With André Chiang set to close his eponymous two-Michelin-star restaurant in Singapore on 14 February in search of new challenges – as he told us back in October – an almost retrospective look at just what makes Restaurant André so special feels apt.
Consistently in the upper echelons of the World’s 50 Best and Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants lists, the restaurant is a showcase for Chiang’s unique interpretation of French cooking developed over years working in some of France’s best kitchens, with chefs such as Michel Troisgros, Alain Ducasse, and Pierre Gagnaire. It was there that he first started formulating his Octaphilosophy approach to cooking – identifying eight elements (Pure, Salt, Artisan, Texture, South, Unique, Memory, and Terroir), and designing dishes around them.
In every one of his dishes, Chiang says, this principle is “strictly respected,” with the “intention” of the dish being perhaps the most important thing to consider. To be ‘Pure’ a dish must be raw and unseasoned, for example a dish of peach, grapes and pink coriander – simple, beautiful.
The first dish he ever developed on his own, a ‘Memory,’ one that is still on the menu today, is a foie gras jelly with black truffle coulis that “won the respect of a full-French kitchen.” Perhaps the most important stage of this dish is to carefully monitor the cooking and speed when whipping the foie gras (see the picture at the top of the article).
Then there are the non-alcoholic fermented juices that make up the juice-pairing menu. The combinations are intriguing: yellow beets, liquorice and green strawberry, and pine needle, charcoal and apple being just two.
Ask him to name a recent dish that he is most proud of and he doesn’t hesitate: Ice Cream Uncle, a dish inspired by the elderly ice cream sellers of Singapore, which Chiang says has both “Meaningful intension” and a “Social contribution” – the restaurant makes a monthly donation so that the ice cream sellers can continue their tradition.