[Original entry] One of my most memorable interviews ever done was with Chef Andre Chiang, then 1 am outside Starbucks at Raffles City, just after he had finished his work at Jaan par André – then just ranked one of the 50th Best Restaurant in the World.
Andre was sincerely apologetic for making me wait, and it became a 2 hour sharing session from food, his journey, philosophy and dreams.
At the end of the interview, the French trained Taiwanese born Chef revealed that he would finally open his own restaurant soon, and urged must visit when it opens.
That was in 2010.
No, I didn’t go when Restaurant Andre first opened. It was not that kind of restaurant that you would say “Hey, let’s go to Andre tomorrow.” (Anyway, you got to book way in advance.)
It was not just about the price, which would be $350++ per person sans wine. Price updated 2016: $198++ for lunch (Wed & Fri only), $350++ for dinner (Tues-Sun)
But I was not ready for appreciating it to its fullest. I personally felt you would need a trained palate of sorts, to savour things in its perspective.
I could imagine if someone used to mid-range casual restaurants would to try food from Andre from the first time, with that price tag, the first adjective used may be “over-rated”.
Singapore may have a few award-winning restaurants, is a country flooded with international cuisine, but we face so many challenges in the F&B industry – high rentals, small spaces, lack of fresh produce, shortage of trained F&B workers… what Restaurant Andre had to do to achieve what it did, I just could not imagine.
I dare to say while we have many respectable restaurants, we have few exceptional restaurants – I can name less than 10 of them. Restaurant Andre is one of them.
In a short span of 3 years, this small little restaurant near Chinatown has been chosen as Singapore’s best restaurant under S.Pellegrino’s World’s 50 Best Restaurants, and lauded by The New York Times as a “top 10 restaurant in the world worth a plane ride”.
Restaurant Andre was what Chef dreamed of, a small place like a little house, one that feeds only a handful of people, a place that would allow him to push the boundaries of his creative mind.
The restaurant seats just 30 people, and tables may have been too close together, but it felt like home to Chef, thus the intimacy.
The philosophical menu is based on an “Octaphilosophy” theme of eight dishes, representing Pure, Salt, Artisan, South, Texture, Unique, Memory and Terrior. This excludes the amuse bouches and desserts which adds up to 15 or so items.
According to the waiter, the menu changes daily. Even if it is on the same day, guests may be offered different dishes. I had a pigeon dish while the entire table of French had duck. Though some few dishes keep surfacing in online reviews.
One of the constants was “Memory” – a unassuming looking cup of foie gras jelly with olive oil, fleur de sel and black truffle coulis – said to be the same dish created by Andre Chiang when he was still a young chef, and the restaurant he worked at then garnered its 3rd Michelin star.
Personally, I thought every single dish represented perfection with the blend of ingredients, the intricacies that go into creation, and the thought process of putting it together.
While the menu is generally French, you can sense traces of “Taiwanese”, such as grilled baby corn grown in Chef’s farm in Taiwan, and charcoal-black deep fried dough sticks.
Yes if you would asked me if there was a stand-out dish, I would say none. Perhaps it was a reflection of what I gather how Chef Andre Chiang is like – subtle, understated, meticulous, perceptive, balanced, and restrained.
None of the items went overboard with its dramatics, as contrasted with some other restaurants which could have tried too hard to impress with presentation, gimmicks or the type of ingredients.
No, you won’t get hearty foods exploding with umami flavours. Experience the entire meal as a symphony of sorts.
I wondered why I had a ‘symphony’ of service staff as well, as each dish was served by somebody different (an international cast of wait-staff I must say) while I may have preferred a single person to bring the table through this dining journey.
On the contrary with my role as a food blogger, I went without reading much of what went into each specific dish, that may have been too mind-blogging.
The best state to enjoy this meal would be to relax, not be critical (for the sake of being), and find really good company in that same frame of mind.
As for Restaurant Andre, I can believe this is Singapore’s best restaurant.
41 Bukit Pasoh Road Singapore 089855 (Outram Park MRT)
Tel: +65 6534 8880
Opening Hours: 12:00pm – 2:00pm, 7:00pm – 11:00pm (Tues – Sun, Closed Mon, PH)
* Daniel’s Food Diary pays for food reviewed, unless otherwise stated.