Passard at the Sentosa
Alain Passard, my favorite chef in the world, visited to Singapore (again) earlier this month to showcase his culinary flair at the Sentosa, a member of Beaufort hotel group. Whenever I got a chance to savor his cuisine, I usually do it without any 2nd thought. However, this time was a bit different as I had attended the art of dining event at Sukhothai Bangkok in April this year in which Chef Passard was cooking there. The doubt was even more when I observed the menu - 70% of the dishes looked the same. Anyway, as a huge fan of his delicious yet light & clean cuisine, I decided to still go – not for one, but two events. I will share my experiences interchangeably between the farewell dinner and Sunday brunch buffet (may include a few contrasts to my meal at the Sukhothai).
The famous egg
Dinner: it’s a certain thing that you will begin with this dish whenever you eat Passard’s cooking. This was the first time I ate this hot-cold egg in which the egg yolk was a bit too dominant; the reason was that they did not put enough cream & vinegar as well as maple syrup to show some contrast of sourness, sweetness and thick yolk
Brunch: the same egg dish was perfectly fine and balanced – I saw the French lady cook meticulously prepared several eggs. I could clearly taste the sweet syrup and sour cream that mixed well with the yolk; seriously I ate 3 of them during the brunch
Dinner: the lobster was well cooked, but there were plenty of problems at the dish. 1stly, the kitchen put too much salt & pepper on top of the turnip – very salty. 2ndly, my lobster only had minimal sweet/sour dressing that I could hardly tasted it; this was an issue since the New Zealand lobster inherently was not that flavorful. 3rdly, after asking for additional sauce, it had a rather strong olive oil flavor and only a little hint of sweet & sour
Brunch: I was a bit surprised with uneveness from dinner, but again the good thing was that I had no issue on Sunday. The lobsters came from Brittany and Maine for the brunch and still alive. They put sufficient sauces which are balanced and no more salt/pepper – only a hint of rosemary, just nice. Basically, the lobster with sweet and sour sauce was great (I consumed 2 plates)
Talking about homards, I was very fortunate that Alain Passard offered me a couple special dishes that he himself prepared for me. In addition to the standard buffet lobster, I ate 2 whole blue lobsters cooked by the world’s best chef :)
1. Cooked with yellow wine sauce and served with smoked potatoes, fava beans and lobster's eggs – very delicious! This time chef Passard prepared the lobster with slightly stronger texture for the tail (the claw was more tender); the potato was nice though not at the level of the one from his garden. The wine sauce was just nice given it’s a rather last minute preparation – the one in L’Arpege was richer and tastier. Overall, still a very good dish and much better than any lobster dish you can get in Singapore restaurants
2. Grilled and served with lemon caviar (introducing a slight sour taste). The whole lobster was presented with its shell. Simple, but very tasty because the Brittany lobster is generally quite sweet. The key was to grill it with the right amount heat & time length to produce nice texture (not chewy) and brought out lobster’s inherent flavor
Some people looked at me and perhaps were a bit ‘jealous’ at first. But then, when Passard came to my table several times and we had a few chats, then they kinda understood that I was his “special friend” (bonjour, cava mon ami – that’s how he greeted me in both Bangkok and Singapore) and “regular” at L’Arpege. Passard also gave special treatment to another table consisting of his apprentice, Gunther with wife and his other friends.
Dinner: compared to the first 2 dishes, this was the most perfecty executed this. The pumpkin soup was creamy, sweet but not cloying. But there was a slight problem; for my taste, they simply put lots of pumpkin veloute. The ratio of the pumpkin vs speck chantily was about 70:30. The ‘ham foam’ that’s supposed to reduce and provide flavor contrast was overly dominated by the pumpkin. The cashew was too few as well – I asked for extra nuts; only then it generate the desired crunchiness
Bangkok: the La Scala team did a better job for this dish by putting 60:40 of pumpkin vs speck ratio. Furthermore, they also gave plenty of cashew nuts. This way, the intention of creating balanced dish with some texture & flavor contrast was achieved. Even better when you ate speck at Paris (served on top of veloute of green vegetables), it’s still like an “ice cream” and not that easily melt – some play with temperature contrast
I forgot to mention that you will not see any dishes pictures for dinner – the restaurant was very dark and my camera was not good enough. After several attempts, I finally gave up
Harlequin of vegetables
Dinner: Arpege’s signature veggie dish. Quality wise, it’s as good as the one I had in Bangkok – fresh and they all tasted like what they’re supposed to be. The only difference was the quantity: the one in Singapore was only about 2/3 of the size of the same dish served in Bangkok and fewer varieries – not sure if it related to the Singapore’s import restriction. In Bangkok, chef Passard even could use some of vegetables planted by the Royal family – the King’s eldest daughter was also reported to attend Passard’s dinner at the Sukhothai. This dish was not available at brunch; probably because of the rigorous preparation
Dinner: the fish is perfectly grilled and served with geranium oil and lemon caviar. The texture was nice and it’s clean at our palate. Generally, it’s quite difficult to produce great Lotte dish without any sauce – hence, I find this dish it’s inferior to other Passard’s monkfish dishes such as the one served with mustard emulsion & hazelnut oil (in Paris) or served with yellow wine sauce & royal cabbage (in Bangkok)
Brunch: while the preparation might not be as meticulous as the dinner’s dish, I kinda enjoyed the monkfish at brunch more. The grill fish was given some green tea seasoning on top and served with fava beans
Dinner: roasted duckling served with its juice, aubergine and carrot mousseline. While the duck was well seasoned, I didn’t really like it when they served it in thin slices (almost like the traditional duck pressed), moreover there was no skin at all. The duck jus was good, but again it’s only served too little that I had to ask for extra.
Brunch: since they sliced in front of you, I asked the hotel’s sous chef to make it a bit thicker and make sure to include some skin. I like the purple beets served on the sides, but they’re slightly overcook hence became soft – a nice beetroot should be somewhat crunchy. Overall, it’s not bad at all. My preference still to have the duck served with hibiscus sauce and l’orange
Brunch: Bresse chicken with savagnin wine was one of the dishes that ‘persuaded’ me to come for the Sunday buffet. The whole chicken looked inviting and one cook, brought from Paris, was dedicated at the poultry and monkfish station. He always cut the best part of either thigh or breast (yes, they ‘threw away’ plenty of chicken with edible wings). The verdict: the chicken was of good quality, but it lacks in seasoning especially the meat part. It’s hardly salty and had no salted buttery flavor at the meat – only the skin was good. The sauce was warm and quite fragrant, yet not that flavorful and rich.
Dinner & brunch: Alain Passard loves making classic dessert with innovative/exotic flavors. This time was celeriac creme brulee – it was smooth with the right sweetness. I found that the black chocolate actually a bit hurt & messing up the creme brulee. At brunch, I decided to savor it again without the chocolate sauce and it was very good. Previously, I ate beetroot creme brulee in Bangkok and lemongrass flavor in Paris – both were equally tasty and interesting. Macaroons in L’Arpege also had unique taste such as with tomato and basil flavors.
Red fruits and hibiscus soup
Brunch: this was arguably the worst among “special dishes”. Honestly, I doubt Chef Passard guided/checked this dish. The fruits were average berries you can get in Singapore – definitely not the Japanese kind of fruits; worse was the hibiscus syrup – very sour, almost no sweetness and intense flavor. I can judge this with confidence because I had this dessert in L’Arpege previously that had been better than the one at the brunch
Dinner & brunch: this caramelized tomato was consistent. The strong flavored tomato stuffed with 12 items was balanced with soft and not so sweet vanilla ice cream. It would be awesome if Passard someday could present his famous millefeuille during his overseas trip as guest chef
During the Sunday brunch, besides Passard dishes, there were plenty other food to eat as well. For instance, I also savored the foie gras cooked a la minute but it was not good – the liver was dry; it got no rich and buttery flavor. The parma ham with rock melon was ok. I was too full to try the raw seafood items, salads, indian food section, and several different cheeses. The free flow of alcohol at 40s++ was quite a good value of money I think; I tasted all the wines except for the port.
I truly enjoyed another meal and meeting with Alain Passard even though it’s probably my ‘weakest’ meals among chef Passard’s cooking outside Paris – referring to the dinner. I remembered during the Raffles food & wine event and Sukhothai art of dining, I saw plenty of managers + waiters in the dining room and chefs + cooks at the kitchen – they brought and dedicated the hotel’s best resources for the event’s success. The dinner at the Cliff, on the contrary, did not put the same effort .. it seemed that they only used that outlet’s resources.
The most memorable part was of course the lobster dishes cooked by the master himself (during brunch) as well as some friendly conversations I had with him. I really wish I could return to L’Arpege, but with a married life and a baby – it could be quite challenging. I really appreciated when the chef said it was fine for me to bring my toddler to his restaurant in the future. I jokingly said probably we could sit at the “cave” downstair – quieter section, but he quickly responded: no, we are allowed to sit at the main dining room even with little kids. A great gesture by world’s best chef who almost always at the kitchen whenever you visit his one and only restaurant near Musee Rodin. Here are the pictures (from the brunch only)
"Some people looked at me and perhaps were a bit ‘jealous’ at first. But then, when Passard came to my table several times and we had a few chats, then they kinda understood that I was his “special friend” (bonjour, cava mon ami – that’s how he greeted me in both Bangkok and Singapore)
You ARE gloating, aren't you?
Nice to see the old fella still active traveling around! I first ate at his place 'years' ago in Paris when Le Figaro just discovered this rising star and at that time he was only a Michelin 1* and really value for money!! Eating my way thru his 2 and 3 stars journey! Now, saving my money for other rising stars!!
re: Charles Yu
Sounds great Charles
I only began eating at his place in '06 - the early years of my gastronomy experience
How was it in those days (prior 3-star periods)?
Did you get the chance to eat Passard's roasted red meat? I heard he's the master in that area ...
Lastly, who's French brightest 3-star prospects in the next 5 years? Some talented chefs but may not go to fine dining paths, I think: Bertrand grebaut (Septime), Inaki aizpitarte, David toutain (l'Agape)
Great report, Bu Pun Su. I was there for the "opening night" champagne dinner and it's nice to see I wasn't the only hound there that week!
I can't address every single point in your excellent post, but I need to make three comments. Firstly, the carrot mousseline was WAY too sweet, and the aubergine purée was WAY too smoky, almost like walking through a burnt-out forest without protective gear. I could see what Passard was trying to do in both instances but for me and my companions, the execution fell short. First day teething problems, perhaps?
Secondly, I think the chocolate sauce (with the celeriac crème brûlée) was intended to synergise with a wine match, which I think (I don't have my notes with me at the moment) was the Duval-Leroy Lady Rose. I can see how if you had it naked that you wouldn't have had the impact, but the pairing brought out a lot of berry notes and complexity in the chocolate.
Thirdly, I was having second thoughts about attending as I knew that Passard wouldn't be shipping in his own vegetables and other ingredients for the dinner. But it was a pretty good dinner by any standard and I was glad I had the chance to try his cooking.
re: Julian Teoh
Thanks for reading
It's true that the duck's side dishes as you mentioned above did not really work in harmony with the main ingredient. I was also told that Passard changed a few things as the events went - that's why for my dinner, there was not any beetroot on my duck (different from the one at the initial menu)
Thanks for pointing about the wine-pairing aspect. You're probably spot-on. Because when chef Passard made his creme brulee with exotic flavors in the past, there was not any additional sauce - he likes creating clean dish in which the flavor mainly comes from within (the main ingredient)
I dare to come because of his success of bringing in plenty of his garden vegetables to Thailand - I expected he could do the same. I could see it in the Arlequin of vegetables - fresh, with a few color, texture and flavor contrast. But from the small portion of arlequin dish and some side dishes, I assumed there's some restriction imposed by Singapore AVA