Sturgeon roe is one of those foods that have acquired notoriety for being markers of opulence and prestige since Russian Tsars were heaping spoonfuls onto their dishes. Highly prized for its rarity, depending on the type of sturgeon and especially so if it comes from a vulnerable species, caviar is a show of edible lavishness. 

There are plenty of ways to enjoy the umami of the black roe but if modestly-sized caviar bumps (now trending at restaurants the likes of Corduroy Palace) aren’t your cup of tea, the Caviar restaurant at Palais Renaissance is the place to go. 

Opened by Jason Ong, who’s also responsible for Uni Gallery, the fine dining restaurant offers up to eight types of caviar such as the beluga, sevruga and oscietra varieties as well as the Chinese-produced Kaluga Queen. It’s incorporated into dishes, served on a pearl spoon, or with six shots of premium vodka but ultimately, there’s no mistaking it’s the pièce de résistance. 

(Related: 5 things you didn’t know about caviar)

Smoked Oysters (Credit: Caviar restaurant)

For the caviar connoisseur, Ong’s establishment could well be the playground they’ve been looking for. After all, you can be sure the man knows his product having been a supplier of premium seafood for eight years. The entire spread of caviar, in their tin containers of various sizes, is put on display along a shallow ice trough by the open kitchen where the chef’s table resides. 

Unfortunately, none of those are opened and served to us during our meal there. Instead, that’s done in the kitchen where the fresh-faced team is led by head chef Karleen Kasim. Under the age of 30 herself, Kasim has worked at Cure and Nae:um, two fine dining restaurants making waves with their Irish and Korean modern interpretations. 

It’s clear Kasim and her young team of chefs have distilled the techniques learnt during their time with top calibre chefs; the nine-course menu is executed well and with good cadence. There’s a cognizance of contrasting flavours to pair with caviar, without a sense of trying too hard. From the trio of snacks, the Tomato Macaron with Uni Cream, Sturia Oscietra caviar and tongues of sea urchin is a great play off the briney pearls of roe with a sweet pastry and a dusting of tomato powder for a touch of acidity. 

(Related: Why you’re seeing caviar on menus everywhere)

Bressan Pigeon (Credit: Caviar restaurant)

On the whole, however, the coupling of flavour profiles tend to fall on the more predictable, safer end of the spectrum such as caviar with seafood (sweet botan ebi tartare) and caviar with something starchy (toast and potato foam). They’re tried-and-tested combinations that bring to mind dishes we’ve eaten before elsewhere and more often than not, get the table’s winning votes. As the saying goes, if the wheel ain’t broken, why fix it? 

Still, there are surprises to be had in Kasim’s degustation presentation. A burrata whipped with honey and verjus served in a caviar tin then covered in thin slices of green grapes and Canadian uni is one of the dishes without sturgeon roe. Acting as a palate cleanser almost, it’s a creamy pudding of salinity, sweetness and tartness. 

Then there’s the Sakelees Ice Cream served with dehydrated lime meringue and topped with a generous quenelle of Polenco Siberian Caviar. It’s a divisive dish; Ong is a fan of the sweet and savoury combination while my table mate and I aren’t too sure if we are. The sake kasu gives the ice cream enough of its own umami-fruity flavour to go with the roe but was overpowered by the saltiness of the caviar. 

(Related: Caviar Colony has a species of sturgeon exclusive to them)

Chef’s Table (Credit: Caviar restaurant)

Fortunately there’s some champagne to wash it down. The drinks list is pretty expansive, offering a reasonable selection by the glass such as NV Champagne Legras & Haas Intuition Brut and Johnnie Walker Blue Label. Whereas the list of bottled champagne lean into the older vintages, the likes of a 2006 Krug Brut or the splendid 2003 Dom Perignon P2 Brut. 

All in all, it’s a pretty decent debut for a young team. But, Caviar has some ways to go before truly grasping how to showcase the delicate differences between the different sturgeon roe (and I don’t mean just accentuating the flavours). With more practice and research, hopefully the team gets more confident in execution and presentation, particularly crucial given that they’re in full view of guests at the counter who are paying top dollar for the experience. 

390 Orchard Road, B1-07 Palais Renaissance, Singapore 238871. Tel: 9888 1217