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Restaurant Andre, Singapore.

January 27, 2018

Helmed by Taiwanese Andre Chiang who cut his teeth in Montpellier, Andre in Singapore has earned pole position as the leading modern French restaurant locally within the relatively short span of seven years since its inception in 2010. Restaurant magazine rates Andre amongst the “The World’s Best 50 Restaurants” while no less a publication than The New York Times has gone even further, proclaiming Andre as one of the “Top 10 Restaurants in the World Worth a Plane Ride”. The Singapore Michelin Guide appears to differ in opinion though, awarding Andre two stars (since the inauguration of the Guide in 2016) while Joel Robuchon at Singapore’s Sentosa Island has been plastered with three, the only establishment locally with that honour.

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In Singapore, however, where everyone is blessed with discerning palates, nobody needs the Michelin Guide. And it seems everyone who has dined at Andre has had to struggle for superlatives to describe their experience. How does Andre do it? To secure a seat there, one needs to book at least four months ahead which is one of the reasons why I never bothered to discover what the fuss was about…until Andre himself caused a stir late in 2017 by announcing abruptly that the restaurant will be closing for good come 14 February 2018 and that he would, in future, decline to be featured in subsequent editions of the Michelin Guide. Now, that immediately set off a few thoughts: is Andre pissed at not being awarded 3 stars? Is the pressure of having to consistently satisfy lofty expectations getting to him? Or has he already achieved his goals with nothing further to prove? But for foodies, the pressing question is: should one secure a table at all cost before it disappears forever, bearing in mind that from the time Andre dropped the bombshell until the last sitting on 14 Feb, dinner at Andre will cost a whopping SGD800 per head? It didn’t take us long to decide. We simply had to take the plunge to discover restaurant Andre for ourselves. A call to Centurion (thanks Vic!) ensured that we got the reservation on 17 January 2018.2018-01-17 19.05.42

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Exploding black cherry…an awesome start

Tucked within a long row of shop houses towards the tail end of Bukit Pasoh Road with its unassuming entrance somewhat recessed, one would most certainly miss Andre if you weren’t looking for it. Every expected guest was received at the door and led upstairs to the main dining hall which appears limited in capacity. The SGD800 farewell dinner menu comes with wine pairing, and the food consists of past and present favourites that Andre had rolled out over the years split into three categories of appetizers, mains and dessert.

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Classic you tiao that looks like charcoal

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Dehydrated watermelon

So how did it go? I’m not a food critic and I shan’t try to describe each individual course in detail. Suffice to say though, I same away mightily impressed. Some restaurants try too hard to pull off surprises to the extent that their culinary creations seemed contrived. At Andre, every creation is an effortless surprise and delight, beautifully presented yet unpretentious. There is no unnecessary deconstruction, so popular at other establishments but seldom proves the point. Whatever that is supposed to be eaten generally appears as it is. Rather, it is a case where textures, layering and flavours far exceed your expectations of the form. Such transfiguration of form to a much higher level without adulteration of flavours is where plenty of thought and effort has been spent on. The appetizers tease your palatal senses to no end. What appeared like beef carpaccio proffers vaguely familiar flavours in the mouth yet you cannot quite pin it, only to realise that is actually dehydrated watermelon! Ingredients have been carefully sought to complement the main food item for each course. Textures and flavours are fused seamlessly, never jarring the senses. Such was the subtlety and gentle progression that, in spite of the long degustation that lasted till almost midnight, our palates were never in danger of wear. A breakdown in the central air-conditioning was the only blemish of the evening. When the ambient temperature became appreciably too warm for comfort, the staff quickly installed several portable cooling units until the fault was eventually rectified.

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The wine pairing, I must say, was really well thought out, generous in scope and variety, offering wines from regions that one would usually not have ventured into. Here, the wine service was quite impeccable, the progression of flavours complementing the food in perfect unison with fresh stemware produced for each wine.

Champagne Lelarge Pugeot Les Meuniers de Clemence. A premier cru bubbly from Vrigny. Deep on the nose with toasty hues and yeasty tones, exploding with a brilliant burst of clear yellow citrus and crystalline minerals on the palate, excellent in concentration with attractive complexity yet sufficiently delicate, finishing with lasting intensity that imparted a superb stinging mouthfeel. Excellent.

2015 Herve Villenade Les Arcacias. This wine from the Loire Valley, though somewhat darker in hue than expected, displayed light tones of grassy elements with lifted aromas of sweet tropical fruits amidst overtones of ginger, recessed chalk and aged crème, excellent in intensity and concentration with a bit of sharp acidity, becoming more relaxed over time. Quite excellent.

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Fish & chips

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2013 Michel Laghere Arbois Chardonnay Les Crets. Gentle aromas, slightly subdued, but explodes on the palate with brilliant white citrus and floral tones, layered with subtle acidity, showing excellent linearity and length. Very fine.

2006 Hubert & Heidi Hauscherr Vague A L’ame Sunngass. Lovely tones of petroleum diesel, quite expansive, displaying good concentration and integration with some gentle sweetness on the sides.

2015 Domaine L’Escarpolette Escarpolette. A wine from the Languedoc made by Ivo Ferreira with quite a cult following, this is a blend of 60% Cinsaut and 40% Carignan. Usually picked before full ripeness in a bid to maintain freshness, this wine has a forward balance of aged tropical fruit with superb complexity amidst characters of raw earth, sweet incense, peaches and bark. Intriguingly refreshing.

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2015 Sylvain Bock Faux sans blanc. This estate produces natural wine (whatever that means) from the Ardeche region of southern France, this particular example being a blend of two-thirds chardonnay and the remainder grenache blanc, vinified most unusually in fibreglass tank. Exuding enticing aromas with a teasing quality, this full-bodied wine shows excellent concentration of fruit with notes of icing, white flowers and burnt cider, displaying good depth and intensity of flavours. Excellent.

2013 Domaine Etienne & Sebastian Rifaud Sancerre Les Quarterons. Lovely gentle sweet aromas on a light-medium palate, displaying light tangerines with good acidity and intensity, well structured.

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2010 Domaine de Rapatel Cuvee Nadege. Also from Languedoc, this wine is shut, rather one dimensional though superb in concentration and intensity with a rustic feel of aged creme and seaside minerals.

2013 Decelle Villa Morey-Saint-Denis. Dark cherries dominate on the nose though the open fleshy palate is brightly lit with fine intensity and detail with fresh acidity, highly supple, finishing well.

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2015 Monts & Merueil Syrah also from Languedoc. Deep dark opague purple, exuding a gentle earthy pungency amidst fragrant dark roses and cherries, rather bright with good concentration and intensity with silky textures enhanced by finely grained tannins.

2000 Ch Tour Grise Les Etourneaux. From the Saumur appellation of the Loire Valley, this wine displays characters of aged plums, raw nutmeg, oriental and medicinal spices and herbs, rather dry in texture with overtones of rye and malt. Drinking well.

We concluded with a rich, smooth and luscious 2004 Vignoble Rousset Peyraguey from Sauternes, displaying smoky tones with characters of aged nectarine and apricot. I only realised at the end that we’d drunk twelve different wines, each generously re-filled throughout the evening.

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Andre pays tribute to the local ice-cream uncle…a nice touch

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Now that I have dined at Andre, I must say it truly deserves its accolades. The food is highly original in its invention, showing off well the master chef’s special talent for combining the right ingredients within the right context such that the whole well exceeds the sum of its parts. In fact, I don’t think I have come across any other top restaurant in my (limited) dining experience that has managed to combine the elements of food, ingredients, imagination and invention with such fluidity, uniqueness and understated flair. If there is an area that may do with further refinement or improvement, it would perhaps be in the area of service where I feel a more relaxed but well-informed kind of engagement with diners (especially regulars who return) works much better compared with a rehearsed but stuffy and hesitant presentation. I know, good staff is hard to come by these days. In fact, Andre the man himself is a highly engaging person, and one can easily see that he really enjoys spending time at the tables talking not only about his food, but just about anything under the sun.

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Hardworking staff inside the small kitchen of Andre

In my books, the food at Andre is clearly worth three Michelin stars, no question about that, but it would be absolutely perfect if the supporting staff could loosen up and show that they really enjoy what they do as much as Andre himself does. Sad to say though, the best restaurant in Singapore will no longer be around after 14 February 2018. Dining there had been a distinct privilege and I had enjoyed my experience. Our best wishes to you Andre. We know you’ll be back with a different restaurant later at 41 Bukit Pasoh Road. For sure we’ll be back.


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