|Interior of Odette at National Gallery|
If you were writing a story about “5 Restaurants worth a plane ride to Singapore”, what would your list look like?
No prizes for guessing. Mine would undoubtedly include the two month-old Odette by chef-patron Julien Royer, plus a handful of other predictable and not-so-predictable names.
|Julien Royer, chef-patron of Odette|
In a short span of four years at Jaan, where he was chef de cuisine, Royer has brought the now-feted restaurant to greater heights. To wit, Jaan was named “One to Watch” at the inaugural Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants awards in 2013. Under Royer’s watch, the restaurant also scored a hat trick, snagging a spot on the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list three years in a row since the list was published.
A collaborative venture with serial restaurateur (and soon-to-be hotelier) Wee Teng Wen of Lo & Behold, Odette resides behind a set of Roman arched wooden doors in the recently opened National Gallery, where the former Supreme Court and City Hall once held court.
The space here is airy, with added volume courtesy of a soaring ceiling festooned with food-inspired aerial art installations in brass, paper, oak and polyfoam. Its colour palette is neutral with alluring light pastel tones augmented by warming nude in varying shades. Upon entry, one’s eyes are naturally drawn to the vibrancy of the kitchen, separated from curious diners by a set of gold-rimmed, floor to ceiling sliding glass door.
Odette’s setting is dashingly grand yet understated, and every bit as elegant and unpretentious as the artisanal French fare that Royer has come to be known for.
To experience this grandeur wouldn’t cost you an arm and a leg currently; lunch is available from S$88++ for 4 courses and S$128++ for 6 courses while dinner costs S$208++ for 6 courses (only available from Mondays to Thursdays) and S$268++ for 8 courses. However, snagging a seat here will require advance planning as the restaurant is fully booked in the next 5-week horizon.
Royer is a keen purveyor of artisan produce. During his four year-stint in Jaan, he has swept diners off their feet with his produce-centric modern French gastronomy that many have come to associate as the young chef’s signature.
One can’t think of the smoked slow-cooked organic egg with toasted buckwheat without associating it with Royer; or the heartwarming wild mushroom tea with cep sabayon; the dainty variations of heirloom beetroot dish that have won the hearts of even die-hard carnivores; and the hay-roasted pigeon with rosemary presented in all its head and feet glory in a cocotte.
Much as many have found it surprising for Royer to transplant these dishes to Odette, it would have been unthinkable for the French chef to debut without surrounding himself with his star dishes, a handful of which has now been given a mini makeover at Odette.
|Slow-cooked organic egg|
Notably, Royer’s slow-cooked organic egg is now smoked in pine needle instead of rosemary for a more delicate flavour. Instead of smoked mash espuma, Royer garnishes the plate with a mélange of root vegetables (Jerusalem artichoke, chervil root, parsnip root, burdock root and parsnip) enrobed in mushroom ketchup. To give the dish a crunchy lift, he scatters the plate with ultra-crisp hazelnut crumble. Even if this egg dish has become ubiquitous, Royer’s take that comes complete with a trail of smoky theatrics (to say nothing of the sheaths of black truffle shavings) is still a cut above the rest. (4.25/5)
The mushroom tea ensemble also boasts a brilliant new addition – deliriously savoury porcini brioche freshly baked before service (my only beef – half a brioche is way too little). If you close your eyes and sip from the cup of umami that arrives teeming with airy sabayon, savoury ceps and refreshing dill, as well as organic purple walnut newly tossed in for texture, you will also discern a heightened kick of umami in the Borde dry cep-rendered broth. (4.5/5)
|Variations of heirloom beetroot|
|Pigeon – sous vide pigeon breast (right) and leg of pigeon confit in duck fat (left)|
There are minor tweaks elsewhere in Royer’s “heirloom furniture” although the changes are less evident to the naked palate – the variations of heirloom beetroot now features stracciatelle instead of burrata (4/5); while the pigeon (sous vide breast and leg confit in duck fat) is finished in the Josper grill for a smokier finish. (4.5/5)
His new dishes are just as toothsome.
|Hokkaido uni, Brittany langoustine, mussel cloud, Osietra caviar|
A tongue of Hokkaido uni and morsels of Brittany langoustine buried in an ethereal dome of snowy-white mussel “cloud” with spikes of planted chive and pearls of Osietra caviar is a deliciously safe dish rather than a ground breaking one. (4/5)
|Glenobloise-style Hokkaido clam with smoked bone marrow|
It gets better with the gigantic Japanese clam prepared in French style. Cubes of just-cooked steamed Hokkaido clam and globs of smoked bone marrow served glenobloise style (in a brown butter sauce with capers, parsley and lemon juice) arrive in a clamshell smothered in a mysterious cloud of meuniere foam. While I generally prefer my seafood to be served whole, I make exceptions to accommodate creations like this, when distinct ingredients work together to make a richer whole. (4.25/5)
|Scottish scallops, hazelnut crumble, Jerusalem artichoke crisps|
Another standout, chunks of briny, raw Scottish hand dived scallops are so pristine that they are marinated in nothing more than hazelnut oil and a drizzle of lime juice. Served majestically in its own shell with subtly sweet candied hazelnut crumble and earthy Jerusalem artichoke crisps, its flavour is elevated by its unlikely pairing with a refreshing riot of chervil and Perigord truffle strips. (4.5/5)
|Guava granita, Thai mango sorbet, mango marmalade|
|William pear, nougatine tuile, caramel cream, salted caramel ice cream|
Desserts generally lack the luster of the savouries although execution is flawless. First, an Asian-inspired palate cleanser of guava granita with shiso flower-studded Thai mango sorbet and mango marmalade; then nougatine tuile layered with caramel cream and dark rum jelly alongside a slice of Williams pear and a dollop of salted caramel ice cream. (3.75/5)
Royer’s singular focus on artisan produce and consistency in kitchen execution continue to set the bar high for French fine dining in Singapore. Despite his relative youth, the chef has the uncanny ability to bring diners through a haute French meal without inundating them with puddles of heavy cream and rich sauces; instead, his light broth and ethereal sauces help to draw attention to the pristine produce on the plate. It’s a feat few French chefs boast in our city state and this is the differentiating factor that will set Royer apart from the competition.
1 St. Andrew’s Road #01-04 National Gallery, Singapore 178 957 | +65 6385 0498 | odetterestaurant.com
© Evelyn Chen 2013
Please note that the reviews published on this blog are sometimes hosted. I am under no obligation to review every restaurant I’ve visited. If I do, the reviews are 100% my own.