From uniting the senses to marrying diverse cuisines, chef Janice Wong and home cook Lennard Yeong achieve a unique sense of balance in their collaborations with Skirt and LaBrezza restaurants respectively. The former aimed to please both the taste buds and the eyes, while the latter fused Japanese and Italian cuisines without compromising on the purity of the ingredients.
Janice Wong’s gastronomic art
Having been named Asia’s Best Pastry Chef in the prestigious San Pellegrino Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2013 and 2014, Janice Wong is an important figure in the world of artisanal desserts.
But Janice’s desserts are not only for satisfying a sweet tooth. Passionate about the use of colour and innovative presentations, she views herself as an artist as much as a chef.
At the preview tasting of her menu “Your World, Your Colours” at W Singapore — Sentosa Cove’s Skirt restaurant, Janice displayed her food creations that blur the lines between art and food.
If there were any doubt about how Janice’s love for colours could work well in Skirt, a steak restaurant, the first starter, a crab and avocado salad wrapped in Bloody Mary gel, would clear it.
The vibrant green hues stand out on the plate, a light backdrop for the red gel, which is literally a pop of colour as well as flavour. Punchy and bold, the dish worked very well.
The second starter is a lobster mai tai and continued to play around the cocktail theme. Using a delicate mix of sweet potato paprika, lobster espuma and king prawn kataifi, each ingredient is delicately proportioned so that their flavours complement and enhance each other perfectly.
The main course is, of course, steak — but plated to surprise.
Reminiscent of a paint palette, the innovatively presented six-spiced Skirt steak with mushrooms and mustard is laid out on a rustic wooden board with a gorgeous display of colourful ingredients and spices. Each accompanying ingredient draws out the steak’s natural flavours in a slightly different way, revealing a harmonious symphony of tastes and textures.
When asked if he shared Janice’s passion in seeing food as art, chef Chris Hibbert says: “I believe all chefs create dishes that are forms of art. Putting all the elements together takes a lot of skill and talent and I observe that in Janice’s work.”
The final dish is a rhubarb and pistachio dessert, made of rhubarb compote, pistachio custard and champagne rose jelly. Unapologetically feminine in presentation, this dish offers a glimpse into Janice’s true personality.
Though outwardly reserved and serious about her craft, Janice hints at her tender side: “I identify with the softer, more feminine palettes. It can be seen in my art pieces as well.”
“But it’s fluid and transient. I don't think I am one colour,” she adds.
MasterChef Asia’s Lennard Yeong makes cultures collide
MasterChef Asia contestant Lennard Yeong had no formal culinary training when he joined the inaugural season of the reality TV cooking series. He only learnt what he knew on YouTube and from reading cookbooks, but that was enough for him to quit his job as an engineer to pursue his dream.
It is no surprise that his collaboration with chef Armando Aristarco of LaBrezza is just as plucky, incorporating “strong Japanese influences” in a “fundamentally Italian” menu, as chef Armando describes it.
Its name — “East Meets West: Purity” — suggests the key challenge of such a menu. Fusing two fiercely traditional, produce-centric cuisines without compromising on the essence of either Japanese or Italian cuisine is no mean feat. Can Lennard and chef Armando pull it off?
The first starter is tonnoalghe e bonito, a yellowfin tuna tartare served with wakame salad and bonito flakes. Bonito-infused soy sauce completes the dish, giving it the distinctive umami notes that are a cornerstone of Japanese cuisine. The result: a traditionally European presentation that yields pure Japanese flavours.
Next up, minestrone e brodo di dashi, sautéed seasonal vegetables soaked in a light dashi broth with basil cress.
The simple yet versatile broth is equally representative of both Italian and Japanese cuisine. Light, fresh and flavoured only by quality produce, it truly represents purity in taste.
As the meal progresses, the flavours and textures lean towards heartier Italian cuisine, such as in this spaghetti vongole e sake. Perfectly al dente Rummo spaghetti is served with parsley leaves and tiny, sweet, sake-drizzled clams, marinated in extra virgin olive oil.
Lennard, who is a big seafood fan, says: “Chef Armando has created a really nice clam pasta. It has the heartiness of a home-cooked meal but executed with the finesse of a seasoned chef.”
The genius of this dish lies in its simplicity. With so few ingredients, the quality of every element truly shows, and it will leave you wanting more.
The next main — tagliata di manzo, soia e sesame — arrived just in time to satiate my appetite.
Steak lovers would love this glorious 120 days grain-fed Angus beef striploin, done medium, served with Italian rocket, shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano, and Datterino tomatoes. A dash of soy-sesame dressing adds just a touch of Eastern flavour to this traditionally Western dish.
Diners will also find space for dessert: savoiardi al thé verde e mascarpone. It is as fancy as it sounds, comprising matcha ladyfinger biscuits with green tea syrup, mascarpone mousse, sakura gel and macarons. The quintessential flavours of Japan and Italy are delicately balanced.
American Express Love Dining Celebrity Edition
The American Express Love Dining Celebrity Edition presents exclusive menus crafted by celebrity influencers Jeanette Aw, Pornsak, Janice Wong and Lennard Yeong in collaboration with renowned chefs. The menus are available from March 4 to May 3 to all diners. American Express Platinum Series Card Members can enjoy savings of up to 50 per cent, as part of their Love Dining privileges.
Love Dining is American Express’s reward programme for Platinum Card Members offering premium dining experiences and privileges at over 60 restaurants, including those in Singapore’s finest hotels.
Mr Cheng Heng Chew, Singapore Country Manager of American Express, says: “Inspired by Singapore’s love affair with food, we introduced our Love Dining programme to give our Platinum Card Members premium dining experiences and privileges at selected restaurants, bars and hotels. We want to offer more than just delicious food and luxurious ambience, by helping them create new shared memories with their friends and families.”
For more information on American Express Love Dining, refer to https://amex.co/lovedining.
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