First published on 20 Jun 2011. Updated on 27 Jun 2011.
There is a word they use in the old French country, one that sums up all the good things in life – happiness, contentment, high spirits. They call it taratata. It is this spirit of bonhomie that chefs Philippe Nouzillat and Bertrand Raguin aimed to re-create in their self-styled bistrot. It looks as though these two cooks have beaten the odds, since no broth from this kitchen comes out spoilt. Far from it.
Nouzillat and Raguin each have over 20 years’ experience in the business. Having worked in establishments like Raymond Blanc’s two Michelin-starred Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons and Meritus Mandarin Singapore, they joined forces to create Taratata. Comfort and relaxation were two driving forces, but the real factor was friendship. ‘There is no room for ego in our place,’ Raguin says. ‘Philippe and I work together very well. We develop the menus together. You won’t ever hear shouting or screaming, or plates breaking in the kitchen – in fact we’re usually laughing and cracking jokes.’
The restaurant’s dark-stained wooden surrounds are held together by classically Parisian black-and-white chequered floors, four-seater tables, and red-padded leather booth seats. Dining here is akin to enjoying a meal at a streetside eatery in Montmartre. But why a bistrot, not a fine-dining restaurant? ‘There are already French fine-dining restaurants in Singapore,’ Raguin says. ‘And of course in these places you must dress a certain way; it’s very formal, and dishes must be eaten in the correct way and in the correct order. In a bistrot, it’s far more relaxed.’
The Taratata menu doesn’t just reflect some of France’s best-loved country dishes, but is also influenced by the chefs’ hometowns. Nouzillat hails from La Rochelle in south-western France, while Raguin is from Tours in the Loire Valley, so together they bring a wide repertoire of classic recipes as well as unique creations of their own. Look out for the cassolette (stew) of escargots, oven-baked pig trotters and Toulouse sausage. Mindful of their carbon footprint, the chefs only fly in a few special ingredients from abroad – they usually find everything they need from the wet markets in Chinatown and Tanjong Pagar.
It was agreed by both chefs that ‘Taratata’, when translated, equates to ‘Oh, whatever!’ Not that it should convey any form of nonchalance – to the duo it means ‘live and let live’, and that describes these friends down to a T.
Click here for Taratata Bistrot's address, telephone number and operating hours. Three-course set lunch $32++; à la carte menu available for dinner.