Restaurant review: Jaan rejuvenated with creative and confident cooking

Mushroom tea from Jaan. -- FILE PHOTO: JAAN
Mushroom tea from Jaan. -- FILE PHOTO: JAAN

Jaan is hot once again.

The fine-dining restaurant on the 70th floor of Swissotel The Stamford dropped off the radar more than a year ago, when its previous chef, Andre Chiang, left to open his own restaurant.

But it has returned to my list of favourite places to dine at.

Credit goes to current chef de cuisine Julien Royer, who was named Rising Chef of the Year at last weekend's Awards Of Excellence, an annual awards for the food and beverage industry. Incidentally, Chiang was Chef of the Year.

Royer, 29, joined Jaan eight months ago with a resume that includes stints with masters of French cuisine Antonin Bonnet, Bernard Andrieux and Michel Bras. And the young Frenchman has learnt well.

A tasting of his first menu late last year showed a chef with ideas but it was only a precursor of what he was capable of.

That promise is realised in his current menu for the first quarter of this year, which is both creative and confident.

I dined at Jaan twice last month, and both times I tried the inspiration menu ($288), a 10-course surprise dinner comprising dishes from as well as off the a la carte menu. And each time, I had a totally satisfying meal that was inventive without being over the top.

The cuisine is modern like Chiang's and you may even see his legacy in certain aspects of the meal, such as the deconstruction of familiar dishes and the choice of ingredients. But chef Royer has his own voice, which is more rooted in traditional language despite its modern accents.

Examples can be found in dishes such as the wild langoustine ravioli, which comprises a chunky piece of the shellfish on a thin sheet of al dente pasta. This is not the "one-bite" starter favoured by most modern chefs, but a satisfyingly solid piece of langoustine.

It is served on a bouillon scented with Thai herbs such as kaffir lime leaves, and a bed of finely julienned vegetables to soak up the flavours.

This is one of my favourite dishes but certainly not the only one. Another starter, called 55' smoked organic egg, is also a dish to go back for. I was served it at both dinners and I'm not complaining. It's also available as an a la carte order for $42.

The egg is cooked for 55 minutes in a 65 deg C water bath, and turns out perfectly soft-boiled. At the table, it is added to a cup filled with Jerusalem artichoke, chanterelles, pieces of iberico de bellota ham and porcini crumbs. Stirred together, you get a symphony of flavours and textures that hits all the right notes in the mouth.

Just as charming is the mushroom tea, an infusion of mushrooms poured into cepe mushroom sabayon, portobello mushroom discs, walnuts and lovage. There is even a hint of satsuma zest to tickle the palate. It all mixes into a rich, creamy soup with little explosions of flavours in every spoon.

I've never eaten a more interesting mango than the one served with the grilled escalope of Landes foie gras. It's a roasted green mango dusted with java pepper, and has a texture that lies between the crispness of a green mango and the softness of a ripe one. It's so intriguing that, for me, it actually upstages the foie gras.

If you ever burn your bread, do not throw it away. Save it and scrape it over your meat or fish. Chef Royer does that over a confit of Arctic char and the carbon dust gives the fish a lovely smokey flavour.

I can go on and on about the other dishes, including a perfectly roasted Bresse pigeon with pickled simeiji and organic corn, as well as a composition of organic beetroot with interesting components such as olive pearls and a coulis of burrata cheese. Or the dessert of choconuts 2012 where caramelised peanuts, peanut powder and macadamia ice cream are served with sables cookie and Tanariva chocolate mousse.

But it's best to savour them yourself. If dinner prices are too steep, lunch offers a better deal with three courses at $52 and a five-course degustation menu at $82. And the dishes are the same as in the dinner menus, including the Arctic char and the 55' smoked organic egg.

LifeStyle paid for its meal at the eatery reviewed here.

Mushroom tea
Mushroom infusion stirred into a combination of cepe mushroom sabayon, portobello mushroom discs, walnuts and lovage - the rich, creamy result is simply heavenly.

Level 70, Equinox Complex, Swissotel The
Stamford Singapore, tel: 6837-3322
Open: Noon to 2.30pm 7 to 11pm, Mondays to Saturdays. Closed on Sundays
Food: ****
Service: ****
Ambience: ****
Price: From $52 for a three-course lunch menu to $288 for 10-course dinner menu. A la carte is also available.

This review was first published in Sunday Lifestyle on April 1, 2012.

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