*This tasting was paid for by Novus Restaurant
Summer hols. A time for work and a time for play. It has always given me ambivalent feelings. I had always wondered what was it’s purpose exactly? To give undergrads the opportunity to toil away doing internships to boost their CV, or simply a few months break before racing for that elusive illustrious GPA once again? It has always been a compromise, the use of one’s time.
For some friends I know from the SMU Gourmet Club, they have struck a fine balance between both, embarking on a project to publish a food guide during this summer hols, where work meets play. It might sound simple but really, it’s no mean feat, from literally walking the grounds to filter out restaurants to be covered, to getting sponsorships and writing reviews. Having spent most of summer overseas, I was eager to get back and lend a helping hand.
One of the places we are going to cover in our food guide is Novus Restaurant, a fine dining eatery located in the National Museum of Singapore, just opposite the SMU School of Economics and Social Sciences.
Specializing in avant garde Contemporary European cuisine, the absence of the same boring ubiquitous European dishes in Novus’s menu comes as a breath of fresh air and is sure to leave one tingling with anticipation of what’s to come next. A fine dining restaurant with a modern chic interior, Novus’s 2-Course and 3-Course set lunches are priced reasonably at $32 and $40 respectively, a small price to pay for mind-blowing novelty.
Novus bakes their own bread. Kudos to that.
For our complimentary amuse bouche, we were treated to a cooling drink of Beetroot and Ginger with Creme Fraiche.
My favourite starter is the umami-rich and hearty Duck Tea, a clear consommé chocked full of enoki mushrooms, smoked duck breast, quail egg and truffles. This western take of our chinese Bak Kut Teh is great when you are having a hangover.
While Parma Ham is more commonly found in many Singapore restaurants, Novus’s executive chef Stephan Zoisl believes that it is the Joselito Iberico Ham which is the best meat product around the world, as it is aged for 4 years to attain a truly umami flavour. Served with assorted olives, char-grilled capsicum, toasted bread and gazpacho, lovers of Portuguese and Spanish cuisine will definitely take a fancy to this dish.
I’m a fan of all things raw, with no exception to the Black Angus Carpaccio. The raw beef is thinly sliced and sprinkled with summer truffle, truffle scented buffalo mozzarella, chives and topped with a poached egg.
Another appetizer that stood well with me was the Foie Gras Anglaise, but well, I’m a sucker for anything foie gras. It’s served as a custard, like a western chawanmushi, made with duck consomme, goose liver parfait, ginko nuts, truffle, stuffed morels, duck confit, and slices of foie gras that had been previously cooked sous vide style before being pan seared and then incorporated within the custard.
For mains, the Boneless Crisp Duck Confit is served with organic Quinoa (a grain like crop grown mainly for its edible seeds), black summer truffle, leek, baby spinach and baby turnip. However, I felt the meat was on the tough side and the skin could be slightly more crispy.
Compared to the duck, I much preferred the Snow Cod & Zucchini Flower. Covered in sliced zucchini arranged like scales of a fish, the pretty looking cod cooked in a sous vide style had been only lightly seasoned, allowed its natural flavours to be accentuated. The Zucchini flower served alongside the cod was stuffed with aubergine, tomato and char-grilled capsicum, tasting much like salsa.
Chef Stephan has free reign in the kitchen in naming and experimenting on new dishes, always ensuring his cuisine remains playful and fresh. The Black Angus Beef Meets Black Summer Truffle is a clear indication of his playful wordplay, where black angus tenderloin meets wild mushroom duxelles, black summer truffles, rocket cress and a side of triple cooked fries. The beef is pretty standard stuff, but what enthralled me was the fries. Its preparation is no simple task. The potatoes are first rinsed in cold water, boiled till soft and chilled, then fried to attain a crisp outer crust and chilled a second time. When ordered, it is then deep fried at high temperature to finish. I’m not sure if some truffle oil was used in the deep frying or was the earthly flavour a result of being fried twice, but this is possibly the best fries I have ever sunk my teeth in, with contrasting textures between the crisp outer shell and mashy inner flesh.
My personal favourite dish here however, is their signature Valrhona Chocolate Test, comprising tasting portions of 5 chocolate desserts, namely mousse (38% cocoa), soufflé (55% cocoa), crème anglaise (66% cocoa), truffle (72% cocoa) and sorbet (85% cocoa). It’s best savoured according to the increasing cocoa contents, which effectively minimizes the risk of any high-cocoa desserts from becoming too cloying.
We managed to sample 2 new additions to their dessert menu as well. The Snowball & White Peach Sorbet was a crisp snow ball Meringue stuffed with Pistachio Ice Cream, served atop white peach sorbet and shreds of pomello fruit.
The other new addition was the Verrine of Nectarine, Green Tea & Sauternes, which is daintily served in clear glass, showcasing the multiple colourful layers of sauterne jelly at the base, green tea panna cotta in the middle and nectarine espuma (espuma means foam) at the top, with a blob of vanilla ice cream just lazing away atop a thin biscotti.
Credits to S for taking most of the pictures
And thanks to Novus for sponsoring this meal for SMU Gourmet Club’s summer publication!
93 Stamford Road, #01-02 National Museum of Singapore
Tel: +65 6336 8770