An Evening in Provence …
…well, not quite, but it was as close as we could get here right next to the Equator.
Blu at Shangri-La Hotel had invited a two-star Michelin chef, Laurent Taurridec from “Maison” Leï Mouscardins, a restaurant in the very chichi town of St Tropez, to bring some Cote d’Azur culinary magic to Singapore for about a week. True, it was terribly decadent of us to indulge in such fine dining on a working Tuesday night, but the experience, up in the lovely top floor restaurant, with fine views of the city and great company of friends, was worth it. I’ll be very happy to detox this weekend for this.
Mr UnProfessional Chef, myself and our fellow foodie friend all elected for the tasting menus which reflected the best of the earthy flavours of Provençal cuisine. Mr UnProfessional Chef opted for the lighter ‘La Provençal’ whilst the two greedy girls had ‘La Balade’. Due to the ultra dim lighting, my photographs were mostly of the blurry and dark variety, hence, only the better ones will be posted.
Mr UnProfessional Chef’s starter of Thin Potato Galette, Gnocchi Dough, Wild Brittany Sardines “Pizza” Style was a cute little round of delicious potatoes with fresh shiny whole sardines atop it. Simple and delicious, yet unusual for Singapore, since over here, we generally see our sardines in tins, he was pleased with the dish, though it could have been served a bit warmer (I must say that this was a problem throughout our dinner, except of course for dessert – our dishes were served at best lukewarm and not piping hot as I would have preferred). We greedy girls had Grilled Atlantic Scallops with Raw Endive Salad (topped with pure olive oil and vinegar) which were delectably sweet and quite unlike the bland tasting scallops I encounter far too often at many restaurants here.
Our next courses of Artichokes served with Boned Ham and Shallots, with White Wine Reduction and French Green Beans Gazpacho with Tapenade Croutons were equally delightful. Artichokes are always a pleasure and this warm dish was balanced with the nicely tart white wine reduction. The Gazpacho was a smooth cool little number. The purèed mix of French beans and garlic (and possibly other herbs I couldn’t quite detect in the darkness) was set off well by the tomato based soup. Again, both dishes were lovely illustrations of Provençal cuisine, which is significantly different from classical French cooking, though infused with the same sensibilities of reliance on fabulous ingredients, technically superior cooking and imaginative combinations.
Mr UnProfessional Chef took a break while the greedy girls pushed on with our next plate. Our plate of House Made Pasta Like A “Risotto” with Wild Winter Morels and Shaved Truffles was a winner. The gorgeously warm orzo pasta was infused with the superb complex flavours of the wild fungi that had clearly taken life from French earth and was our favourite savoury dish of the night.
Despite the fact that our bellies were already nicely filled by the time our main courses arrived, we were able to wolf down the Traditional Bouillabaisse of Monkfish ‘Lei Mouscardins’ Style and Grilled “Wagyu” Beef Tenderloin with Winter Vegetables and Red Wine Emulsion. The bouillabaisse was a lovely and robust rendition of this traditional dish (I tasted my very first bouillabaisse in a tiny port side restaurant in Marseille, right next to the Mediterranean, more than 10 years ago and have been hooked ever since) with substantial chunky pieces of monkfish to satisfy. It was so good but there was clearly far too little soup because Mr UnProfessional Chef slurped it to the last drop. It would have been the star of the show had it been piping hot (again, a major complaint, we are in Singapore after all, it shouldn’t require that much effort to serve a hot plate of soup). Our beef, however, was underwhelming. We expected a very nicely marbled melt-in-your-mouth piece of meat, but this was not one of the best versions I have had. Perhaps the inverted commas over the word “Wagyu” in the menu should have been a warning. However, the winter vegetables on the side were divine. Complex and tasting of the pure essence of the Mediterranean climate, these must have come straight from the farms of Provence since I have never tasted such lovely mushrooms, carrots and courgettes in Singapore before. There is much to be said about eating vegetables that have been grown naturally in the earth, not mass produced on a hydroponics farm which creates pretty lookalikes of vegetables that taste of nothing.
Our meal ended with superb desserts. We were pleasantly surprised by the inspired creations of Chocolate Leaves served with Milk Jam and Lime Sorbet, and Thinly Shaved Slices of Melon with a Spicy Jus and Melon Sherbet. The milk jam was particularly good, being a creamy milky buttery spread with the consistency of light clotted cream. It complemented the paper thin chocolate slices which were used to sandwich the dollops of jam in just the right proportions. We could have had a double serving though – it was that good. The melon slices were also gorgeously matched with a startlingly spicy light jus topping that brought out the sweetness of the fruit.
Although the meal didn’t quite match up to all my very high expectations of the two Michelin starred Monsieur Taurridec (it’s unfortunately been the case with other Michelin starred chefs who have visited Singapore as well – perhaps the ingredients don’t travel well or the chefs are not in the relative familiarity of their own kitchens), our evening of Provençal cuisine was still an enjoyable virtual visit to the South of France, with the meal bringing back memories of warm heady days scented with lavender spent walking through sunflower-filled fields.
Shangri-La Hotel Singapore
22 Orange Grove Road