For almost a year in 2017, Aussie chef John-Paul Fiechtner was cooking some of the most exciting food in Singapore — first at the short-lived 13 Duxton Hill, and then temporary pop-up Bistro November. This flame, however brief, burned bright —Fiechtner ‘s cooking was lauded for its bottom-up approach, where he highlighted everyday ingredients and worked with local produce in strange and wonderful ways.
Three years on, Fiechtner ‘s back in the country, heading the kitchen at V Zug’s restaurant concept, V-Dining. His progressive approach is the same, although his dishes are now more refined than we remember — with more balanced flavours and finer details.
There’s a fun, more-than-meets-the-eye snack of “oyster pearl” — a shimmery orb of cacao butter-coated oyster ice cream served with a house-fermented nasturtium kimchi, and, in the same vein, a expectation-dying “cake” dessert, where the base components of a pandan cake — flour, eggs, butter, pandan leaves, and various spices — are literally placed on the table (a la Grant Achatz). Only the items are not as they seem. Vanilla pods turn out to be candied rhubarb; the egg a caramel sauce encased in cacao butter; while matcha white chocolate, moulded and spray-painted, makes a very reasonable facsimile for pandan leaves.
Where the chef really shines is when he’s given the chance to transform humble ingredients. Taro root is transformed beyond recognition after being boiled, braised, deep-fried, and shaved. This is layered and filled with parmesan cream before being served in the braising liquor to resemble something that’s not quite taco, not quite croissant, but altogether earthy, comforting, and diversely textural.
(Related: Restaurant Euphoria: Chef Jason Tan is back)
Other highlights include mud crab, which is broken down and put together again in all sorts of intriguing ways. The picked meat is dressed in sour cream and hidden under a locally-farmed zucchini flower; while an intensely flavoured crab oil — rendered from the shells — is paired with warmed cherry tomatoes and raspberries for an enlightening flavour combination. The crab tomalley, meanwhile, goes into butter that’s served with roasted barley crumpets and porcini honey.
Fiechtner ‘s also taken to aging his own fish, in this case, rouget, or red mullet. The deepened fish flavours are paired with braised seeds, babi guling spices, and a fruity, savoury paste made from fermented bell peppers.
In fact, he’s taken on the task of producing almost everything in-house, including fermented his own amazake — which goes into a dessert of brown rice and miso amazake ice cream, served with smoked olive oil and dehydrated mandarin orange segments.
Don’t forget to give the drinks list a whirl — V-dining features a selection of cocktails created by Tippling Club alum Joe Schofield (now running his own bar in Manchester) and a forward-thinking wine list featuring a good mix of natural wines and renowned producers.
6 Scotts Road, #03-13, Scotts Square. Tel: 6950-4868