Among all the restaurant openings this year, Odette’s is, for me, the most eagerly awaited.
Chef-owner Julien Royer, who cooked at Jaan in Equinox Complex for the past four years, has during that time built a reputation as one of the best chefs in Singapore at the moment.
I could not wait to see what he would do at his own restaurant, which he opened with Mr Wee Teng Wen from The Lo & Behold Group.
So I was there for lunch with a friend last Tuesday, a day after the fine-dining modern French restaurant opened at the new National Gallery Singapore. And I was back for dinner with colleagues the following evening.
I was not disappointed.
Odette is a beautiful restaurant, one of the loveliest fine-dining venues here other than Joel Robuchon Restaurant.
It is classy yet not ostentatious. The colour scheme of neutrals such as grey and beige, which extends to the uniform of the service staff, is contemporary, soothing and elegant.
A cluster of mobiles hanging in the main dining area provides an artistic flight of fancy – but the main focus for diners is probably the kitchen, seen through a glass partition, where the battalion of cooks led by Royer is at work.
At lunch, Odette is the place to impress a business associate.
Sunlight filtered through translucent curtains brings cheer into the room as well as perfect lighting for Instagram photos.
Bigger groups can huddle in a private room to conduct some serious networking.
Dinnertime, however, gets more romantic when the place is lit by lovely ceiling and wall lamps, as well as the glowing kitchen at the back.
I can also see it as a popular place for celebrations. Already, I see a birthday cake carried to a table at the end of the night.
01-04 National Gallery Singapore,
1 St Andrew’s Road
Make reservations online at www.odetterestaurant.com
Open: Noon to 2pm, 7 to 9.30pm (Monday to Saturday). Closed on Sunday and public holiday
Price: From $88 to $268 a person, without drinks
When it comes to the cooking, however, that is like Jaan 2.0.
Regulars at the restaurant will find a number of Odette’s dishes very familiar.
There is the Mushroom Tea amuse bouche, a concoction of cepe sabayon topped with a hot mushroom broth that I enjoyed many times at Jaan and delight in again at Odette.
There is also the Heirloom Beetroot Variation – wedges of red, white and golden beetroot as well as a scoop of beetroot sorbet mixed with thin slices of radish and a buratta scattered with olive pearls.
The Hay-Roasted Pigeon, which I’d also eaten a number of times at Jaan, makes its appearance here too.
It’s cooked sous vide, then roasted with hay to get a smoky flavour and presented to diners on a bed of hay in a cast-iron pot.
These are all excellent dishes and I really do not mind eating them again, but for a new restaurant and what is essentially a new beginning for Royer, I would like to see him start off with more new dishes.
Keeping one old dish would be good for fans of his Jaan days, but to keep three is too much deja vu. It’s not like he doesn’t have new ideas.
I’m struck by creations such as the Hokkaido Uni, where the sea urchin is buried with pieces of Mozambique langoustine under a mussel “cloud” and topped with Oscietra caviar.
The ingredients remind me of an uni-caviar dish from Waku Ghin, but the different proportions result in a very different dish.
And the presentation, with strands of chives sticking out of the mussel espuma, is really cute.
A Kushiro Flounder from Hokkaido is presented in two ways, both excellent.
The fillet is roasted on a teppanyaki hotplate till the skin is crispy while the pieces from the fish’s sides are torched aburi-style till the fat is wobbly and melts in the mouth.
Served with root vegetables and freshly shaved Burgundy truffles, it is one of the best dishes at my dinner.
At lunch, I have a Challans Guinea Fowl that is as good as the pigeon, especially the juicy breast fillet that is grilled to perfection.
I get the same dessert for both lunch and dinner – Choconuts Gallery, a peanut and almond praline with Kayambe chocolate and Tonka bean ice cream.
But it doesn’t do much for me either time, as none of the ingredients has much character.
Odette, which is named after the chef’s grandmother who inspired his culinary philosophy of focusing on good produce, does not offer an a la carte menu.
There are two choices for lunch – an $88 four-course menu and a $128 six-course one. Dinner is $206 for six courses and $268 for eight. Wine flights start at $65 for the four-course lunch.
To kick off dinner, a server pushes over a champagne trolley packed with different bottles sitting in ice – including an Henri Giraud Grand Cru with an Odette label. Introducing them one by one, he mentions the prices.
It is a laudable practice – one that diners like myself certainly appreciate. Other restaurants should do the same.
Follow Wong Ah Yoke on Twitter @STahyoke
Life paid for its meals at the eatery reviewed here.