They say a picture can speak a thousand words. But no one warned on how hungry it would make me. I'm talking about homegrown label and Michelin-starred restaurant Corner House. It's a little more special now in the newly-christened UNESCO world heritage site since 2015 - 160-year-old Singapore Botanic Gardens (SBG). It is also Singapore's first in receiving this international honor.
It can be a little tricky if you're trying to locate this house for the first time. Or third time 🙊 It seems that drivers tend to drop passengers off at Tanglin Gate, some say because their GPS took them there. It took me 10 minutes to walk from one end to the other, i.e. Nassim Gate, where the lone house is nearest to. It was so darn hot too. The walking path is unsheltered, but general admission into the park is free from 5am - midnight everyday.
To ensure that you get here using the best route possible, follow the directions here. Something I should have done earlier, duh.
The walk to this gorgeous black and white colonial bungalow was worth it. In the day especially, the surrounding nature is breathtaking.
Headed by chef and co-founder and Singaporean Jason Tan, the five-year-young, double-storey 60-seater in EJH house aka Eldred John Henry Corner (a British botanist and assistant director of SBG till end of the Japanese Occupation) is a one-Michelin-starred establishment and no. 49 on this year's Asia's 50 Best Restaurants list. The initial renovation of $1.5 million paid off for this first-time f & b entrepreneur in partnership with Wine Culture. I think the biggest pay-off for 37-year-old Chef Jason is the freedom to be able to create the cuisine that he truly wants - gastro-botanica - the way he wants it, every single time. Cause he's the boss 👨🍳
And now, onward to lunch! The first order of the day was champagne, rosé champagne 💕 As mentioned before, Wine Culture is the other owner of this business, hence it's not surprising to find over 500 labels of wines including champagne, magnum and bin-end list. It seems like an oversized selection for this restaurant, but this is what fine dining is about - excess and access.
The bread service arrived. At first glance I thought it was a halved croissant. But as you can see (picture above), it's a conical-shaped buttery and flaky pastry. The result is a perfect bread basket.
All of these were the amuse bouche. Lunch proper hadn't started yet. WOW.
1. Bite-size fish cracker carrying crunchy micro tobiko (or flying fish roe)
2. Truffle salsa and gruyere bikini sandwich
3. Tang yuan or Chinese dessert dumpling made with coconut skin and filled with black & white sesame puree (which felt more like a liquid than a paste)
4. Like a water drop, the aloe vera gelée and rose syrup combination was enhanced by the chia seeds
5. Foie gras truffle coated in white chocolate eyes 🥰 OR Sun Sugar cherry tomatoes marinated in plum, honey and lime which took on the look of Japanese ume or plum (for my dining partner who's pescetarian)
Savor all the colors of this bright orange bafun uni presented on its spiny rack. It looks like a progressive sushi but I was fooled. Sitting on a rice cracker, the sea urchin-toting gunkan-maki (similar to a battleship) lookalike was wrapped in pickled suika naratsuke or watermelon in Yamazaki rice wine. It was all stuffed into my mouth at the same time, and it was good. Creamy, sweet with enough light resistance from the pickled fruit to balance this rather delicate composition.
That was nitrogen-frozen crème fraiche which made like a snow blanket over a few Gillardeau oysters accompanied by Japanese cucumbers, yuzu kōsho and mint. Oh, and did I forget to mention Kristal caviar? This was greatly appreciated especially after trekking up and down the slope through the park in the summer heat (It's usually hot or hotter here!). It cooled me down completely and was so fresh and alive in my mouth. It did help that I love oysters, especially the raw kind.
The next part is undeniably the pièce de résistance - Oignon Doux Des Cévennes or sweet onion of Cévennes in France. If you hate everything onion, you're gonna LOVE this. Because I am a well-known to steer clear of any sort of onions and their relatives (leek, for example), and I finished ALL of my share even though my dining partner offered her extra tummy space for any of my leftovers. THERE WAS NONE. How did this happen? The produce is exceptional. Grown in a region that's also a UNESCO world heritage site, the taste is sweet without the undesirable astringency. I tasted the magic by Chef Jason entitled "Interpretation of My Favorite Vegetable". Not only was it LIFE-CHANGING for me since I have hated onions my whole life, spending more time than necessary to pick out cut spring onions in my porridge using chopsticks, there was not on but FOUR different episodes to this miracle.
1. This is the prima donna aka baked onion cup with the skin still on. It's as natural as it gets....until the lid is opened and the smell of the black truffles hit the nose. Then I dug into the hollowed "cup" with a spoon and released 62 degrees celsius sous vide egg yolk that was very orange (Japanese egg). As I turned my spoon, i mixed the onion puree and confit with the egg, sea salt, finely chopped chives and truffles. OH MY WORD. Watch the video. I can't watch it! The craving is REAL!
2. Next was this onion tart that was small in size but big on taste. The crackling filo pastry was slathered with onion confit, and then parmesan cheese before being torched a la minute. Here's what kicked in right after. The thinly sliced prized onions were slow-cooked with butter for six hours to result in this confit. MIND BLOWN.
3. The onion chip (found in the top right of the main group picture above) was dehydrated for 24 hours and then salted which probably explained why I found it chewy and (naturally) sweet like candy. I couldn't finish it as it was too big a piece for me.
4. The last of the four interpretations was onion tea. The gorgeous chawan was presented filled with an emulsion of onion confit and cream. Earl grey-infused onion tea was then poured into the chawan. I drank it like tea, of course. An informational booklet was provided which stated that "This onion tea is the most "expensive" of components as 3kg of onions and 2 days' work produce a mere 200ml. It is the closest you will experience to drinking an onion." How about that? I am gobsmacked.
This is just the first part of the two-parter report on Corner House. The second part will go live next week after Michelin Guide Singapore 2019 star revelation and gala dinner.
I leave you with the prix fixe menu selection here. We had the Corner House Experience degustation for lunch which is usually available for dinner only. However, do ask the restaurant in advance if you, like me, don't mind spending a lovely drawn-out meal in the afternoon. At short or immediate notice, the restaurant may not be able to accede to specific dietary restrictions and/or menu selection. In fact that pretty much goes for most eateries here.
BOOK NOW : +65 6469 1000 / Chope
Corner House 1 Cluny Road Singapore Botanic Gardens Singapore 259569
More directions here.
Open daily (except Monday), reservations are highly recommended
Weekday Lunch: 12 pm – 3 pm (last order 2 pm) Weekday Dinner: 6.30 pm – 11 pm (last order 9 pm)
Weekend Brunch: 11.30 am – 3 pm (last order 2 pm) Weekend Dinner: 6.30 pm – 11 pm (last order 9 pm)
Cuisine : Gastro-botanica / Modern European
Seating Capacity : 60
Dress Code : Smart Casual - Shorts and bermudas are allowed with loafers or shoes.