|Chef’s Table by Stephan Zoisl|
The Netflix Chef’s Table series may have gained fame globally for its profile on famous chefs but in a little corner of Tras Street in Singapore, a 30-seat eatery of the same name by Austrian native, Stephan Zoisl, former head chef of the now defunct Novus Restaurant & Bar, is making a little name for itself for its carte blanche menu served from an open kitchen that segues into a white-washed dining room of high stools and high tables.
Opened since January 2016, Chef’s Table serves a trio of affordably priced omakase menu at $98++ for 4 courses, $128 for 6 courses and $150 for 8 courses. Unlike what you might think, the style of cooking is not hearty Austrian but modern European built on classical French cooking techniques and contemporary plating. While diners do not get a choice of courses, they get to omit ingredients that they don’t eat (or don’t like to eat) based on a list of produce that Zoisl has access to during the season.
Highlights from our six course menu include a visually arresting, somewhat Nordic-inspired starter of cold-smoked Norwegian trout with sour cream, trout caviar, red veined sorrel, salad burnet leaves as well as carpaccio of baby corn and corn.
There is also a dish of leek ash-topped Hokkaido scallop with a crown of beetroot leaf served in a puddle of beetroot puree, saffron foam and grapeseed oil. Here, the scallop is a little more cooked than we’d like but the kaleidoscope of flavours more than make up for it.
Zoisl says that it is unlikely that returning guests will receive repeated dishes but on my return trip, I’d make a special request for this – Barbary duck leg braised with shallots served shredded with a perfectly-formed butter-infused slow-cooked egg in a bowl enveloped with potato foam, mustard leaves and crispy quinoa. It’s worth noting how the comforting flavour of the braise jus adds depth, the egg -richness and the quinoa – texture to something as simple as a cloud of potato form.
The mood dips with the arrival of squid ink topped halibut in almond cream with chips of almond and squid ink. The dish looks glorious but the squid ink sauce comes across as flat rather than savoury.
While vegetables and fungi like pumpkin and chanterelle are abundant in the proteins-centric courses, we note the glaring lack of a well crafted vegetable-only dish in the omakase. With glorious autumn produce like squash, cabbage and brussel sprouts at our disposal in autumn, I would have happily traded the meat dish – like the braised beef cheek and grilled flank steak with pumpkin – for a purist vegetable dish. Admittedly it’s a First World problem.
With classical techniques, safe flavours and no lack of proteins, all at wallet-friendly prices, what’s not to like about Chef’s Table?