There is, I recently told my friend Willin, a gaping hole in my Singapore dining repertoire.
Together, Willin, my eating partner, and I had savored saccharine Japanese tomatoes paired with fiery horseradish granita at Fifty Three, nibbled on parmesan and squid ink breadsticks at Jaan and demolished slabs of foie gras encrusted with crumbled candied almonds at Gunther’s Modern French Cuisine. And one afternoon when I dared to cheat on Willin by lunching with another, I’d gotten a clandestine rush from a decadent chocolate dessert at Les Amis that had been inspired by after-dinner mints.
In my bid to become comprehensively schooled in Singapore fine dining, however, one name was still missing from the list: Iggy’s, a little place in the Regent hotel that is regarded by some as the best restaurant in the country. (Its regulars include the wife of Singapore’s prime minister — enough said.)
It’s time, I said to Willin.
And soon enough, we found ourselves bellying up to the gleaming bar at Iggy’s …
Now, Iggy’s — named for its owner, Ignatius Chan — is a power lunch (or dinner) spot. CEOs dine here with regularity and as for the prime minister’s wife, well, she was in the house when we walked in for our lunch that day.
This is not to say the restaurant is any way vanilla or stodgy. In fact, it’s a rather welcoming place — the setting is modern and the staff is friendly. (Sadly, perfunctory with more than a whiff of superciliousness is often what you’ll find among servers at high-end restaurants in Singapore.)
There were three in our party — we had graciously decided to allow Mike, who had flown in from New York, to crash our lunch date — and the host had thoughtfully seated us around the corner of the bar so we could talk easily.
On deck that day was the $75, five-course lunch. Food started arriving the moment we got comfortable and had glasses of chilled white in hand.
For starters, there was an amuse bouche of uni with cauliflower mousse and ponzu jelly, gussied up with the tiniest of flowers. The combination gave you a creamy mouthful that was also fresh and clean — a good start to the meal, we decided.
Next, the waiter presented a two-part dish — first, we had to munch on leaves that grow by the ocean that had been wrapped in tapioca paper. The leaves themselves were salty, tasting almost like oysters.
The combination of tastes was a little unusual — but it worked. I’m always a fan of salty, sweet and slightly sour tangling with one another in one bite.
The tiny tomatoes were so, so sweet — the perfect foil for the salty konbu and decadently creamy burrata and fresh slivers of sole. I could have eaten two of these plates.
Iggy’s take on truffled potatoes arrived next — a confit of potatoes paired with a mushroom fricassee, truffle mayonnaise, massive truffle shavings and dehydrated mesclun salad.
I’ve stopped being a fan of potatoes (carbs) and salad, much less a dehydrated one that looked like bits of dried grass, isn’t usually my thing either. But we thought this combination worked fine.
The souffle was smidge dense but the foam was delicious and the fennel was a really nice touch that added some spark to a rather rich dish overall.
We went off the pre-ordained menu for our next course.
Willin, who had lunched at Iggy’s a few times before, had spent the days leading up to our meal raving about the chef’s capellini tossed with miniature Sakura ebi (shrimp), konbu and scampi oil.
After my first bite, I decided I would always listen to Willin — each mouthful was a delight. And, the pasta was so packed with the crunchy little shrimp that even after my noodles had vanished, I was left with a good 10 of them swimming at the base of my plate.
The fish and its accompaniments were tasty, to be sure. But Willin and I couldn’t help but feel like we’d taken the superior route …
The finale, however, would end up being my favorite course — the one I would gush and beat my chest over for weeks afterward: a cube of French toast combined with sabayon sauce and bits of chocolate, coated with a dusting of white truffle powder.
The French toast was crunchy but had the consistency of a rich custard on the inside and the white truffle powder offered a savory kick to the sweetness of the toast, chocolate and sabayon.
We left Iggy’s that day so stuffed we were barely able to walk. (Yes, perhaps adding the capellini as a sixth course hadn’t been the best idea.)
But the meal had been a compulsory, for anyone who’s keen to get schooled in Singapore fine dining, anyhow.
And it had been good.
Iggy’s, The Regent Singapore, Level 3, 1 Cuscaden Road, Tel. No.: +65.6732-2234, http://www.iggys.com.sg/