After earning accolades and a Michelin star for Corner House, chef Jason Tan ventures out on his own with his winning formula of gastro-botanica.
We’re sure Auguste Escoffier didn’t have in mind chef-owner Jason Tan’s roux- and starch-free grandes sauces when he wrote Le guide culinaire in 1903. Known as mother sauces in French cuisine, they form the base of which other gravies are built upon and are commonly made with animal stock and herbs then thickened with fat and flour.
Expounding on the gastro-botanica genre he coined, Tan flourishes with version 2.0 and completes his storytelling of vegetable-driven cuisine with an equally focused whole concept to match. He’s found the ideal partnership of design and gastronomy with partner, Arissa Wang, with whom he’s opened JTAW Design.
The highly anticipated Restaurant Euphoria is the design studio’s stunning debut. Riffing off Tan’s love for the onion, the restaurant is a cocoon filled with gentle curves and an inverted jungle illuminated by warm cove lighting. They’ve even put extra care into the cutlery and vessels as evidenced by the Japanese ceramic bowls, hand-forged Damascus steel steak knives and mortise-and-tenon jointed wooden boxes that open up in four directions.
Even with such sublime supporting stars, Tan’s food remains the firm protagonist of this story. Spanish and Indian influences — his reiteration of Bomba Rice is a divine union of claypot rice, paella and dosai — from his travels trickle through the courses but never outdo the subtlety of his grandes sauces he calls La Symphonie de Légumes.
On the daily, the restaurant goes through 30 kilograms of vegetables to extract two litres of essence that’s used in four sauces of increasing intensity: Légumes Essence, Légumes Vin Blanc, Légumes Emulsion and Demi Glace.
The first, Légumes Essence, turns up in the Oignon Jamboree. Tiny pickled pearl onion cups filled with onion Essence fan out around a wobbly parfait, made from onions and baked smoked eel, that’s crowned with Kaviari Oscietra Prestige caviar. The typically pungent allium is almost unrecognisable in this form and might well take second place to the Oignon Doux Des Cevennes (onion done four ways) that he’s known for.
Next is a foamy Légumes Vin Blanc that’s deglazed with white wine, infused with Iranian saffron and finished with whipped cream before it’s poured over the Maine Lobster. Coupled with a carrot mille crêpe made of thin ribbons of the vegetable, the first main of the night is more sweet than savoury with hints of coriander seeds, cumin and star anise.
Building on Légumes Essence is the Légumes Emulsion, a stock derived from three types of cabbages, white onions then emulsified with butter. A dash of vin jaune lends some tartness and the result is a full-bodied, creamy gravy that has enough personality to hold its own alongside the fatty Patin Fish.
Tan sources the catfish from a local farm, indicating a shift in his attitude to include regional produce in his cooking together with seasonal European ingredients. It’s a testament to his growth and resourcefulness as a chef as well as a right step towards the cause for sustainability.
Last but not least, he pairs the robust Demi Glace, made from an assortment of vegetables, tomato paste, red wine, herbs and spices, with the Lamb Neck. An act comprising a binchotan-grilled lamb and a garlic macadamia nut purée, it’s a fitting climax to Restaurant Euphoria’s narrative.
But as any good storyteller knows, the introduction and end are as important as the body. From the edible sculpture of a Feuille de Brick to Mochishire “Soupe la Oignon” (a chewy puff that takes the best characteristics of mochi bread and Yorkshire pudding), dishes are executed to a T. You’d might even be persuaded to develop a fondness for celery after trying his palate cleanser, where he subdues the herbaceous notes of the vegetable with extra virgin olive oil, lemon granita and goma foam.
The beverage programme seemed to have a compelling subplot of its own; our pairing took us through a sweet Emishiki “Monsoon” Kijosho sake, Rioja Vina Tondonia Reserva 2007 from R. Lopez de Heredia and finally, Rachelle’s Apricot Tea Mead from local company Compendium.
We can’t find fault with Restaurant Euphoria. With a saturated market like ours in Singapore, it’s not very often you’ll find a new establishment with such a clear and concise intention from the get-go. What’s also refreshing is that Tan has carved out a niche that is his and his alone, instead of trying to be something he isn’t. It’s this same candour that has made him a respected and beloved personality in the industry, deserving of the praise and (very soon) Michelin star that comes his way.
Restaurant Euphoria is located at 76 Tras Street, Singapore 790151.