Share on:

4 upcoming fine-dining restaurants to watch (2018)

Bacchanalia by Vianney Massot, Table65, Preludio, and Thevar prove that fine dining doesn't have to be stiff and formal.

01 BACCHANALIA BY VIANNEY MASSOT

(OPENING END-OCTOBER)

The late Joel Robuchon’s restaurants in Singapore may be no more,  but the former chef de cuisine of L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon is staying on to make his own mark on the local dining scene.

Vianney Massot will headline the newly-rebranded Bacchanalia by Vianney Massot when the Hong Kong Street restaurant re-opens at the end of October after an extensive makeover.

Despite his young age, the 26-year-old is a Robuchon restaurant veteran, having worked with the culinary legend since 2009. He came to Singapore in October 2017 to helm L’Atelier until its closure in June. Before that, he was at the three Michelin-starred Robuchon au Dôme in Macau for two years.

Now, he aims to inject his own identity into the restaurant which now carries his name, and is working with its new owner Lim Kian Chun to craft the concept.

“I would like to highlight French tradition but with a modern style – keeping the techniques I learnt from Mr Robuchon, but introduce my own creativity,” says the chef.

(RELATED: Gunther’s keep standards high with delicious French fare)

Just like L’Atelier, chef Massot chose an open kitchen concept to be close to his customers. “When the guests come in, they will see me first – I will be the first to say ‘hello’ to them.” He also opted for a small 25-seater so that he has time to speak to diners, and the service staff can take care of guests personally. The restaurant will feature linen-clad round tables, which are “convivial”. There will also be a chef’s table, a private dining room for 16 guests, and a wine cellar.

The menu will feature seasonal ingredients from France, naturally – caviar, turbot, sweetbread and cep mushrooms among them; while the coasts of Hokkaido will provide him with sea urchin, amadai and scallop. The cote de boeuf and wagyu are sourced from Australia. He is also using seasonal crab from Shanghai, which he feels is quite unique for a French restaurant. “I will use the crab’s coral for my white truffle spaghetti,” says the chilli crab-loving chef.

Other dishes include a classic Poulet de Bresse served with white truffle from Alba, as well as tomahawk steak carved tableside, and served with foie gras, potato confit and red wine sauce.

Completing the Robuchon connection is Roberto Duran, former executive sommelier for Joel Robuchon, Singapore. True to form, he has curated a whopping list of 450 labels – 60 per cent of them French – to match the food. What’s unique is that there will be 45 different wines available by the glass (thanks to the Coravin system). The wines are premium not plonk; Among these are 13 sweet wines by the glass including the prestigious Chateau d’Yquem.

With this much pedigree behind the duo, expectations will be high for sure, making this one of the more anticipated restaurant openings this year.


02 TABLE65

(OPENING IN DECEMBER)

Formal fine dining is out. Resorts World Sentosa is all set to “inject fun into fine dining” with the December opening of table65 by Dutch celebrity chef Richard van Oostenbrugge.

He will have big shoes to fill, considering that he is taking over the space formerly occupied by the three Michelin-starred Joel Robuchon restaurant. The 78-seater location is currently being extensively refurbished.

Chef van Oostenbrugge was the executive chef of the two Michelin-starred Bord’Eau in the iconic Hotel De L’Europe in Amsterdam when he was invited to Singapore for RWS’s Art at Curate dining series in May 2017.

He subsequently opened his own restaurant 212 in Amsterdam in January 2018 together with his business partner and longtime friend, Thomas Groot. “We wanted to create a restaurant that we would visit ourselves, one that is more kitchen than restaurant, where our guests can freely interact with us,” says chef van Oostenbrugge, “When the RWS team came to me with the idea of bringing 212 to Singapore, I was excited that we share the same passion for my “fine-casual” concept.”

This is his first restaurant in Asia. “The menu at table65 will be similar in style to the menu we have at 212 in Amsterdam. It will include my signatures, seasonal creations as well as a selection of unique-to-Singapore dishes featuring fresh local produce. It’s not only better for the environment but it will also give table65 a sense of place.”

The cuisine at table65 is fine dining, but the experience, atmosphere and service will be casual and interactive. “Enjoying great food and wine does not necessarily mean a very formal restaurant setting with tablecloths and so on. There are different settings for different people to enjoy high end food and wine,” says chef van Oostenbrugge.

Table65’s cuisine will be of the same quality as that served in Bord’Eau, because he carried the same approach to cooking to his own restaurant 212. “A few of my key chefs from 212 Amsterdam were a big part of the success of Bord’Eau and they have even specially relocated to Singapore to helm the kitchen at table65,” he shares.


03 PRELUDIO

(OPENING END-OCTOBER)

Hearing Fernando Arevalo explain his new dining concept is enough to make your head spin, but the former executive chef of Artemis Grill assures you that once you try it, you will get it.

The 33-year-old is set to open Preludio, at the new Fraser Tower on Cecil Street, at the end of October and he has ambitious plans to “reinvent fine dining”.

It’s the “how” that is mind boggling. The Colombian-born chef talks about how he doesn’t want to confine himself to any particular cuisine. He talks about “creative disruption”, “rewriting the relationship between restaurant and producer, diner and cook”. He describes it as “author’s cuisine” and like a novel, has many chapters that drive the plot forward.

There are 14 monthly chapters to start with that he and his team are “writing”, so that “my staff can maintain their creativity” with each subsequent month when they change the menu.

(RELATED: Why social media has gone crazy over the Singapore chefs in Magic Square)

Each chapter contains themes to inspire the food, wine curation, service, tableware and ambience. The first month has a “monochrome” theme, but it’s not about Dîner en Blanc with some black food thrown in. Nor is it some over-intellectualised menu about stripping colour from food to appreciate it at its philosophical core. He assures that it will be just delicious, elegant and served by friendly service staff.

“I’ve always felt that food needs to feel familiar. You need to connect to it,” says the chef who studied engineering before switching to culinary school in New York.

His story begins with every ingredient.”When I’m not in the kitchen, I travel around the world. In looking for sustainable products, I found some of incredible quality and met the people who devote their lives to their products.” Therefore, he wants to translate his personal experiences from his travels into the plate. Some of the featured products include balsamic vinegar from Modena, olive oil from Majorca, caviar from Bordeaux, and France’s hand-crafted artisanal Pamplie butter.

(RELATED: The Peak Next Gen | How Benjamin Swan of Sustenir Agriculture is spearheading sustainable farming in Singapore)

He may have some high-flying ideas when it comes to cuisine, but no doubt the real challenge will be how he brings it all down to earth.


04 THEVAR

(OPENING MID-OCTOBER)

Instead of taking the expected route of opening more Korean-themed eateries, chef-owner Sun Kim of the Michelin-starred Meta has gone Indian with his latest concept. He teamed up with co-owner Mano Thevar to open the latter’s namesake restaurant – a contemporary Indian grill. Set to launch in mid-October, Thevar takes over the space vacated by the original Meta when it moved a few doors away to 1 Keong Saik Road. The open kitchen layout will remain, but the colour scheme will change.

Boasting a custom-made grill and tandoor oven, the restaurant will offer “approachable, casual, comfort Indian food – but with fine dining quality,” says chef Thevar who has solid training in modern European techniques.

The 29-year-old Penang native moved to Singapore in 2010 to work for a five-star hotel, before taking up the post of chef de partie at Marina Bay Sands’ fine dining restaurants Guy Savoy and later Waku Ghin. It was there that he met chef Kim, and the two became good buddies.

Chef Kim had always been pushing chef Thevar to do more with Indian cuisine. “He has never worked in an Indian restaurant, which is good… so he will play with the flavours and spices, but use modern techniques.” For instance, chef Thevar will use French techniques such as brining – that is not used in Indian cuisine – for his creations.

Before this, the ever-adventurous chef Thevar decided to leave Waku Ghin and move to the Netherlands for a stint at one-Michelin-starred restaurant, Pure C. To immerse himself in Europe’s dining scene, he journeyed around France, Spain, and Italy. After a year, he returned to Singapore, and joined Meatsmith Little India.

When chef Kim decided to move to a bigger space, he broached the idea with chef Thevar. To learn more about his roots, chef Thevar travelled around India – from Delhi to Mumbai to Goa – and to his grandparents’ village in Karaikudi, eight hours from Chennai, South India. “I tasted a lot of food and did a lot of research when I was there.” But it’s still his late grandmother Vallimayil who was his biggest influence. “She was a really good cook, and used to cook in our family restaurant in Penang.”

For his new menu, chef Thevar experiments with Indian spices and local ingredients such as lemongrass, galangal, and pandan. “We will also feature premium wagyu, quail, and oyster.”

Highlights of the menu include oyster with rasam vinegar and coriander oil, and quail pulao served with raita. “I will also do a goat’s brain dish (a common ingredient in South India’s Chettinad cuisine). The texture is like foie gras. Brined, deep-fried, coated with a sauce and spiced crumb, it will be crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside.” There will even be an Indian version of ‘bosam’  (Korean pork belly and kimchi) made with “beef rib and Indian-spiced sauce, served with radish and pickles”.

There’s no need to worry about the sugar rush of Indian desserts either. Instead, expect easy-to-eat mango tart with mango lassi sorbet, and banana ice cream with roti prata. Indian-inspired cocktails are on the menu too, just in case you need something to embolden you to order the fried goat’s brains.

(RELATED: Does Singapore’s dining scene need more celebrity chefs?)

This article was originally published in The Business Times.

Photo: BT/SPH