24 Nov 2015
An ode to French artistry
“My socialite tai-tai friends tell me that dining at Odette is the meal of the year,” says a journalist we bump into at the fortnight-old modern French restaurant in the newly revamped National Gallery Singapore.
Well, the space is something special. As we swan past the foyer of the museum crowded with families and into the 32-seater, we are instantly transported to the kind of dining room one encounters in a Michelin-starred establishment in Paris. But less stuffy, and fresher.
Odette is the hotly anticipated collaboration between former Jaan chef Julien Royer and Wee Teng Wen of The Lo & Behold Group. Of course, it is full this Saturday afternoon. As we’re ushered to our cosy banquette seat clad in velvety grey, we’re greeted by genial, young head sommelier Vincent Tan, whom we recognise from his days at rustic French tavern Shelter in The Woods. He’s all grown up now and smartly dressed in a grey suit instead of an apron.
24 Nov 2015
The Look & Vibe
No expense has been spared in decorating this understated, tasteful establishment. It’s Lo & Behold’s first foray into fine-dining (they’re arguably most famous for Tanjong Beach Club), so they’ve pulled out all the stops to impress even the most jaded socialite.
A small army of chefs led by Royer flutter around a granite and steel kitchen, visible through glass and brass-lined doors. It’s a mesmerising sight, like a live art installation. Natural light is filtered through gauzy curtains, washing the dining room in a somewhat ethereal glow.
The showpiece here is a creation by Singaporean artist Dawn Ng (and Teng Wen’s wife): a constellation of “abstract collages crafted from a series of deconstructed food photography”. It hovers beneath the ceiling like origami birds from a Murakami novel. Beautiful. Cute French tunes interspersed with quirky jazzy covers of pop hits like Blur’s Girls And Boys drift across the room. It’s all fashionably elegant and feminine. Apt, since Odette is named after chef Royer’s grandmother, who inspired his love for cooking.
24 Nov 2015
We admit we’ve only dined at Jaan once while Royer was at the helm, and it was a long time ago, so our memory of his food is fuzzy. But fans of Jaan tell us that many of the dishes here are rehashes — with slight tweaks — from Royer’s days at Jaan. Not that it’s a bad thing, especially if you, like us, are eating his food from a somewhat fresh perspective.
We opt for the six-course lunch tasting menu ($128; a six-course dinner starts at $208) and the meal takes a leisurely two-and-a-half hours, with plenty of pampering from the bearish but sweet-faced Austrian manager Christopher. First, an assortment of whimsical miniature snacks. Such as a tiny tart of comte cheese, confit egg yolk, shallot, and shaved truffle (above left) assembled with tweezers directly onto our palm. Like Gulliver supping at a Lilliputian aristocrat’s table. And an exquisite “Mushroom Tea” (a Jaan stalwart), of intense mushroom broth poured into glasses layered like terrariums of deliciousness with cep sabayon, walnuts, and toasted buckwheat. The Pine-Smoked 55 Organic Egg is another updated transplant from Jaan. But it’s still a spectacle: our server arrives with a cardboard carton smouldering with dry ice, the most glamorous egg man we ever did see (see main pic on facing page). He then plops the contents of an eggshell onto a platter of root vegetables, “mushroom ketchup” and shaved black truffles. The 55-minute sous vide egg is voluptuously sticky and creamy, and pairs nicely with the assortment of veg, some zesty and refreshing, others soft and green. The “ketchup” cleverly fuses the umami essence of shrooms and tang of vinegar.
Our favourite dish today is the Challans Guinea Fowl ‘A La Braise’ (above right). It’s served on a bed of smoking rosemary warmed by a hot piece of coal. It’s unabashedly rich and traditionally French: silky, tender confit leg and grilled breast juxtaposed with crackly, charred skin, and a “risotto” of tiny cubes of al dente celeriac, all bathed in buttery foie gras and cream sauce.
24 Nov 2015
The Choconuts Gallery, a light chocolate praline with a shortbread base, is pleasant but forgettable. We prefer the sexy chilled Cheese Trolley (extra $15 supplement) for dessert. It heaves with 10 unpasteurised hunks crafted by artisanal cheesemaker Bernard Antony in northeastern France. The 36-month-aged Comte is outstanding. It’s semi-hard and littered with crunchy crystals, like a complex cross between Parmigiano Reggiano, aged cheddar and gruyere. Dreamy with a dab of redcurrant compote made using grandma Odette’s recipe.
VERDICT: While we cannot claim that lunch here was our “meal of the year”, we can say Odette is the prettiest special occasion place in town. The ambience and top-notch service are faultless. Menu-wise, while there’re no massive fireworks in its opening stage, it’s still lovingly-made classic good food served with a side of theatre.
#01-04 NATIONAL GALLERY SINGAPORE, 1 ST ANDREW’S RD. TEL: 6385-0498. Open daily except Sun noon-1.30pm; 7pm-9.30pm. Last orders at closing. http://www.odetterestaurant.com