Saturday, March 8, 2014

Joel Robuchon Singapore - 2nd visit

A few years has passed ... having dined in several different places in Singapore, I find there is (still) no better place to savor French haute (nouveau) cuisine at the island than Joel Robuchon restaurant. After my first visit in late 2011, I tried to come here once every two years; it didn't happen last year since I had a chance to have lunch at Robuchon au Dome. The Macau establishment was nice but I still prefer my experience at RWS. Similar to my previous visit, I designed my own menu a couple of weeks prior to my dinner. Jasmine, the restaurant's hostess since the opening, efficiently assisted my communication with Executive Chef Tomonori Danzaki. I noticed that the usual degustation menu's price had been decreased by about SGD 50 - Robuchon is known to be adaptable to the global economy and domestic market situation. On paper, I was very pleased with the arrangement but I miscalculated small things. Unlike my first visit, this time my menu contained some "trio" dishes, to be exact 3 of them - I counted them as 3 courses instead of 9 as I thought they would come in small size requiring 1-2 bites each. Actually, this time the portions were larger than my experience at the other Robuchon's restaurants (of course, I did not complain) in particular the salmon tartar with caviar as well as the black truffle tart with onion confit. Therefore, in total I ate 19 courses (4-5 more items than the 'normal' long tasting menu) during dinner that lasted until near midnight. Honestly, this is probably the "biggest" meal I've ever had in my life. However, the quality didn't disappoint at all. As a matter of fact, it unexpectedly went down to be my best dining experience in the whole Asia (& America) excluding Japan.

Degustation Menu

Pour Commencer arlette croustillante au beurre salé et aux lamelles de truffe (Crispy arlette with salted butter and truffle shavings) - The warm arlette (more like waffle here) on the left was crunchy and flaky with a piece of black truffle sandwiched in between. An even better amuse was the one on the right side: it consisted of a layer of light parmesan on top, aromatic black truffle and tasty foie gras at the bottom - enjoy it by 'fishing' the glass

Le Caviar Impérial sur un velouté de chou-fleur glacé tremblotant (Imperial caviar on a shivering cauliflower velouté with golden croutons) - The velvety cauliflower was mixed well with the fresh shellfish jelly and the burst of caviar's saltiness. The airy cheese stick was nice by itself 

Le Caviar Impérial en jubilé de crabe royal dans une onctuosité de fenouil (Imperial caviar on duo of king crab with fennel lightness and sea urchin) - The crab was a combination of delicate Kamchatka/Royal crab and fine French spider crab (displaying texture and flavor contrast). The crab's succulent taste matched perfectly with caviar's brininess as well as the sweet and creamy flavor coming from Hokkaido uni. A luxurious and delicious dish!

Le Caviar Impérial avec le saumon en tartare agrémenté de jeunes pousses de shiso (Salmon tartar flavored with shiso sprouts served with Imperial caviar) - This beautifully presented dish was incredibly exquisite. The luscious salmon tartare was fresh, tasty and perfectly seasoned; it's enhanced by top quality of shiny caviar (having sumptuous taste) and runny egg yolk wrapped in gold leaf. Every element here was just right; I truly enjoyed every single bite of this dish. My favorite one among the Imperial caviar trio 
L’OEuf de Poule mollet friand, légèreté au fin comté et “Iberico de Bellota’’ (Crispy soft boiled egg with black truffle, comté cheese mousseline and ‛‛Iberico de Bellota’’) - The crispy crust was pleasant, but the black truffle and Spanish ham, prepared in shredded form, were a bit muted compared to the harmony taste produced by wonderful egg yolk core with flavorful parmesan and truffle mousseline 'sauce'; nevertheless it's still awesome, nearly as amazing as Robuchon's famous poached egg dish with salmon and caviar 

Accompanied by wine: Champagne Veuve Clicquot Yellow Brut Label (Bubbles with full body flavors, intense aromas and fine acidity)

Truffe Noire en fine tarte croustillante aux oignons grelots et lard fume (Black truffle tart with onion confit and smoked bacon) - A strong candidate for the best dish in this meal; pleasing both to the eye and the palate. The pungent and earthy truffle was in perfect harmony with the salty bacon, crispy tart and sweet onion confit. Different flavors and textures but balanced; they're happily dancing in my mouth as I slowly savored this exceptional dish - in leaps and bounds, it was just way better than a similar dish created by lepinoy at les amis

Truffe Noire avec le foie gras en millefeuille croustillant d'anguille (Crusty eel mille-feuille layered with smoked duck liver and black truffle) - The caramelized Japanese unagi was sweet and slightly firm while the foie gras was delicate and rich, then the pungent truffle added an extra 'punch'. A very intense dish; the "millefeuille" held together nicely. Each bite was a revelation of extraordinary "fattiness". To balance any excessive flavor, there was bland whipped cream with black pepper as well as salad containing radish and onion

Langoustine truffée et cuite en raviolis, étuvée de chou vert (Scampi raviolis with black truffle, chopped cabbage and foie gras sauce) - The meaty Alaskan langoustine wrapped & cooked briefly in ravioli was tender and tasty. The truffle gave a pungent flavor and (thankfully) the buttery and creamy foie gras sauce was somewhat lighter than usual. Perhaps Danzaki-san did it on purpose as the other 2 dishes in the truffle symphony were very luscious

La Noix de Saint-Jacques en timbale de macaroni, aux courgettes et jus émulsionné truffée (Sea scallops in macaroni with zucchini and truffled jus) - A pretty presentation. The scallop in the middle was delightful, but I wish they didn't cut it into smaller pieces. The most interesting part was the other 'side items' such as citrusy shiso, truffle and its juice, asparagus, macaroni etc. They complemented each other; a fine dish but not memorable 

La langoustine en fricassée aux courgettes et amandes (Langoustine fricassee with zucchini and almonds) - A very fresh, succulent and sweet Alaskan big prawn was the best among the seafood trio. The sauce from langoustine own juice was tasty. There were contrast in texture and color as displayed by orecchiette pasta, almond,  zucchini, and some 'chips'. Excellent dish! 

Le homard sur une royale crémeuse au “château chalon” (Lobster on a “chateau chalon” royale) - The tasty lobster (in small portion) was nicely firm in flavorful & rich foam; the asparagus and other vegetables were alright. I didn't really like the lobster flan at the bottom ...

Le king crabe kadaïf en fritto au curry vert (King crab kadaif, green curry sauce) - A uncomplicated dish focusing on the good crab's quality (inherently sweet); they're nicely wrap in cheesy and crisp kadaif. The curry sauce was light, hence hardly brought any effect to the overall flavor of the dish  

Accompanied by wine: 2008 Domaine Alain Voge Saint-Peray Fleur de Crussol (Smooth texture with some minerality; deep, creamy with lingering aftertaste) 

Les Champignons variés mitonnés dans un bouillon au jarret de veau à la truffe noire (Mushrooms simmered in a veal broth with black truffle) - The veal broth was very pleasant, flavorful and not cloying at all. The fragrant & 'clear' broth was enhanced with the coveted truffle shavings, meaty button and shiitake mushroom as well as salty bacon ravioli

L’Amadai en duo d’artichauts sautés aux saveurs épicées (Amadai with sauteed artichoke and saffron ginger sauce) - The pan-seared Sea bream was great with its crispy scale still intact and delicate flesh underneath. I loved the light saffron sauce with some sour notes in it. After plenty of highly flavored & 'heavy' dishes in the first half of tasting menu, this kind of refreshing course could not arrive at a better time

Le Turbot rôti une étuvée de champignons des bois, oignons grelot au jus truffé (Roasted turbot with wild mushrooms, pearl onions and black truffle jus) - Turbot was usually my favorite fish in French cuisine. It's precisely executed producing flesh that was firm yet supple; the light seasoning and pungent truffle brought more flavor. Additionally, the application of late Autumn mushrooms and truffle juice added interesting complexity but still balanced

Le Canard et son foie gras à l’aigre doux de cerises et aux amandes fraîches (Duck and seared foie gras with cherries and fresh almond) - For the first time that my main course at Robuchon's gastronomy places was not Japanese beef. The Challans duck breast was tender but a bit too dry to my likeness; the duck liver was, as expected, creamy and delicious. My favorite part happened to be the seasonal and fresh cherries that brought harmony to the dish. There was rich and buttery mashed potato on the side   

Accompanied by wine: 2007 Chateau de Cazeneuve Pic Saint-Loup Le Roc des Mates (Sweet nose with plenty of dark ripe fruits, full body and vibrant due to high acidity)

Les Fromages frais et affinés (Your choice from the cheese trolley) - As far as I know, this place has the best cheese selection available in Singapore. I chose 4 kinds: goat cheese, 24-month old comte, camembert (smooth & buttery) and roquefort (sharp and tangy). It's been ages since the last time I consumed excellent French cheese

Le Mojito créme madame à la menthe, ganité au rhum ambré et nuage de citron vert (Mint lightness with dark rum granite and lime emulsion) - Robuchon's take on classic cocktail. It rarely happened I enjoyed the first dessert (often work as palate cleanser) more than the second one. It's bright and acidic with a good minty; sweet and sour flavor were noticeable but not overwhelming. Well done!

Le Dôme sur un lit de fruits noirs, chocolat coulant au Dulcey (Berries on a delicate chocolate fondant and dulcey smoothness) - Another beautiful presentation dish. Not a small portion for dessert. I found the chocolate fondant plus 'caramel' really sweet; fortunately sour & tart (acai) berries at the bottom helped to 'cancel out' the extreme sweetness. Another good chocolate dessert created by the French master chef  

Le Moka – Le Thé escortés de mignardises (Coffee or tea served with seductive sweets) - This time I had raspberry fruit tart, canele, opera and dragee/sugar coated almonds. In addition, I savored 4 different crisp macarons flavors, named black currant, orange blossom, mint and chocolate; they're very good. I drank tea created from a mixture of thyme and mint

Accompanied by wine: 2011 Charles Hours Jurançon Uroulat (Clear in gold color, refreshing, fragrance and complex - would taste better in 3 years time)

I know I would eat very well at any Joel Robuchon fine dining restaurants, but I never imagined it could reach such high points. Every course, using the finest ingredients available, was very well executed; even some of them was near perfection. It's one thing to be creative, but another thing to have flawlessly implement it. Salute to Chef Tomonori Danzaki and his brigade for meticulously and consistently preparing delicious dishes after dishes. I was not afraid to declare that Danzaki-san was Robuchon's most capable chef; it means that he's better than Verzeroli, Le Tohic and Semblat (in order of abilities based on my visits to their restaurants). Every small detail mattered and we could see it from both the food as well as the decor. On top of the black lacquer table with dark linen, there were several well-arranged crystals. Black and beige color dominated the dining room's lavish ambiance. Grand opulent chandeliers, huge vases for flower arrangements, and several antiques/paintings etc.; all of the elements were in harmony. A memorable haute cuisine experience in luxurious setting.

The service was impeccable throughout although the fine dining restaurant was understaffed, there were only 7-8 people served more than 30 diners (Possibly one of its busiest night ever). The sommelier Duboueix was sick and the restaurant manager Raguzzi was busy helping the l'Atelier. This time the wonderful service was delivered by Asian staffs: Sherika, a Filipina maitre d' who used to work at Robuchon Macau for a couple of years, and Kohmalan, an easy going Indian gentleman. They were not only sincere and helpful, but also able to engage in meaningful conversations since both of them possessed good knowledge about the food, the restaurant and the chefs. When I finished my black truffle symphony courses, Chef Danzaki inquired whether the food had not been 'too much'. To be honest, I was half full already but the kitchen was willing to adjust/reduce my initial tasting menu - a nice gesture that I politely declined. Near 11 PM (around the cheese course), Chef Danzaki visited me to make sure that everything was fine. He was gracious and seemed happy & curious that I managed to finish up everything. We were chatting for about 15 minutes; his English has improved tremendously. He explained that his favorite food was still Japanese cuisine and sometimes still went to Tokyo for working purposes. The staffs were proud of their jobs and committed to keep getting better. More than one occasion they asked me about the food, the service, how they do (compared to their competitors or among Robuchon places) and how they could improve. I hardly remember the last time a top gastronomy restaurant brought such questions.

Please check out the link below for the dishes' pictures, 

Food (and Wine): 97 pts

Service (and Ambiance): 96 pts

Overall: 96.5/100