Tuesday, July 9, 2013

A long overdue encounter - Iggy's

I have been to a few fine-dining places in Singapore during my previous visits to the city-state in the last 12 months, but never been to Iggy's - probably one of the first that shot to international fame, having rated top of Asia and the World a few times in the past. So we decided to try this out for lunch this time.

The restaurant started its life at The Regent Hotel in 2004 then moved to Hilton Singapore at the far end of the Orchard Road Shopping District a few years ago. The hotel public area certainly showed its age but the decor inside Iggy's was drastically different, starting with the dark facade and the hidden door at the entrance, and it felt like the restaurants was detached from the rest of the hotel totally. Through the dimly lit corridor we were shown to our table in the middle of the dining room. The dining space was quiet and tiny - only a handful tables plus separate lounge area and bar seating next to the pastry station on the other side. The kitchen, which almost took up as much space as the dining room, was right next to the tables and separated only by a glass door. I guess the philosophy was to eliminate the distance between the culinary team and its customers, literally.

Here they had no a la carte menu, but instead customer can have a choice of a regular lunch menu with 4 courses (and 2-3 choices for each course) or the more elaborate tasting menu option for lunch and dinner. They also offered a vegetarian menu (for both regular lunch and tasting menu) for those who wanted meat free.

We started off with a amuse bouche of tomato consomme and a deep-fried white fish. The cold consomme was refreshing - just like a beer would do to people - and the fish was made into a curved shape like the traditional Japanese way then deep-fried. They were both delicious - especially the tomato consomme that was cutely served in a mini mug and disguised as a beer.

For first course, I went with the oyster dish while Charlotte went for the foie gras. The oyster was poached, and served with slighly crispy iwate rice, caviar and champagne foam. I liked the execution with everything well-cooked, but I preferred Charlotte's version of foie gras, which was slow-poached with milk, then served Asian-style with "Kyoto vegetables" and a light sauce. The foie gras was so creamy, as I found out after stealing a bite of it.

Both our second courses seem to be the best of the afternoon. Mine was a poached egg - probably 63-degrees judging from the consistancy of it - with chanterelle, deep-fried chicken skins and thickened poultry jus, served in a mini cocotte. I must have something similar no less than a dozen times elsewhere, but I was still being wowed by this with the interesting texture brought by the thickened jus and the crispy chicken skin which brought in the intense flavor. Not for the health conscious but I like it.

The other second course was a cappelini with sakura ebi, konbu and shellfish oil, said to be one of the Iggy's signature dishes. The less-than-subtle aroma of shellfish oil integrated with the angel hair noodles with plenty of oil-poached small sakura ebi and shrimp roes on top. It's aromatic and full of unami flavor.

For main, I picked the beef option, which was wagyu cheek cooked sous vide at 70C for 48 hours, then served with a reduced red wine jus, grilled baby heart of palm and pickled ginger (that looked like a carrot). I liked the use of local ingredients which brought an interesting dimension of flavors, and the beef cheek was cooked perfectly with the melt-in-the-mouth texture. I never expected a pickled ginger would work with beef but it did. 

My dessert was tomato, strawberry and rosemary - I picked this out of curiosity of whether a tomato dessert would even work. The presentation was cute - tomato served as whole with a quenelle of icecream next to it. The tomato was slightly cooked, skinned, and hollowed. Inside was then filled with tomato and strawberry mousse, and the rosemary came in the form of an icecream on the side. The complexity was certainly there but the tomato-strawberry mousse was too overpowering that I didn't taste or smell anything of the rosemary icecream at all. The execution wasn't bad, just that the end-result didn't make it for me somehow. I appreciated the bold attempt, but I actually think this would make a better appetizer instead (sans the icecream) - like a deconstructed gazpacho. (and for the record, the other dessert choice was kaya & teh tarik, essentially the fine-dining interpretation of Singapore's staple breakfast item, and served with French toast and coconut pandan)

They have a vast wine list which was presented in an iPad. The choices were heavily leaned towards Old World - Burgundy to be exact. We went with a medium-bodied Nuits St Georges from a recent vintage, which was quite decent and easy to drink. Youthful, with good red fruit flavors and hint of earthiness. Given only a handful of tables in the small dining room, the service was excellent - there were always someone nearby attending to your needs and they patiently explained every dish that was brought to our table. Of course I was particularly impressed when the manager offered us a visit to the kitchen to say hi to Chef Akmal Anuar and his team behind the glass door. I love to learn more how the dishes were made.

Given this is a lunch tasting, I would say they did a decent job in their execution, though I am slightly disappointed at the lack of creativity in the dishes, whether in the overall flavor or the presentation (or for the case of dessert, too much creativity) Chef AK - as he's being called - was mindful of local customers' tastes and adopted local flavors and ingredients in many of the dishes which is one aspect that I like, and its lunch did represent pretty good value if you want a taste of what a Singapore's good French restaurant has to offer. I would say it's somewhat near to a Michelin one-star quality - I love the foie gras and the wagyu cheek dishes I tried.

That being said, though Iggy's might have set the standard for Asian-French fusion cuisines in the region, in recent years many fine-dining hotspots in town have caught up with them. I think if what we had for lunch at Iggy's is a yardstick, the team may need to shred the complacent mindset and work up a notch even more - which I feel they are capable of - to gain back the accolade of being among Singapore's top.

More pictures on my flickr page: http://www.flickr.com/photos/g4gary/sets/72157634520886115/

Where? Iggy's. Hilton Singapore, 581 Orchard Road, Singapore
Menu Highlights?  Eggs with Chanterelle and Poultry Jus
Drink: Domaine Francois Feuillet 2007 Nuits St Georges La Chamotte Cuvee Marcel Gerbraut
Web: www.iggys.com.sg

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