Singapore — When a restaurant is as hotly anticipated as Odette, expectations run high. A collaboration between former Jaan chef Julien Royer and the Lo & Behold Group, who are behind restaurants such as The Black Swan and The White Rabbit, Odette opened on 2 November at the soon-to-debut National Gallery.
A strong feminine spirit pervades the restaurant. More specifically, it is the spirit of the women that Odette’s owners hold dear. For starters, Odette is named after Royer’s grandmother, who he credits with teaching him the value of hospitality and cooking with the finest ingredients. This explains Royer’s dedication to sourcing ingredients from small producers across the world — black truffles from Manjimup in Western Australia, prawns from Mozambique, guinea fowl from Challans in Western France, and seafood from Hokkaido, Japan.
Certainly, Royer is not the first chef to insist on using what he deems are the best ingredients, but it is his artistry with these products — comforting, easy-to-appreciate flavours in wonderous presentations and myriad delicate components — that make the difference between his being a restaurant reserved for special occasions and one that draws diners back time and again.
Having an alluring dining room helps too, and Odette boasts a beguiling space, much like a modern French salon clad in easy shades of oyster and pearl. This Dior-esque dining room is anchored by a hanging installation created by Singaporean artist Dawn Ng, who just happens to be married to Lo & Behold’s top brass Teng Wen Wee.
Ng reportedly spent months observing Royer at work before conceptualising the artwork which was made by photographing ingredients like black truffles, scallop shells, tuna loin and the like, and transferring the images to materials like oak, copper, paper and polyfoam, which she then cut out by hand. The installation’s motifs inform the rest of the restaurant’s design, which is decidedly elegant and contemporary, and most importantly, feels fresh, young, laidback and comfortable.
There is palpable love and passion behind everything from the decor right down to the food, which Royer serves in four and six-course menus at lunch (S$88 to S$128) and six- and eight-course menus (S$208 and S$268, respectively) at dinner. Naturally, he has brought over some signature dishes from Jaan, such as his mushroom tea that is poured over a cloud of cep sabayon and topped with buckwheat and walnuts, as well as the 55-minute poached eggs, which he serves scented with pine needles sent here by his father in France and accompanied by textures of winter vegetables.
Perhaps the ode to his grandmother has touched Royer’s food here with a sense of rusticity. A dish of Challans guinea fowl served two ways, for instance, sees the leg confit and the breast grilled. Where previously, Royer’s presentation might have encompassed two precision-cut bars of meat, today’s portions of fowl have a more homespun quality to them. The smoky meats are flavoured with an old-school albufera cream sauce and accompanied by an earthy celeriac risotto, a foie gras coulant (a croquette with a molten centre) and Swiss chard.
There was also a surprisingly simple sweet blue lobster from Brittany served with miso caramel, parsley puree and roasted romanesco cauliflower that suggests Royer is taking a more classic approach to his food here.
Every new restaurant needs time to blossom and come into its true style, but already, a meal at Odette feels like one at a fine Parisian restaurant in the vein of Le Cinq or Taillevent, except with more relaxed and warm service and ambience. The natural light that floods the dining room through softly curtained windows flatters every complexion in the restaurant — and that never hurts either.
#01-04 National Gallery Singapore
1 St Andrew’s Road
Daily 12pm to 3pm, 7pm to 9.30pm
Closed on Sunday