Andrew: Dearie and I make full use of any school holidays to go for lunch at high class restaurants, because we can enjoy great quality food at almost half the price of dinner! After going to Iggy’s, we decided we had to go to Ja’an, since it was the only other restaurant in Singapore on Pelligrino’s top 50 list.
However, rumour has it that the standards have dropped since Chef Andre left to start up his own restaurant. Well, are the rumours true? We’ll never know because we never went there earlier, but I must say that our experience there was a rather memorable one from start to end!
First up – our complimentary starters which came even before the amuse bouche. I couldn’t take a good shot of them because of the glare, but in the photo below, you can see how wonderful the view is from up Ja’an! You get an unobstructed view of the Marina Bay Skyline!
Our starters (from left to right): Barley crisps and bacon skin, crispy salmon skin with lemon puree and lemon snow,
crispy potato skin with anchovies, chives and cream
Jasmine: Talk about making an entrance!
Jasmine: Whilst I pledge my undying loyalty to the potato chip, I was quite intrigued by the crispy salmon skin with lemon snow and puree. Considering that salmon skin is the part of the salmon that I pay the least attention too, eating it unwillingly for its nutrient content but finding it otherwise flaccid and rubbery, I thought that rendering the salmon skin separately from the flesh made it impeccably crunchy and light.
Andrew: The crispy potato skin was very unique in terms of presentation, but the taste was rather like a lighter version of sour cream and onions at the tip (of course, much fresher!). Heh. I hope I don’t get blasted for making this comparison. Nonetheless, I really did enjoy the starters, big plus points for the ingenuity of presentation and play of textures, forms and colours.
Amuse bouche: Tomato soup?
Andrew: While this was less overwhelming sour than the one at Iggy’s, we still didn’t really like this. Cold tomato dishes just don’t do it for either of us.
Jasmine: Yep, when the waiter told us what this dish contained, we were immediately put on guard because we had a less than pleasant experience with Iggy’s tomato amuse bouche. What is it with fine dining places and cold tomato?
The stunning view from Ja’an @ Swissotel
Jasmine: Oh my, the variety and quality of bread at Jaan was unbeatable. I am still dreaming of the black truffle baguette (closest to camera), with its generous and woodsy sprinkling of truffle slivers. The (mini) baguette was also invitingly warm, fluffy and easy to bite on.
Andrew: Just like Jasmine mentioned, the black truffle baguette was heavenly! It was so soft and thoroughly infused with the wonderful earthy taste and aroma of truffles. They had a sour dough, olive bread and something else which I couldn’t remember. The butter here was good – better than Iggy’s, but Forlino’s is still the winner for best butter! At this kind of restaurant, the bread is your best bet for feeling full at the end of the dinner. It’s free-flow by the way!
Veloute of White Beans, Confit Oxtail with Shimeiji Mushrooms
Andrew: This dish came to us initially without the veloute (which is apparently one of the four “mother” sauces of French cuisine). The confit oxtail was placed in the centre of the plate with little bits of garnishing around. A pity we didn’t get a picture of that!
Andrew: Veloute is derived from the French word velour meaning velvety and indeed, that is the best word to describe the texture of this. I really liked it! The veloute was smooth and delicately flavoured. Its taste subtly enhanced the gamey taste of oxtail which was nicely balanced in terms of texture and taste with the shimeiji mushrooms. I wasn’t sure what was at the bottom of the soup, but there was a hint of sweetness too as I scraped the bottom of the bowl and mixed it with the veloute and oxtail. It was perfect!
(Jasmine: Heh, dear commented last night that my food descriptions are anything but short, but just look at his!)
Seared Escalope of Foie Gras, Beetroot and Cherry Composition
Jasmine: I thought the way the foie gras was plated was quite visually stunning. Usually a meat decorated with red gravy would come off looking like a bloody massacre, but the beetroot saucing was well-controlled. (Andrew: That’s a really lovely picture taken by Dearie!)
The foie gras itself had a smooth, melting texture, but was unfortunately lacking that rich, livery taste. However, it was greatly enlivened by the beetroot, which was semi-sweet and almost crunchy- a welcome antidote to the gooey texture and mild flavour of the foie gras. Hurray for unusual and successful combis!
A close up:
Those airy, sugary pink lumps are also made from beetroot. They dissolved almost instantly on the tongue!
Three strokes of genius that the humble beetroot was treated in three different ways- served cubed and raw, served as a sauce and served as a sweet confection.
Andrew: Next came our main courses!
Pan-Roasted Crispy Seabass, Fricasse of Squid and Fava Beans, Farfalle Pasta
Andrew: What I love at the cuisine at these gourmet restaurants is how they allow the natural flavours to ‘work’ for themselves and rely very minimally on additional seasoning to flavour the food. This was no exception. The flavours were light and worked well together to give a natural freshness to this pasta dish. It wasn’t perfect though. The seabass was a little dry and the pasta a little too chewy for my liking. However, I thought the fava beans were a nice though, adding a distinctive taste and texture.
Jasmine: I should also pause to mention how I enjoyed the Scandinavian styling that went into the presentation of food. I dislike the soaring towers of food that many upmarket places trot out to patrons; I find stacked dishes impractical and unnecessarily difficult to eat. Thankfully, Jaan’s presentation was unpretentious, and focused on bringing out the natural qualities of the ingredients i.e. the rich red hue of the beetroot, blending a minimalist approach toward plating with a keen eye for texture and colour.
Slowly cooked Pork Belly, Black Truffle, Jerusalem Artichokes and Toasted Shallots
Jasmine: Not being one for red meats usually, I found myself relishing the pork belly more than expected. Although pork belly tends to be one of the cheaper cuts, I felt the chef at Jaan handled it very well as it was oozing with juicy flavour. The layer of toasted shallots was what won me over though, as its crispiness lent a new dimension to the overall sensory experience. That for me is what distinguishes a fine dining restaurant from a simply upmarket establishment- its innovativeness and ability to transport diners to a new sensory realm. My only beef with this dish (no pun intended) was that the truffle sauce was much too mild.
Andrew: I maintain my view that the natural flavours dominate in such a meal and it was indeed so for this dish. I don’t believe I’ve ever tasted a piece of pork belly in such purity of taste, without all the sweet sauce or five spice seasoning that the Chinese like to prepare it with. The shallots flavoured it, but didn’t interfere with the juiciness of the pork! I’m feeling hungry just writing about it now!
Check out that layer of fat glistening in the light!
Andrew: Before we knew it, the desserts had arrived.
Marquis of Chocolate, Macadamia nuts and sea salt
Andrew: This was artfully plated and reminded me of the solar system with two planets and a comet in between with many stars around. Heh. Okay, perhaps not the best interpretation. I wasn’t too impressed with the flavours of this dish though. There was intentional balance of sweetness and saltiness, but the taste wasn’t distinctive enough or particularly memorable.
Elderflower Chibouste, Compote of Rhubarb and
Jasmine: Again, another well-considered plating for my elderflower chibouste. Sadly, I never quite discovered what the elderflower was supposed to taste like. All I can say was that it was quite clean and refreshing, with no perfumey or floral aftertaste or aroma.
Andrew: We were quite fascinated by the ceiling design, which I’m sure will be rather stunningly lit up at night (another reason why I guess you pay more for dinner?).
Jasmine: Random shot of my ring from Israeli brand Michal Negrin! I love this ring- it goes with everything!
Andrew: Final shots before we left Jaan, of our fine dining outfits!
On Andrew: shirt from Raoul, jeans from Uniqlo
On Jasmine: dress from Urban Outfitters, hairband from Camden, London