Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Gunther's Modern French Cuisine, Singapore: where "simple and honest" cooking smelt like truffle and caviar

One of my bridesmaids, the ever efficient L, suggested dinner at one of her favourite haunts in Singapore, Gunther's. It's an award-winning restaurant helmed by Chef Gunther Hubreschen whose food philosophy boils down to "simple, honest, and down-to-earth cooking that comes from the heart." 

My head wondered if there was a bit of irony there. This fine dining restaurant is known for its art-inspired dishes (and private dining rooms for engagement affairs) after all. Nonetheless it got my curiosity piqued and my belly excited.

Gunther's Modern French Cuisine Singapore
So excited that I arrived super early! Whilst nursing an aperitif by the bar, I noticed how this so-called simplistic philosophy is reflected on the decor as well. The dining room itself looked rather gloomy with its grey walls and white linen tables which reminded me of executive clandestine affairs (the non-offensive type). And yet, it all seemed to work and admittedly built a bit of anticipation - as if something special was about to happen.

My dates for the night: Plaid Boy (on his phone, yet again) and one of my bridesmaids, L.

Once sat, we were served some complimentary batons and butter (which I found hard) and an amuse bouche of prawn tempura (which I thought was quite forgettable in its non-amuse bouche size).

Specials at Gunther's Modern French Cuisine Singapore
We were presented a rather indulgent-looking tray of seasonal off-menu specials which included a gorgeous sea bream and a silky sole; scallops, pen shell, clams and lamb from Normandy; Wagyu beef that glistened in perfect marbling; and an artichoke as big as an infant's head.

We decided to go for some of the specials and picked a few things on the menu, including Gunther's most celebrated cold angel hair pasta with Oscietra caviar. Our server seemed to be surprised that each of us wanted our own plates of their signature dish with no intention to share. But hey, at SG$60 (roughly £30) per wee little plate, this deceptively unassuming dish is absolutely worth every cent.

Cold Angel Hair Pasta with Caviar at Gunther's Modern French Cuisine Singapore
Truffle may be an olfactory stimulant of decadent eating but it needs to be handled with care. They've done that on this dish. The moment it was served, I thought: this is what 'delicious' smells like. The pasta, glistening in truffle olive oil with specks of chives and more black truffle, was perfectly cooked - firm and evenly tempered. There was enough caviar to tickle the palate with indulgence but it was subtle enough, showing much finesse and care of hand. It's an incredibly simple plate of food yet the flavour is so rich. This, my friends, is the truest edible interpretation of "flights of fancy". I am in love with it as I'm sure you will be too.

Gunther's Modern French Cuisine
We ordered a scallop from the specials tray, carpaccio-style. Served on its shell atop a sauciere and garnished with cherry toms and bread crisps, it was very Instagrammable and almost too pretty to eat. The natural sweetness of the scallop shone through.

Gunther's Modern French Cuisine
I was less impressed with the carpaccio of Wagyu beef (SG$30) from the regular menu though. It's a clever play on the classic steak tartare and the quality of the beef was melt-in-your mouth superb. However, I found the flavour marred by the crispy potato it rested on.

Gunther's Modern French Cuisine
We asked for grilled artichoke from the specials to share and we all ended up with beautiful plates of the perfect portion. Served with chestnut mushrooms and prosciutto this dish brought robust earthy flavours complimented by the saltiness of the cured meat. My favourite moment eating this was when I hinted some mustard hidden underneath the artichoke slices, which gave the dish an exciting zing.

Suckling Pig at Gunther's Modern French Cuisine
Our mains came, served on a silver platter nonetheless. Plaid Boy and I shared the suckling pig from the specials.

Gunther's Modern French Cuisine Singapore
In a lifetime or two, when gluttony was forgiveable, this lovely piece of meat was mine, all mine - cholesterol be darned!

But skin as crispy as that with melt-in-your mouth pork just had to be shared. Served with some wedges, a red wine reduction and some dates (which I thought were a good alternative for apple sauce), this was a cracking (no pun intended) dish.

Gunther's Modern French Cuisine Singapore
L had the toro steak (you have to pre-order this). It's such a delicate ingredient which needed to be handled with much thought and finesse, which is probably why I thought there too many elements on the plate. The tomato ravioli gave much needed acidity to balance the organic taste of the fish and the puffed up potato chips added a nice texture (as well as a display of technical skill). I didn't get the appearance of the grilled corn nor the extra sauces. The toro itself was delicious and I wish they'd stuck to their simplistic approach with this dish.

Gunther's Modern French Cuisine Singapore
Feeling like we've overindulged on the savouries, we skipped dessert and ordered coffees only to be served petit fours (all made in house, save for the chocolate). I couldn't resist wolfing down a canelé which had a nice caramelised crust and a moist interior. A pretty sweet ending to a pretty awesome meal.

My view of "simple, honest, and down-to-earth cooking that comes from the heart"  may have changed a bit after this dinner (then again "simple cooking" has always been a subjective issue, no?) Sure, Chef Gunther's food may display a bit of flamboyance but when you break it down to the very essence, the produce is truly éclatante. It was definitely one of the most pleasurable meals I've had in Singapore.

Service was outstanding, too - you're sure to feel special and well looked after. So, if you're in dire need of a little TLC with your partner or if you fancied treating your loved ones somewhere super nice in the Lion City, I definitely recommend this place.

Because you seriously, seriously, seriously need that cold angel hair pasta in your life.

Gunther's Modern French Cuisine
 36 Purvis Street #01-03, Singapore 188613 | +65 9010 3075
Average spend pp: SG$300 (roughly £150). Average price per truffle shaving: SG$12 (roughly £6)
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