Tag Archives: degustation

Birthday dinner at Restaurant André

Vanilla popcorn

***warning this is going to be a long post but as it’s about my birthday please indulge me*** I love birthdays. It’s the one time of the year that it’s completely ok for it to be all about you. Some birthdays you want them big and brassy with everyone you know and love around you, others you want something more understated. This year I was going with the latter. There was just so much going on with family visiting and work commitments that I just wanted to go somewhere stellar for dinner with close friends.

Chicken skin with marsala

I chose Restaurant André for a few reasons. First, we were lucky enough to sample André Chiang’s talent when he was running Jaan Par Andre and we were keen to see how he’d evolved with his own restaurant. Secondly D went for a friend’s 40th while I was in Sydney last and the food sounded amazing. I really love how Chef André brings his influence of his Taiwanese background and his French training and experience to his food (he worked in France for 14 years, training at some of that country’s most acclaimed restaurants, including Le Jardin de Sens, Pierre Gagnaire and L’Atelier Joel Robuchon).

From the moment you walk in, you know you’re somewhere different. Special. From the ambient light cast by smoked glass Edison bulbs to the fact that the place can seat a maximum of 30 guests, you get a sense of understated glamour that is relaxed and comfortable. Bordering on pretentious ? I would screw up my nose and reluctantly disagree. They clearly put a lot of thought and effort into this venture right down to the tiniest detail and I felt there was a fantastic try – not try-hard – effort.

I’ll reserve final judgement of the experience till later – let me share the food first.

There are eight courses in the evening, of which the minimalist menu doesn’t really help other than share the eight words that define the chef’s culinary approach – Pure, Salt, Artisan, South, Texture, Unique, Memory, Terroirs. Grateful for a wine pairing option with the courses, we settled into the start of our evening.

Onion and porcini tart

We started with four canapés – marsala chicken skin, an onion and porcini tart, vanilla popcorn and amberjack in cylinders of toast topped with shaved parmesan.

The chicken skin tasted exactly like chicken skin but the paper-thinness of it really challenged my palette and brain. The onion and porcini tart was less of a tart and more of a savoury wafer dusted with the rich, almost meaty flavour of the porcini. The amberjack cylinders were good but not all that interesting and popcorn I think let the quartet down. It had the texture of slightly chewy, stale popcorn and I just don’t think it complemented the rest of the dishes on the plate.

I did notice lots of baby herb leaves and flowers, which Chef Andre told us he grew on the restaurant premises. The baby leaves imparted a much more delicate flavour to each morsel.

Scallop ravioli with purple cauliflower consommé

Our first course was “Pure” – raw scallop with seaweed wrapped around Japanese chives in a beautiful lavender consommé made from purple cauliflower. The entire dish was unseasoned, letting the ingredients impart only their own individual flavours. It was delicate, clean and absolutely gorgeous. This was one of my favourite dishes of the evening.

Fresh oyster with seawater jelly and green apple foam

The next offering was “Salt” – a bowl dotted with tiny squares of green apple, with a raw oyster encased in seawater jelly with green apple foam. I love oysters, but I think the seawater jelly overpowered the delicate flavour of everything on the dish, including the oyster, and I’m not convinced about the green apple and oyster combination. Jury’s still out on this one.

From “South” – cured flounder sashimi with persimmon and seaweed and persimmon and tomato sorbet

Next course was “Artisan” – very fresh, very baby corn, from Chef Andre’s hometown in Taiwan, served simply steamed and with crispy chips of salsify and ground macadamia nuts, and salt and pepper. The delicate sweetness of the corn was enhanced by just a tiny dip in the salt/pepper mound.

Cured mackerel with prawns and razor clams with shellfish foam on a bed of risotto

“South” followed next, influenced by time spent in the south of France. The dish came in two parts. The first was cured flounder sashimi on persimmon with seaweed and a persimmon and tomato sorbet. It seemed more Japanese than south of France to me, but never having been there, the dish was delicious. Again, delicate flavours complemented each other well. As they did with the second part to South – a dish of cured mackerel, raw prawn and razor clams on a bed of risotto rice with shellfish foam and another sliced fish that unfortunately I can’t recall.

Cauliflower puree with risotto in black rice squid ink crackers

“Texture” came on a rectangular slate slab (I believe Chef Andre makes these as he is an avid potter) with a carefully constructed ball of cauliflower puree with risotto encased in black arborio rice squid ink crackers. The waiter told us that he would “leave it to [us] to figure this dish out”. A few chews and we discovered that the risotto grains were actually tiny pieces of squid ! So surprising and exactly the sort of dish that makes this chef stand out.

Salt-baked black chicken egg with iberico ham and truffles

Next up, “Unique” which married pretty much every delicious thing on this earth in one plate – a black chicken egg that had been baked in rock salt, toped with iberico ham and truffles. Add morel mushrooms and a veal jus and you have a truly unique way of enjoying ham, eggs and mushrooms 🙂

Foie gras jelly with black truffle coulis

“Memory” was probably my other favourite dish of the evening. Reminiscent (for me) of the incredible foie gras mousse from Jaan, this dish was a warm foie gras jelly with black truffle coulis. Again, chef André managed to combine classic flavours in remarkably innovative ways to surprise the diner’s palette.

Braised beef shortrib with fresh peppercorns, peas and celeriac mousse

The final dish was the main course or “Terroir”. I don’t eat lamb so chef prepared a similar dish to the one he showcased at the Masterclass I attended – braised beef shortrib with fresh peppercorns, served with peas, celeriac mousse and dehydrated olives.

Dessert was a birthday cake for me (awwww) that was Snickers 2011 – again, similar to the one he prepared at the Masterclass but this time just that little more sophisticated. Different textures of chocolate and hazelnut make a super rich, super delicious dessert.

The only thing that I would say let the evening down was the wine pairing which seemed sporadic and not timed very well with the dishes that came out – we had only white wine glasses on our table when the black chicken egg and iberico ham dish was served, for example. They make such a big deal out of the fact that the wines they source are from boutique vineyards, the sommelier really didn’t share as much as we would have thought other than telling us the vineyard name, the region and the year of each wine.

At a restaurant that only serves one menu that is dictated by the chef, it’s almost impossible to walk away loving every dish. I think Chef André has taken the opportunity to put his unique touch to his dishes that he may not have had when working for Jaan. It’s certainly a restaurant you reserve for special occasions – this is a truly great dining experience. Loved it. Thanks to D and K and J who kept me company !

Restaurant André
41 Bukit Pasoh Road
Singapore
Tel 6534 8880


A Crown Street gem called Toko

Beef tataki with citrus soya sauce and garlic chips

Toko in Sydney is somewhere I’ve wanted to visit in a long time, and I managed to go there last Saturday night.  The whole stretch of Crown Street from Oxford Street to Cleveland Street has changed so much in the last ten years and it is now just full of great cafes and bars and restaurants that I think epitomises Sydney, especially in the summer when people spill out on to the street to enjoy the warm weather.

Reminiscent of Sushi-e at the back of Hemmesphere Bar, this place is abuzz with people and chatter and music and was packed by 7.30 when we got there (although I think Toko is more izakaya dining – where it’s basically a place to drink with the added benefit of having food to eat rather than a sushi bar).  Luckily there was a table for us (one of the downsides is that you can’t make reservations and they won’t seat you until all your party are there).

We opted for the degustation menu to sample as many dishes as possible from the menu (and to avoid having to make a decision on a Saturday night after a few wines!) and every dish that was presented to us was a delight.

Crispy soft-shelled crab with wasabi mayonnaise

We started with a beef tataki – seared thinly-sliced beef with a citrus soy sauce and garlic chips.  The beef was perfectly seared on the outside while rare in the middle and the garlic chips were a nice contrast in crunchiness to the tender beef.

Next up was what I would arguably call the best soft-shelled crab I have ever tasted.  The batter was light and crispy and there was absolutely none of the soggy oily mess that you often get with soft-shelled crab.  It was served with a wasabi mayonnaise but I don’t think the crab needed anything at all.  Absolutely perfect.

King fish sashimi with ponzu dressing

Third course was I think what reminded me of Sushi-e and their amazing king fish that’s served with a drizzle of smoking hot olive oil, thin slices of king fish sashimi served with a ponzu dressing, with ginger and crispy crushed garlic.  Again, the contrast in textures really worked in your mouth.

Courses that followed kind of blurred after these three as the wines flowed freely, but I do recall seared scallops toped with finely grated daikon served with a drizzle of basil emulsion, seared duck breast with sliced ginger and sansho pepper, and simple zuccini on skewers and corn on the cob from the robata grill were surprisingly super sweet and delicious.

Toko also has a sushi bar in Paddington, but on a Saturday night when you just want to catch up with friends in a bustling bar with the added bonus of a table and non-stop delicious plates of food being served, Toko in Surry Hills wins it for me.

Toko Restaurant and Bar
490 Crown Street
Surry Hills

T: +61 2 9357 6100
F: +61 2 9357 6155
E: info@toko.com.au

Bookings taken for lunch only