We’ve written about Pic’s cooking philosophy at the opening of her Raffles Hotel outpost before, and more than a year in, we’re experiencing the restaurant as it should be – operational kinks ironed out, menu stabilised, with ample time to settle into the rhythms and wants of a new country. The verdict? It’s refined, elegant, and is just the right level of cerebral to warrant one of those awards that have gained much visibility in Singapore’s dining scene in the past few years.
Helming the kitchen is Pic’s protege Kevin Gatin, who’s done a stellar job translating Pic’s vision in addition to introducing local botanicals like ginger flower, herb of grace, and pandan.
In fact, in another life, one imagines chef Anne Sophie Pic would have been a perfumer. After all, the items on the menu read like the formulations of haute parfumerie: kampot pepper, Madagascan vanilla, maqaw pepper, and bergamot. Used judiciously, these aromatics don’t inform the flavour of the dish, but gives each one a small mystery. A moment where a diner would frown and tilt their heads trying to figure it out – in the best way possible.
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We start with tomato consomme, lightly floral with elderflower and served with marinated tomatoes and burrata ice cream that eats like a breath of fresh air. The restaurant’s signature pyramid-shaped Berlingots – named for a similarly shaped French candy – has also gotten a seasonal update: peas for spring, although we’re told that Autumnal produce will be introduced very soon, so expect chestnuts and pumpkin.
There’s coal-kissed Hokkaido tuna belly, here marinated with – and we had to read the menu to know this – ginger flower, pandan leaf, and Tasmanian pepper to give it an edge. It’s not a very sharp edge, but enter the sauce: a savoury, green tasting broth of watercress juice infused with pine and bergamot leaf that aptly challenges the almost milquetoast luxury of tuna belly.
Not everything on the menu makes use of exotic herbs and spices though. Pic presents a signature of her father’s, a brilliant example of old-school, (ironically enough) nouvelle cuisine indulgence: wild sea bass sitting in a creamy champagne sauce, topped with a generous mound of caviar. This gets a modern-ish accompaniment of fondant potato – sliced into ribbons and rolled into a tight spiral – with sake lees cream and shavings of dried caviar.
We’re especially fond of the Bresse pigeon, prepared quite classically: breast roasted, legs deboned, mixed with offal, and stuffed back into the skin to form some kind of deliciously gamey popsicle. It’s the details in the accompaniments though, that take this bird to the extraordinary. Served alongside is mashed potato, umami-fortified with tsukudani and seaweed; and jus, lightly smoked and infused with heady Madagascan vanilla, toasty roasted barley, and pungent, citrusy Vietnamese pepper in a deft layering of complex flavours not unlike a great wine.
Speaking of wine, La Dame de Pic has an outstanding wine pairing programme. It’s a compelling mix of interesting labels, renowned regions, and the restaurant’s own label, made by celebrated winemaker Michel Chapoutier on Pic family vineyards. We’re attended by sommelier Justin Wee, who was very personable, and more than happy to share interesting tidbits about the bottles we were having, and even offered some personal (very welcome) opinions – which you rarely encounter.
Highlights from the pairing: a fresh junmai ginjo (Sake Komachi, Midnight Blue) bursting with melons (served with the tomato dish); the serious, complex flagship rose from (Cotes de Provence Les Clans, Chateau d’Esclans 2016) the same people that make Whispering Angel rose. Other happy encounters include one with a lush, perfumed Chateauneuf-du-Pape from Domaine Mas Saint-Louis, a long-standing Rhone producer that recently transitioned from being a negociant producer in 2011; and has since been building a reputation for terrific winemaking.
Two of the most interesting wines of the meal though, was served with dessert. White Mille-feuille – a deceptively light plate of ginger flower cream, confit grapefruit, and maqaw pepper – gets accompaniment of a Franz Haas Moscato Rosa – a fast-disappearing variation of the vastly more common Moscato Bianco. Made into a sweet wine, the Moscato Rosa explodes with roses, lychee, and baking spices; all ballasted by finely balanced acidity and sweetness. It’s the perfect metaphor for dining at La Dame de Pic – luxury not just for luxury’s sake, but an experience deftly balancing indulgence, beauty, and discovery.