[Singapore] Modern-Chinese cuisine at Chinoiserie by Justin Quek

Chinoiserie is the latest offering from Justin Quek, perhaps Singapore’s best-known local-born chef. A bit about Justin Quek - back in 1994, he was a member of the pioneering team which set up Les Amis, Singapore’s most successful French restaurant till this day. In those years, Singapore’s fine dining scene was dominated by hotel-based French restaurants: Maxim’s at the Regent, Truffles at the Dynasty Hotel, Le Restaurant de France at Le Meridien, Le Duc at the Marco Polo, Hubertus Grill at the ANA Hotel, Baron’s Table at Holiday Inn Crowne Plaza, Nutmegs at the Hyatt Regency, the Hilton Singapore’s Harbour Grill, Latour at the Shangri-la, Palm Grill at the Westin Plaza and Compass Rose atop the Westin Stamford.

Les Amis broke the mould somewhat - it was the first standalone fine dining restaurant in Singapore - Justin Quek did the cooking, Ignatius Chan was the sommelier, and Desmond Lim was the financial backer. Les Amis was one of the go-to places for fine French cuisine in Singapore then (the other was L’Aigle D’Or at Duxton Hotel, with Thierry Duflos cooking and Dominique Couture running the front of house).

An upheaval in his personal life saw Justin Quek leaving Les Amis in 2004, and he relocated first to Taipei (where he opened Le Petite Cuisine) before he settled in Shanghai, with a trio of restaurants in trendy Xintiandi: Le Platane French restaurant, Villa du Lac Chinese fine dining, and casual eatery, the Fountain. However, he sold his Shanghai businesses in 2009 and returned to Singapore the following year to open Sky on 57 at the Marina Bay Sands, offering modern-Singaporean cuisine in an upscale setting. Sky on 57 closed in June last year, as Justin Quek decided to go on the fine dining route again with Chinoiserie.

I must confess that I was a bit disappointed that he decided to do Chinese fine dining, instead of French, which I felt was his forte. Justin Quek, when he first started at Les Amis in 1994, was known for being the former chef to at least two French ambassadors to Singapore. His cooking at Les Amis was sublime. I made sure I paid a visit to Le Platane in Shanghai, and dutifully avoided Villa du Lac, so I never did find out if Justin Quek could cook Chinese.

Anyway, Chinoiserie is the first Chinese restaurant I’d been to which has a French-style bread basket, served with truffled butter. My palate found this a bit confusing actually. :joy:

The amuse geule included a cauliflower espuma topped with Oscietra caviar & gold dust (!).

Buri (Japanese amberjack) carpaccio with truffle oil, topped with frisee lettuce, and a baton of mackerel pate topped with Oscietra caviar.

Slow-cooked egg atop wild mushrooms, lack truffles and Spanish jamon Serrano.

Double-boiled chicken, bamboo fungus, wolfberries, red date and abalone soup

Steamed catch of the day, with soy dressing

Sauteed king crab Capellini

Braised King Crab Rice Vermicelli

Wok-fried Kampot Black Pepper Lobster with Grilled Wagyu Beef, served with seasonal vegetables

Palate cleanser
This was more a blob of cistrusy jelly than the expected molecular gastronomy burst-in-your-mouth get sphere I thought it was.

Apricot clafouti with vanilla gelato

Petit fours - macarons, truffles & French fancies - served at the end were mainly pandan-flavoured, and paired with Gula Melaka treacle.

Overall, a competently prepared meal but one which lacked the "wow* factor.