I got off at the Supreme Court Wing with an important appointment to attend. The massive Corinthian columns, towering dome, and classic architectural details stood proud and distinguished against a moonlit evening sky.
This Old Supreme Court Building/ former courthouse in Singapore was the last classical (architectural style) structure built in the former British colony. Despite its new life from 2015 as the the National Art Gallery of Singapore, walking past the uniformed guards through the daunting hallways, high-ceiling walls, and police post evokes the sense of history, power, and bureacracy that used to permeate these spaces.
My appointment was at the end of this lobby hall that dwarfs anyone who traipses across:
Beyond the high wooden French doors is Odette. Two years. Two Michelin Stars. Yes, this would be an appropriate setting for such meticulously prepared meals with craftsmanship of the highest standard using the latest trends in high falluting technology and methodologies of global renown.
Closer up, the small typeset of letters ODETTE beside the entrance is in contrast, unintimidating. Beyond the doors, unevenly-shaped slabs of polished marble floors amidst a rhythm of subdued rose hues in tastefully decorated interiors give a warm and cozy, gracious and welcoming aura. On the largest marble slab, the gold letters O-D-E-T-T-E do not sit on a conventional straight line but playfully make their mark. They remind me of notes on a music sheet.
A welcome card at the table from Chef Julien Royer transports you to his roots… four generations of farmers “foraging and harvesting” in their own backyards with a Pocahontas affinity and appreciation for the earth’s bounty. Family… Authenticity… Joy and Love through Food… Excite the Palate… Fill the Heart… “I owe everything I am to my family, especially my grandmother, Odette.” Honor for his grandmother through his cuisine and even more prominently, through the restaurant name itself. Doesn’t this just warm your heart?
“She showed me how most remarkable dishes can come from the simplest ingredients… Terroir to table, heart to plate.”
Two Menu Choices. Chef had me at “Jerusalem Artichoke.” Vegetarian it was.
Instead of the set Wine Pairing for the Vegetarian Menu, I asked for a “light and sweet” aperitif. Very nice… Too nice!
In the section framing the open kitchen, odd-shaped pieces that look like little cut up pieces of mushrooms, flowers petals, chocolates, and other ingredients hang from the ceiling reminiscent of the objects hanging from a nursery mobile that visually stimulate and entertain a baby on a crib. It reminds me of the opening credits to a Pathé movie.
The subtle clues of playfulness and novel creativity lathered with Gewürztraminer bubbles cleansed stiff reservations in favor of childlike anticipation from front row orchestra, the action up close.
On center stage, the heart of the restaurant was engaged in lively activity. Chef Julian and his team mixed, whisked, scooped, poured, tonged, carried, patted, peeled, torched, peppered, shook, ground, grated, tasted, piled, plated, whispered, shouted. The spoons, pans, tongs, knives, timers, graters, torches— even falling trays— were like instruments for an ensemble. There is no small role. Each contributes to the beautiful symphony whose yield was transformed into an edible bouquet for all your senses.
Every now and then, Chef Julian took a microbreak to see if guests enjoyed the fruit of their work.
Amuse Bouche: Smoked Aubergine Puree in Mediterranean Pita Bread; Olive Oil Sable with Black Charcoal and 24-monthComte Cheese and Balsamic Vinegar; Gingerbread with Corn Mousse:
Cèpes Tea (with Rosemary) in a Tea Press serves as the broth for a bowl of sabayon with buckwheat and Enoki mushrooms, served with brioche for dipping. The dried cèpes and a teabag labelled “Mushroom Tea” accompany the mushroom-carved wood tray.
Bread and Butter: Truffle Brioche, Sourdough Rye, Chestnut Milk Bun with Seaweed Butter and Nonpasteurized Salted Butter:
AVOCADO ‘AU NATUREL’: Pumpkin seeds, Freeze dried apple, Verjus (unripe grape) Sorbet
JERUSALEM ARTICHOKE: Caramelized Yogurt, Nori (seaweed) Granola, Red Oxalis (flower)
HEIRLOOM BEETROOT VARIATION: Salt-baked Beetroot, Stracciatella Artigiana Cheese, Organic Honeycomb:
ROSEMARY SMOKED ORGANIC EGG: Smoked Potato Syphon, Black Truffle Coulis, Meunière
AUTUMN GARDEN: Mushroom Ketchup, Root Vegetables, Hazelnuts
ORGANIC CARROT COMPOSITION: Couscous ‘Oriental,’ Iranian Saffron, Argan Oil
RED KURI SQUASH RAVIOLI: Smoked Cévennes (South Central France Mountains) Onion, Grey Chanterelles Fricassée, Corsican Brocciu (French Cheese)
Just Launched this Evening:
‘EXOTIC’ CHOCOLATE (70% Caribe Venezuelan Chocolate) with Passionfruit, Banana, Coconut
Optional Cheese Plate:
Petits Fours: A treat from each layer of a nesting jar: Lychee Sorbet in White Chocolate Lollipop with dots of Raspberry Coulis, Caramel Square, Baby Choux, and the most perfect Canelé:
Take Home Gift: Distinctively wrapped Redcurrant Jam “souvenir d’enfance (childhood memory),” recipe of Chef Julian’s grandmother, Odette.
Someone asked why I would eat alone at Odette. I couldn’t have imagined enjoying as much as I did if I had to carry a conversation. It was my night at the theater where the star was the food under Director Chef Julian’s wing.
When you have the liberty to gaze at the tiny white flower nestled atop the blood orange’s crowning sorbet for as long as you like; see exquisite art in different forms of beet on a salad; smell the rousing smoked rosemary as it envelopes you; taste the integrity of individual ingredients and then in harmony or contrast with others and catch the surprise burst of flavor; hear the crunch and crisp of nuts and pastry shells along with the reality kitchen life sounds; touch and inhale the cèpes as you sip its tea with your sabayon… company might as well be reserved for a night of when you just need to feed your stomach, not your heart and soul.
It takes imagination, ingenuity, prowess, and passion to bring out the range of flavors (in Chef Julian’s words) “of all that Mother Nature has to offer” not only to feed and nourish but to sustain, refresh, delight, fascinate, and rediscover with renewed appreciation.
The shared gastronomic journey at Odette successfully marries Michelin craftsmanship with heart to transform food into love on a plate.