Small restaurants, big time fame

Michael Ellis (centre), international director of the Michelin guides presents the award for three Michelin star to French chefs Michael Michaelidis and Joel Robuchon of the eponymous Joel Robuchon restaurant during the Michelin Guides Award ceremony
Michael Ellis (centre), international director of the Michelin guides presents the award for three Michelin star to French chefs Michael Michaelidis and Joel Robuchon of the eponymous Joel Robuchon restaurant during the Michelin Guides Award ceremony in Singapore on July 21. PHOTO: AFP

Being awarded Michelin stars has cast the spotlight on some restaurants which have otherwise kept a low profile

Among the 29 restaurants awarded stars on Thursday in the inaugural Singapore Michelin Guide was a handful of under-the-radar restaurants.

These restaurants are Fujian restaurant Putien in Kitchener Road, modern Indian restaurant The Song Of India in Scotts Road, French fine-dining restaurant Rhubarb Le Restaurant in Duxton Hill and Crystal Jade Garden Palace at Paragon Shopping Centre.

They were each awarded one Michelin star.

Putien's executive sous chef Chen Guang Lin, 34, said the accolade was an "unexpected surprise".

Putien specialises in Heng Hwa cuisine from Fujian province in China, serving dishes such as fried Heng Hwa bee hoon. Chef Chen said in Mandarin: "This is a proud day for Putien cuisine, as it will get more exposure."

 

There was a 20 per cent increase in reservations yesterday and he said the rating has given him the confidence to develop new dishes.

Also surprised was Crystal Jade Golden Palace. A spokesman said getting a Michelin star was a note- worthy achievement in the competitive Chinese restaurant scene here. She added that a key reason for the win might have been because its chefs are open to feedback from diners.

Reservations have been "coming non-stop" and the restaurant was fully booked yesterday.

The Song Of India's director of cuisine, Mr Manjunath Mural, 43, said getting a star is "a dream come true and one of my proudest wins in the past 10 years".

He was especially pleased that the restaurant is the only Indian one on the list. "My mantra is to push for consistency in the kitchen," he said.

His aim for next year? Getting two Michelin stars. "I plan to create more unique modern Indian dishes."

British chef Paul Longworth, 38, head chef of Rhubarb Le Restaurant, said getting a Michelin star was "a first real recognition" for the restaurant.

He said: "We don't re-invent the wheel or do anything quirky. It is basically what we think a good restaurant should be, and our small team work our a**** off for it."

He hopes that the restaurant, which has only seven tables, will see a boost in business.

Ivan Brehm, head chef of one-Michelin-starred The Kitchen at Bacchanalia in Hongkong Street, said that he has "a new-found confidence" to continue with his vegetable-centric menu. He has already "felt the pressure" with the restaurant receiving about 40 reservations within two hours of the Michelin star announcement on Thursday night.

Chef Sebastian Lepinoy, 42, of Les Amis at Shaw Centre, which received two stars, said his target for next year was "very clear" - to get three stars.

"We are already recognised for having good ingredients and cooking techniques, so the next step is to maximise diners' experience at the restaurant by explaining to them our dining philosophy," he said.

Chef Andre Chiang, 40, of Restaurant Andre in Bukit Pasoh Road, which received two Michelin stars, said getting recognised by the Michelin Guide will not make much of a difference to his business.

"We have been working hard to represent Singapore in global fine-dining scene for the past six years, and we have already been fully booked two to three months in advance since 2010."

While he is "happy and humbled" by the recognition, he said "the stars that customers give are more important".

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 23, 2016, with the headline 'Small restaurants, big time fame'. Print Edition | Subscribe