Monday, August 6, 2012

Review - Iggy's

So, there hasn't been a huge amount of cooking worth reporting since I've been back from Borneo/Singapore, just basic things as I catch up with my work schedule (although I did cater a lovely function on Saturday night and am kicking myself that I didn't get pics - too busy getting the dishes out!) so I thought I would share another restaurant review with you - this time for the much talked about Iggy's restaurant, which I had the opportunity to visit in my recent travels.

Iggy’s is the Singapore establishment of restaurateur and sommelier Ignatius Chan. Recently named as the number one restaurant in Asia, and number 26 on the Pellegrino 50 Best Restaurants in the World list, I was really eager to visit when I travelled to Singapore in July. There is no head chef as such – a team of chefs share the creation of the menu, based strongly on the extensive travel and dining experiences of Iggy himself. The restaurant has a reputation for innovation, so when I visited, I was prepared for something very different. I love having my boundaries pushed, and tasting foods and combinations that are new to me, so Iggy’s seemed like a must do dining experience when visiting Singapore.

Located within The Hilton Hotel on Orchard Road, the entrance hidden behind a sliding screen accessible only by buzzing the intercom and being let in by the wait staff, there was certainly a sense of occasion and expectation on arrival. Led down a stylishly dimly lit corridor, I was a bit let down when all that build up led into quite a bland looking dining space with some decidedly 1980’s looking back lighting. But still, for me, it’s all about the food so a bit of d├ęcor letdown wasn’t going to get in the way of a fabulous food experience.

The ten course degustation menu began with an interesting twist on sushi – beautiful fresh fish, with the rice component being a savoury rice meringue that dissolved in your mouth. The textures worked really well and quirky twist on the traditional sushi.

A deconstructed molecular version of Nasi Lemak, the classic rice dish was a real surprise – and one of my favourite dishes of the night, with aromatic pandan and coconut teamed with a gorgeous steamed fish base and toasty topping that was just delicious.

Deconstructed Nasi Lemak

The following dish of langoustine, watermelon and tomato jelly was fresh and pleasant, although not outstanding, and from here I’m afraid that the meal pretty much stayed at this level. The sea urchin and abalone dish failed to wow us (although to be fair to Iggy’s, the week before I had eaten Tetsuya’s sublime sea urchin dish at Waku Ghin and comparisons were going to be inevitable) A pork belly, sweet pea and fig course was enjoyable, although I have eaten far better pork belly dishes and the conger eel with yuzu and spring vegetables was crispy and pleasant – but again, there was no wow moment. Throughout the savoury dishes, which included lamb and black truffle courses, I felt there was something lacking that I just couldn’t put my finger on. The produce was top notch, the presentation was nice enough, but there was just no excitement there for me. Technically well done, but with absolutely no heart. It kind of just left me cold.

With the arrival of the dessert courses however, things really picked up. Not being a big dessert person (I am almost always happy to forgo dessert for some good cheese!) I loved the dessert of peach, yoghurt and elderflower – the peach component in particular was so fragrant and beautiful. But surprisingly, the dish of the night went to the final dessert of bitter araguani chocolate, banana, hazelnut and espresso. Texturally it was brilliant – combining chewiness and crunch, creaminess and crispness. Great flavours, a texture surprise and looking just beautiful on the plate. If only every dish had succeeded like this one.

Araguani Chocolate, Banana, Hazelnut and Espresso

It would be wrong to suggest that the Iggy’s experience was bad. There is so much about it that works in theory, the wait staff is friendly and professional, the produce is of excellent quality and what arrives on the plate is nice enough, but the experience fell way short of expectations, and to be honest I can’t imagine that I would be returning. Does it deserve its rating as number 26 in the world? Look, this stuff is all totally subjective, but for me it doesn’t come close to being in that league. Reading some other accounts of this restaurant, I'm left wondering if maybe they were off their game the evening I dined there, or if I'm just missing something here. I’m also a bit confused about Iggy’s reputation as a culinary innovator. I saw very few examples of innovation in the ten course menu – for the most part I felt that it was treading pretty familiar ground, and not hugely successfully, given the restaurant's reputation for excellence and the big price tag.

The Hilton Hotel – 581 Orchard Road, Singapore
For reservations phone: +65 6732 2234
$275.00 per person (Singapore dollars, food only)

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