Food in hotels is different from restaurants’ because hotel food is often like a factory production line, churning out products for hotel guests to satisfy their stomachs, not their tastebuds. Food is subsidiary to a good bed in a hotel. When I visit celebrated hotel chefs’ restaurants, be it in hotels or their own when they venture out, I go through the meals with furrowed forehead. Not the best thing for wrinkles.
But Chef Anne-Cécile Degenne is something of an anomaly. Her meteorite rise from a culinary graduate to an executive chef within 10 years isn’t by sheer luck. She makes the best out of ordinary ingredients. And as a fashionista will tell you not to mix more than 2 or 3 colors when dressing up, Degenne uses only 2 or 3 ingredients in each dish, presenting them in different textures and variations and shades.
For instance, the best dish that night, a vegetarian cauliflower and mushroom texture ($23), comprises 2 ingredients, both done 3 ways. The cauliflower is pureed with cream, and served fresh, and also grilled with burnt ends, producing a taste as if drizzled with salmon oil. The mushrooms consist bunashimeiji mushrooms, dehydrated king oyster mushrooms, and crispy Vietnamese rice paper dusted with mushroom salt which tastes like wonton skin. Umami max.
Another example of Degenne’s wonderful play of textures is the white chocolate and yuzu cremeux ($16). The extremely sour yuzu sorbet–I like it very sour, because it shows character–sits between different shades of white chocolate: white chocolate mousse, white chocolate tuile, white chocolate powder, all of which uplifted by mint. A refreshing, memorable end to a full meal.
But there is room for improvement for other dishes. Done in a perfect medium-rare, the Black Angus grass-fed tenderloin (180g-200g, $36) with asparagus, grilled and pureed, is only ok although it comes at a good price. Both the foie gras with lentils ($21, above) and truffle-infused pao with short ribs stuffing (3 pcs, $25, below) taste good but they are derivative of other restaurants’: the former is made famous by Saveur, the latter by Anti:dote. Foie gras and steak can be fresher, pao stuffing can be moister.
But on the whole, the modern European food with Asian influences is Xcellent and Xceptional, and, without Xaggeration, has Xceeded my Xpectations. Xcuse my Xcruciating puns. I shall Xeunt.
Service: NA (tasting)
Written by A. Nathanael Ho.
This is an invited tasting.