The Covetable Charm of Odette
The departure of chef julien royer from Jaan at Swissôtel The Stamford must have been one of the worst-kept secrets of 2015. He is one of a handful of chefs who powered Singapore’s climb to a world-class culinary destination. His megawatt smile is one thing, but what’s even more endearing about him is how he unabashedly adores his late grandmother, whom he named his new restaurant Odette after.
Raised in Cantal, an area in the Auvergne region of France where livestock outnumbers humans by a stretch, chef Royer learnt to respect terroir and seasonality from a tender age. He and his family lived and ate out of the farm. His parents made everything from cheese to jam, and his grandmother showed him that the best dishes were created with love and respect for the best produce. This ethos guides his inexorable ascent as a chef.
In Singapore’s notoriously competitive F&B scene, few restaurant openings garner as much interest as chef Royer’s collaboration with The Lo & Behold Group did. Odette opened at the historic former Supreme Court wing of the National Gallery Singapore last November, and its reservation lines have been busy ever since.
As a chef, Royer is confident and curious. As a restaurant owner, he is savvy and practical. A few of his signature dishes from Jaan followed him to Odette, but by my third dining experience here, the dishes had evolved and some plating changed. The lunch and dinner menus also change slightly daily.
Of the various amuse-bouche on the menu, the mushroom tea stands out—this was also a signature of chef Royer’s at Jaan. Wild mushroom broth poured over cep sabayon produces a robust, earthy flavour, which is complemented by the buttery hints of a crisp and fluffy cep brioche that’s been baked with buckwheat and walnuts.
Another legend of chef Royer’s is the heirloom beetroot. In the variation at Odette, red, white and yellow Italian beetroots are revered on the pedestal. Light-as-air beetroot meringues and petite dollops of beetroot sorbet accompany them to bring varying levels of sweetness and flavours.
With its natural flavours, the clam from Hokkaido’s Kushiro hardly needs assistance from other ingredients to stand out. It is steamed for precisely a minute and a half and served enveloped in smoked bone marrow and brown butter foam, making it at once sweet, tender and delicately smoky. Croutons and hints of capers and lemon also accent the flavour of the clam.
The Challans guinea fowl “a la braise” also achieves tenderness and smokiness through cooking via sous-vide and finished in a Josper grill. It sits atop an earthy-tasting bed of celeriac risotto, flavoured by a sherry-based albufera cream sauce and served with a foie gras coulant (“liquid inside” in French) made from freezing, breading and frying a mixture of foie gras, madeira and port wine.
Local artist Dawn Ng’s whimsical and thoughtful installation takes centre stage within Odette’s elegant and distinctively feminine dining room. She used photographs of ingredients found in chef Royer’s kitchen such as black truffles and scallop shells and depicted them onto oak, polyfoam, brass and paper, before laboriously cutting them out by hand—the individual pieces make up her installation and resemble fluttering butterflies frozen in mid-air. Behind it at ground level, the kitchen glows through floor-to-ceiling glass windows and bustles as chef Royer and his brigade masterfully coax the flavours and textures out of their exceptional seasonal bounty.
Asked if his late grandmother would have been proud of the restaurant that she inspired, chef Royer replies with a resounding “Of course!”
I’d like to have a grandchild like that some day.