When a new restaurant debuts on a regional awards list, expectations soar. So, when barely-two-year-old Corner House made it to the 17th spot on the 2016 edition of Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants, we went in hoping for a little more than what we had experienced before (which was already impressive).
Its setting within a colonial house in the lush Singapore Botanic Gardens is still faultless, but suddenly the linen-less dining tables look naked, the cutlery feels a little light in the hands, and the service staff, though courteous and extremely knowledgeable, seem a tad unpolished in their delivery.
But, even with unrealistic expectations for an overnight change (especially when we visited just a few weeks after the awards ceremony), an evening at Corner House still charms. (After all, this was where Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong entertained Chinese President Xi Jinping during his visit to the state).
Chef-Patron Jason Tan’s distinctive cuisine is best enjoyed through the Discovery Menu, which includes his signature dish of Cevennes onion presented multiple ways. Comprising crisp onion wafers, onion tartlets, a hollowed out onion holding a sous vide egg topped with truffled onion puree, and an aromatic earl grey tea poured over onion foam, the dish is a clear showcase of Tan’s vegetable-forward culinary philosophy.
It is presented in parts with lots of flourish – and pride, if we observe correctly – by the service staff. Yet at the same time, a rather plain-looking dish of cuttlefish with chorizo de Iberico, harissa, lemon, fennel and yellow mustard seed presents such a lovely combination of fresh, smoky and umami flavours in each mouthful, that one can be certain his prowess lies not just in working with vegetables.
1 Cluny Road, Singapore Botanic Gardens,
E J H Corner House