History is outrageously rich. And as far as history being the perfect place to have an escape into cuisine wonderland, I guess not many will entertain the thought. Yet, the infusion of both the contemporary arts and the traditional past has always delighted many. Perhaps its the marrying of the old with the new, or the fuzzy and the jazzy. But with every contrast, there lies a line of similarity, and with that line of similarity, there is Novus, the modern contemporary European Fine Dining retreat and the 124 years old National Museum of Singapore.
And that similarity, is Artful Masterpieces.
Novus’s kitchens are helmed by Executive Chef Stephan Zoisl, who recently returned from an 8 month long sabbatical inclusive of an exposure apprenticeship at The Fat Duck. Born in Innsbruck, Austria, Stephan’s culinary career began when he was only 15 years old at the Grand Hotel Europe. And it is with this night’s dinner where I finally get to witness his creations.
The dinner is nicely started off with a warm bread basket of dinner rolls and a variety of sliced loaves. Served together with seasoned olive oil, butter with herbs and fresh olives.
For the amuse bouche, the table was served the Espuma of Carrot, Pumpkin and Ginger. Textured airy and full of foam, the sweetness from the carrot and pumpkin sate the tastebuds with the aroma of ginger being mild and slight to perk the senses.
The first dish of Heirloom Tomato ($18) was served. Comprising of avocado, buffalo mozzarella, 25 year old PX vinegar and extra virgin olive oil, this starter is strictly a play on texture and crisp robust flavours from the heirloom tomatoes drizzled with the Pedro Ximenez vinegar. Sweet tart with both a crunch and yet a delightful chewy sensation, the choice of using spherical softened fruit and buffalo mozzarella is my cup of tea!
Next up, the Yellowfin Tuna ($18) proved to be a very visually appealing starter. Colourful hues of varied ingredients adorn the grayish stone plate giving the impression of dining beside the sea. Carefully seared yellowfin tuna with tomato marmalade, pistachio, lava sea salt and ginger foam make up this combination. A beautiful art piece though I would have preferred more body in the flavours.
This is my favourite dish of the night. Even as I write this post now, I can still visualise the taste from each sip.The Shellfish Bisque ($24) is presented with the portions of prawns and crabmeat raviolini and thereafter touched with the pouring of bisque from the teapot.
And as the bisque flows smoothly out, I was immediately struck by the waft of deep sea aroma of both a creamy and nutty nature that intensified the appetite. The bisque was rich in umami flavours, a work of sheer balance in stock and seasoning. Couple that with the crunchy prawns and the burst in the mouth crabmeat raviolini, and what we have here is a masterpiece.
Duck Tea ($16) is aptly named as such as the duck consomme is served out from the teapot onto layers of quail egg, trumpet & enoki mushroom, smoked duck breast, and black truffle shavings.
The flavours of the Duck Tea are light and clear yet subtly infused with the aromas of the earth floating about. Very qing dan in nature, just like clear tea.
I was innately surprised by this dish. Hidden Salmon ($28) is my first sous vide fish creation topped with sake jelly, grapefruit, fennel and coriander shiso. The choice of jelly with salmon is clearly a textural play that Chef Stephan so likes to engage with. The deep fatty salmon which is thoroughly soft yet slightly gel like throughout has its natural oily flavours complemented with that touch of light sake jelly and coriander shiso. The whole dish was remarkably soft and delightful.
The Crisp Duck ($32) is purportedly one of the kitchen’s signatures. Confit duck leg, beetroot, turnip, potato puree with pommery mustard and thyme jus, the duck leg is slowly cooked in its own fat for several hours for both flavour and juiciness. Very tender with just the right amount of bite in it, yet with the crisp skin on the surface, the Crisp Duck is an excellent main. Though its portion size might not appeal to everybody.
Kurobuta Pork ($38) is served olive oil poached together with potato onion, cannelloni, braised capsicum and garlic chips. Strong meaty flavours that leave a lasting heartiness yet with a slight flaky and a touch of fat texture, the tenderloin of Berkshire pork is done finely here with tops marks going for the savoury collagen rich tendons by the side.
I was definitely pleased to have a Cheese Platter ($25) with a selection of Brie, Munster, Roquefort, St Nectar and St Julien. Mmmm. And dried grapes on twigs were a definite sweetener.
And for a visual sweet feast of orangey yellow, there is the Deconstructed Mango ($16) of mango textures, white nougat ice cream, chocolate dust and yoghurt crisp. The common conception of nougat must be hard and yoghurt must be soft is broken here with the soft smooth nougat ice cream matched with the pieces of wafer thin yoghurt crisp. The mango textures itself are rich with a decent aroma of fruity mango sweetness. Pairing the dish with crushed “Oreo” chocolate dust livens the dish to a playful creation, probably from Chef’s earlier years.
As a final treat before the night comes to an end, I had the Chocolate Test ($16) with the creations of 50% Varlhona Souffle, 65% Lindt Creme Brulee, 80% Barry Callebaut-espuma and Vanilla sorbet.
Start off the Chocolate Test with the 50% Varlhona Souffle which to me is possibly one of the best chocolate souffles. The decadence of the rich cacao beautifully blended into this airy creation served hot enriches the sweet experience. Follow the hotness with the cooling 80% Barry Callebaut-espuma for a light progression with textures akin to a very thin gel.
After the espuma, it is the 65% Lindt Creme Brulee. And when the goodness is just about to end, dig in to the Vanilla Mousse as a palate cleanser with light tastes and a refreshing outlook.
Novus is not just a restaurant, it comprises elements of a bar, a Dining Room, a cafe and a courtyard at The National Museum.
The experience of dining amongst history is a strong occurrence at Novus. Seemingly, time has slowed downed in nonchalant fashion as though it was a leisure stroll in the park, or in this case, through the corridors of the museum itself. While looking out the window into the streets from the restaurant, it is hard not to be captivated at how rush rush things are outside. Chef Stephan’s cuisine is creative, with flavours ranging from the surprising savoury to the subtle and hidden clean tastes. Couple that with the excellent service from the restaurant’s sommelier Eddy and with the laid back casual feel in a Fine Dining restaurant, this is a retreat away from the city in the city.
Many Thanks to LeRoy, Public Relations Consultant from Foodnews for the invitation.
Restaurant- Monday to Saturday: 11.30am-2.30pm; 6.30pm-10.30pm
Dress code: Smart, Elegant