Sunday, August 16, 2009

Iggy's: Best Restaurant in Asia?

with Kin and Ainie

Years ago, when Les Amis first started with Justin Quek at the helm, and Ignatius Chan as the Sommelier, I used to drop by for lunch every once in a while, especially when entertaining. The Set Lunch sampler was S$42++ and I considered it to be very good value for the quality of service and cooking. Les Amis was the epitome of fine dining in Singapore, and from thence sprung many establishments of merit.

Justin is a truly gifted chef, and I always enjoyed his cooking. For a while, when he was still at the helm Les Amis, he would sometimes turn up at the Les Amis cafetaria at the Botanic Gardens, and even a simple poached egg, or char kway teow would taste sublime when the master was in the kitchen. But he has set up shop somewhere in Taiwan (and a recent outlet in IFC Hong Kong).

Ignatius went on to set up Iggy's - a fine dining establishment...which recently won the Miele Guide's Asia Best Restaurant. This is no small accolade, in clenching the top position, Iggy's beat Atelier Joel Robuchon (HKG) who currently holds two Michelin stars.

So it was with great anticipation as we stepped into the vaunted establishment...I had made reservations two weeks earlier. The restaurant was rather small...from the discrete entrance, turn right, and you arrive at a bar counter. Turn left and one looks directly into the wine cellar, and the dining set up with one large table for perhaps 8, and 3 smaller tables for 2/3 persons each. The tables were set nicely apart, so as to afford some privacy. Bravo for not attempting to be like some Parisian restaurants, where the waiter has to pull the table to seat the guest, and eavesdropping on your neighbour's table is an art to be practiced.

A Chef's Table is also available, and seats perhaps 8. However, this seems to be set in a dry kitchen, not where the cooking action is. I had eaten at some chef's tables, notably One Market in San Francisco, where we sat right in the thick of the heavy cooking...albeit separated by a glass wall.

The Amuse Bouche was an interesting tomato dish...can you tell?

Almost like molecular gastronomy, the right was a cup of white frothy tomato juice. It looked nothing like tomato, but it smelled right, and tasted like a tomato concentrate...served quite cold. Very nice. On the left is a whole cherry tomato in a very light tempura crust. Very interesting. The crispy yet light texture of the tempura contrasted nicely with the cooked soft tomato, which burst into the palate with the first bite.

The Lunch menu was offered with either 2 appetizers plus main or 3 appetizer plus main. We elected to do the smaller of the two. For $55++, I think it extraordinary value for money, remembering that Les Amis used to charge $42++ in 1994. The menus change periodically.

Amongst us, we actually had 6 different appetizers. Here are 4 of them:

The mozzarella salad:

Fresh Burrata mozzarella, vine-ripen tomatoes, basil, aged balsamico and extra virgin olive oil. Excellent, and light fresh. The mozzarella was very soft, tasty, and provided the richness to the veg.

The French Onion soup:

We found the soup to be a little too rich...almost sauce like...not too different from what is typically served in France, thick, rich, salty. But for our delicate palates...perhaps a bit too salty and sauce-like. If there was any disappointment, this was the only one. The croutons were covered in cheese and very crisp.

Kurobuta pork ragout:

This dish was supreme. The kurobuta pork cheeks were truly melt in your mouth, and cooked in the pappardelle sauce and mushrooms. The pork complements the sauce, the mushrooms supports the pork. Outstanding. No one ingredient stands out, and the whole is superb.

Seared tuna:

What seemed like several slices of very good sashimi grade tuna, seared slightly on the outside, but rare on the inside, and dressed in a soy based sauce. The taste reminded me of a Japanese interpretation, and the tuna was truly very good.

For mains, I had the confit du canard:

I have written quite a bit about confit du canard. Please see earlier entry for information on how it is cooked, my gold standard, and how some local outlets compare. See also my entry for Lolo Dad's in Manila for the Filipino take on this classical French dish.

As adviced by the waiter, the skin was only slightly crispy. And the meat a bit less salty than usual. I would have preferred a more crispy, more Maillarded skin. But found it to be quite enjoyable.

The meat was tender, soft, and tasty. There was little gamey flavour, and the chef was wise to have held back on the salt. In comparison, perhaps memory plays interesting tricks, the confit du canard was very similar to my Singapore gold standard set by Sebastian's, perhaps a tad saltier, and ta tad less crispy.

Ainie had the Iggy's burger with wagyu and white truffle sebayon. I somehow blotched the sharp pics. But this was a mini-burger, about 2 inch thick, 2 inch diameter. I had a small cut to taste, and it was excellent. The wagyu patty was very nicely done (medium), slightly crisp on the outside, nice, moist and almost rare at the core and smothered with the thick, almost solid sebayon sauce. Very nice.

Kin had the lamb:

Presented almost rare, the lamb loin was excellent, testament to the quality of the cut, and the care taken in the cooking. Very tender, Kin found the meat to be slightly gamey, but I found it perfect.

Desserts are always a welcome treat in the great restaurants. Iggy's did not disappoint.

The Souffle was wonderful:

The dough had risen significantly, and presented itself as superbly light. The souffle was served with a glass of frothy, iced pina colada and ice cream. Very nice.

An interestingly named Chocholate

A slab of very rich chocolate, with accompanying mascarpone ice cream with lime zest, and a wall of caramalized sugar. The chocolate was very rich, heavy tasting. Almost too rich for me, but would be perfect for chocholate lovers.

I had the French Toast

A small square of French Toast...done to perfection...bread, coated with a milk, egg mixture, deep fried to a crisp. Served with a chocolate cylinder and home made maple ice cream. This dish was quite heavenly.

Overall, this is a superb restaurant. Service was excellent, discrete, knowledgeable. The Assistant Manager Pawan was a gem. So is this Asia's No 1? Well, this is an impossible question to answer. Iggy's certainly one of the best, and I am certainly going to count on eating and recommending it more often.

The Regent Singapore
Level 3
1 Cuscaden Road
Tel: +65 6732 2234 (Restaurant)
Tel: +65 6732 5693 (Office)
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