When Bistro November popped-up at the space of the now-defunct Restaurant Ember in Hotel 1929, the avant garde cooking advocating minimum wastage by Australian chef John- Paul Fiechtner (“JP”) drew polarising reviews and raised more than a few eyebrows. Perhaps some considered his boundary pushing ways radical? I, on the other hand, was utterly spellbound and I embraced his new-age culinary approach with gusto.
Three years after his sudden disappearance, JP is back in business as executive chef of V-Dining, the first restaurant in the world created by luxury Swiss home appliances brand V-ZUG.
In keeping with the luxury image of V-ZUG, JP’s cooking is now more refined but when it comes to flavours on the plate, he makes no concessions in delivering rapturous flavours, all the time remaining true to his philosophy of minimising ingredient wastage. While he used to visit the Chinatown market daily to source for local ingredients, JP now plays – somewhat – with decidedly up-market ingredients like Iberico pork and wagyu although, truth be told, he mostly harks back to his first love for humble ingredients. It’s with the most ordinary ingredients, in my opinion, where JP’s flair truly comes to the fore.
One of the strongest sides yet from his Bistro November days makes a comeback at V-Dining, now elevated with added ingredients and flavours to create a more complete course. Tomato arrives as local cherry tomatoes cooked via confit in a delicately savoury oil extracted from mud crabs, matched with house-made fromage blanc, fresh raspberries and sashimi of shiro ebi warmed in the same crustacean oil. Dusted with fennel pollen for a touch of liquorice, zest from frozen lime for added refreshment and finished with white pepper oil vinaigrette, the dish flirts with umami and an ethereal lightness that makes the marriage of these unlikely ingredients a resounding success.
The main problem with Tomato is that it’s pole position is now usurped by a most unique Taro “pie” course. Dashi-braised taro is thinly sliced and layered with a miso made from taro trimmings, the layers are gently folded like layers of taco and grilled on the pan for an hour with butter and aromatics, then served cradling a puddle of Parmesan cream. Served with thickened braising liquid and a sprinkle of green powder seasoning made with kitchen trimmings, the taro “taco” has a light crunch yet gives way to tender insides, its flavours anchored once again in delicate umami.
By now, you should know never to take a course, simply named Parsnip, at face value because with JP, nothing is as simple as its name suggests. Parsnip peel cracker seasoned with grated horseradish and juniper-brined, grated dried pork liver arrives with a hearty embrace of smoked eel brandade and parsnip puree within. If it comes across as being heady, JP gives it a whiff of refreshment by adding Fuji apple cubes, some of them pickled in juniper, and a dressing of sweet potato caramel. It’s not an understatement to say that the dish is a flavour bomb. Naturally, you’d be suspicious about how pig’s liver could be used as a seasoning but your open-mindedness will be aptly rewarded.
I am not usually a fan of dishes with multiple moving parts but JP has convinced me, once again, that he is adept at layering flavours as he is at matching the most unlikely ingredients (pig’s liver seasoning with parsnip, anyone?). He is also able at extracting flavours from the most unlikely places, as he is at mimicking an ingredient’s appearance using something completely different, to wit the playful Cake dessert assembled with “butter”, “pandan”, “nutmeg”, etc.
It’d be cruel for me to spoil the rest of the surprise for you but when you do make a reservation here, know that the one and only tasting menu here offers seven courses (with some really tasty snacks thrown in for good measure) for just $128++ per head.