The traditional concept of a menu is a little too restrictive for André Chiang. At his eponymous establishment,, the Taiwanese-born chef constantly breaks new ground, changing his dishes on a daily basis as he takes inspiration from an ever-changing array of fresh produce. Given the ringing endorsements his restaurant has received, it seems that his diners heartily agree: the best way to traverse André Chiang’s culinary landscape is with the chef himself as guide.
But while there is no menu, there is a culinary principle that runs through his daily carte du jour. For Restaurant ANDRÉ, he has developed a culinary principle based on how our capacity to taste food is influenced by our memory banks. Named ‘Octaphilosophy', it is a gastronomic noun created by Chiang to describe the eight elements — unique, texture, memory, pure, terroir, salt, south and artisan — of an experience at Restaurant ANDRÉ, with each reflecting his roots in French nouvelle cuisine.
‘Pure’ for instance, is a dish that is served sans seasoning while ‘South’ is his tribute to the South of France (where he used to live when working at Le Jardin des Sens under Jacques and Laurent Pourcel). Chiang reveals that he doesn’t really have a signature dish but a favourite is a reincarnation of ‘Memory’ in the form of a foie gras jelly with black truffle coulis. The dish is based on Chiang’s own memory of having presented it to the Pourcel twin brothers when he was about 20 and is perhaps the only recurring staple on the menu at ANDRÉ as it is always requested. He has also recently created a home-made Camembert dessert. “It’s a house-made dessert created by using a cheese-making process,” he reveals. “It is something tasty with an absolutely amazing look of Camembert and presented in a specially made mini-Restaurant ANDRÉ Camembert cheese box.”
Since ANDRÉ’s launch in 2010, Chiang’s stock has been rising consistently. The restaurant was awarded 68th place by the 2012 World’s Best Restaurants, fifth on the inaugural Asia's 50 Best Restaurants (2013) and the New York Times named it one of the ten restaurants in the world worth a plane ride. These accolades are well deserved, if only for the meticulous dedication that Chiang has put into the space. There are only a handful of restaurants that shut down when the chef is away and this is one of them, as Chiang is personally in the kitchen for every service and plates the dishes. For Chiang, who at 16 decided to be a chef “the moment I realised what good food means... not just food for the physical body, but also ‘food for the soul',” ANDRÉ is where he has finally come into his own.
"The Restaurant ANDRÉ experience is akin to you visiting my private home,” he explains. “You sit at the table, have a look at the kitchen, look around my personal collection of art pieces and handmade plates that I’ve made. You find the untold story of wine in our antique wine journal and quietly enjoy the message behind each creation. The whole idea is for you to sit back and explore the intention behind the flavours that I’ve created.”
In short, this is ultimately Chiang’s universe and we are merely visiting, but when the food is this sublime and the culinary experience such an unforgettable memory, it is an absolute privilege to be invited into his world.