Singapore with its sizeable expat population has always been a melting pot of cultures and cuisines, but despite this diversity of food in general, up till a decade or so ago the haute cuisine arena was very much the domain of the French, ruled by formal establishments such as Les Amis and L’Aigle d’Or. So when Ignatius Chan (one of the founders of Les Amis and sommelier extraordinaire) opened the small but perfectly formed Iggy’s in 2004, it’s fine Japanese-inspired seasonal cooking served up from the sleek open kitchen was a real breath of fresh air. I distinctly remember having a superb dinner sat at the bar while Iggy, donning a Hawaiian shirt, chatted animatedly to us from behind the counter.
Six years on, some weighty accolades and a change in locale (the restaurant relocated to Hilton two months ago) later, the cooking has evolved to adopt a modern European slant, although a touch of Japanese still remains. This is evident both in the sourcing of ingredients and preparation; the dainty shiso flower adorned amuse bouche of ikura on egg white consommé being a prime example. The space is more polished, and the ever-enigmatic Iggy is perfectly suited and booted. It is fitting that the restaurant is named after him as although not a chef himself, he dictates the culinary direction at the currently ranked 28th S.Pellegrino World’s Best Restaurant and Miele Guide’s Best Restaurant in Asia 2010.
Choosing starters from the 4-course set lunch (which offered two selections per course with an extra option for puds) was easy – Wagyu Carpaccio and Tagliatelle with Slow-Cooked Egg? Yes please. The first was a neat square of beautiful marbled beef drizzled with olive oil and simply seasoned with sea salt and a grinding of black pepper. The aged fat-laced meat was deep, rich and meltingly good and although needed no accompaniment, went suitably well with the handful of parmesan-dusted rocket.
Inexplicably B decided against the wagyu and instead ordered the Seared Mackerel with Guacamole, Quinoa and Grapes. Fresh and light as it was, I found it an inferior option to my glorious carpaccio but B greatly enjoyed it, commenting on the perfect sweetness the grapes lent and the pleasant textural contrast of the nutty quinoa grains.
He joined me with the pasta course of Tagliatelle with Seasonal Mushrooms and a Slow-Cooked Egg. The homemade noodles had a nice bite and the egg, with its translucent whites and wobbly yolk, was utter heaven. However the mix of chanterelles, shitake and chestnut mushrooms had none of the trademark fragrant woodsy aroma of wild mushrooms, and the dish as a whole wasn’t quite as tasty as I had hoped.
For mains we both bypassed the Lamb with Ratatouille and Risotto, opting instead for the Loch Duart Salmon with Potato, Leek and Yuzu. Expertly cooked to maintain its bright orange hue and soft tender flesh, the fish was delicious and fantastically matched with briny caviar and creamy herbed citrus-spiked leeks and potatoes.
The desserts read well and intrigued, but didn’t quite translate on the plate. A Pound Cake, with Earl Grey Ice Cream, Milk Foam and Crumble was heavy and lacked finesse. The cake was particularly disappointing, being stodgy and muted in flavour.
The Soursop number that our waiter raved about was ridiculously sweet and ill-conceived, with a string of ingredients (cherry, tomato and mascarpone) that didn’t gel at all.
So was Iggy’s worthy of the label of Asia’s best restaurant? Sure, service was faultless and the wine list impeccable as one would expect from a restaurant owned by a former Singapore’s Best Sommelier of the year. The food however was inconsistent and sadly dulled in comparison to the memorable meal I had at its premises in The Regent.
581 Orchard Road
The Hilton Hotel (Level 3)
t. +65 6732 2234