The fine dining nouvelle cuisine restaurant Andre by Taiwan-born chef Andre Chiang closed in February 2018 after eight years of superb quality and personal service in Singapore. His farewell was published online: “Although Restaurant ANDRE’s legacy will soon become a fond memory to the world’s gourmets, I have no regrets, as we have achieved all that we have wanted to for Singapore and for Asia.
Now, it is time for me to go home.
“I’m a perfectionist, and this is perfect.”
The Chef who has now returned back to his home country to educate the new culinary generation has two passions. One is poetry and art, another food. One can argue that the earlier merges in the later two as Chiang’s penchant for creativity manifests in his small dining establishment in Singapore. Chiang concocts unforgettable dishes for curious foodies coming to Andre from all over the world (a French family, Hong Kong and Indian couples surrounded us).
He still pursues Octaphilosophie based on his study of how our experience influences our perception of taste. Through food he intends to facilitate an interpretation of his thoughts. There are eight concepts translated into dishes: Unique; Pure; Texture; Memory; Salt; South; Artisan; and Terroir.
Chiang’s unique approach to fine dining was rewarded by a number of distinctive accolades such as receiving three Michelin stars, a position in San Pellegrino World’s 100 Best Restaurants and Singapore Best New Restaurant 2011 by Tatler Asia.
The food is complex, artistic and philosophical. Dining at Restaurant Andre is more than simple flavours. The chef makes you think about his perception of the world through his dishes. Most of it is very interesting and very tasty, but you need to switch your brain from looking for your mother’s cuisine as it is all but not traditional. Each meal at Restaurant Andre was quite revolutionary and worth trying if you are a serious food connoisseur. After a garden of tiny amouse-bouche we encountered the first concept from the chef’s Octaphilosophy.
“Beauty can be found in the simplicity of pure, unadulterated ingredients. Untainted by any form of seasoning or cooking, this dish allows the produce to speak for itself.”
This plate full of raw ingredients from seafood to flowers and herbs had exactly that kind of impression on my palate. the shrimp and salmon roll were perhaps the most palatable, the rest was rather more amusing than tasty. The second course confirmed that it helps to have a description of the meal when you eat it as it navigates your palate to what the chef wanted you to experience.
“An ancient seasoning existing since time immemorial. Producing a taste sensation with no barriers, the flavors in this dish call for the briny depth and brings to the mind a hint of the ocean.”
“Farmers and artisans deserve to be lauded for the sheer dedication they hold towards their creations. Celebrating the craftsmanship of these highly passionate artists.”
A thoughtful creation, yet I was not overwhelmed by this particular plate’s taste at Restaurant Andre.
Capturing the South of France thousands of miles away can be challenging. Moreover, for me this dish was very personal since I live in this region, thus I was more emotional here. The chef spent a couple of years in the South of France. Cooking at various restaurants headed by legendary chefs made this tasting interesting. Here is is concept of the SOUTH:
“The South of France s known for its vibrant joie de vivre, or ‘joy of living’. Capturing the flavors of France’s southern region, expect the generosity, freshness, acidity and a dose of the rustic.”
Another important aspect of any food is TEXTURE:
“Layers of flavor and textural contrasts come together harmoniously in this dish, providing a delicious sensory experience.”
This was my favorite dish. I prefer balance in the meal and I am biased towards texture, but it was simply delicious. The delicate lobster was refreshed by crisp herbs and leafs, icy and melting sorbet and a sweet touch of peeled li-chi created harmony.
When most of us eat at a fine dining restaurant we search for something UNIQUE in the food created by the chef. Andre Chiang has this answer:
“What makes a dish unique? Sometimes, it is the possibility of experiencing a common ingredient in a different way. At other times, savouring an exotic ingredient is the key to making a dish unique.”
For something to be memorable it must stand out. The chef’s take on MEMORY was to highlight a well-known product – the foie gras. Translated into a creamy custard-like texture with a surprising herb consomé made into a jelly on the top. It was delicious.
“Meaningful memories stay with you for a long time. In this case, old recipes and flavours are given a new presentation, but still retain that old-world charm you once knew.”
The last creation reflected the TERROIR:
“Rustic, masculine and unpolished, this soulful course is rooted to the flavours typical to a specific region. It reveals the appreciation of the gifts that Mother Nature has bestowed upon the land.”
The chef enhanced the produce of the land through a variety of sauces. The rustic taste of an almost rare chunk of meat was calmed down, although for some it might be too ‘rustic’. The nouvelle cuisine with its French heritage transforms into poetry on the plate at Restaurant Andre, but I advise to eat it and do not ponder for too long otherwise it will get cold.
Diverting from the menu’s Octaphilosophy concept, the desserts were still very personal for the chef, although each of them was completely different. Fresh and fruity, herbal and zesty, and finally the chef’s weakness for the caramel-filled chocolate Snickers bar lead to his own mind-blowing interpretation. I have never been a fan of Snickers, but tasting Andre’s delight, using fresh and high quality ingredients made all the difference.
The chef initiated a state of deep contemplation in most diners, it seemed. With each plate we were inspired to think about it and discuss the experience. Isn’t this what we need in today’s fast-food society? Like traditional societies did, we should appreciate all the food we put into our mouths. Chef Chiang further encourages us to connect the experience with our brain rather than mindlessly put one chunk after another into our mouths. He becomes your teacher through his cooking.
Atmosphere: It is almost like a laboratory where each diner analyses his/her dish. The first floor is only for the chef’s table and can also host private parties. The main restaurant is upstairs. Art and design selected by the chef bejewelled the interior and the seats are very comfortable. It is a relaxing place. Imagine a gathering at a shrine for food connoisseurs and that is exactly how this place feels. Wear something smart.
This is a serious gastronomic experience so the cost is high (only tasting menu: Dinner SG$ 288.00; lunch SG$ $128 for 4-courses); additional wine pairing SG$ 180.00 per person (tax of 7% and service charge 10% are not included).
The Wine Journal
The chef selected the wines himself for the restaurant’s “wine journal”. Offering biodynamic wines from small French producers. We did the wine pairing with our meals. The wine waiter did not disclose the origin of any of the wines until we tried it and guessed. Often, we were fooled since small artisanal wines can be so unique that one can mistake a Chablis for a Riesling. It was an interesting tasting, but we were not overly impressed by the wines themselves.
Chef Andre Chiang also opened another successful restaurants. RAW in Taipei and has stakes in the Burnt Ends Singapore, that continues to seduce diners with a less fussy approach to contemporary culinary hedonism under chef/owner Dave Pynt.