Call me a little biased but, to me, the Lo & Behold group can do little to, dare I say it, no wrong. Whether it's in their ability to pioneer the first rooftop bar in Singapore, or to transform a conserved 1930’s chapel into a charming and romantic restaurant unlike any other, or converting a historic art deco building and an old bank vault into one of the city’s finest drinking holes, the group has always brought their A-game to the fore.
What always impresses me about the group is that they always managed to introduce novel concepts into our dining scene through the simple act of distillation - that is to extract the essential elements from different culinary trends and concepts, and then using that to create something innovative but, at the same time, comforting and always unforgettable.
In this day and age, where longevity is a sacred word in our dining scene, the group has withstood the test of time and continues to introduce fresh ideas to the ever evolving F&B industry of Singapore.
With the launch of Odette, the group’s foray into fine dining is cemented by their partnership with the well-loved Chef Julien Royer (pictured), former chef de cuisine of Jaan. This, to me, is a match made in heaven.
I still remember when it was announced that Chef Julien was leaving Jaan, there was a frenzy of patrons booking reservations, thus creating an impossible waitlist. I have been following chef Julien’s journey from Brassiere Le Saveurs to Jaan, where he cemented the restaurant’s standing on every food list available, so I've always been a fan.
Now, to put things into perspectives, having ownership of your own restaurant is akin to getting your own place after years of renting. You oversee the entire direction of the place and put your heart and soul into it. This, in turn, allows you to create an intimate environment that is simply unparalleled. And, for Chef Julien, that's exactly what Odette is.
As you can imagine, dinner reservations are impossible to get now - the restaurant is fully booked till, erm, next year (yes, I’m not kidding). So, because of our poor planning, the girls and I could only secure a lunch slot instead, which isn't too bad at all.
Before you enter Odette, you are first greeted by the high ceilings and marbled floors of the National Gallery, where it is housed. The plush, airy and bright space (thanks to the full-length windows, which allows natural light to come in), painted in hues of dusty pinks and neutrals, welcomes you as you walk in. Now, at first glance, Odette clearly looks like an atas restaurant.
But trust me, this place is anything but stiff and uppity. Instead, you get the sense that it's a pretty laid back place; one you can feel comfortable in.
Complementing the space is an installation by local artist Dawn Ng. The light and modern minimalist piece that hangs from the ceiling is inspired by the textures of the ingredients that Chef Julien use. What we concluded was that Odette is a perfect space for multiple occasions - a nice night-out with the girls, a first date you want to impress, business lunch, or even a nice family dinner.
As I am writing this, I am currently running a 39 degree celsius fever and haven’t had appetite for the last two days. That, however, has not stopped me from thinking about all the food we ate that day. Till today, I still dream about those flavours and textures.
OK, so the meal started with a spread of canapés that included Chilli Crab kueh pie tee and comte, egg and truffle pastry which we devoured in no time. Next, was a classic of Chef Julien’s - the mushroom sabayon tea that blooms delicately when the server pours in the ‘tea’ into the cups (pictured). This is something which I consider pretty much an alchemy, with its rich burst of flavours and delicate texture and slight crunchiness.
Our server was kind enough to let us swap out the first item on the six-course menu with the beef tartare, which is one of the dishes from the four-course menu. We were first presented with a beautiful bread basket that you get to keep at the table with butter from Normandy and pork fat.
We then moved on to the beautifully plated Heirloom Beetroot Variation, which was easy to eat with the mild and sweet flavours coming from simple ingredients that are manipulated into different styles and coming together perfectly with the burrata and olive oil pearls.
It was a well thought out prelude to the next dish, another signature of the chef, and the one he is best known for: The Pine Smoked Organic egg. Now, this dish was presented to us in egg crates and dry ice.
The eggs were nestled with pine which are cooked at a specific temperature of 64 degrees for 55 minutes.
Now, there are those who would argue that 62 degrees is considered the right temperature to cook eggs, and that the eggs at 64 degrees are slightly runny (esp the egg whites). Personally, I think that the runny egg, when mixed, adds a blanket of savoury warmth which coats the varied winter root vegetables of different textures and sizes nicely.
Remember when I told you to leave some bread for later? Here's why: We highly recommend you dip the bread into the leftover egg emulsion - very Singaporean-style but that egg is just too good to waste and tastes heavenly with the bread.
The Aquitaine Rainbow Trout was next and it was a favourite for us. You can't really go wrong with its flaky tenderness and with Romanesco broccoli alongside the charred Octopus. You know what they say about perfect balance? Well, this dish was exactly that - even though we felt that the miso caramel made the dish a little saltier than preferred, as the trout is known for its mild and nutty flavour.
To be honest, I was not that excited for the Guinea Fowl as I generally don’t tend to look forward to meats in a tasting menu. However, when our server came by with a tray of guinea fowl getting smoked in charcoal, the whiff of its scent just blew me away.
Alongside the dish was what I call the risotto for carb-free days. The celeriac risotto, which to me tasted even better that the real deal (i have a penchant for crunchy foods), foie gras coulant (like a fried foie gras xiao long bao almost) and truffle veloute. What a perfectly decadent way to (almost) end the meal.
The palate cleansers, dessert and petit fours won’t disappoint you either. Although our only gripe with the cleanser is that it was a little too rich and…large? (Haha) I guess in our minds the ideal cleanser is essentially eaten in a mouthful or two with no complex flavours. The millefeuille was layers of salted caramel; crunchy nougatine goodness and pear with vanilla ice cream - I can’t imagine anyone not liking this dessert
Service throughout the lunch was excellent - very attentive without being in your face and definitely not too snooty/stiff. Our server was very patient with our incessant photograph-taking and "oohing and aching" over the tableware used, even chiming in with us occasionally.
A few times Chef Julien served us as well, which I thought was a really nice touch. It's a wonderful and personal feeling to speak with the team that made you an amazing meal. Some critics have called Odette just another version of Jaan but I beg to differ. The warmth and rustic tastes of some of the dishes are far more heartwarming than a typical fine dining meal where Chef Julien’s love for his family and ingredients really shine through.