JAAN - City Hall, Singapore

Dinner - Saturday, May 18, 2013

JAAN is the fine-dining restaurant at the luxury Swissôtel The Stamford hotel, in the heart of Singapore's central business district. Perched on the top floor of the 70-storey complex, the restaurant affords a dazzling vista, with huge windows wrapping around the cosy dining room.

The kitchen (formerly run by Andre Chiang) is helmed by the young Julien Royer, who apparently trained at Bras (I did not see the influence during our meal). Under his guidance, the restaurant has popped up on a number of radars, culminating in multiple recommendations for us to dine here. With very little time in Singapore, we decided to replace a reservation at Iggy's with this meal. Did it invoke a sense of time and place? Hell no - the cuisine at JAAN is unapologetically French, and should be interpreted through that lens.

Smoked potato cromesquis
Smoked eel, kombu gelée, apple
Both canapés were a good start - the eel was particularly good, its soft texture contrasting with the crisp slice of apple that also balanced the marine flavours from the other components.

Potato crisp, anchovy, chili
Chestnut-lentil "hummus", rye crisps
The crisps had a very strong (and delicious) caraway taste, but the chunky "hummus" was up to the task, and was a beautiful complement. I would have preferred a steady stream of these crisps, as opposed to the rather dismal bread service throughout the meal (four varieties, all mediocre - a waste with the otherwise excellent Brittany butter).

Porcini mushroom sabayon
Walnut, toasted buckwheat, mushroom tea
This dish was much lighter than expected, given the components. Excellent, concentrated flavours. Strangely, I was the only one at the table who enjoyed the walnuts with the mushrooms (I thought it was a great combination, though others felt the walnuts were too raw).

Rye toast, seaweed butter
Ossiblue prawn canneloni
Crustacean jelly, roe, mushroom ketchup, kaffir lime zest
Ingredient quality was exceptional - my favourite course of the night. Wrapped in avocado, the raw crustacean was accompanied by briny ikura and Osetra caviar. Cubes of diced apple and a sprinkling of kaffir lime zest added brightness, whereas the umami ketchup lended some earthiness. The shellfish stock jelly was very clean - quite masterful.

Rosemary-smoked egg
Smoked ratte, chorizo iberico, toasted buckwheat
Breakfast at dinner. Cooked at 64°C for 55 minutes, the runny egg had only a slight rosemary aroma, which went rather well with the chorizo. The nutty ratte potato was on the grainy side, which detracted slightly from the cohesiveness of the dish's textures. Nevertheless, it's hard to go too far astray with yolks, salt and crunch.

Norwegian hand-dived scallop
Musquee de Provence, mascarpone, pancetta, beurre noisette
A dish with so much potential. The kitchen did a terrific job balancing the sweetness of the Musquee pumpkin purée with the pancetta foam. Both were bridged by the silky mascarpone and earthy browned butter. Unfortunately, the bread-crusted scallop was horribly overcooked - a huge oversight.

Grilled Landes foie gras
Fraise gariguette, ginger-dashi broth
Confit Atlantic brill
Asparagus, crayfish, local greens, garlic cream
The meaty fish was perfectly prepared, allowing its characteristic texture to really shine. It was presented with a maitre d'hotel foam, with the garlic cream being spooned over tableside. Good synergy between the two sauces, both of which were quite mild, allowing the brill's natural sweetness to come through.

Hay-roasted Bresse pigeon
Crushed sesame, barley, morels, pigeon jus
The pièce de résistance - whole-roasted Bresse pigeons were presented in a Dutch oven, nestled in hay and adorned with green garlic, thyme, rosemary and shallots. We were each served a beautiful red breast and a confit of the leg, resting on a risotto of barley and morels. Amazing flavours in the aged fowl - its flesh was gamey, nutty, with almost a hint of blue cheese taste. This plate did not disappoint.

Coconut sponge foam, passionfruit-guava sorbet, banana candy, kaffir lime
Much needed after all the fat in the preceding courses. This was a commendable dessert, perfect for the hot and humid Singaporean climate - it utilized tropical ingredients superbly, with airy textures and a good dose of acidity. Perhaps not the most creative composition, but well-timed and nicely executed.

"Choconuts 4th"
Tanariva, carambar, gianduja, peanuts, sablé biscuit
The meal concluded with some sweet bites - rosemary-smoked chocolate lollipops (again with the inexplicable use of dry ice smoke), grapefruit sorbet with barley sugar and pop rocks, almond rochers, and yuzu marshmallows. The sorbet and marshmallows were notable, their tanginess especially welcome after the heavy meal.

A good meal with a few flashes of greatness, but the experience was a little hard to swallow given the high cost. If I were a generous Michelin inspector, this would be a low two-star restaurant, but its place is more likely in the one-star range. Service was functional but uninformed (when we asked about cheese varieties on their cheese cart, our server replied, "Cow's cheese, goat's cheese and sheep's cheese" - really?). I think we'll need to wait a few more years before this place (possibly) hits full stride.

2 Stamford Road
Singapore 178882
Phone: (+65) 6338-2862