[UPDATE: We bid a fond farewell to chef Ivan Brehm who completed his last service at the Kitchen at Bacchanalia last night. Sous chef Mark Ebbels also left the restaurant earlier this month. Chopstix thanks them for bringing great food, integrity and passion to the Singapore dining scene and can’t wait to see what they do next.]
Posts tagged ‘The Fat Duck’
When it comes to the Michelin Guide and Asia, anything is possible, just look at the Hong Kong edition. But here’s who we’d like to see gain stars in the inaugural Singapore red book published on July 21st:
Gastro tourists may want to book flights to Singapore from mid July 2016. A Singapore edition of the hallowed restaurant guide, Michelin, will be published on July 21st and announced at a ceremony open to the public for the first time.
The revered little red book began life in France in 1900 as a hotel and restaurant guide for motorists – hence the link with a tyre company. A century later, chefs vie for one, two or – the pinnacle – three Michelin stars and foodies flock to the restaurants that have them.
Originally focused on Europe, there are now 25 guides across the world including New York, San Francisco, Tokyo and Hong Kong.
A Michelin star, or three, all but guarantees an increase in customers for restaurants. “There are tourists who plan their entire vacations around where they are going to eat and I think we play a strong role in that,” says Michael Ellis, international director of the Michelin Guides. He adds that Michelin is often solicited by governments to launch in their cities, a sure sign of how important the guide is perceived in driving tourism.
“We think it will put Singapore’s restaurants on a worldwide platform and help draw more visitors,” confirms Melissa Ow, deputy chief executive of Singapore Tourism Board. So the country can expect a flurry of foodie tourists and elite business travellers as well as curious locals.
“In a place like this, with so much visibility to restaurants and such a hungry community of foodies it will have an impact,” says Ivan Brehm, head chef at top Singapore restaurant, Bacchanalia and an alumnus of the three Michelin starred Fat Duck in the UK.
“I also think a Michelin Guide will help level things out. A lot of restaurants in Singapore survive for factors other than their food and to have someone objective evaluating things like consistency, taste, creativity, outside of an establishment’s marketing efforts and wagyu usage seems refreshing,” says Brehm.
Hopefully that will discourage the gimmicky themes and over reliance on super premium ingredients in the city-state.
With its heritage in classic French cooking, Michelin has been criticized by the foodie community in Hong Kong for not understanding the local cuisine (among other things previously written about by Chopstix). In Singapore it faces a diverse mix of Chinese, Malaysian, Peranakan (a mix of Chinese and Malay) and Indonesian food as well as restaurants by internationally famous chefs including the much Michelin starred Joel Robuchon who has two restaurants at RW Sentosa, a partner of the Michelin Guide Singapore.
“It’s the same in Tokyo as well as Hong Kong,” says restaurateur Loh Lik Peng, the backer behind acclaimed chefs Dave Pynt, Jason Atherton (a Gordon Ramsay protogee) and Andre Chiang’s restaurants in Singapore. “I’m not really sure what the reviewers from France will make of our local restaurants and sze char [‘cook and fry’] street food.” [UPDATE: Jason Atherton has since parted ways with Loh Lik Peng restaurants in Singapore]
In the latest Hong Kong guide, Michelin has included a section on street food. With hawker stalls being so prevalent in the Lion City they may well do the same for Singapore.
“We don’t try to second guess our inspectors but with the hawker food scene being so vibrant here I would be surprised if it didn’t feature strongly in the guide,” says Ellis who admits to being a fan of local signature dish, Chilli Crab.
Street food experts though question how hawker fare can be assessed by international inspectors. And fine dining chef Brehm says: “Michelin should, in my opinion, stay clear from the coffee shop and hawker stall culture. These run deep in the make up of Singaporean society and any unnecessary polemic could undermine the guide’s overall relevance.”
Previously, its been mooted, the Michelin Guide has not launched in Singapore because the market was not big enough. Peng believes it’s still a relatively small pool: “I think [the Michelin inspectors] will need to ensure the right quality to maintain credibility so the top end restaurants able to command three stars might be a small number.”
[UPDATE: Bacchanalia has been renamed Kitchen by Bacchanalia and was awarded a Michelin star in the inaugural Singapore guide on July 21st 2016.]
Former Fat Duck chef Ivan Brehm has at last got the restaurant he deserves in the new Bacchanalia venue on gentrified Hong Kong Street. Gone is the moody lighting and lounge bar setting, refreshingly replaced by an airy, open space that’s like eating in someone’s (very expensive) kitchen.
More importantly chef Brehm – and fellow Fat Duck alum Mark Ebbels – are able to focus on the food. Out with the a la carte burgers and fries, in with a tasting menu only that really lets the food shine.
Ivan will talk you through the mind blowing detail that went into each component of every dish. Produce-driven is becoming an overused phrase but Brehem and Ebbels seeks out the finest ingredients they can in nearby Cameron Highlands and also grow their own on the rooftop vegetable garden.
Left to his own devises, Ivan also brings in touches of Middle Eastern. Such as the lamb saddle and charred eggplant purees with harissa and kibbeh nay (a minced raw lamb on Arabic bread) – one of the best dishes Chopstix and tasted in Singapore this year.
It’s a relief to see that old favourites like the cold pressed coconut cream aged carnaroli risotto are still on the menu too.
Desserts such as marsala mousse, coffee ganache, cacao gel and blackcurrent sorbet are equally cleverly created and delectable.
You won’t want to miss out on the superb drinks pairings from sommelier Matthew Chan either.
Gone too is the chef’s table, right in the kitchen, which is a shame but overall we’ll take the new incarnation of Bacchanalia over the old hands down.
[UPDATE: Bacchanalia has introduced a three course set dinner menu for SG$65, available Monday – Thursday. The Table D’Hote menu currently includes the classic cold pressed coconut cream with aged carnaroli risotto.]
A former chef at The Fat Duck, Ivan Brehm’s Chef’s Table is one of the most genuinely interesting food concepts in Singapore.
The table for two in the kitchen at Bacchanalia restaurant is bookable by arrangement only. Once there, the boffinish Brehm can be watched overseeing his supremely clever and artfully executed dishes at the pass and his brigade (including sous chef and fellow Fat Duck alumni Mark Ebbels) preparing them at their immaculate stations. Don’t expect expletives: Brehm is impressively calm and it rubs off on his team.
After discussing your culinary preferences, Brehm will create a personalised menu for you (expect to pay a minimum of $SG500 plus taxes). Accompanied, if you wish, by wines chosen by the sommelier. These may include A Different Vegetable Salad, Rice & Coconuts, Hamachi Carambola and White Chocolate & Cherry Tart.
Nothing is quite how it sounds but neither does it come with Heston Blumenthal theatrics – Brehm likes his food to look like food.
The head chef will bring the dishes to your table, some including rare and local Asian herbs from Bacchanalia’s kitchen garden and each accompanied by a fascinating description of how the dish was devised.
In a city that’s dominated by copycat restaurant formats this makes a refreshing change.
UPDATE Bacchanalia has moved to 39 Hong Kong Street, the Chef’s Table in the kitchen is no longer in operation.