La Dame de Pic at Raffles Hotel Has No X Factor
Dinner at La Dame de Pic in Raffles Hotel Singapore was a formal affair; I would know since a Sikh doorman dressed in fiercely ironed military uniform escorted me to its pearly gates. Inside, the full-to-capacity room whirred with palpable excitement. A quick scan of the room revealed couples settling comfortably into plum shaded suede banquette booths; to my left, a young couple ensconced themselves in a semi-private alcove with their two children. Despite the new social distancing rules, these bon vivants were in search of the transportive power of food.
In that regard, La Dame de Pic did “take” me to Valence, France. I felt the fierce French sun prick my skin, the rustle of dry grass below my feet and the smell of fresh raspberries harvested straight from a garden—all as I tucked into the Tomato Myriad. The broth of tomato consommé lightly infused with elderflower was brilliant, together with a quenelle of burrata ice cream. It was as though the best parts of France in the summer were condensed into a dish.
There was a certain femininity that extended from the pastel pink interiors to the dishes. Anne-Sophie Pic’s cuisine was a lavish production backed by serious sourcing, with flavours that were graceful almost to the point of being fragile. Blink and you would miss it. Fleeting beauty is captured in the tiniest of bites: a peanut powder dusted French marshmallow, bonbons that burst into a flood of yuzu juice tinted with Ethiopian coffee and pastis, a delicate corn taco graced with barbecued mackerel and corn gel. Nonetheless, the amuse-bouches left me amused.
I gravitated towards the bread basket, despite being well aware that it would bring about my demise. And the Madagascan peppercorn butter just egged me on. Picture this: even before the first course was served, I was sweaty, had a sheepish look on my face, and there were scattered crumbs on the white linen table cloth. I was grateful that the wait staff replaced my butter spontaneously, allowing me to skip the shameless appeal for more.
Pic’s signature berlingots recently underwent a face-lift, swapping out matcha in favour of beetroot. Made to resemble hard candy from her childhood, these pyramid-shaped pasta parcels were filled with French cheese fondue. A twisted tunnel of pea broth was poured from the delicate spout, releasing a herbaceous note that stemmed from herb of grace or the not so charming sounding chou cao, in Chinese. Subdued and masterful, kudos to Anne-Sophie Pic’s dedication to capture the Singapore spirit.
The dish was enlivened with a dense gold tipple of Lieu-dit Payrolles 2016, a collaboration between Pic and rock star winemaker Michel Chapoutier. Their rousing synergy was evident again, when the deep rouge Cornas 2015 was poured to heighten the Bresse pigeon.
A tuna belly from Hokkaido cooked over coals came next. Taken by the watercress juice infused with pine tree and bergamot leaf, I kind of wished that the server would have left the carafe at the table. For mains, I chose the pigeon from Bresse over the Saga wagyu beef despite a nagging feeling that I would come to regret my decision. Thankfully, there was none of that. It was show-stopping. The pigeon roasted on its chest was flanked by tsukudani and seaweed mashed potatoes. And the harmonious blend of lightly smoked broth infused with Madagascan vanilla, roasted barley, Vietnamese pepper and kumquat was complex yet intricate. Almost as exquisite as the bird.
When the clock struck 10:30 p.m., glasses were evacuated off tabletops with nimble execution like a magic spell undone. It felt almost like having a chair pulled out from under you in a game of musical chairs. But the mood was somewhat salvaged by a splash of Pedro Ximénez that accompanied the cheese trolley.
Dessert was unapologetically fancy: genmaicha light mousse, slices of Gariguette strawberries and a scoop of lemon verbena sorbet that was light and rewarding. My fingers danced across the table to demolish the petit fours, too. By then, it was way past my bedtime and the outlandish chandelier hanging over the foyer started to look like a figment of my imagination. I might have overstayed my welcome at La Dame de Pic; the empty restaurant floors and hushed voices from behind the swinging doors were an indicator that it was time to head for the exit. I enjoyed the entire experience, but the whole time I was waiting to be blown away. $248 for the Experience menu and another $158 on top of that for the wine and sake pairing added up to a sizable bill, even for a jaunt to France.