By Rachel Tan
SINGAPORE – This Asian city is a burgeoning hub of casual cafés that seek to out-brew and out-bake each other. Never have we been so aware of our palates. With all of them catering to the same clientele of 20-somethings, ex-pats, and creative movers and shakers – making a name for yourself is a crap shoot. Three-star Michelin chef Bruno Ménard marries fame and a dream of fortune with the newest addition to our culinary skyline, &Made.
Ménard brings culinary expertise over from the luscious three-star restaurant, L’Osier in Tokyo and harnesses them in a casual corner in Singapore’s main shopping district. Much to my dismay, the menu’s foundation may be strong – but overall construction and actual delivery falls flat. Cute place to sit but not necessarily to dine.
Among playful-sounding shakes, liquid salads and decadent burgers lies the “toastoo.” A modern interpretation of the French buckwheat crepe, it resembles a Hot Pocket on a diet. A traditional French crepe folded inwards creates a triangular pouch filled with combinations of cheeses and meats. A healthier vegetarian toastoo exists but its price will make you rethink this option.
My fondness of the new led me to order the “Viking” – a salmon and cream cheese toastoo ($17SGD). The slightly elastic and chewy crepe is a welcome delight. The porous, tangible texture is perfect to soak up a runny egg yolk with.
But instead of a creamy yolk inside, expect a drought of salmon. The smoked salmon is cooked into a dehydrated, extra salty version of itself and melted cream cheese adds no moisture respite. And forget your vegetables in this meal. Three small broccoli florets are found in the corners of the pocket and the side salad is a shadow of what it should be. One baby tomato sliced in half makes me feel like I’m on a diet.
In preparation and plating, &Made scores high points. Clean, creative and slightly cheeky, food visually echoes the playful placemat menus. I love a chubby burger atop a granite slab and my fries in an industrial tin. However, flavor pairings fail to excite and are inferior remakes of greatest hits.
Back to the toastoo. Ménard’s attempt at revamping this classic tissue pancake makes me realize that some classics are meant to remain as such. Our palates become more discerning and upscale due to the amount of options available, but nouveau cuisine should not pander to the nouveau riche palate unless it maintains the same level of technical finesse and flavor consistency as its parent product.