The culinary gem known as L’Ecrin is the jewel in the crown of the long-awaited reopening of Hotel de Crillon. Nestled in the heart of this legendary hotel, the restaurant is as private and bijou as they come, accommodating up to only 28 guests who are treated to a dining experience so bespoke, that even the custom-made cutlery and china were the result of chef Christopher Hache’s collaboration with artisans.
The menu derives inspiration from Hache’s travels around the world during his sabbatical, while the hotel was still under renovation. L’Ecrin’s signature menu underscores Hache’s intentions, first with a quote from Christopher Columbus – “You never cross the ocean, unless you have the courage to lose sight of the shore” – and continues the culinary voyage in a literal circle of exploration, anchored by “Earth” or Hache’s famed Champignon de Paris. The dining expedition tries exotic pairings, like kimchi accompanying just-caught turbot. Equally, Hache explores firm French favourites in delightful – and surprising – new ways: duck foie gras with beetroot, langoustine in a
carpaccio, sweetbreads with coconut.
Meanwhile, pastry chef Jerome Chaucesse goes on a quest for the sublime in the cognac meringue and even a deep chocolate cream featured alongside a confection of pear, citrus fruits and saffron. Head sommelier Xavier Thuizat completes the circle with a selection of excellent wine.
SUI TANG LI, SHANGHAI
The latest addition to the newly opened Middle House in Shanghai is dedicated to the finer points of Chinese cuisine, exploring the more contemporary side of Shanghainese, Cantonese and Sichuan dishes with head chef Tony Ye (who has an illustrious career including a stint at Michelin-star-winning Yong Yi Ting) at its helm.
Ye’s new take on familiar classics sees a simple steamed pomfret now lightly smoked with jasmine tea, while the traditional Shanghai street snack, shallot cake, is given a gourmet boost with crunchy hazelnut foie gras and Iberian ham. The beef tongue and frog’s legs are served with lotus root in a rich and spicy mala broth. Beggar’s Chicken is now a decidedly more sumptuous version, with spring chicken slow-cooked with abalone mushrooms and dried scallops, and wrapped in lotus leaves.
Cocktails, too, are inventive, revolving around age-old Chinese geomancy that incorporates the five elements of metal, fire, earth, water and wood. The Tofu Colada must be noted for its unique employ of soft tofu, mixed with coconut, yogurt and white rum. Those with more traditional tastes will be happy to know that the restaurant features a curated wine list featuring the finest from around the world.
(RELATED: Where to stay in Shanghai: The Middle House)
The sublime fare at Duddell’s has culminated in the restaurant’s first opening outside of the former British outpost, in London. Much thought went into the takeover of historic St Thomas Church in the heart of London Bridge, with no less than award-winning architecture practice Michaelis Boyd at the helm of renovations. Chinoiserie is kept to a minimum, interiors-wise, even as reverent use is made of the vast space. Meanwhile, retro-futuristic elements and colour schemes are reminiscent of a ’60s Hong Kong teahouse.
Culinary highlights include an exquisite interpretation of Peking Duck, prepared 48 hours ahead and carved at the table, accompanied by eight condiments including aged mandarin and kumquat dressings, and a refreshing twist of pineapple and pomelo. Fresh monkfish is heightened with morels and garlic shoots, while fried dough fritters provide a surprising crunch. Duddell’s supreme lobster noodles, braised with golden supreme stock, is cooked for four hours, then stir-fried with hijiki seaweed, lily bulb, ginger and spring onion, ensuring Sino-British relations remain very much alive.
OSTERIA GUCCI DA MASSIMO BOTTURA, FLORENCE
The former Gucci Museo turned Gucci Garden Galleria in Florence has just got a culinary lift in the form of a 50-seat fine-dining restaurant in collaboration with chef Massimo Bottura of three-Michelin-star Osteria Francescana in Modena. Housed inside the 14th-century Palazzo della Mercanzia, the restaurant serves Italian classics but isn’t opposed to going beyond geographical borders for gastronomic inspiration. Meaning to say that familiar favourites such as Parmigiano Reggiano tortellini and mushroom risotto coexist happily with Peruvian tostadas and pork belly buns in a diverse selection. What’s more, dishes are priced at 20 to 30 euros each (S$30 to S$45) – a steal considering the designer menu. Clearly at Osteria Gucci, the food will never go out of style.
Newly minted Michelin awardee Pru at Trisara Resort has dedicated itself to the finer points of farm-to-table dining, starting from the inception of its own farm manned by staff and located not too far away from the luxury resort in Phuket. In fact, the restaurant’s ardent use of the island’s own produce even sees its yogurt and milk sourced from a small dairy farm nearby.
Dutch chef de cuisine Jim Ophorst has single-handedly raised the bar when it comes to the island’s “international” cuisine, levelling up above the rest with a deft hand in the creation of dishes like local mangrove black crab paired with pickled radish and served with a swirl of its own and surprisingly lobster bisque-like reduction. Just as tantalising are carrots from the farm where the humble root vegetable, usually relegated a supporting role, is given full star treatment, cooked in the soil in which it is planted and accompanied by a sauce of fermented carrot juice and cured egg yolk. Aged duck, slow-cooked over an open wood fire, is presented as a main and given a tart zing from the pickled Thai cherries. The restaurant’s – and, indeed, Phuket’s – first Michelin star is well and truly deserved.
Noma’s much-anticipated reopening last spring has already seen fervent devotees headed to a former military warehouse refurbished by Studio David Thulstrup. Perhaps reflective of chef Rene Redzepi’s New Nordic sensibilities, Noma 2.0 claims a modern rustic atmosphere by way of Nordic designer furniture, terrazzo flooring of river stones, seaweed lights and a Dinesen wood-panelled interior. Redzepi’s unofficial designation as Godfather of New Nordic remains intact, with the four-time Best Restaurant and two-Michelin-star restaurant exploring its Game & Forest theme for the third time this year.
Those lucky enough to have reserved seats well in advance are treated to the one opportunity in the year where meat will feature. The menu will highlight, according to Redzepi, “everything we can get our hands on”, whether that be reindeer tongue or wild duck, a leg of moose or teal. As with past Game & Forest seasons, expect the eclectic menu to have the best of foraged produce from the forest – berries, mushrooms, nuts and wild plants, coupled with the bounty of an autumn harvest.
Those who’ve missed the boat should start making reservations for the restaurant’s modestly named but no less divine Seafood season, available up to June 1 this year.
(RELATED: Take a peek at the new Noma 2.0)
BELLY OF THE BEAST, CAPE TOWN
Behold the Belly Of The Beast. Cape Town’s first crowdfunded restaurant is proof that the dust may not yet have settled on the nose-to-tail dining concept, judging from the response garnered by owners Neil Swart and Anouchka Horn. So bijou is the restaurant, only 20 privileged diners may partake in the restaurant’s seasonal tasting menu each night, with both owners not above rolling up their sleeves and waiting at your table. Everything, including bread, is made from scratch but dining at Belly Of The Beast would mean to savour its locally sourced meats – warthog and all. And, yes, vegetables and fish are served too.
The verdict is out on Belly Of The Beast – the restaurant was completely booked out for year-end celebrations last year. We suggest you make your reservations now.