CLOSED: Novus Restaurant, National Museum of Singapore

The colors–gold, gray and white–the high ceiling, the modern hanging lamps, and the huge kickass epergnes of white lilies accentuate the elegance of the restaurant. The grandeur and beauty of the architecture of the National Museum extend itself into the decor of Novus.  On first glance. But after a while, Wise Guy asked Chiobu, “Are the tables padded?” Press, press. Slightly but not much. Strange. We lifted up the table cloth together and saw a styrofoam-like material on the table, quite unsightly. And then our asses started to ache on the chairs. Novus needs better furniture. Hips Butts don’t lie. But this day was the day of opposites, so you’ll never know how this review ends.

For lunch, there is a choice between 2 courses ($32++) or 3 courses ($40++). Each dish came with a card, informing the eater how the food is cooked, or the nutrition, just like the information under an artifact in the museum. Thoughtful and fun and we gained knowledge in the process of eating.

First impressions count. The gratis bread didn’t come warm but at least it came in a tray with varieties: rye, baguette, roll, etc. The amuse-bouche was a drop of yuzu on an oyster leaf. This was the first time we ate oyster leaf. And at the 4th or 5th chew, the leaf tasted like oyster. Miraculous nature. The day of the Opposites began.

Wise Guy has a rule: always order the foie gras, even if it is parfait (like a pate or a jam). But his second rule–always let Chiobu have the first pick–cancels out the first rule. Since she chose the Foie Gras Parfait Treated Like a Salad, I chose Jerusalem Artichoke Soup.

“Treated like a salad” – what a satirical name. We were blown away by the foie gras parfait. Foie gras parfait is usually made of inferior foie gras so they normally have the iron taste of liver. But not only was this without the stench, it was concentrated and buttery. The creamy saltiness just exploded in the mouth. It was better than oral orgasm, it was spectacular!

There are two ways to eat this: spread the foie gras parfait on bread or just eat it like a salad, which consists compressed pear, japanese grapes, pistachio shavings and pedro ximenez vinegar, a sweet-and-sour vinegar without much causticity. The earthly mesclun leaves–so fresh and raw there was a scent of clean soil–were sweetened by the fruits and creamed by the velvety, full-bodied parfait. The pistachio gave it a woody aroma while the vinegar made it edgy. This was one perfect salad.

Usually I am the one picking a good dish, but today I made a bad choice. No money to go Jerusalem–any sponsors?–then drink Jerusalem artichoke soup lor. The soup came with almond powder, artichoke chips and purple shiso (mint). Although it was creamy, it was bland; we added salt and pepper on our own. It tasted like potato soup and the artichoke chips tasted like potato chips. Neither of us liked it.

The colors for the yellowfin tuna steak were popping! So GORGEOUS!! The bright-red capsicum and black olive tapenade (minced olive) on a pan-seared brown tuna swimming in a sea of luminous yellow saffron risotto with some coriander vegetation. It’s like an island in a sea. This has to be the BEST design on a plate.

However, Chiobu didn’t like the hard texture of the tuna, although she ordered it medium-rare. She gave it to me halfway. I liked it. True that the tuna was tough, but the flavors were fantastic. Spread the capsicum and black olive all over the risotto. I hate olives in general but the flavors enhanced each other perfectly, bringing out the creaminess in the risotto, the capsicum-ness of the capsicum and the olive-ness of the olive.

Steaks are steaks right? How can you present it well? This was the MOST GOODLOOKING piece of meat I’ve ever seen. Hey, if Lady Gaga can Marry The Night, I want to marry this 200 days grain fed Black Angus tenderloin (add $15 to the set menu price). At least mine used to be alive. It looked so mouthwatering like an Abercrombie model!

But like all Abercrombie models, looks are deceiving. Too bad our marriage, like 50% of marriages, didn’t work out. It was tough for me although I ordered it medium-rare. I needed some tenderness. So I swopped with Chiobu. Day of the Opposites right? She liked it!  The poivrade sauce, created from white vinegar, white wine, herbs and stock, made it savory.

The Valrhona chocolate test passed our oral test with distinction! Another gorgeous plating with information written at each dessert, like a museum piece. You eat from the lowest to the highest: 38% aerated mousse, 55% souffle, 66% sorbet, 72% warm custard and 85% dehydrated chocolate. Do you notice the how poetic it is? It’s almost cyclic like the water cycle, starting with aerated mousse–plenty of air (oxygen)–and ending with dehydrated chocolate (no water, no h2oxygen).

The souffle and sorbet were amazing. They were so rich but not sickeningly so. When you eat the souffle, there is a wave of ecstasy and when you think you couldn’t get higher, another wave hits you. However, one constructive criticism Chiobu had is the last one, dehydrated chocolate that is like an airy biscuit, was only ok. She said that it would be better if the chocolates were arranged so that the ecstasy crescendos, slowly increasing in the wow-ness and ending with a climax, a bang, instead of a bell-curve, ending with a let-down.

The server came so fast to dig a hole in my curd souffle to pour the blueberry sauce in that I’d no chance to take a photo properly. The accompanying buttermilk ice cream had completely melted. :( I love ice cream so it was disappointing for me. However, this souffle was good in its own right, and the milky curd went well with the blueberry sauce, which wasn’t yucky sourish like most blueberry sauces. Chiobu loved this and kept extolling its virtues. I just had the best souffle at Gobi at Joo Chiat the day before, so when I compared them, Novus’s was decent, better than many specialty desserts shops such as Laurent and Pave, but not as good as Gobi or Absinthe.

We were pleased with the meal… then at the door, when we were leaving, the maitre d’ presented us with a door gift, cupcake each!!! in a Chinese takeaway box!!!

The cupcake was actually delicious, pistachio base–soft–with firm chocolate icing. Not diabetely sweet so it was yummy to the last bite. I love it that they don’t stinch–is there such a word? from stingy–or scrimp at freebies. It leaves a wonderful impression on us.

Service: No complaints here. When a server came to ask us about the food, we told him both steaks were too tough and he actually knew the correct answer: “I’ll tell the chef.” I’d like that he came back with an answer from the chef but the server’s response was adequate for me.

Verdict: The major negative thing about Novus is the uncomfortable chairs but the food made up for it. Some restaurants have food that tastes perfect to everyone but Novus isn’t one of them. You have to pick the food that you think will suit you. Much thought, creativity and aesthetic planning have been put in the food. The food here made us realize how culinary art is an art form. We spent $112 for two. It is definitely not budget but it is more satisfying than, say, going to PS Cafe (see Ann Siang Hill & Paragon branches) which would cost about the same.

Novus Restaurant
93 Stamford Rd
#01-03 National Museum of Singapore
T: 6336 8770
M-Sat: 1130am-2.30pm
Closed on Sunday

Rating: 3.575/5 stars (could have gotten more than 3.7 but score’s pulled down by the furniture)


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