Can you elaborate on how you base your eight-course degustation menu on “octaphilosophy”?
Instead of thinking about the dishes themselves, we focus on the eight elements that defines Restaurant André’s philosophy—salt, texture, memory, pure, terroir, south, artisan and unique. For the element ‘South’ (for South of France where I spent almost ten years of my life), I include items that focus on freshness, acidity and seafood. For ‘unique’, I could include a special produce or combination of ingredients: I might use the Acacia flower which blooms only two weeks in a year, or match unusual combinations such as lobster with vanilla and horseradish. The eight elements of octaphilosophy can be arranged in different sequences. I can do a ‘Pure’ dish today and a ‘Pure’ dessert tomorrow. To us, the perfect degustation menu ensures that we can fully express our philosophy and also make the customer feel comfortable at the same time.
How will your newly launched “Octaphilosophy, a cookbook” illustrate some of these concepts?
This cookbook documents every dish created in the restaurant over the past year from 1 Jan -31 Dec 2015. It contains more than 150 dishes from pictures we took every weekend whether it was two new dishes or 15 new dishes. I felt that a restaurant needs time to mature and have its own culture, DNA and tradition. So five years after the restaurant opened, the time is right to have this cookbook. I also wanted to release it on 27 April, my 40th birthday, so that I have something that reminds me of everything done in the last 40 years of André.
What are some new techniques you are keen to experiment with in the coming months?
Modern techniques like sous vide can help us perfect the cooking temperature, but not necessarily the flavour of the meat. Methods we used in the past may actually give more flavour and hone our cooking skills as well. I have been using techniques like cooking meat by salt-baking or baking it in a sourdough wrap. You get more depth of flavour that way.
What ingredients do you most love to work with?
I like to work with saltiness. This does not mean different types of salt but different levels of its tastes. For example, if I take soya sauce, fish sauce, sea salt, ham and anchovy and use them on an asparagus, I am using five different depths of saltiness to create various dimensions to the vegetable. Instead of having a lot of ingredients on the plate (creating flavours horizontally), exploring saltiness allows the flavour of the dish to go vertically deeper with just one main ingredient.
What’s some of the thinking behind the range of wines and non-alcoholic beverages you have in your restaurant?
We are the first restaurant in Singapore that carries only natural biodynamic wines, more than 95 percent of which we import ourselves. To me, choosing a bottle of wine is like picking a carrot for our dish. I must know the winery’s viticulture and whether they are organic. Also, over the last one and half years, I’ve introduced fermented juices such as fermented pineapple cucumber kombucha, as non-alcoholic alternatives to wine pairings. Sometimes fermented juice pairings can be more precise than wines, because I can create a juice to complement the dish. In this way, not every flavour needs to be accounted for on the plate itself; it can be left to the fermented juice to add another shade, shadow or contrast to the food.