Corner House @ Botanic Gardens
Located on the grounds of the Singapore Botanic Gardens, CORNER HOUSE is a 2-storey Black and White style bungalow built in 1910 to house officials and administrators during the colonial era. Set in lush tropical vegetation and with a small domestic scale garden immediately next to it, it has once served Assistant Director of the Gardens, E J H Corner, from 1929 – 1945, and this house in which he lived is named after him. Till today, E J H Corner has left a personal legacy that resonates within its walls and at the center of this multi-layered experience is the extraordinary cuisine of Singaporean chef Jason Tan.
Chef Jason Tan fell under the spell of the kitchen even before he was even old enough to drive. After ORD, he joined the famed Les Amis restaurant in 2004 and in fairly quick succession, he progressed through 2 other premier establishments — Le Saint Julien Restaurant in Singapore and the 3-Michelin-starred Robuchon a Galera (later renamed Robuchon au dome), at the Hotel Lisboa in Macau, China. His previous job was at Sky on 57, when Chef Justin Quek personally roped in Jason to be part of the preopening team for his new restaurant, Sky on 57, at the Marina Bay Sands resort. Jason remained at Sky on 57 for nearly 4 years, before decided to start CORNER HOUSE.
The cuisine created by Chef Jason Tan, Gastro-Botanica, combines the passion that E J H Corner had for Nature, especially plants, with the progressive techniques of a refined modern kitchen. The meats, poultry and seafood used are fastidiously sourced and chosen; and botanicals, in particular, are given prominence. Chef Jason Tan’s Gastro-Botanica is based on French cooking technique, with global influences in flavour.
We started our lunch with a whole range of amuse bouche to tease our tastebuds. This includes a Slow cooked Norwegian Salmon Confit with apple gel & microgreens; Obsiblue prawn from New Caledonia on cornmeal cracker with avocado mousse and onions; House-made fish cracker served with creme fraiche & tobiko; Greek yoghurt parfait on cucumber; Fribourg Gruyere cheese sponge, with shaved macadamia nuts and Steam brioche with house-made egg marmalade and ketchup.
Here, vegetables are given much fuller elaboration in range and preparation, and garnishing becomes a highlight in its own right. This is a vital innovation of Gastro-Botanica cuisine and sets it apart from the others. It’s interesting to see how Chef Jason plays with different tomato variations. One of Corner House’s signature dish – Carabinero Prawns with tomato variation – left me fascinated.
The prawns are poached, and presented on the plate with a medley of tomatoes. You will find a cherry tomato that is marinated with thai basil and honey, and another with mint and sour plum. There is also a tomato ‘cloud’, which is a creation from tomato water that is made into a marshmallow texture with raspberry vinegar, a sorbet of tomato with red capsicum, as well as a raw tomberry (one of the world’s smallest tomatoes), and lastly a tomato confit. The dish is topped with a prawn whisker that is dehydrated and lightly battered and fried.
When Chef Jason joined us for lunch to share about the inspirations behind the dishes, I asked him which was his favourite dish. Without doubt, it was Cevennes onions done in 4 different ways. Cevennes onion is Chef Jason’s favourite vegetable. In this course, I was first presented with a whole onion which was oven-baked and hollowed, and used as a cup for onion puree, 62 degree sous vide egg, onion confit and finely chopped black truffles. I was worried about having onion breath but the combination of onion puree and black truffles complemented so well that I finished it entirely.
Pairing with the onion puree, we also have mini onion tart made with a thin filo pastry base, onion confit and topped with parmesan cheese that is lighted grilled. I thought the filo pastry was too thin and would have work better with puffy onion tart. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the beautifully sliced onion chip that was lighted salted and dehydrated. Last but not least, we ended this course with onion tea, which is made of two components: an infusion of caramelised onion with Early Gray YinZhen tea served in a teapot, poured over an emulsion of onion confit and cream that is in a tea cup. I am onionified.
We took a walk around the bangalow and there was a shelf full of beautiful porcelain bowls and plates just outside the kitchen. I asked if these plates are for sale as each piece was so delicate that I wanted to buy some home. Unfortunately, it wasn’t. But it shows that the kitchen takes pride in the food presentation to enhance the overall dining experience. It was clearly seen in my next dish – maine lobster with riso pasta, sauteed squid and smoky leeks. Paired with apple cider and crustacean emulsion, it was a party in the mouth when all flavours combined. Don’t worry about “chiak buey bah” (still feeling hungry after a meal), because these dishes are part of a degustation menu, so you will feel “chiak bah bah” (very full) after all was served.
Like a beautiful painting, Japanese A5 Omi Beef was served with heirloom beetroot variation, black garlic pesto and natural jus. The Beetroot Collection is a variation of red, golden and chioggia beetroot, which helps to tone down the fattiness from the omi beef.
Before dessert was served, we had a bowl of passion fuit and Riesling jelly, iced pineapple, tapioca pearl with cardamon, basil/lime sorbet to cleanse the palette before Cocoa Pebbles was presented. This signature dessert features Alpaco chocolate mousse with a lemon curd centre shaped likes pebbles, and served over savoury chocolate soil and mandarin sorbet, topped with lightly pickled shimeiji mushrooms and mushroom-shaped meringue. We also had Liu Sha Bao macaron (my favourite); Raspberry tart, sable breton, meringue with lime zest; and Espresso bon bon.
Chef Jason has managed to get a rare quality and range of greens like ginger, tomatoes, onion and beetroot to create a truly beautiful and delicious Gastro-Botanica cuisine, achieving a delicate balance between the main ‘protein’ element and the garnishing on the plate. Flavours are animated with subtle and precise layering to build up ‘momentum’. The extraordinary food of CORNER HOUSE is also complemented by a wine list of more than 600 labels, including, for the first time in Singapore, Pontcin by Chateau Grillet.
Congratulations to CORNER HOUSE for receiving Singapore Tatler’s Best New Restaurants 2015 Awards. You guys truly deserve it!
Address: 1 Cluny Road, Nassim Gate, Singapore Botanic Gardens, E J H Corner House, Singapore 259569
Tel: +65 6469 1000
Opening hours: Tuesday – Saturday 12 pm – 3pm, 6.30 pm – 11 pm; Sunday 11.30 am – 3 pm, 6.30 pm – 11 pm. Closed on Mondays
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