Bruno Ménard’s move into Singapore is a curious one. Back at Tokyo’s L’Osier – where he earned the restaurant its three Michelin stars – he weaved together plates of art fit for an Egyptian goddess and flavour combinations that fascinated even the most finicky of well-travelled Japanese foodies.
These days, the French chef finds himself working at a stripped-down brasserie smack in bustling Orchard Road. While there are no white tablecloths or dancing waiters with silver artisan baskets, or a maître d’ who sings the Bordeaux wine list like the alphabet, the decor still warrants a visit. You could call it industrial chic: monochromatic tiles, overhead mosquito lamps, random serif scribbles and pixelated fixtures.
The menu is just as interesting. Ménard’s Salads to Drink ($9) selection – so exquisite are these drinks that they render the real salad dishes useless – is served in a mini-glass pitcher with a side of savoury mini gougères nestled on a wooden plank. Red, a dandified version of the Spanish gazpacho, packs a sweet and salty punch with its mélange of vegetables that’s been blended and strained so finely it resembles a European facial elixir. Green is a clever mix of English peas and wasabi, but the heavy addition of mint reminds one of mint toothpaste, which may be off-putting for some.
Some patrons go straight for the burgers, reinvented classics that are French in nature and American in portion size. There is serious quality to the B Burger ($19), with its thick, dry-aged (albeit overdone) beef smothered with red-onion confit and neatly stacked in between brioche buns. Comte cheese is traditionally heady and sharp, but here it’s carefully subdued and doesn’t detract from the meat. The Kimchi Burger ($21) tastes just like Korea’s favourite pickle – overpoweringly so, unfortunately.
The &Made fries – perfumed with Maldon sea salt, the piment d’espelette chilli pepper imported from southern France and the faintest touch of vinegar – accompany most mains and are, in theory, genius. But the kitchen isn’t consistent. The first time we checked in, the fries were soggy; on our second visit, they were crisp and perfect.
If you’re up for something lighter, opt for the Parisian sandwiches, which are a testament to Ménard’s prowess with charcuterie. The Rosette de Lyon ($16) is a gorgeously elongated baguette carefully plastered with thinly sliced salami, Bibb lettuce, butter, a smattering of aioli and an array of green and purple shibazuke pickles. While we appreciate the Japanese influence, but these pretty Japanese condiments should be done without; the salami is already salty as is.
Do make room for desserts. Lollipop waffles ($9) are served with caramel sauce and tiny cups of white and dark chocolate sauce. Equally creative are the Sweet Toastoo’s ($12), French buckwheat crêpes stuffed with your choice of strawberry and vanilla custard or banana and Nutella. The biggest surprise may very well be their sundaes. Four simple varieties are layered in a Scotch glass and taste infinitely better than they look. Our favourite: the Berry ($12), which pairs tart strawberries and raspberries against soft ice cream, crème Chantilly and vanilla crumble on the bottom. Simply divine.
For now, we’ll forgive the nascent inconsistencies and attribute them to &Made’s bedding-in period. In the meantime, if you’d like a slice of the Michelin-starred chef without the pretension, you’ve got it. Just come with an open mind. Jon Cheng