André Chiang has made a name for himself with his eponymous 30-seat restaurant in Singapore and tenure under lauded chefs such as Joël Robuchon and Alain Ducasse.
By Rachel Will
Photos by Dimas Anggakara
André Chiang is a control freak—and he doesn’t mind you calling him that. Known as a perfectionist in the industry and among his own staff, Chiang takes pleasure in even the most mundane decisions in his restaurant, ensuring guests get extra mileage from every interaction in the space. He has even been known to close his namesake restaurant when he is not around.
From the metal and suede sheep sculptures that double as handbag holders, to his handcrafted ceramic figurines that line the upstairs walls, his aesthetic faculty easily spills over to the décor department.
You can find Restaurant ANDRÉ in the southwest end of Singapore’s Chinatown on Bukit Pasoh Road, an Art Deco street lined with shophouses and increasingly saturated with the hipster haunts of the Unlisted Collection and pop-up restaurants. The narrow façade of the white building, opened in late 2010, is neatly tucked between the New Majestic Hotel and a private house. The unassuming, minimalist exterior belies the ornate dining experience within.
Chiang wants you to feel like you are dining in his home, as though the restaurant is an extension of himself. The ground floor seats 14 around a hand-carved tree trunk table (it was so large that it had to be finished inside the very room). The humming kitchen is visible through a sliding glass door, emblazoned with his namesake, adding intermittent ambient sounds to the chatter of the dining room.
Guests are served by expert staff who double as prep during the day, staying involved in the dining process from the initial chef brainstorming session around the great table to the eventual serving. The familiar atmosphere buzzes during the early evening as the staff scurry about in flip-flops and jeans, only to transform into sleek black uniforms before guests arrive.
As you walk upstairs in the restaurant the intimacy of the space evolves. One continues to feel Chiang’s presence on the first floor with a green, brown, and yellow color palette in a comfortably modern setting that rivals any designer concept. As you rise to the second floor, Chiang’s many annotations and awards line the walls like a hall of fame of sorts. Pellegrino distinctions and chef of the year awards mix with magazine covers and top-tier reviews.
The second floor resembles something of a stuffed but organized library, with an encyclopedia of Michelin Star manuals from decades back, books on design, dining, and even the autobiography of Chiang himself all sharing shelf space. Surreal ceramic squid float on the wall while handmade teacups once again bare Chiang’s perfectionist tendencies.
And the third floor, well that’s Chiang’s private office. But you didn’t want to see it anyways, right?
Chiang neatly sums up his dining mantra as the multi-pronged, “Octaphilosophy”—informing his food, beverage, and even alcohol judgments. Octaphilosophy draws on eight tenets including salt, artisan, texture, and memory to bring the best from produce and products he sources from private partners and even his own farm in his native Taiwan.
About 90% of the produce is imported from climates and conditions he deems the best environment for the item. Seafood, meats, and vegetables originate from Japan while herbs and flowers claim French sourcing. Much of Chiang’s culinary education took place in France explaining his affection for the region and the exclusive import of boutique French wines.
Chiang shies away from having a formal menu, instead holding a daily briefing to assess the freshest products available and the demands of guests. Instead diners are presented with a clean white booklet containing a translucent sheet delineating Octaphilosophy, with typical Chiang panache.
Every dish is wholly conceived, from the style of the serving platter to the positioning of tiny garnishes via a tweezer-like tool. Chiang’s Potato Brava came served on an amorphous wooden platter that held the granular garlic cacao soil just so. A ceramic Japanese rice bowl contained the Miyagi dessert filled with an edamame pudding with hints of green tea and matcha powder covering a bed of miso brioche and toasted rice.
And the taste? Imagine Chiang’s potato gnocchi dish. A gnocchi shell covers a scallop crème Anglaise. Short stalks of asparagus decorate the plate intermittently with delicate leaves, finely sliced Brussels sprout topped with a tiny flower, and the odd caviar roe. Tasting one piece of the gnocchi is an amalgamation of the dish’s intricate gatherings, blending the crème of the sauce, the starch of the potato, and the delicate bite of scallop. If it took a whole leaflet to explain what Chiang tries to achieve with his cooking, then there is surely no words to conjure the end product here.
41 Bukit Pasoh Road; 65/6534-8880; restaurantandre.com; lunch from US$100, dinner from US$235