Andre Chiang opens Paris restaurant

Beef short rib cooked in black tea and served with watercress (above). -- PHOTO: PORTE 12
Beef short rib cooked in black tea and served with watercress (above). -- PHOTO: PORTE 12
It is run by a lean team, whose members include chef Vincent Crepel (right) and sommelier Thibault Passinge (left). -- PHOTO: PORTE 12
It is run by a lean team, whose members include chef Vincent Crepel (right) and sommelier Thibault Passinge (left). -- PHOTO: PORTE 12
Porte 12 has lamps that are shaped like corsets (above). -- PHOTO: PORTE 12
Porte 12 has lamps that are shaped like corsets (above). -- PHOTO: PORTE 12

The bistronomy-style Porte 12 serves seasonal food in a casual setting

Chef Andre Chiang of Restaurant Andre in Singapore has opened a restaurant in Paris.

The 32-seat Porte 12 welcomes diners on Sept 16. Its name, which translates to Door No. 12 in English, refers to the address, 12 Rue des Messageries in the 10th arrondissement of the French capital; and the old wooden door that marks the entrance to the restaurant.

Its kitchen is headed by French chef Vincent Crepel, 30, who was sous chef at Restaurant Andre in Bukit Pasoh Road for 21/2 years. The restaurant's former service manager Thibault Passinge, 27, is the sommelier and runs the front of the house at the Paris restaurant.

Porte 12 is a dream come true, says Chiang, 38.

"For every chef, you dream that one day you will have your own place, then you will have a restaurant in France, then one day you will get a Michelin star," he tells Life! over the telephone from Paris.

"It was a dream, but I have never liked to force something, it has to come naturally."

The space, on the ground floor of a building constructed in 1905, used to be a studio where haute couture corsets and lingerie were made. Then for 20 years, it was a restaurant called Cafe Panique, run by chef Odile Guyader, whose daughter is a friend of Chiang's.

She wanted to leave the place in good hands and that is how Chiang found himself looking at the space in Paris last year.

He says it felt right and he set about conceptualising the restaurant, whose backers include hotelier-restaurateur Loh Lik Peng.

It has taken about a year, the chef says, adding that half the time was spent sorting out the paperwork.

Porte 12 is a bistronomy-style restaurant, serving gastronomic meals in a bistro setting.

The movement has been credited with breathing fresh air into the staid restaurant scene in France.

Young chefs have revitalised the scene there by doing away with the stuffiness of gastronomic temples and serving smart, cutting-edge food in casual but elegant settings.

Chiang's restaurant is done up in French blue, with copper trimmings. In a nod to the atelier that once occupied the space, the specially designed lamps are shaped like corsets.

Lunch at Porte 12 costs €28 (S$45) for two courses and €35 for three, while dinner is priced at €58 for five courses and €65 for six. Wine pairings are an additional €30 to €35.

On the menu are dishes such as grilled mackerel with seaweed and radishes, whiting with chard and butternut squash puree, and beef short rib cooked in black tea and served with watercress.

Chiang says of the food: "It's seasonal and very spontaneous. We focus on the ingredients. Every day, you go to the market and see what's in season."

He does not see himself cooking in the restaurant's tiny 3m by 1m kitchen and is leaving the menu to chef Crepel, who has also worked at the historic Hotel de Ville Crissier in Switzerland.

"That's important," says Chiang, who is also a partner of Burnt Ends, a modern Australian barbecue restaurant in Teck Lim Road. "If I tell him how to cook, he will never be able to cook from the heart."

Chiang says he will go to the restaurant three to four times a year, and whenever he is in Europe.

It runs on a lean team. In the kitchen, there is another chef and a dishwasher. Aside from Mr Passinge, there is another staff for front of the house.

Porte 12 had its first service last Saturday, for friends who had helped in the setting up.

Chiang says: "I was very surprised. Usually, here and there, there are things missing, but it was very good, so I am very happy."

He has fulfilled one dream, but there are others.

"I hope one day I can go around the world and have an exhibition of what I do beyond cooking - pottery, sculpture and painting," he says.

"It's a dream."

hsueh@sph.com.sg

www.facebook.com/tanhsuehyun