Monday, 5 February 2018

Review of Lerouy, Stanley Street, Singapore - Big Flavour at Moderate Prices

After my St Regis Afternoon Tea Experience, I was feeling incredibly baller.  So I caught an Grab into town, for dinner at Christophe Lerouy's eponymous new restaurant, Lerouy on Stanley Street.


Christophe Lerouy was formerly the executive chef at Alma by Juan Amador, and the chef responsible for bringing Alma its first "Michelin" star in the inaugural edition of the Little Red Book.  He left soon after to start up DSTLLRY by Christophe Lerouy, a mouthful of a name which may actually have been worth the trouble had it meant anything.  For reasons unknown to me, DSTLLRY soon closed down, and with a couple of new partners in Chefs Willin Low and Gwen Lim, Lerouy set up Lerouy in a shophouse on Stanley Street.

My Burgundy wine supplier and longtime friend William Chong had been a big champion of Lerouy's cooking since DSTLLRY days, so with a free evening on my hands, I asked the Executioner to join me.  He promised to get there as soon as he could, but he had a backlog of drug mules to put away so he might be a little late.  Occasional occupational hazard, he said.  I just shrugged.

So we got to Lerouy, and it is a modern and attractive space, if a little puzzling.  Picture a rectangular room, with a squiggle-shaped counter threading its way down the middle of the room, seats on the left and the open kitchen on the right.  Nice formation if you are out with your date / partner and want to cuddle up in public, completely impractical in a larger group.

At dinner time, Lerouy offers a 5-course menu for $98++ and a 7-course menu for $128++, which is actually pretty affordable by Singapore standards for food cooked by a chef of his calibre.  The Executioner was feeling rather hungry after catching up with his backlog, so we both opt for the 7-course menu.

The wine list is a very brief document on an iPad.  As we had just returned from a trip to Alsace, we opt for a glass each of a Riesling from the Vignoble des Deux Lunes in Wettolsheim.  We had excellent tastings with Barmes-Buecher and Albert Mann just down the road in the same village, and this Riesling is quite enjoyable even without the pedigree and minerality of those produced by its more vaunted neighbours.

First Canape: Squid Ink Crisp, Seafood Mousse, Sea Asparagus, Cured Egg Yolk, Ikura


A very dramatic presentation on the plate / cloth, and the components gel perfectly.  Crisp, crunch, creaminess and pop all in the same mouthful.  And it tastes pretty good too. Excellent.

Canape 2: Rice Puff, Red Pepper Tahini, Sausage and Goat Cheese


Impressive presentation, but the "tahini" is way too spicy and overwhelms all the other components in the dish.  And I am saying this as a guy who loves spicy food and has enjoyed Malay, South Indian and Szechuan food since the year dot.  Disappointing.

First Course: Kohlrabi with Raw and Dried Scallop, Dashi Broth, Parmesan Foam, Chive Oil


A strong start to the menu proper.  The scallops, it must be said, are very subtle, and the star of the show is really the kohlrabi.  The parmesan foam is a distraction, but the dashi broth and chive oil leave the impression of the faintest whiff of greenery, and a profound calm and tranquility on the palate.  Good, and the Riesling provides a lovely accompaniment.

Second Course: Japanese Oyster, Pear Gel, Onion Miso, Comté Sabayon


Layers and layers of flavour envelop your palate with this dish, the brininess of the oyster, the umami of the miso and the sheer complexity of the comte, given an effervescence with the use of a frothy sabayon as a medium. Very good.

Third Course: Baked Cabbage, Pork Skin, French Sauce, Garlic, Pesto

I didn't take a photo of this one, but if you can imagine a segment of cabbage flamed under a hand-held torch and dressed with a creamy sauce, you get the idea.  This is the first miss of the night, and I really wasn't sure what was going on with this dish.  Disappointing.

Fourth Course: Tiger Prawn, Pistachio, Yuzu, Cauliflower


I really like this dish.  I love pistachios, ergo I love the pistachio-based sauce, and the white squiggly line across the plates tastes like champignons marinated in yuzu juice, adding a nice meaty yet acidic component to the dish.  The prawns are fresh and well-cooked.  Very good.

Fifth Course: Toothfish, Pickle, Pomelo, Miso and Chive


When this dish is put in front of me, I marvel yet again at Lerouy's plating.  Like an artist, he make the subject of the painting stand out from the background with a strong contrast in colours, but he achieves this effect not by a contrast against the colour of the plate (a steak and sauce against a pure white plate would be the most obvious example) but against a background painted in sauce.  And much like a couple of the previous dishes, this dish is another assault on the old tastebuds.  The poor toothfish is lost somewhere in the mix of acidity (pickle and "pomelo", although it tasted more like pink grapefruit to me) and umami (the miso sauce with chive oil), and while it's not bad by any means, I like being able to taste the advertised protein.  It's OK but pales in comparison with the prawns.

Sixth Course: Veal, Beef Jus and Truffle, Artichoke Skin, Artichoke and Chestnut


Lerouy obviously can't settle for serving meat and two veg as a course, so this comes with a twist in the use of the (Jerusalem) artichoke skin.  The topinambour's bitterness contrasts nicely with the sweetness of the chestnut crumb, while its earthiness is set off beautifully by the truffle-y element in the jus. A nice way to finish the savoury progression.

Seventh Course: "Banana Split" - Strawberry Sorbet, Passionfruit and Banana Custard, Banana Air, Dark Chocolate


After a cacophony of strong flavours, the dessert is no less assertive, although it is nice and refreshing. A strawberry sorbet (judging from the taste and colour, I suspect it was made with the purees sold by Boiron) served with discs of banana and (if I recall correctly) pumpkin on a dark chocolate base.  The beetroot and wasabi lollipop does a better job of cleansing my palate, although in my old age, I am really starting to resent the gunky feel of white chocolate on my palate.

Mignardises - Wasabi White Chocolate Lollipop with Dehydrated Beetroot and Beetroot Powder, Smoky Bacon with Dark Choc Truffle


I never agreed with the rather naff assertion that "bacon makes everything taste better".  And I now proffer this as Exhibit A in support of my argument.  A decent dark chocolate and cocoa truffle is hung, drawn and quartered by the ridiculous conceit of being wrapped in bacon.  Look, I get it, dark chocolate is set off with a bit of salt, bla bla.  But the meaty, smoky flavour of the bacon doesn't do the chocolate any favours, and it's not particularly good bacon to boot, and I am forced to spit out the unchewable fat.  Poor and ill-conceived.

Conclusion

I walk out into the cold, blustery, wintry night and wrap my scarf tightly around (yeah right).  As I wait for my ride home, I ponder my experience with Lerouy.  It is, the bacon-chocolate farce aside, incredibly difficult to fault any single dish.  Yes, a couple of the other dishes such as the roasted cabbage may have fallen flat, but I can put that down to a matter of taste, not some inherent flaw in execution or conceptualisation.

But as a progression, I thought there was room for improvement.  Throughout the entire meal, from the very start, my palate was subject to incredibly complex and intense flavours, a veritable crescendo of taste.  If you look at the ingredients recited for each dish, they almost invariably start off with a background / base of miso or dashi, or other assertive elements like parmesan, comte and pistachio (many of them rich in umami), upon which the structure of the dish is then built.  It was like starting Turandot with Nessun Dorma; where does one really go from there?  That said, it is no secret that the Asian palate enjoys strong flavours, and I am loath to criticise Lerouy if all he is doing is catering to what the local market wants.

Lerouy seems to have gotten off to quite a strong start, as evidenced by the generally positive reviews in the local press, and there is a lot of buzz about whether he is about to reclaim "his" Michelin star which he won for Alma.  Personally, I would like to see a bit more restraint and progression develop in the menu, for it is there that the chef's palate, thought process and refinement show their true colours, and there that we begin to have an earnest discussion about recognition among the world's best.

LEROUY
Score: 14/20
Chef-Patron: Christophe Lerouy
Owners: Christophe Lerouy, Willin Low and Gwen Lim

How many Michelin stars did it get: None (not open at last publishing deadline)
How many Michelin stars I think it will get: Between none and one

Address: 3 Stanley Street
Singapore 068722
Tel: +65 6221 3639


1 comment:

  1. Good one. Concise, constructive, no frills - unlike some food writers I know... :O Hope all well, see you soon?

    ReplyDelete