Corner House | Singapore | Jan ’15 | “kiam siap”

24 Jan
  • Rating: 12/20
  • Address: E J H Corner House, Singapore Botanic Gardens, 1 Cluny Road, Singapore 259569
  • Phone: +65 6469 1000
  • Price: SGD140 (USD112 at 1 SGD = 0.8 USD)
  • Value: 1/5
  • Chef: Jason Tan

 

2015-01-22 20.16.22 2015-01-22 20.16.32

The first word that comes to mind for Chef Jason Tan’s cooking at Corner House is miserly (or in Singlish, kiam siap). For the privilege of paying a $18 upcharge for a starter on top of SGD98 for a 4-course tasting menu, you may have the pleasure of dining on half a cabarinero prawn, topped with two grains of caviar. You may also have the pleasure of dining on 3 small slices of foie for your second course.

Now, assuming this isn’t all cynical cost-cutting, and some of it is rooted in kitchen philosophy – I deplore this style of micro-cooking. Since Restaurant Andre is the tua tow (in many ways) in Singapore fine-dining, chefs are copying his style of micro-cooking – putting about 3 cubic inches of food on a plate and smearing it around to create a dish that’s literally and figuratively a mile wide and an inch deep.

I am starting to feel deeply that micro-cooking is a cop-out by chefs. Any ingredient, in small enough doses, can be found pleasant. In putting a hundred different dish components, on the dish, one gets with a fork a matchstick of fish, and it is decent enough… a sprinkling of black garlic soil… which is decent enough… some foam… which is decent enough, and the diner, who is left unsatisfied in his stomach, is tricked in his mind to think that the whole is a good dish, because rationally, a bunch of decent preparations must add up to a good dish. Unfortunately, the synthesis is not done on the plate (which is the job of a chef), but rather in the mind of the diner.

I want to highlight that this is not an untalented chef. Far from it. A NZ cod with vin jaune and fresh vegetables had a perfectly crisp skin. It was one of two times when the portion sizes in the meal were generous, and the crisped skin was a delicious counterpoint to the fatty cod, perfectly done. It was a great example of technique and composition, worthy of a Singapore Bocuse d’Or winner and someone with experience at Macau’s 3* Robuchon a Galera (now Robuchon au Dome). But Chef Jason Tan is going down the wrong path with Andre-style micro-cooking.

Micro-cooking is the chef’s expression at the expense of the diner’s satisfaction, who yearns for a substantial taste. The majority of customers who come to visit a micro-cooking restaurant are hit-and-run tourists, or perhaps people who will try it once. Does the chef want to cook for these hit-and-run gastro-tourists, or a more regular clientele? I speak for myself: the restaurants I like to frequent cook a limited set of dishes, and do them well. As well, if you are going to charge big-ticket prices, then your portion sizes must be equal to your prices. Either serve a lot of a little, or a little of a lot. Corner House follows the minimalist philosophy – a little of a little. The amount of Carabineros prawn  I was served (for a SGD18 surcharge) was cynically minute. It would be called an amuse-bouche at other restaurants.

Ingredients here are questionable in quality. The carabinero prawn, expensively imported from “Western Spain”, was sous-vide to the texture of mushy cardboard. It was not very flavorful as well, only possessing an anemic general prawny savoriness. (It reminded me of prawn salad I had on Singapore Airlines) The foie was also not very good. Tough and not fatty, the addition of black sesame tuile and mango sauce didn’t elevate the composition.

Why then, does Andre succeed? Two possible reasons: One, he has managed to win the publicity game, getting his restaurant highly ranked on the Worlds 50 Best and Asia’s 50 Best – this is due to him being equal parts personality and chef. Two, Andre only serves the full tasting menu, and serves 15-20 little courses. My 4 course option was culled from a full tasting menu. I would suggest that the restaurant either cooks a larger portion for the 4 courses, or eliminates the option altogether. It is a bit like Apple offering a 16GB iPhone 6. A 16GB iPhone 6 doesn’t have enough space for the full ecosystem of Apple apps, and the buyer, having paid a reasonably large sum of money, leaves dissatisfied. No one wins, Apple and 16GB iPhone owner, Jason Tan’s Corner House and his 4-course diner.

One cannot fault the service here. Gracious and complementary, the manager took my criticisms in good spirit. It was nice to be driven around in a buggy to our taxi. And the pistachio financiers at the end of the meal were good. The baguettes here were also quite good. Crusty, which is 80% of the baguette battle.

I believe Chef Jason Tan would be better off focusing his energies on creating more dishes like the cod, and not miserly “avant-garde micro-cooking. “Eh, don’t kiam siap can or not?” [1]

[1] kiam siap = (Singlish/Hokkien) stingy.


Other review:


 

2015-01-22 20.18.12 2015-01-22 20.21.02 2015-01-22 20.23.10 2015-01-22 20.29.21 2015-01-22 20.33.26 2015-01-22 20.36.58 2015-01-22 20.39.35

  • Gruyere cheese sponge, macadamia-honey biscuit.
    • Okay. 3/5

2015-01-22 20.39.48

  • Norwegian salmon sous-vide, yellow pepper coulis
    • Okay. 3.25/5

2015-01-22 20.47.53 2015-01-22 20.49.36

  • Carabinero prawn, variation of best season tomato, vintage sherry
    • Alright. 3.5/5
    • Prawn, sous-vide.Texture mushy.
    • Flavor. Anemic. The general savory mild saline available to any prawn was the dominant note.
    • Tomatoes in 3 ways, but didn’t affect the dish – (freshly sliced, basil honey lemon juice, plum juice)
    • What was on the plate was not even one whole prawn. Rather miserly.

2015-01-22 20.49.17

  • Beetroot Collection, smoked eel, 24-month Comté, horseradish, walnut and black garlic
    • The perfect expression of micro-cooking. A dish a mile wide and an inch deep
    • From what I tried, the ingredients were barely genial on their own, and any synthesis of deliciousness was not on the plate but in the mind’s eye of the diner


2015-01-22 21.04.032015-01-22 21.03.40

2015-01-22 21.07.51

 

  • Foie Gras à la Chinoise, mango duo preparation with ginger flower
    • 2.75/5
    • A disaster. Poor-quality, tough foie, discordant with mango and sesame tuile

2015-01-22 21.04.33

  • 62 degree Farm Egg, variation of oignon doux des Cevennes, noisette Crouton
    • Decent. Foam was a bit too sweet

2015-01-22 21.22.23 2015-01-22 21.26.48

  • New Zealand Cod “Crispy Scales” petit vegetables, smoked vin jaune sabayon
    • 4.75/5
    • As we excoriate the disasters, we should celebrate the excellent. A sheet of crisped scales, perfectly done, atop a generous slab of fatty cod, moist inside. This was truly delicious
    • Below, a bed of peas, carrots, cabbages, potato, and the vin jaune sabayon
    • A sprig of shiso flowers (or hanaho) gave it a refreshing taste, though it wasn’t strictly needed
    • This was similar to the crisped Amadai I had in October at JAAN, down to the composition with the sprig of hanaho. Pressed, I would say that Chef Jason Tan’s version was even better than what I had at JAAN in October, though he has the benefit of the fattier fish (cod vs amadai)

2015-01-22 21.23.07

  • Hungarian mangalitsa pork, peach, wasonbon, ginger, endives, apple gel, natural jus
    • From what I had: The crust was a bit soggy, and the elements didn’t come together,. the virtues of the meat were not improved much by cooking.

2015-01-22 21.45.36

  • Palate cleanser: Passionfruit jelly, pineapple braised in star anise, sago with cardamom, riesling, sweet basil sorbet

2015-01-22 21.54.27 2015-01-22 21.54.30 2015-01-22 21.54.43

  • My Interpretation of Kaya Toast: pandan ,coconut, gula melaka, muscovado sablé, and yuzu
    • Buckwheat tuile, Malibu rum, Normandy shortbread, hazelnut snow (yuzu meringue)
    • Not bad. The kaya was in the peripheral dots. I presume the Malibu rum was supposed to provide the kaya (coconut jam) flavor, but the chilled cream between the discs did not taste much of coconut – so the “kaya toast” effect was lost.  (4/5)

2015-01-22 21.54.36 2015-01-22 21.59.26

  • Chocolat:: Manjari, framboise, Malabar black pepper
    • The tart, rich with chocolate cream, was heavy on the digestion. Raspberry

2015-01-22 23.05.08

  • Pistachio financiers

2 Responses to “Corner House | Singapore | Jan ’15 | “kiam siap””

  1. Another JT January 26, 2015 at 4:47 pm #

    I love the “JT” monogrammed plates, hubris is just a Flaming Meaux away!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Bo Innovation | Hong Kong | Jul ’14 | Kenneth Tiong eats - February 14, 2015

    […] [Corner House in Singapore also serves a adaptation of this tomato and marshmallow dish] […]

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