Two chefs in a kitchen

This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on October 31, 2018.

Chefs Dubois (left) and Chong offer the best of two worlds at Racines.

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Something wonderful happens when Racines combines flavours and tastes from two culinary worlds

 

You know you are in the business district when you recognise some of the diners at the restaurant as members of the financial fraternity. This was the case at Racines — a restaurant with live cooking stations that serves French and Chinese cuisines. The restaurant is located at the Sofitel Singapore City Centre.

The kitchen is shared by two chefs — it is rather unusual but actually works. Forget the rule about not mixing different cuisines and do not expect fusion food either. Do what we did and order dishes from both menus; we were pleasantly surprised as there was no conflict of flavours.

This well-planned menu is by chefs Jean-Charles Dubois and Andrew Chong. Options has followed Dubois’ career ever since he came to Singapore from his home in Loire Valley, France more than 10 years ago and has always found his food faultless. His homemade foie gras and lobster bisque are our favourites and we are glad that they are still on the menu at Racines. Chong is from Sabah, Malaysia and has been interpreting all his childhood favourites in the kitchen. Of note is his modern twist on Yong Tau Foo.

What we tasted recently at Racines will be different today as the menu changes according to the availability of the seasonal produce. This is also one way of keeping the menu fresh for regular diners. The restaurant may be able to seat 132, but it is still best to book in advance.

We began our meal on a fresh note. The wild Hamachi sashimi was sliced thinly, as was the pickled cucumber. The freshness of the yellowtail fish was enhanced by a white shoyu dressing with a light sprinkling of chives and dehydrated salted egg.

With our palate cleansed, we were ready for the next course — deep fried eggplant with a spicy seasoning. Eggplant is known to absorb the flavours it is seasoned with and the chef treated this fact with the utmost respect; we were able to taste the chicken floss and curry made into an aioli to coat the eggplant. The best part was the deep fried cubes of eggplant did not leave a sickly oily aftertaste.

From the moreish eggplant, we welcomed the next course of pan-seared turbot fillet. This was where Dubois’ French cooking skills come in through his French Beurre Blanc — a delicious take on the very sinful emulsified butter sauce. Tender slices of turbot cooked to perfection sat on the sauce, which offered a good balance of flavours.

Joue de Boeuf is fork-tender Wagyu beef cheek that has been slow-cooked for 48 hours. The dish is elevated to the next level with a generous dollop of creamy truffle mashed potatoes served with a side dish of green seasonal vegetables. To be honest, we would have been happy even if the melt-in-your-mouth meat was served on its own.

Finally, our last course defied our perception of Yong Tau Foo; it smelled and tasted like Yong Tau Foo, but did not look like it. A cube of fish cake sat on a bed of beancurd that was covered in lobster mousse. This traditional Hakka comfort food was elevated to a whole new level with a sauce that was clearly Western but whose flavour, by some culinary magic, had been turned on its head by Chong.

With such great flavours, we eagerly awaited the grand finale. The Chendol did not disappoint. The peranakan dessert was taken to a heavenly level with an amazing play of textures: Pandan jelly, gula melaka ice cream and adzuki beans. It was a wonderful way to wake up the taste buds after a delicious feast of French and Chinese cuisines. — The Edge Singapore


A two-course lunch meal is S$28++ and three-course lunch meal is S$38++.