Audace @ Wanderlust Hotel, Little India
Being relatively new to Singapore, the rather Petaling Jaya-esque feel of Little India surprised me. I haven't been to the area before, so I wasn't quite sure what to expect in terms of the food ahead of me.
Amidst all the colour, I almost missed the giant 'WANDERLUST' sign. With a monochromatic exterior and a little pop of patterned trims, I was a little unsure as to what I would find inside this boutique hotel that seemed to emerge from nowhere.
Imagine my surprise when I was greeted with a mesh of modern industrial and hipster antique upon entering the doors, a combination that was incredibly aesthetically pleasing. Straight ahead, past the unobtrusive check-in desk was the restaurant Audace: classily lit and beautifully decorated, lending a homey feel to the otherwise posh fine-dining restaurant.
I was greeted at the entrance by surprisingly accommodating and friendly servers, Yusrwe and Brice, both well-spoken and obviously talented waiters that would attend to our every need for the meal to come. The professionalism and attentiveness that they both presented aided in the overall incredible experience I was sure was to come.
As we sat, introductions were made. Jeremy Gillon, the executive chef of Audace, explained to us his inspirations and passion for food that bred this restaurant. Originally from Normandy, the French chef trained and worked in a resort on the French Alps. He gestured us to the row of large class jars on display above the kitchen window. These were dried herbs sourced from his friend, a forager that sought out wild herbs in the Alps.
All of his creations would display some form of association to these herbs, either in or around the food. To a novice such as myself when it came to the beauty of French cuisine, I was beyond, beyond excited. I knew (although I did my best to monitor my expectations for I have been disappointed by 'great' food in the past) that I was in for a real treat.
The way the menus work at Audace is a little different, and might need a little explanation so here's a little TL;DR:
The Lunch and Dinner menus are different
Both menus give you a choice of ala carte dishes, or a set menu.
For lunch 2 courses = $28++; 3 courses = $ 34++ where you may choose from a few dishes
The set lunch menu changes every few week
For dinner, they only do a Discovery Menu for the set - basically an omakase-style where the chef would select and choose what dishes to serve, so this varies day to day. 4 courses = $68++; 6 courses = $98++
The a la carte specials change every 3-4 months, with dinner choice changing every 2-3 weeks
Everything on the menu is decided upon by what is available fresh from the markets in Singapore
Now on to the food.
We had a palette cleanser to start -- Mackerel with smoked cream, pickled onions, grounded sunflower seeds. The fishy, smoky mackerel was an excellent way to start. On it's own the fish was a little dry, but taken together, as it was meant to be, lent a hand to a beautiful flavour.
The first course, an Artichoke Salad with Raspberry Crumble and Reduced Melisse ($15). The dish was made with a combination of grilled and raw artichoke, sat atop a raspberry crumble with drops of one of the wild dried French herbs we were previously introduced to -- Melisse. As a huge fan of artichoke, this was divine. The salty artichoke, each different cooking style with its own texture and slight variations in flavour, together with the sweet and sour dried raspberry crumble, was absolutely refreshing. We were basically licking the crumble off the plate.
Next up was the Smoked Raw Foie Gras ($18). I don't know about you, but I've definitely never had raw foie gras before and the idea was definitely intimidating. After explanations that the foie gras was marinated in salt for a long period of time and was therefore safe to eat. Man oh, man, was this dish beyond mind-blowing.
I am a huge fan of foie gras, and if you are too, this one dish is enough for me to make the absolute recommendation that you have to eat at this restaurant. Having just returned from Hungary where we had foie gras almost every meal, this combination of smokey, salty, beautifully textured goose liver was incredible and beats all the rest. With some watercress juice, green apple skin, radish salad and the herb Archilee Mille Fueilles, it was a wonderfully crafted dish. But after this, the bar was set, my mind was made up -- this was going to be one of the best meals I've had in Singapore.
After this we were served some Braised Octopus ($19). While this was also a great dish, sadly coming after the foie gras meant that it probably did not garner the reaction it deserved. The octopus was a curious texture, while I was used to the rubbery, chewiness that you would typically experience at a Japanese restaurant, this one was tender, very meat-like.
And while the octopus itself was good, what tied it all together were the various onions. Grilled onion salad, with mashed onion puree along with roasted hazelnuts and asparagus, that was just divine. In fact, compared to the onion-combination, the octopus lost a bit of its colour.
Onto the main dishes, the Pan Seared Red Snapper, Laksa Juice Reduction ($24)... hold it right there, Laksa what?
Yeap, needless to say I was beyond excited for this one. I loved it when chefs try something different, but more often than not the fusion creation fails -- especially when served to a seasoned local-food consumer like myself, but once again, this did not disappoint.
While the fish itself was a little bit on the dry side on it's own (yes, but there is a reason it isn't alone right?), taken all as one bite... I absolutely loved it. And I'm not even a fan of pumpkin, but the pumpkin mash, pumpkin seed crumble, shrimp powder, together with the droplets of reduced laksa (again, what?)... I don't know how many times I can say 'BEAUTIFUL' and 'MIND BLOWN' without it getting old, but those are the only words that came to mind. I had to stop myself from truly licking the plate this time round.
At the end of the meal, we were asked: "which dish was your favourite?" and I honestly couldn't choose between the foie gras and this, the Striploin Beef with Banana Shallot Papillote, Tarragon Coulis, Dry Capers and Anchovies ($29). Yeah, I had to tell my companion to stop talking because it was distracting me from truly savouring every chew I had of this gorgeous piece of meat.
I am not a big fan of steak, typically because I always ended up feeling really sick after all the meat and fat -- but the chef foresaw this when curating our meal that afternoon and ensured everything was the perfect size as it came out. Together with the pickled onions, shallots and whatever magic he cooked up into this dish, it was genuinely amazing. Tender but firm, the meat was easy to cut through. Each bite an explosion of flavour!
And last but not least, the desserts.
We were served the Hot Chocolate Milk Infused with Roasted Aubepine, Gianduja Jelly and homemade Rice Ice Cream ($12). Think rice crispies in hot chocolate and then up the ante so it has more depth of flavour, unique rice undertone as well as wonderfully made chocolate but still that sense of nostalgia and homey feel
And next, the Coriander Sorbet with Pineapple and Star Anise Foam ($11). I bet you're thinking how on earth can dessert taste good with coriander? The sorbet had a nice sour tinge (lime, I think) with hints of coriander. I surprisingly loved it.
The pineapple though made was a beautiful garnish, tasted amazing and it was crispy! The star anise foam paired so well with the sorbet. A great refreshing dessert to end my meal.
After we've filled our bellies, Chef Gillion gave us a short introduction to all the different herbs and spices used here. We even got to smell and taste the spices on its own, while Chef Gillon would tell us some of the health benefits of the spices. Check out part of my "lecture" here.
All in all, this was undoubtedly the best culinary experience I've had thus far in Singapore and considering that I have explored a reasonable amount, I would 100% recommend this to anybody who wants to try out a different, unique, well-tailored experience.
And to complete the awesome day I was already having, we headed up to our room in Wanderlust Hotel to laze our weekend away. Check out my tour around the room here.
Audace Bar and Restaurant
2 Dickson Rd
(Close to Rochor MRT Station)
Tel: +65 6298 1188
Mon: 7:30am - 10:30am Tue - Sat 7:30am - 11:30pm
Sun: 11:30am - 4:00pm