The Mitchell Lin Guide: Joel Robuchon

A re-review of Singapore's only 3-Michelin-starred restaurant
by JUNK
Mitchell LinJune 3, 2018
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Restaurant

Joel Robuchon

 Cuisine

French Fine Dining

What Mitchell Lin says...

“The alternative to a meal of this complexity is not another meal, it is a cheap regional weekend holiday. Judged this way, this breathtaking culinary effort starts to make sense.”

Best for…

Celebrations, snobs

Worst for…

Small eaters, perfectionists, snobs

The Food

Pour Commencer (To Begin)

The Degustation menu, the most extensive option, opens with a selection from the astounding bread trolley, served with a magnificent curl of glistening French butter. Ditch the low-carb diet and let the chestnut bread bring a huge smile to your face. This is closely followed by Le Caviar, a generous “commencer” of caviar and king crab on crustacean jelly. In terms of taste, it is perfectly judged, but it could also have been served a little colder.

1st – 4th Service

Only now, after your hunger pangs have been sated, does the meal gets into full swing. The first four appetisers arrived as a gentle onslaught, with each service alternating between land and sea. While some dishes stood out more than others, there’s no mistaking that this is a glowing procession of food featuring ingredients from the canon of French cooking.

Expect flavour, texture and a flair for surprise. The La Cuisse de Grenouille, literally, the frog leg, is an exquisite single bite. The scampi ravioli, poetically dubbed La Langoustine, has a fresh snap as it yields to the knife.

The black truffle chicken broth, La Bouillon de Poule, hides a daikon confit ravioli smaller than the size of your last finger nail, which adds an unexpected, umami hit of what tastes like earthy, strong cheese. Every dish is an almost intoxicating display of elaborate culinary finesse. But then, you clock the inedible objet d’art, a dish of seashells and glass stones, and your food-fogged brain goes, “Huh?? Why so fail? Shouldn’t this go in the toilet?”

Main Course

Billed as a “classical main course”, the climax of this decadent meal is Le Beouf, which is described as a chateaubriand et foie gras done “Rossini” style. What it is: a rolled and tied portion of tenderloin and foie gras, which arrives with a smoking sprig of rosemary in a closed cast iron pot. Every tender, subtly seasoned morsel of meat and foie deserves to be precisely meted out in order to maximise this experience. You don’t want to rush this. But if you can’t help yourself and gobble it down like we did, you’ll find the subsequent foie-induced brain-ache a glorious way to learn to love regret.

Desserts

To close the meal, you are sent down a whirlpool of a cleansing sorbet, then a final, langorous dessert service that includes: three portions of dessert (one presented like a Fly Agaric mushroom, but disappointingly not trippy on consumption); the magnificent cake trolley, which bears the best pear frangipane tart you’re likely to have ever eaten; the petit four trolley; and finally a hot beverage.

Three hours and 22 portions of food later, you are slumped in the banquette, looking full and feeling a bit muted. The meal was a wonder, but alas, points lost due to patchy service and a tacky dining room (see below). At this lofty price point you expect nothing less than perfection and Joel Robuchon falls short.

The Extras

Ambience

Which makes it all the more regrettable that the ambience is a problem. The chaotic dining room has a design aesthetic that is a collision of “Asian casino chintz” and “generic modern hospitality”. The lighting is largely flat and unflattering, and you can see and hear every person around you. The reproduction tree in the middle of the conservatory has all the charm of an embalmed person in the artificial lighting. And the final nail in the coffin is the use of LED tea lights in the cut glass table lamps – you know, the sort you bought from DIY shops and impressed your friends with at your BBQ in 2005. That’s half a kueh tutu gone.

Overheard

“I love French butter!”
“… in Montenegro.”
“He’s an ACS boy too!”

Service

Another half a kueh tutu is lost due to the service, which was a mixed bag. As diners, all we expect is professional consistency, not a selection of personalities. Don’t confuse aloofness for professionalism; similarly, don’t confuse friendliness for professionalism, either. The sommelier was hamming it up so much, we ended up half-convinced he was actually an impostor pretending to be a sommelier for the night. Too much, by a mile.

Price

$$$$$$$$$$

You baulk at the price, but by the end of the meal and, despite the shortcomings, it crosses your mind that you might do it all over again. We would, but that is unlikely as – at the point of writing – this outlet is sadly due to close.

 
 

Read the rest of the Mitchell Lin Guide here.

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