memorable of the night.
The Octaphilosophy throws us for a bit of a loop when the theme is salt, but the dish contains absolutely no salt. Instead the dish is comprised of ingredients that when tasted will give the sensation of tasting like memories of the sea and the salt that comes naturally. Once again the dish has everything we love with a perfectly smooth potato cream and crunchy grains, yummy.
The artisan theme pays tribute to farmers, fishermen, and other craftsmen. The dish is simply striking looking and very significative of Andrés style of plating (someone has been hard at work with the tweezers).
The smoked eel is very delicious and its with dishes like these where André brings the menu to another level than most other restaurants are capable of.
The wine-list at André has changed since we last visited. Now there's an emphasis on true natural wines, and there's several exciting options to choose from. This is very unusual as the natural wine moment clearly hasn't struck down on Asia just yet. Our sommelier tells us that it fits perfectly with the restaurant since it focuses on artisanal produce and pure ingredients — a great philosophy.
André has worked in many different kitchens, but he has spent most of his time in the south of France. This dish brought us back to those fantastic flavours found there. But according to General Manager Stepan we have to quickly get back on a plane to Singapore, because there are many more dishes to go.
Maybe the kitchen actually thought we were away in France, as we have to wait up to 30 minutes for our following dish. Something must've gone a bit wrong in the kitchen we imagine. The tables next to us gets several dishes before we receive our next. This feels very strange as the service at André is immaculate and we're so impressed by how the dining room has been handled up until this point.
This is a theme we're very fond of and something that André does so well. It's hard to describe it, but when something is either perfectly creamy, smooth or crunchy and pleasant to bite into, it makes all the difference. The dish that makes up the theme of texture is a very different version of "Risotto" made with rissoni pasta instead of rice. We're both in ave over this dish. Amazing flavours and the "risotto" basically melts in the mouth. We could have several more plates of this right away.
All the dishes has a brief explanation to them in the terms of the Octaphilosophy. We think this brings further excitements to every dish and makes them all stand out on their own. The explanations are never too long, and it helps that our server Johan and general manager Stepan is extremely charming.
This dish is one that has never changed in 18 years. It's a dish that André was extremely proud of when it was put on the menu by the head chef where he was currently working. Since then, he has kept it as a signature dish in his restaurant.
The foie gras has a texture of custard, brought from the use of a thermo-mixer. This makes it much more pleasant than what we've normally tasted before (we're not fans of foie gras). The truffle coulis on top makes every bite feel very luxurious.
This is the first dish that clearly pays homage to classic french cooking. Humble ingredients simply cooked to perfection, to bring tribute to the produce itself and its roots. Even in this humble form, flavour is really shining through and the pigeon is simply perfectly seasoned.
The Octapihlosophy has been a fantastic showcase of excellent dishes. Every dish has been a highlight in itself. The themes has been more "vague" in its interpretation than we initially thought, but we imagine it would be rather hard to invent new dishes if it had to be interpreted literally. At this stage we're simply sad that the meal is starting to come to an end.
Before the actual dessert-course, we are given two "pre-desserts" which works very well in building up anticipation for the actual dessert. The first pre-dessert is as green pea ice cream. It is a rather strange combination tasting peas in a desert, but it really works. The shiso-flans makes us jealous for everyone that has a dry-oven at home to make them.
The second pre-desert is an absolutely beautiful red grape carpaccio. It's hard to beat presentations like these. It has a very pleasant taste, but feels a bit like a palette-cleanser.
Finally, the dessert. DIY cake. Where to begin. The feeling during the meal has been one of inventiveness and surprise. This dish brought us instead juvenile playfulness. It's presented with the premise that "Chef André is very lazy. He has prepared you all the ingredients you need to bake a cake, but you need to create it yourself". The plate consists of butter, sugar, flour and chocolate and our server pours milk and cracks an egg onto the dish. Our job is now to combine all the ingredients.
The individual bits look very much like real ingredients — but obviously they're not. This dish brings big smiles onto our faces as we start mixing the ingredients together and have a taste. It's not just a fun dish, it tastes amazing as well. There's crunchy bits, there's toffee flavour and it all tastes like a combination of a cake-mix and cookie dough. Every bite is crunchy and creamy with heavenly bites of texture. It's a dish that goes outside the sophistication of the other dishes during the evening, but it's a very fun one, and also a very, very tasty one.
Chef André himself brings us the petit fours which is an impressive wooden box filled with different small delights. Just as last time we met him, André is bubbling with excitement and we could keep talking with him for hours and hours. Finally, we have to stop as the petit fours have started melting. We love the fact that André visits every table for a personal chat and he truly seems to be enjoying himself.
Even the petit fours tells Andrés story. It contains churros and nutella, which is something he used to make all the time when living in Paris. There's a version of "Kaya toast" which is a Singaporean snack which he loves. Our favorite is the cherry lollipop with different surprises hidden inside it.
We were wondering if we were crazy for flying into Singapore for one restaurant only, and we questioned if it could live up to our own excitement of revisiting the restaurant a second time. We can clearly say that this experience was worth it all. From the personal and warm greetings back, to the wonders of food philosophy provided, to the level of detail in everything and Chef Andrés own excitement that translates all the way into the dining room. Without a doubt, this is the best restaurant experience we've had so far in 2015.