Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Of Silk, figs, and Andre

This past Sunday was our 12th wedding anniversary, which is also known as the silk anniversary. I only found out about this via an internet search when a friend asked which anniversary is the 12th. As it happened, one of the presents that I got for hubby is a silk tie, so it’s totally in sync with the theme!

Two days before our anniversary I received a tip from a chef friend that my local supermarket just got a shipment of super sweet Turkish figs. The next morning I rushed over to said supermarket and bought four packets. I love figs, but only if they’re sweet and actually taste of figs. Often times even when they are ripe they have a watered down non-descript taste that won’t excite anyone. These ones were very sweet, with intense fig flavors.

Hidemi Sugino has a fig tartlet that I have never been able to try, because I somehow always go to Tokyo when figs are most definitely not in season, like in the dead of winter. So naturally the first thing that popped into my head was to make the fig tartlets. As far as Hidemi Sugino recipes go, this is one of the easiest ones, all you have to do is to find good figs. For the first time, I’ll share his recipe on my blog with you guys, because it's not too long to translate. You’ll need to either know or look up some of the basic techniques, since I’m too lazy to type it out, but it should be fairly easy to google and find out. So here it goes.

Tartelette aux figues (makes 12x 7cm tartlets)

Pate sucree:
90g unsalted butter at RT
60g icing sugar
30g whole egg
20g almond powder
150g light flower

crème patissiere:

250g milk

55g caster sugar

¼ vanilla bean

50g egg yolk

12g light flour

12g corn starch

Crème d’amandes
40g unsalted butter at RT
40g icing sugar
40g whole egg
40g almond powder

6 large figs


30B syrup (130g sugar +100g water)

crème Chantilly

Apricot jam
Raspberry jam

1. Make pate sucree and chill in fridge

2. Make crème patissiere and chill in fridge (steps 1 & 2 can be done the day before)

3. Roll dough out and fit into tartlet pans, rest in fridge while making crème frangipane

4. Make crème frangipane by whisking together crème d’amandes and crème patissiere

5. Take tartlet shells out of fridge, use another tartlet pan to press dough down, then prick with a fork a few times.

6. Pipe about 25g of crème frangipane into each tartlet pan and let rest in fridge for 30 minutes

7. Meanwhile, slice each fig into 16 slices, removing skin only after you’ve sliced them, one slice at a time. This took me almost an hour, but it results in neater outside edges, so it’s worth it.

8. Arrange slices on a tray and sprinkle granule sugar on it (how much sugar depends on how sweet your figs are), then sprinkle with kirsch. Chill in fridge for 30 min

9. Bake tartlets at 170C for about 15-20 minutes, until crème frangipane is a dark golden brown

10. Remove tartlets from pans and cool.

11. Whip up crème Chantilly to very stiff peak. You’ll need about 20g for each tartlet

12. Mix together 20g of 30B syrup, 10g water and 12g kirsch. Brush onto top of tartlet, let syrup soak in

13. Spread a layer of raspberry jam onto the baked tartlet, then pipe a mound of Chantilly on top.

14. Arrange 8 slices of figs in an overlapping pattern onto each tartlet

15. Heat 50g apricot jam and 10g kirsch in a small saucepan until fluid. Brush onto cut surfaces of figs

16. Top each tartlet with a raspberry and you’re done!

We had some of this for dessert the day before our anniversary and gave some away to friends when hubby went to play tennis with them, but our real celebration was the dinner at chef Andre Chiang’s eponymous restaurant Andre. I liked his cooking when he was helming Jaan at the top of Swissotel, but somehow never got around to trying his own place since he opened it about a year ago.  I made the booking more than a month ago because it is F1 week in Singapore and it never hurts to be prepared.

The front of the restaurant was so inconspicuous that I missed it the first time and had to double back and drive down a short stretch the wrong way to get back. Good thing Sunday night traffic is light in this part of the town. The restaurant has the feel of a house. Off to the side on the first floor is a small sitting area, but we were led to the second floor dining room. The space has the clean modern feel of a French house. One side of the wall has black and white wall papers of a little forest, and sheep clad in suede are used as bag stools.

Hubby chose the wine pairing, as it is too tiring to try to pick out wines that will go with most of the eight-course meal, especially since I don’t drink. I notice most other guests opt for this lazy option as well.

Before we start we were treated to a quartet of palate cleansers: “fish and chips”, “popcorn”, some silvery fish slices on a crisp cracker served with porcini chips and Andre’s signature chicken skin chips.

His eight-course menu is based on his “octophilosophy”, the concept of which is highlighted in the link above, so I shall not repeat it here.

The first course is Pure, which was scallop ravioli, chives& dill flower in purple cauliflower consume. Very little seasoning was used and the fragrance of the dill flowers ties everything together nicely.

Next came Salt: French oyster wrapped in Japanese seaweed, served granny smith foam. The dish was decorated with tiny cubes of cucumbers and apples. No salt was added, only the saltiness from the oyster provided seasoning.


The third course was Artisan - Kyoto eggplant topped with caviar, served with a savory crème Anglaise sauce sprinkled with hazelnut shavings and fried burdock roots (gobou). The savory crème Anglaise was a nice twist and the fried gobou brought a nice contrast to an otherwise creamy dish. To top it all off, the dish on which this course was served is designed by chef Andre.

The next course is named South and pays homage to chef Andre’s time spent in the south of France, close to the Mediterranean . It consists of flounder with tomato & white peaches, and tomato sorbet in one dish. Uni risotto and blue crab foam in a second dish. The risotto was probably one of the best I’ve ever tasted, done to perfection with just the right amount of bite to it and is perfectly flavoured with the uni sauce.

Texture came next and is squid "arborio rice" with charcoal rice crackers. The “rice” is actually squid and tasted much better than my chicken substitute. I usually don’t like squid because of the chewy texture, but here the texture is completely changed, and I find myself wishing I had stuck to the original dish.

The sixth course is Unique, and here the unique ingredient is French artichoke. The dish was stuffed baby barracuda, French artichoke and artichoke foam. To be perfectly honest I felt that the artichoke was rather tasteless on its own, however the sauce was so robust and the stuffed baby barracuda so tender that they saved the dish. I just felt that to be THE unique ingredient in the “unique” course, the artichoke should’ve taken a more front row seat.

The next course was “memory” and it was a dish that Andre has always kept on his menu, with different variations. Tonight it’s a baked foie gras jelly with black truffle glaze. The “jelly” contains egg white and has the silky consistency of a well-executed chawanmushi, and the black truffle glaze was so fragrant that even later, when the next table had the dish we could smell it. Although hubby thought it was a great dish and I loved it too at first, ultimately I felt that either the portion was too big, or it needed an accompaniment to cut down on the richness, like a champagne jelly or something similar.

Our final course was “terroir”, although in our case it’s something from the sky: French pigeon with pigeon jus, pea purée & potato gnocchi. I was still recovering from the last dish and found the pigeon a little too gamey for my taste, although to be honest it was a perfectly cooked pigeon, with just a hint of pinkness in the centre, so Hubby was more than happy to finish my portion for me.

Before dessert, we cleansed our palate with mini marshmallow, strawberry granita & yogurt jelly in a cute little pot. Dessert was chocolate sponge, which really looked like a piece of sponge; soft chocolate sphere filled with warm chocolate ganache, and burned butter ice cream. I’ve always found restaurant desserts boring and this was no exception. I think it was my least favourite course of the entire evening, but I guess nobody is perfect.

When my latte came the waitress apologetically said something about “please be careful, the cup is designed by chef Andre and the shape is a little strange” and indeed it was. The cup was more of an irregular rectangle rather than a round, and hubby immediately commented that he could’ve made one just like that. It wasn’t until I picked it up that I realized the bottom was not flat. Good thing I didn’t try to set it down on the table!

We rounded off our meal with some French figs, popcorns that “pop” in your mouth, passion fruit marshmallow and honey hazelnut Madeline. All in all, it was a very memorable meal. I’ve heard mixed reviews about Andre but we felt this was the most exciting meal we’ve had in Singapore in years. I think chef Andre is a creative genius and is really setting new standards for all restaurants in our little dot on the map. So hats off to him!


Cindy said...

Oh great, you updated the blog! Been a loyal silent reader of this blog for quite sometime, and really miss your writing! Do write more often :) I really enjoy reading them..

Lynn said...

Thanks, Cindy for dropping by and for being so patient. I really appreciate that!

Caro said...

I really enjoy reading your blog. Its been a while. 8 courses wow. I think I'd have trouble eating everything of all 8 of the courses.

Lynn said...

Thank you, Caro. I know I've been very lazy =o(