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Restaurant of the Year: Odette

Sequestered in the National Gallery Singapore, Julien Royer’s contemporary french cuisine is as fine as the artworks housed within.

Odette is an ode to a grandmother’s legacy of delivering joy and excitement through food. With this theme in mind, chef Julien Royer and his team turn commonplace and exotic ingredients into a multi-dimensional experience. He said it plainly when he told The Peak: “I’d rather put the action first and let it tell the story.”

At Odette, the “action” is in the details – heavy, glass-panelled doors shield the calm, cream-, pink- and grey-toned space; to the left of the entrance, an almost-subtle oak, polyfoam, brass and paper aerial installation by local artist (and Odette’s creative director) Dawn Ng.

(RELATED: Julien Royer was once Guest Editor for G – see the personal stories and philosophies he shared.)

On the table, vessels like the specially crafted wooden box to showcase the Brittany pigeon in smoked hay, made by Greg Swyny of The General Co, and selected pastel-coloured ceramics show the deliberate effort that goes into supporting artists, local where possible.

Hand-dived scallop livened up with dill and horseradish; Odette’s elegant setting with a creative aerial installation by artist Dawn Ng.

Like the art gallery it is housed in, this contemporary French restaurant has a story-telling style that is more visual and textural than narrative, qualities which ring even clearer on the plates: bright green watercress and parsley butter; a Breton-like scallop “mille-feuille” (scallops stuffed horizontally with black truffles), hand-picked from Normandy; sea urchin, langoustine tartare and mussel foam in a delicate urchin-shaped glass vessel; and the asymmetry of the arresting reds, yellows and pinks of the signature salt-baked heirloom beet variation on a plain, white plate. Sight outmanoeuvres smell and taste.

Seared foie gras with Japanese abalone, smoked eel dashi, and a touch of yuzu

It isn’t until the “messenger pigeon” is served that we hear from the chef himself: “I have been working on this dish for many years and I am delighted to share it with you,” he conveys, via a note tied to the pigeon drumstick, as if to take a bow before his finale.

Kegani hairy crab with green apple and celery sorbet, green apple jelly, diced nashi pear, and kaffir lime oil.

The best shows invite their audience to be a part of their story. Royer’s team waltze us into this seamlessly, especially as Royer himself is away, tending to a festival. Like adept art gallerists, the waitstaff approach, introduce a course or component, and swiftly but not hurriedly take leave for us to make our own interpretations. When we need them, they are simply a hover away. And, when engaged, they can easily convince you to invest in an entire bottle of dessert wine, to have with the entire selection of the cheese trolley. At the end of the meal, they make sure you get a bottle of Odette’s versatile juniper berry jam.

There is plenty going on in and with Odette, yet the experience isn’t overwhelming. Instead, it beckons you to come back for more, to participate again, in different ways. Isn’t that what every (gallery) restaurant aspires to offer?

#01-04, National Gallery Singapore, S(178957)
T 6385-0498

The full list of Singapore’s Best at
G Restaurant Awards 2018.

All tastings conducted incognito with esteemed members of G’s Food Panel.