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Posts from the ‘Food’ Category

5 Minutes with Guy Savoy

Guy Savoy

Restaurant Guy Savoy in Paris recently retained three Michelin stars for 15 years running. Chopstix caught up with Guy Savoy himself, one of the most personable chefs in the business, on a recent trip to Asia.

Who inspired you to become a chef?
My mother. Firstly, I liked to eat and my mother was a good cook. I didn’t imagine how much work went into it though then I watched my mother one day. I saw how she blended flour, butter, eggs, salt and sugar. The ingredients were not interesting separately but then they became a cake. For me, it was like magic.

What is your food heaven and hell?
I love ice cream; it is an addiction. I don’t like capsicum. When they’re cooked they’re ok but I can’t eat raw ones.

What do you like to cook for yourself?
For a snack: toasted rustic bread with a thick layer of cold bread and some sardines and ground pepper on top. The most important thing is to have cold butter.

What would you be if you couldn’t be a chef?
Nothing. I can’t imagine being anything else.

Who would you most like to cook for?
Me.

What would you prepare as a last meal?
I am too too young to think about that!

What’s the strangest food you’ve eaten?
Crocodile finger at Justin Quek’s restaurant in Singapore [Sky on 57 at Marina Bay Sands] and then a month ago, ants in The Amazon. In France we eat frog’s legs and snails, that’s part of our culture. Eating ants is not normal for us.

What’s the best restaurant you’ve never heard of?
My mother’s. I’ve never found better.

Ode to Odette

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Odette restaurant, Singapore

[UPDATE: Odette has entered Asia’s 50 Best Restaurant 2017 list at number 9 making it the highest new entry and the highest new entry since the list was created.]

Julien Royer, formerly head chef of the acclaimed Jaan, now has his own restaurant in the form of Odette, a bread roll’s throw away from his alma mater, within Singapore’s stunning new National Gallery.

Odette is named in homage to Royer’s grandmother. And the family theme continues as the dreamy design is down to artist Dawn Ng – wife of the restaurant’s co owner, Wee Teng Wen of the Lo and Behold group – in conjunction with Universal Design Studio.

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The specially designed open kitchen at Odette

With its romantic, cream interiors, Odette is the White Swan to Lo and Behold stablemate, Black Swan nearby in the CBD. But back to the food.

Royer is continuing to mix classical French with modern techniques in his new home. Some of his greatest hits from Jaan are on the menu: Mushroom “tea”; 55 mins Onsen Egg; Heirloom Beetroot Variation; and Hay Smoked Pigeon.

In it’s new incarnation though the Pigeon is served two ways: the breast cooked sous vide then grilled and the leg cooked for six hours. And the Onsen Eggs are smoked on a bed of pines – foraged by the chef’s father and sent over from France (another family link).

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Julien Royer Chef de Cuisine Odette

Royer has also added some new creations such as the standouts Hokkaido Uni with Apple, Mussel and Caviar and Trout with Miso Glazed Kurobuta Pork.

The welcome champagne trolley includes Chartogne-Taillet rose, Henri Giraud for Odette and Krug – said to be Royer’s favourite.

Desserts, by pastry chef Nicolas Vergnole, are also impressive including Confit Victoria Pineapple (below): toasted coconut ice cream, banana cake, passionfruit coulis, tapioca and Kaffir lime.

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Royer and his team are clearly shooting for a few Michelin stars when the Singapore Guide launches later this year.

[UPDATE: Odette was awarded two stars in the inaugural Michelin Guide Singapore on July 21st 2016].

http://www.odetterestaurant.com

Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants Rolls Around Again

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A dish at Narisawa – Asia’s inaugural Best Restaurant

With the fifth incarnation of Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants being held on February 21st, Chopstix looks back at the launch of the list in 2013:

On Monday evening [February 25th 2013] the best restaurant in Asia will be announced. Whatever your viewpoint on awards and rankings, the winner is certain to be thrust to international fame and a year of being officially referred to as “Asia’s best restaurant” across the media. At least, such is the precedent of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list, the creators of which are behind this launch.

Back in 2002, journalists at the UK industry magazine, Restaurant, came up with the idea of running The World’s 50 Best Restaurants as a feature which they knew would ruffle a few feathers and create publicity in the process. They couldn’t have predicted quite how huge their creation would become though.

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A dish at Narisawa – Asia’s Best Restaurant 2013

By 2007 San Pellegrino was onboard as a sponsor and the list evolved into an awards ceremony in London garnering worldwide publicity as the likes of The French Laundry in the US, El Bulli in Spain, The Fat Duck in the UK and Noma in Denmark topped the list. Proclaiming one restaurant as the best in the world was controversial enough, even more so was which restaurants (and their chefs) were included and excluded in the next 49 places.

For several years the list endured some criticism not least because a disproportionate amount of placings were UK-centric. Mainly because that’s where the judges were based – we were all industry acquaintances of the Restaurant magazine staff. You knew then that if you voted for a restaurant in say, Hong Kong, the chances of it appearing on the list were very slim since no one else would be voting for it.

So an effort was made to turn the whole affair more international. Now, there are 27 food expert “academy chairs” based around the world, and each has a panel of around 30 judges in their region.

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Bo Songvisava of Bo Lan, Bangkok – Asia’s Best Female Chef 2013

For the inaugural Asian list to be announced at a ceremony in Singapore on Monday, the academy panels covering Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, South East Asia, China, Korea, India and Japan, will be voting. So why the launch of a dedicated Asian list? “We felt that Asia’s restaurant scene was under represented on a global stage,” says Restaurant magazine editor William Drew. “We knew the quality of restaurants in Asia and we believed that many of them ranked amongst the best in the world.”

Grant Thatcher academy chair of Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan adds: “These awards are all set to place Asia’s amazing culinary scene firmly under the spotlight where it belongs.” Indeed, there’s a scanty showing of Asian ventures on the 2012 World’s 50 Best Restaurants: one restaurant in Hong Kong (Amber), one in Thailand (Nahm), two in Singapore (Iggy’s and Waku Ghin) and two in Japan (Nihonryori RyuGin and Narisawa). All of them appear in the second 25 of the list.

No wonder then restauranteurs on this continent welcome the launch. “I think it’s great for Asia,” says Alvin Leung, chef proprietor at Bo Innovation, Hong Kong. “It will allow recognition for Asian restaurants that otherwise would not have made the international 100 list let alone the top 50.”

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Iggy’s Singapore

“It is one of the best things that can happen to the restaurant industry in Asia,” affirms Ignatius Chan, owner of Iggy’s in Singapore which has been a long standing inclusion on the World’s 50 Best list and is currently the highest Asian entry at number 26. “Asia has a very diverse culture and heritage, it has a long history of civilisation and food culture. The list will propel the best restaurants in Asia to the world and it will better profile all the great cuisine we have.”

Tetsuya Wakuda the Japanese chef behind Waku Ghin in Singapore which appears at the number 39 on the international list agrees: “It is great to see further recognition of an area which has given and continues to give so much culinary inspiration to the rest of the world.”

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Chef Tetsuya Wakuda, Waku Ghin

It will be interesting to see though whether the new list will be dominated by Asian cuisine restaurants or Western, namely classical French, restaurants based in Asia. The Miele Guide Asia’s Finest Restaurants 2013 launched last month , featured six French restaurants and one Italian (Hong Kong’s 8 1/2 Otto e Mezzo Bombana) in its top ten. [UPDATE: Chef Umberto Bombana of 8 1/2 will be awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award at Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants event on Feb 21st 2017.]

“Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants is designed as a showcase for the best restaurants, chefs and cooking in Asia, regardless of their style or origin,” says William Drew. “It is a showcase for the best food in Asia, rather than Asian food.”

Alvin Leung agrees: “I think the list will be based on the merits of the restaurant irrespective of which cuisine it serves. I have been told you get better Italian in Tokyo than in Italy so I don’t think that Asian food will have priority on the list.”

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Richard Ekkebus of Amber

However others are hoping and expecting to see more of an Asian cuisine showing. Notably Richard Ekkbus at French restaurant Amber who says: “I am certain there are many Asian restaurants cooking Asian food that could be part of this list. I’m very excited about this and the fact that David Thompson’s Nahm entered the World’s 50 last year is a great sign.”

David Thompson himself says: “There are some great restaurants throughout Asia, many of which do not have the recognition they so deserve. Hopefully Asian cuisine will be more represented, I would be surprised if it isn’t. Certainly on my part there is an expectation that an Asian cuisine restaurant will be number one.”

David Thompson in the kitchen

David Thompson of Nahm

All the chefs I spoke to for this article cited Hong Kong, Singapore and Japan as the countries they expect to see heavily represented at the awards. With Iggy’s currently the top Asian restaurant in the World list, there are expectations of it gaining top billing. But Chan says: “I don’t really know how everyone sees this but I certainly do not see that as automatically making us number one on Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list. There is an ever rising number of new and exciting restaurants sprouting and many talented professionals have chosen Asia as their base.”

Instead, Chan’s money is on a Japanese restaurant: “Japan is a great agricultural nation filled with passionate food lovers. Its major cities such as Toyo, Osaka, Kobe and Kyoto have the highest concentration of exceptional restaurants in the world.” Ekkbus agrees: “I am not very good at making predictions but I wouldn’t be surprised if one of Japan’s restaurants leads the list.”

Clearly there’s an advantage, not just of being deemed number one but being on the list at all, with restauranteurs reporting increased bookings by inclusion on the worldwide list. As Thompson says: “I did notice that bookings did not slip as most Bangkok restaurants tend to do as the weather heats up and then begins to rain.”

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Yoshihiro Narisawa, Narisawa

Chef Yoshihiro Narisawa of Narisawa, the highest placed Japan based restaurant on the worldwide list, raises other concerns: “We were glad to have guests from all over the world via our inclusion on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants,” he says. “A dedicated Asian list will become a great resource for the Asian market however it may end up that Asian restaurants are left out in the cold from the world’s markets.”

One thing is certain, not everyone will agree with the awards. Stand by for the fireworks on Monday night. [UPDATE: Narisawa was named Asia’s Best Restaurant in the inaugural 2013 list.]

This piece was originally published in 2013.

Foodie Cruises

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Seabourn Encore

[UPDATE: Thomas Keller oversees The Grill onboard the luxurious Seabourn cruises including the Seabourn Encore which departs from Singapore tomorrow for her inaugural voyage around Indonesia. The Grill by Thomas Keller, designed by Adam Tihany, is inspired by traditional American chophouses and features updated classics such as steaks with creamed spinach and Lobster Thermidor. Caesar Salads and ice cream sundaes will be prepared table side. http://www.seabourn.com]

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Two Fat Ducklings in the Lion City – part three

Harvest Salad at Bacchanalia, Singapore Harvest Salad at Bacchanalia, Singapore

[UPDATE: We bid a fond farewell to chef Ivan Brehm who completed his last service at the Kitchen at Bacchanalia last night. Sous chef Mark Ebbels also left the restaurant earlier this month. Chopstix thanks them for bringing great food, integrity and passion to the Singapore dining scene and can’t wait to see what they do next.]

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