They say that absence makes the heart grow fonder. In the case of the two Michelin stars decorated Odette, we can attest to that familiar affection, intensified the moment we step through Its doors, graze on the brand new snacks, drink from the new Zalto and Gabriel glasses and pick-up those new flatware including the custom-designed Perceval knives. In our 12-month absence, this modern French restaurant at National Gallery by French chef-owner Julien Royer has gone from strength to strength, achieving accolades like the No.5 ranking on Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants awards and, for the first time, a debut on the 2018 World’s 50 Best Restaurants list at No.28.
Anyone who questions this restaurant’s swift ascent will do well to brace Odette’s well booked-out reservations for a taste of what I consider to be one of the city’s finest Japanese-forward modern French restaurants. The Japanese accents come in various forms, the most evident being the seasonal Japanese ingredients, but you will also find traces of Japanese seasonings and, in general, the overarching theme in taming dishes towards a delicate, zen-like submission.
A mound of shredded Hokkaido kegani (horsehair crab) arrives hidden under a delicate veil of apple and celery jelly dotted with avocado puree, finger lime pulps and a crowning glory of wasabi sorbet finished with wasabi oil. As you slice through the pile, you see a lime-green mess of destruction that translates into heightened pleasure on the palate headlined by how the icy wasabi cuts deliciously into the sweet and savoury flesh of the crab meat.
Sashimi-grade yari ika (spear squid) from Kyushu is delicately char-grilled and served with a leaf of miso-glazed braised endive, burnt orange segments, toasted buckwheat and counterpointed with smidgens of miso caramel. As if this unusual pairing is not enough to seize your attention, Royer comes by for a finishing pour of reduced sake beurre blanc sauce perfumed with orange jus for a rounded hint of acidity, proving once again that French-Japanese can be a hit if done right.
The Japanese magic continues with crispy skin amadai. The Japanese tilefish is popularly served in local upscale restaurants with its scales deep-fried to a crisp. But instead of weighing the fish down with a cream-based sauce, Royer makes a broth with katsuoboshi and smoked eel bones and bathes the fish in the umami-rich consomme surrounded by Japanese herbs, Japanese turnips and ikura pearls. Even if you’ve had your fill of amadai elsewhere in Singapore, this somehow still manages to dazzle.
A meal at Odette is never complete without a handful of Royer’s French standouts prepared almost completely with European ingredients. You would be familiar with the Brittany pigeon by Monsieur Fabien Deneour but this time, Royer ups his ante on presentation by showcasing the grilled-then-smoked bird in a handmade wooden box in-built with a smoking chamber below. The pigeon’s breast arrives flecked with delicately aromatic kompot pepper alongside textures of Jerusalem artichoke and an airy aged sherry vinegared parfait of the bird’s liver while its crisp leg is flanked by a trio of skewered pigeon hearts. While the presentation is impressive, you have to eat this to know why it remains a Royer icon till today.
If you are lucky, Royer may also serve you lobes of creamy fried sweetbreads from Limousin, France. To provide a sweet counterpoint to the offal, he pairs it with a fondue of Cevennes onion and throws in some Piedmont hazelnuts for textures. Perhaps the only time in the entire meal when he piles on a rich sauce on an already rich ingredient, Royer drizzles a black truffle veal jus blended with foie gras fat. While I would usually file a complain by now, this matching seems unusually justified.
If you’ve been reflecting on Odette’s success, I like to offer a perspective that perhaps the key to this French chef’s meteoric rise is how he always manages to find a balance in life. On the plate, this is reflected in the way he exercises restraint in balancing ingredients and flavours to bring out the zen in French dining. I’ve seen it in other areas of Royer’s life in the brief few years that I’ve known him – you would have to get to know the man personally to find out the rest.
© 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.