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Restaurant Review: Jaan at the Swissotel in Singapore

Jaan par André
70F Swissôtel The Stamford
+65 6837 3322

One of my favourite eating experiences during a four-year stint in Shanghai (along with enough xiaolongbao to feed the People’s Liberation Army) was at Sens & Bund, a French fine-dining restaurant opened by the Pourcel twins. The moonfaced Pourcels boast a Milky Way of Michelin stars, so it’s no surprise the place was good.

Mind you, the famous chefs were rarely – if ever – seen in the kitchen. They managed Sens & Bund from France, visiting China only occasionally to check that their culinary conception was in good hands.

And it was. In very good hands, in fact: those of talented Taiwanese chef André Chiang, who helmed his first fancy restaurant at just 20 years of age.

Luckily for all of us, Chef André has moved to Singapore. Swissôtel The Stamford nabbed him 18 months ago, figuring he could transform their 70th-floor dining outlet, Jaan.

Transcend might be a better word. Renamed Jaan par André to promote its star recruit, the restaurant is a stunner – the fourth best in Asia, according to The Miele Guide 2009/2010, and that’s probably about right.

Truth be told, my wife and I had a mild fear that our recent degustation dinner at Jaan ($340++ with wine pairings, $200++ without) would be a foamy onslaught; lots of weird daubs and arty smears, with nothing of substance.

Not so. Sure, Chef André is relentlessly inventive – first dish was a flowerpot of soil with a couple of sprouting carrots; closer inspection revealed the soil to be fine crumbs of chocolate (imported from Trinidad and Tobago, no less), and the carrot-tops, crispy prawn legs. Yet every ingredient plays a role and harmonises with the rest.

After a zingy cube of preserved lemon mousse, we were treated to one of the chef’s iconic creations, “Forgotten Vegetables”. Sounds like a description of my fridge after the wife’s been away. Rather, it’s the best thing I’ve eaten on the island (and difficult to describe within a word limit: just don’t miss it!).

Other wow-inducing items included a raw sweet prawn sitting atop sangria granita, grilled otoro (tuna belly) in a thick puddle of smoked basil, and an espresso of foie gras custard.

We adored the slow-roasted lamb saddle, not just for the meat (famous “pre-sale” lamb from the salt marshes of Normandy) but for the side of puffed wild rice held together with a carbonara cream.

“Any restaurant that offers a ‘pre-dessert’ gets my vote,” said my wife when a dish of Japanese cherries in Campari foam appeared (then disappeared, in three joyous mouthfuls). If she had her way, there would be such a thing as a “pre- pre-dessert”, too – kind of like a Hobbit’s second breakfast.

The dessert proper was a crispy sail of chocolate rising from a pillow of caramel ice cream which itself sat on a hockey puck of chocolate ganache.

When a “post-dessert” arrived minutes later, in the form of frankfurts of raspberry sorbet coated in white chocolate and a collection of petits fours, we were all swooned out.

It takes something special to distract from a nighttime panorama of Singapore, 70 floors up. Thanks to André Chiang, I don’t think I looked out the window more than once.