MICHELIN Guide 2016
So X decides to surprise me with a Michelin Star lunch. Refuses to tell me where we’re going except that “it’s got a star, the food is light and the place is beautiful”. Well, if there’s one way to pique a girl’s interest, it’s always to tantalize with a little mystery and the promise of good things to come. He was right on all counts – the place was gorgeous, the food was “model-friendly” and the place more than deserved the one star it was awarded during the inaugural issue of the Singapore Guide. Over the years, I’ve been to two and three star places in various cities, and this is possibly the best meal I’ve ever had (to date – hopefully not for the rest of my life, lol).
In order to taste the full spectrum of what the kitchen had to offer, we ordered two separate set menus – the three course “Business Luncheon” and the five course “Discovery Menu” . There is also a four course “Business Luncheon” where you get both appetizers (Kingfish and Foie Gras), but since the five course already comes with Foie Gras, we opted to have only the Kingfish from the Business Luncheon.
For the purposes of completeness, and because the menu changes monthly, here are the items we had:
For the three course, we picked the Kingfish for the appetizer, the Wagyu Beef for the main and Soursop for dessert since “Crispy Scales”, “Foie Gras” and “Durian” were already on the Discovery Menu.
Let me start by saying that everything was divine. The food absolutely delighted, Izzy (our waiter) was incredibly thoughtful and patient in explaining what went into every dish we had, and we were seated on the verandah (minimum spend required) surrounded by nature but also insulated from the weather. It was literally the most perfect dining experience for all the senses.
Seeing that we both had work meetings after lunch, we were very, ahem, moderate with the vino. Only a half bottle of Massolino Barely 2011 – 89 on Robert Parker, so we might have compromised on the quantity but not on the quality. Here I am sipping wine at our table – check out the scenery. Unblocked views of the Singapore Botanic Gardens – an actual UNESCO World Heritage Site. Life doesn’t get much better than this.
First up was the amuse bouche from the five course discovery menu comprising two items – the first item (in the background of the picture) was the “home made fish cracker” topped with tobiko over creme fraiche. Perfectly executed, but nothing to write home about. The other item (in the foreground) is however, worth writing home about. This is an “oyster leaf” rolled over and topped with yuzu jelly, a small slice of candied kumquat and a shiso (perilla) flower (the ones you see topping your sashimi once in a while). This was truly exceptional. The oyster leaf tasted, well, like an oyster. How cool is that? Sure, you don’t get the oyster liquor or the same texture, but by and large, the oyster leaf matches the oyster’s brininess and earthiness spot on. It was truly an incredible experience! Now all I have to do is find this in a gourmet grocer so I can do this at home too!
Next served were the starters. After reviewing our tasting notes, both X and I concluded that this was probably our favorite “course” – both the prawn and the kingfish were delightful. – the carabinero prawn
and the Japanese Kingfish from the three course menu:
For the kingfish we used the supplied bread to mop up every last drop of the orange broth. You can see the “burnt orange” (more slightly seared, in my opinion), the black hijiki strips, cucumba, goma and of course generously topped with ikura (salmon roe).
You really need to think about carabinero prawns as more being “mini lobsters” than actual prawns. Their bright red shells (not in photo) are the color of the Spanish customs, hence the term carabinero (police).. The varieties of tomatoes included rose-water infused skinned tomatoes (seriously, who skins tomatoes? I have enough trouble skinning potatoes)
Kristal de Chine Caviar, as the French words imply – are indeed originated from China. Who even knew China produced caviar? I had low expectations – but these proved to be delicate and flavorful. Would have to do back-to-back blind tastings with Beluga caviar to actually do a fair comparison.
I wasn’t sure I liked the idea of eating fish scales, but the Crispy Scale Cod proved to me that fish scales could not only be eaten, but that they made for pretty pictures. The shiso flowers here in cluster form (hanaho) tasted like cumin – and perfectly balanced off the bisque like sauce. The cod was, well, cod – mild flavored and drawing it’s flavor from it’s surroundings. The meat was firm and the scales indeed “crispy”.
X and I decided to have one beef each from the two menus and split them so we could compare them – satisfying our aspiring inner food critics. We had the toriyama A4 beef from the five course menu, which was served with caramelized banana shallots and that mashed potato looking puddle is actually pureed macadamia and horseradish (wasabi) and the paper thin black radish is served in cones, the black edge forming a perfect contrast with the white spiral;
and the Australian wagyu from the three course menu – high on the taste quotient but nowhere near as tender as the toriyama. The highlights here were the kitchen made marinated mustard seeds (think of seriously bespoke dijon mustard). The burnt leeks etc I could have done without, but they do make for pretty presentation.
X had the durian mousse. It wasn’t nearly as pungent as I’d been led to believe, and incredibly light and creamy. Still not sure this is my thing. In between the mousse and the base sits a thin silver of filo pastry – presumably to stop the durian flavor and moisture from seeping into the brioche base. The evaporated milk surround the brioche provides just enough moisture to prevent the brioche base from drying out, giving it a bit of a pudding texture.
and I had the Soursop, which was, oh, so delicate and lady-like. Just like me. Ok, maybe not. Those roasted meringue sticks? Inspired. The contrast in texture between that the starfish shaped puddles of rose emulsion, as well as the counterpoint between the sweet and juicy rambutans and the sours of gravitas just stretched my taste palate in all dimensions.
Were you expecting perhaps four pieces ? Up front is the salted egg macaron, and behind are the chocolate coated nuts.
Here’s what the Michelin Guide has to say about Corner House:
2016 MICHELIN GUIDE SINGAPORE
When your restaurant occupies a colonial house, dating from 1910, within the Botanic Gardens, it stands to reason the kitchen will have an in-depth understanding of how best to use herbs and plants in the cooking process – indeed, the chef himself describes his contemporary cuisine as ‘gastro-botanica’. There’s a choice of three rooms: Claret Corner, The Verandah or Whispering Corner, which overlooks the patio and is ideal for a romantic dinner.
So what exactly is this “Gastro-Botanica”? In the publicity materials, the restaurant describes it as “a contemporary cuisine emphasizing refinement and quality, and giving equivalent weight on the plate to protein and botanical elements.” I have to say that Chef Jason Tan’s devotion to provenance, terroir and seasonality is evident in almost every dish we had. I especially loved the use of the Oyster leaf (Mertensia maritima) and the cumin-tasting Perilla “Hanaho” (Flower cluster).
Of all the Michelin starred restaurants I’ve been to in recent years, this one hits the spot on multiple levels – not just the food, which is clearly star territory, but also the service level (kudos again to our excellent waiter) and the breathtaking ambience of being seated right in the greenery (but insulated from the weather – you still want air conditioning in the tropics).
More adventures soon!
1 Cluny Road, Singapore Botanic Gardens,
E J H Corner House,
Singapore Botanic Gardens