September 19, 2019

It’s Tuesday night and I’m perched precariously on the edge of my bar stool at Tippling Club nursing the Melba Toast cocktail, a bready sweet tipple inspired by Auguste Escoffier’s dedicated creation for Australian opera singer Dame Nellie Melba. The famous French chef’s ‘King of Chefs’ references are uncanny since we’re witnessing the handing out of stars at the 2019 Michelin Guide awards ceremony at Capella Singapore, through a live feed, nonetheless. 

This year’s awards might have come a little later than usual, but it probably buys us more time for acceptance and the additional nerves. In 2018, 39 restaurants were awarded a total of 44 stars: Thirty-four 1-star and Five 2-stars with the closure of Joël Robuchon Restaurant creating a void in the 3-star division.

[Related: Michelin Guide Singapore 2018: Things are coming out of the woodwork]

Two nights ago, this appellation was once again restored with the crowning of two new Michelin 3-star restaurants—Odette and Les Amis, putting Singapore on the culinary map once again for gourmand fanatics who are on the prowl for ‘exceptional cuisine that is worth a special journey’. Cue Jewel Changi Airport as the first line of defence for the little red dot’s first impression cast (best left for another story).

44 restaurants were awarded 53 stars in total, and of the 37 restaurants who clinched 1-star, nine were new entrants. Some of the noteworthy recruits include Basque Kitchen by Aitor, Restaurant JAG,  Table 65 touting interactive dining, and the timelessly elegant Vianney Massot. All of them bringing mettle to the illustrious designation, though I must admit to having my pets.

Despite these applauded climbs, there was relentless chatter about some striking absences—namely Shang Palace and Esora. My dining experience at chef-owner Shigeru Koizumi’s restaurant gave me hope that the future of fine dining is still bright. It was sublime and the very elegant presentation of Kappo-style feasting will be missed in the pecking order, however, rest assured that its presence will be counted in 2020. I remember revelling in the Author’s cuisine at Preludio last year, which to me, deserves recognition too. 

Of the 2-Star pedigree, we’ve got 2 new entrants: Emmanuel Stroobant’s Saint Pierre and 10-month old Restaurant Zén. New Nordic cuisine sheds its elusive image and has permeated almost every country’s fine dining scene around the globe—think Gaa in Bangkok to Inua in Tokyo. Okay, Zén can claim no founders’ role to the emergence of this cuisine on our local shores, but anyone who retires from their 3 floors of utopia eventually becomes fluent in new nordic cuisine and its gastronomic representatives. The global culinary movement and its false innuendos of anti-French roots certainly add dimension to the awards.

Finally, what feels like a natural, unfussy upgrade is the ascent of stalwart Les Amis and Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants, Odette to 3 stars. Michelin revealed that both restaurants had outstanding cuisine, the ability to evaluate and promote exceptional tables, with a deep respect for terror and its produce. As I look back on the time that I stared in reverence at Odette’s marvellous cheese trolley touting goodies from Alsace’s Bernard Antony, my eyes trailing from the aged comte to the Loire Valley Sainte-Maure; I couldn’t agree more.

Replete with the usual trappings (of French representatives) in the 2019 edition of the Michelin awards, balance is now restored with a bumper crop of stars. Scanning the final list again, there’s really not much to gripe about.

Three Michelin stars:

  1. Odette (NEW)
  2. Les Amis (NEW)

Two Michelin stars:

  1. Saint Pierre (NEW)
  2. Shisen Hanten
  3. Shoukouwa
  4. Waku Ghin
  5. Zén (NEW)

One Michelin star:

  1. Alma
  2. Basque Kitchen by Aitor (NEW)
  3. Béni
  4. Braci
  5. Buona Terra (NEW)
  6. Burnt Ends
  7. Candlenut
  8. Cheek Bistro (NEW)
  9. Chef Kang’s
  10. Corner House
  11. Cut
  12. Garibaldi
  13. Hawker Chan
  14. Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodle
  15. Iggy’s
  16. Imperial Treasure Fine Teochew Cuisine (Orchard)
  17. Jaan by Kirk Westaway
  18. Jag (NEW)
  19. Jiang-Nan Chun
  20. Labyrinth
  21. Lei Garden
  22. Lerouy (NEW)
  23. Ma Cuisine
  24. Meta (NEW)
  25. Nouri
  26. Putien (Kitchener Road)
  27. Rhubarb
  28. Shinji (Bras Basah Road)
  29. Shinji (Tanglin Road)
  30. Summer Palace
  31. Summer Pavilion
  32. Sushi Ichi
  33. Sushi Kimura
  34. Table65 (NEW)
  35. Terra (NEW)
  36. The Song of India
  37. Vianney Massot (NEW)