When BBR by Alain Ducasse at Raffles Hotel Singapore closed, albeit temporarily, Singapore’s f&b scene snagged yet another pedigreed French chef by way of its former executive chef Louis Pacquelin.
One-time executive chef of Akrame Shanghai and Auberge Saint-Antoine Relais & Chateau in Quebec, Paquelin did not sit around in anticipation of the restaurant’s re-opening. Instead, he parachuted out of Raffles Hotel and teamed up with French entrepreneur, Jean-Christophe, to create the 70-seat brasserie Clos Pasoh.
What’s in the name, you ask? Clos refers to a walled vineyard in French and Pasoh, the restaurant’s current address on Bukit Pasoh Road. With a moniker like this, it’s no wonder that an experience here is as much about the wines as it is about the food and resident sommelier Zachary Tay’s 1,500 bottles-strong opening wine list is proof.
But rather than brandish straight-forward French brasserie fare, Pacquelin keeps his menu interesting by toeing the lines of rusticity and contemporary.
The French chef kicks things off with Cervelle de canut ($12). A specialty of his hometown, Lyon fromage blanc arrives flecked with herbs and shallots, and drizzled with vinegar for a kick of acidity and walnut oil for a delicate touch of earthiness. While you could most certainly eat it with the charcoal-grilled toast fingers that come with it, I suggest that you savour it on its own to discover its layered flavours.
Marrying Cantonese and Southeast Asian influences with French is Pacquelin’s creation of Bisque Coco-homard ($29). Lobster claw is shelled, wrapped in a sliver of dumpling skin with chives and green shallots and served in a pool of lobster bisque alongside chunks of plump lobster flesh. Instead of seasoning the dumpling with salt, the native of La Rochelle uses the dehydrated coral of the lobster and rather than enrich the roasted carapace broth with cream, he adds coconut milk spiked with chilli padi. As you sip on the broth littered with Thai basil and kaffir limes leaves, Thai flavours effortlessly waft in to mute the French influence.
Perhaps taking his inspiration variously from Tripe Lyonnaise and giving it an upscale twist, Pacqueline presents Trippes et Caviar ($32). Beef tripe is first braised, dusted with corn flour then fried to a gorgeous golden brown so that it is superbly crisp on the outside yet gelatinous and chewy inside. The tripe is good to be eaten on its own, but when served with the richness and intensity of a silky caviar-speckled Noilly-Prat sauce infused with French kelp and topped with bits of lemon, its flavour becomes multi-dimensionally intense, savoury and creamy with a whiff of saltiness. Served with fingers of burnt sour dough that you could use to mop-up any remaining Noilly-Prat sauce, the dish is best savoured first without the toast so that you could discern the layers of flavour.
If you’re in a group of at least three but preferably four, I insist that you try Pacqueline’s take on Pot-au-Feu ($128), which arrives in three acts. First, a flask of thrice-cooked beef consomme arrives placed over a burner that syphons the broth into an upper glass chamber packed to the rafters with herbs, spices and dehydrated vegetables. The herbed broth then gravitates back to the lower chamber, the total process of which takes several minutes.
To reward guests for their patience, Pacquelin wields part two: a generous plate of poached foie gras and dumplings surrounded by a pool of beef consomme. Now that the syphoned broth is suffused with herbs, the course segues into its third act with Paqueline dishing out a gigantic pot of Angus beef (three cuts: short-ribs, oyster blade and cheek) with thick chunks of leek, carrot, turnip, cabbage and even celeriac, all dressed at the table with the intoxicatingly moreish herbed consomme. While this Pot-au-Feu is hearty as it is delicious, it is also extremely unique in its presentation. If there is an award going out to the most entertaining Pot-au-Feu, Clos Pasoh is getting it.
All guests who dine at Clos Pasoh are given a complimentary serving of rum baba, albeit a delightfully small and light one, to end the meal. By no means does it mean that you should not order a dessert. In fact, Pacquelin’s take on Mille-feuille ($15) – Early grey ice cream and bergamot lemon custard cream sandwiched between slivers of ultra-thin puff pastries – might just be your ticket to epiphany.
48A Bukit Pasoh Road, Level 2, Singapore 089 859; +65-980 0672; clospasoh.sg