Asia’s best restaurant? Iggy's, Singapore

Sunday, 11 November 2012

For my birthday this year, we decided to splurge a little, and made a reservation at Iggy’s. A regular in the San Pellegrino’s World’s Top 50 Restaurants list for 4 years running now, Iggy’s is currently ranked 26th this year. The restaurant is also rated as Asia’s best restaurant by the same people.

Housed on the third floor of the Hilton Hotel on Orchard Road, Iggy’s is next to the grand ballroom and the entrance is partly hidden; there is a sliding door activated by a touchpad, which took us a few seconds to locate. The main dining hall was quite small, with perhaps 7-8 tables, each sitting 2-4 people, although there is also a separate dining area.

As we went on a Saturday, only a set degustation menu, the Gastronomic, was available, for a mere $275. On normal weekdays, a normal dinner set will cost $195.

Iggy’s Sushi”. I always feel that the first plate carries with it the expectation of the rest of the meal. In a sense then, this was a promising start. We were informed that the left sushi was horse mackerel, while the right was sea bream, and to start from the right. The sea bream sushi felt a tad fishy though. The horse mackerel also was more interesting, as it came with a dollop of the ginger paste commonly used in chicken rice dishes. Now, more interestingly, instead of rice, the fish was wrapped around a ponzu meringue, which had a slight tart taste reminiscent of the rice vinegar, but with a crispy twist.

Iggy's-Singapore-sushi

Parmigiano Reggiano”. We were informed to eat the “ice cream” first, which I mistook for the piece at the bottom of the bowl. That turned out to be a slab of parmesan cheese, which I didn’t care much for, not being a huge cheese lover. The “ice cream” was actually the wafer-like piece on top. It had a bread-like sandwich with a cheesy ice-cream filling, thankfully sweetened slightly.

Iggy's-Singapore-cheese

Foie gras cromesquis, chawanmushi”. A normal cromesquis is a little ball of minced meat, similar to a croquette, but wrapped in batter or caul fat. However, a foie gras cromesquis was made famous by another chef, essentially being a little fried ball with an internal liquid foie gras filling. Sadly, I foolishly wanted to see the inside and spilt half the contents. There is a little bit of balsamic vinegar at the bottom, which added a nice tart tinge to the foie. Although that was nice, I much preferred the chawanmushi, which was very light and had a very aromatic truffle oil aroma wafting from it. A few strands of pickled onions helped to balance out the flavours.

Iggy's-Singapore-foie-gras

Nasi lemak”. I was looking forward to this after spotting it on the menu. At the bottom of the concoction was a fish mousse, which was perhaps thankfully, not too fishy, but it did seem to lack character if eaten on its own. Immediately above it was rice, followed by pandan foam. Scattered about on top was some cracker like bits. Truthfully, I’m uncertain if the topping was just crackers, or if some ikan bilis was added in, but there was a very aromatic bit which totally gave the impression of the peanuts and ikan bilis found in nasi lemak. Overall, the dish was very good, and one can really taste the essence of nasi lemak from it.

Iggy's-Singapore-nasi-lemak

Beside the glass was a cracker like thing, which was supposed to taste of chilli crab. Honestly though, it just tasted a little bit sweet, with the peanuts on top. Quite disappointing after the very good nasi lemak.

After the opening salvo appeared the bread. Two types were on offer: sourdough and focaccia. The sourdough felt a bit undersalted to me, but the focaccia was very good. The butter was quite rich, with what felt like flecks of cheese atop it.

Iggy's-Singapore-bread

KINMEDAI. Cucumber, pomelo, crème fraiche”. Kinmedai’s English name is Splendid Alfonsino and is related to sea bream. The slices of fish were marinated, being slightly salty. The overall plate presentation was really beautiful, with the little flowers and herbs used to great effect. In combination, all the flavours from the fish and greenery worked well together, particularly the usage of pomelo to give it a really fresh feel. Also of note is the caviar oli, basically little balls of olive oil.

Iggy's-Singapore-fish

GILLARDEAU OYSTER. Champagne foam, fava beans, Oscietra”. At the time of eating, I was unaware of it, but this wasn’t just any old oyster. A Gillardeau oyster is a specialist product, cultivated for 4 years following a tradition dating 4 generations. The oyster was really quite large, and was very juicy and flavourful. Additionally, there was a quite significant dollop of oscietra, more commonly known as sturgeon caviar, which was really smooth and silky and added further briny flavour. However, the supposedly champagne foam tastes more of cheese. The bottom layer was like a pressed rice cracker, with a few fava beans within. Personally, I found the effect of the fava beans negligible. Overall though, the taste was very good, helped in no small part from the luxury of caviar.

Iggy's-Singapore-oyster

FROM THE GARDEN. Seeds and grains, leaves and blossoms”. Consisting of over 30 types of plants, there was a veritable hodge-podge of tubers, leaves and stems. Some of them were left raw, while some looked steamed, and a couple were tempura-ed. The “soil” was made from tamba black beans , which was rather sweet. However, this was easily the least favourite dish for the both of us, partly as neither of us are keen herbivores, and also because the dish felt somewhat chaotic and random. Texture wise, it was rather mushy. Perhaps more tempura bits would have made it more enjoyable.

Iggy's-Singapore-garden-salad

SANMA. Brown rice, olives, thyme”. Essentially, it was a rolled up fillet of pacific saury, a relative of mackerel, which appeared to be partially grilled. I really enjoyed the fish itself, but the overall experience was dampened by the several tiny bones inside. The brown rice had a little bit of the crackers from the nasi lemak, which added slight crunch.

Iggy's-Singapore-fish-rice

WAGYU. Matsutake, sudachi, pink garlic”. Perhaps amongst the more anticipated items on the menu, mainly because, well, it’s wagyu beef, a much-needed meaty substance after a predominantly seafood affair. That being said, a lot of restaurants can be somewhat uninspired at times when it comes to red meat. Here however, it was quite interesting as the Kagoshima striploin was actually filleted into thin strips, then rolled into an appearance resembling a normal steak. The top side of the “steak” was seared, before the piece was put into a salamander grill to finish up cooking. The effect was a much more tender piece of meat than usual, even for wagyu, with a juicy pink interior. Very nicely done.

Iggy's-Singapore-wagyu

Iggy's-Singapore-wagyu

I was also keen on eating the matsutake mushrooms, prior to this only something seen on Iron Chef programmes. It was a very meaty piece, with a rather distinct flavour difficult to describe in words. The presence of any citrus component from the sudachi was too subtle to experience. However, the garlic mousse and crispy garlic flakes were sublime, and worked really well to complement the beef.

PEACH. Yoghurt, elderflower, dill”. The first of the dessert courses, this served as a very pleasant and refreshing palate cleanser. The little cubes of white peaches were straightforward enough, but combined very well with the relatively mild elderflower granita. The yoghurt ice cream added a little cream and depth to the plate. The dill just added a little exotic aroma to the palate.

Iggy's-Singapore-dessert

ARAGUANI CHOCOLATE. Banana, espresso, hazelnut”. If the previous dessert course was of very good quality, this was just absolutely excellent. First there was the very smooth high quality chocolate, which comes in two forms: a more straightforward mousse, and a partly frozen version. Caramelised banana is always a good partner with chocolate. Likewise is hazelnut, which also added a slight crunch. Initially, I had assumed the flowers to be merely decorative in nature, but actually it adds a subtle but interesting subtext in aroma and flavour.

Iggy's-Singapore-chocolate

HINOKI CHOCOLATE BOX. Selection of home-made chocolates and macaroons”. Starting with the two macaroons, there were calamansi and Milo versions, both distinctly locally inspired flavours. For the uninitiated, calamansi is a citrus flavour, similar to lime, while Milo is a chocolate and malt based drink. The macaroons itself were of pretty decent quality too, with a near perfect texture; not too soft or chewy but with a slight bite.

Iggy's-Singapore-petit-fours

Of the remaining chocolate based treats, there was a white chocolate truffle, a dark chocolate and a mocha chocolate. The white chocolate one was a complete surprise to me, as it was introduced as “white chocolate truffle”, and I assumed it was just a simple white chocolate dessert. Upon biting it though, there was a flood of incredibly aromatic truffle flavour. The other two desserts were not bad, but just simply overshadowed.

Overall, the bill came up to just over $700 for the two of us. That also included a glass of sparkling sake each for an aperitif, which was nice initially, but the bubbles quickly fizzled out. We also had a coffee and tea respectively. Service throughout was very good, and most of the serving staff seemed knowledgeable about the dishes and were able to answer my questions.

The food in general was pretty good, although there were a few specific negatives here and there.

Iggy's
The Hilton Hotel, Level 3
581 Orchard Road
238883 Singapore
Tel: +65 6732 2234
Official website
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