As I have already blogged (see here) about my visit to Ignatius Chan’s unique fine dining establishment in Singapore, there is not much I can add with regards to food. But I can tell you more about this interesting man and his journey to become the restaurateur behind Asia’s Number One Restaurant, (according to the Miele guide) and the thriving food scene in Singapore, at which Ignatius ‘Iggy’ Chan is at the heart.
Firstly, let me start by correcting myself, for it is a massive understatement to say that the food scene in Singapore is simply “thriving”. This tiny city-state island is rapidly becoming a mecca for foodies, only rivalled by the likes of London, New York, Paris and Tokyo. Internationally renowned Chefs such as Guy Savoy, Wolfgang Puck, Daniel Boulud, Tetsuya Wakuda, Joël Robuchon, Mario Batali and of course Santi Santamaria (who sadly died earlier this year whilst at his restaurant in Singapore’s new Marina Bay Sands complex) all have outposts there.
|Salmon, Savoy Cabbage & Basil Seeds - the best smoked salmon I've ever tasted.|
Impressive, huh? Well, these are just the big, big names, there is also a plethora of other exciting eateries run by local talents and gifted chefs of all nationalities who have made this food obsessed island their home. The list is huge but here is my pick of the bunch:
|Foie Gras, Figs, Tarragon & Cassis|
Restaurant André – Former protégée of Pierre Gagnaire, Joël Roubochon, Michel Troisgros and the Pourcel brothers, Taiwanese Chef André Chiang helped to secure his previous employer Jaan a ranking of 39th Best Restaurant in the World on the S.Pellegrino list with his modern French cuisine. His first solo venture managed to bag the 100th spot in the 2011 list just a few months after opening.
|Capellini, Sakura Ebi, Konbu & Scampi Oil|
Jaan Restaurant – upon André’s departure, Jaan located in the Swissôtel, took on ‘The Swedish Gagnaire’, Ebbe Vollmer. At the age of 16, Vollmer landed a job at Marco Pierre White’s iconic Harvey’s (where he worked alongside a young Gordon Ramsay), he then returned to Sweden to infuse this classic training with Nordic traditions, before returning to London to work for his old chum Gordon Ramsay at his eponymous 3 starred Royal Hospital Road restaurant.
|Seasonal Market Fish, Fennel, Caper Berry & Pernod|
Gunther’s Modern French Cuisine – another restaurant that I have blogged about (see here), Belgian Chef Gunther Hubrechsen worked for five years as sous chef to Alain Passard at L’Arpege before he opened his elegant modern eatery.
|Duck, Carrot, Sesame with Natural Jus|
FiftyThree – Michael Han is a Singaporean chef with a law degree from Bristol University and trained at The Fat Duck, Mugartiz and Noma… need I say more?
|Wagyu Tenderloin, Pink Garlic & Aubergine|
Goto – A hidden gem! The eponymous, four cover restaurant serving authentic kaiseki cuisine crafted by Hisao Goto, the former private chef of the Japanese ambassador in Singapore. Phenomenal!
|Gnocchi, Fava Beans, Lamb Belly & Pea|
The Tippling Club – A, what should be, revolutionary concept: the ‘Gastrobar’ (not pub)– progressive molecular cookery paired with equally imaginative cocktails! An amazing place, headed up by the massively talented English Chef, Ryan Clift (Ex Head Chef of Shannon Bennett’s Vue du Monde in Australia and former employee of Marco Pierre White, Peter Gordon, Emmanuel Renaut and Raymond Capaldi.)
2am:DessertBar (see here) – Janice Wong is a young and incredibly gifted Le Cordon Bleu trained pastry Chef. She has worked establishments such as WD-50 (alongside Alex Stupak, and Rosio Sanchez of Noma fame), Les Amis, Arzak, Alinea and Per Se – with a resume like this I’m sure Janice could get a job in any top kitchen, anywhere in the world. Instead, still in her early twenties, she took the bold and innovative move to open a ‘dessert bar’ in the trendy Holland Village area. Each of Janice’s dishes is an artistic masterpiece and a stimulating multisensory attack of colour, flavour and texture. All Janice’s creations come with wine pairings and are served from her modish bar, which is open to 2am! If you are planning a visit to Singapore – you have to go there! Alternatively, look out for her first book ‘Perfection in Imperfection’ available here.
You may be thinking, ‘Why, when this post is about Iggy’s are you telling me all this?’ The reason is simple: to understand how good Iggy’s is consider that of all these places and chefs mentioned, the Miele Guide’s Number One Restaurant in Asia is Iggy’s.
|Some of Iggy's awards & accolades|
Furthermore, in 2009, it became the first Singaporean restaurant to enter the Restaurant Magazine’s S.Pellegrino Top 50 list at number 45; 2010 saw a rise to position 28 and a move to new premises from the Regent Hotel to The Hilton on Orchard Road and in 2011 it advanced one place further - when you consider that, at 27, it is higher placed than The Ledbury, Marcus Wareing, The French Laundry, Bras and Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athenee all this seems a phenomenal feat for a restaurant owned by a ‘sommelier’ and one that doesn’t even have a head chef!
“No head chef?”
Iggy himself is not a chef, but a fully trained and respected sommelier. At young age he became a waiter at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Singapore where he worked and studied hard and eventually earned the promotion to sommelier. In 1990, he won the Veuve Clicquot Champagne scholarship; in ‘91 he became cellar master at the famous Raffles Hotel; in ’94 he became a restaurateur when he and Chef Justin Quek helped set up Les Amis.
In 2004, Ignatius and his wife, Janice Wong (a different Janice Wong to the owner of the 2am:dessertbar) decided to open their own place, and Iggy’s was born. They pride themselves on providing guests with a highly personal (despite moving to new premises which are double in size, they decided to retain the number of covers) and sensational gastronomic dining experience.
|Exceptional tomatoes; sourced by Iggy.|
Oh yes, the no head chef thing… essentially, it works like this: Iggy travels around the world eating at the best restaurants and sourcing exceptional seasonal ingredients (and wines) from the likes of Australia, Europe and Japan. He then meets with his kitchen staff where they collaborate to develop progressive new and largely modern European dishes, naturally with the Asian palate in mind.
Each section (fish, meat, cold dishes, pastries etc…) of Iggy’s state of the art kitchen has a chef who acts as section leader. There are typically sixteen chefs as well as trainees and stagiaires. Iggy has assembled an ambitious young team, who without a single big named chef at the helm are afforded greater creativity and freedom to express their talents. All Iggy’s chefs are currently under 30 and include hotshots from America, India Switzerland and of course, Singapore.
One such ‘section leader’ is virtuoso pastry supremo Andres Lara – Chicago born Andres (or Andy) has worked in some of the finest pâtisseries on the planet, including those of Eric Perez, Dimitri Fayard and Paco Torreblanca; and some of the most creative restaurants, including the kitchens of El Bulli and Noma. One of the charms if Iggy’s is, when sitting at the fabulous dessert counter, the experience of being able to see masters such as Andres at work.
|Rhubarb, Salted Sable, Vanilla Beans with Blood Orange|
All this is why Iggy’s is so special and my meal there so memorable. So there we have it, my 7th best restaurant of all time!Tweet