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Surviving the F&B industry
MAKING A COMEBACK
43 North Canal Road
Tel: 6532 2171
Opens late August
ABOUT three years after the shutters went down on his first restaurant, Garden of Eden, British chef Tim Ross-Watson is back with a new endeavour - a 49-seat modern European eatery along North Canal Road, named PyxieMoss.
"Basically, everything I did wrong at Garden of Eden has been rectified and put into this place," says the 32-year-old who has been in Singapore for close to a decade.
"My biggest lesson was not to be an arrogant jerk. I had a lot of apologies to give out when I closed, and a lot of humble pie to eat ... Taking ego out of the equation opened my eyes to see all the errors that I was making - I was so persistent on doing it the exact way I had planned, that I forgot everything other people said. Now, I make it a point to be more open-minded, and in always paying attention to feedback."
During his hiatus, he ran a food consultancy company Apple Pie Order, and along the way evolved his own philosophy as a chef - not just in terms of tastebuds and flavour preferences, but also in his attitude towards his food and ingredients.
He explains: "At Garden of Eden I was quite wasteful. We took a fine dining approach, so everything had to be very precise and that created a lot of wastage. Whereas at PyxieMoss, there's no waste. Nothing gets thrown away without me using it."
An example is the avocado: while most people only use the flesh and throw out the skin and seed, chef Ross-Watson instead grates the seed, dehydrates and pounds it, in order to turn it into flour for making cakes.
At the moment, the new menu has not been finalised yet since the restaurant is only slated to open in about three weeks. But chef Ross-Watson gives a rough indication of the average spend per person to be between S$50 and S$70.
He adds that another feature about his new restaurant is that he uses a tandoor oven instead of the more common Josper oven found in most restaurants these days. It was left behind by the previous tenants who used to run an Indian restaurant.
"I take a 'MacGyver' approach," says the half-Indian chef of his inheriting the tandoor oven; and referring to an American action-adventure TV series about a secret agent named Angus MacGyver, who gets through tough situations through the ingenious use of any common everyday items he can find.
"We're using ingredients people overlook, so we're trying to use things from around the region. I don't see the point of flying in things like tomatoes from France and charging a consumer S$35 for a plate of heirloom tomatoes. It's ludicrous. And they don't taste as good as they do in France. Instead, I want to push myself to use ingredients that are often overlooked, and come up with a way to make them taste really good," he adds.
115 Amoy Street, #01-04 (entrance via Gemmill Lane)
Tel: 6221 6065
Opens August 12
Open Mon to Sat for lunch, 11.30am - 3pm, dinner, 6pm - 11pm, and drinks, 10.30pm - 1am
Closed on Sundays
Ex-SIA stewardess Jessica Lim was one of the pioneers of the independent restaurant scene in Singapore when she opened her first French restaurant, Salut, in 1996.
Two decades on, the 49-year-old is launching a new independent venture once again - the 35-seater French-Japanese tapas bar called Le Binchotan.
"I know more about French food, and my (three) business partners are Japanese, so we naturally merged our passions," says Ms Lim of Le Binchotan.
"There are a lot of tapas bars that are Spanish, so we thought to do something different. French and Japanese cuisines go well together, plus it's not just the food but also the professionalism of the Japanese that appeals to me," she adds.
Her business partners are Kenji Tanaka, who also runs the Curry House CoCo Ichibanya franchise outlets in Singapore with her; Kenichi Mori, who owns French-Japanese restaurant en.terrible in Tokyo; and a silent partner.
Aside from CoCo Ichibanya, Ms Lim currently doesn't run any other F&B establishments - she closed Salut in 2003, and sold her second eatery Au Petit Salut a year after it opened in 1998.
"We wanted to start (Le Binchotan) because we kept expanding CoCo Ichibanya, and it was starting to feel quite cookie-cutter. Each time I expand it's the same look, same concept. So after a while we felt that we should do something different," explains Ms Lim.
Le Binchotan is headed by local chef Jeremmy Chiam, who explains that the menu consists of small plates, large plates, and skewered items that have been cooked on a grill.
"We use binchotan (white charcoal) shipped from Japan every two or three weeks. There's a difference in the flavour because it's made of cherry wood that's compressed, burned at a very high temperature, and cooled down so it turns white," he explains.
Chef Chiam adds that the average spend per person is expected to be about S$75 without drinks. The menu features dishes like a lamb leg with tapenade infused with miso (S$14), or a Wagyu striploin with ume from Japan and port wine (S$14). Others include a madai (Japanese red bream) with eggplant and shoyu (S$25), and sakura ebi with omelette and mascarpone (S$20).
On why Japanese and French cuisines make a good combination, chef Chiam says: "Both the Japanese and the French think their food is the best, and both always believe in the quality of their produce. One comes from Europe and the other from Asia. When these two perfectionists come together, there's potential to be even more perfect in a sense."
BACK TO BASICS
O Boeuf a 6 Pattes
Park West Condo, The Club House Block 8, #02-02, Jalan Lempeng
Open Wed to Fri, 11.30am - 3pm, 5.30pm - 10pm, Sat and Sun, 9.30am - 10pm
IT'S not every day we see professional chefs opening bistros in housing estates, but it seems a trend has started at Parkwest Condominium.
Just a few months after ex-Bistro du Sommelier chef Patrick Heuberger closed his takeaway eatery Casse Croute at the condominium clubhouse, his buddy Francois Mermilliod opened a bistro of his own at the same location.
O Boeuf a 6 Pattes (The Six-Legged Cow) started operation just earlier this week, and its name comes from the fact that the restaurant focuses on six different beef dishes such as steak, burger, and tartare; along with a selection of simple rustic French fare.
"I'm a good friend of Patrick's and I didn't want him to let the business go. I told him to keep it, but he didn't want to. So I'm taking it on with my business partner Jean-Philippe Joye, and we're making it more bistro-like," says chef Mermilliod, who also runs the year-old French restaurant Bar-A-Thym at Gemmill Lane.
The unusual location doesn't faze him at all, he adds, since this 30-seater eatery is just a 15-minute drive away from the CBD and offers free, ample parking.
It's a first step to developing a business model that will be relatively easy to duplicate - serving affordable French food in a neighbourhood area, reveals chef Mermilliod.
"I don't want to associate this bistro with my image, because I won't be cooking here every day - I will still be running Bar-A-Thym. But if we get the right formula, we could duplicate it very easily - at least that's the long-term plan. For now, we're going to focus on just this one," he explains.
Instead, O Boeuf a 6 Pattes will be headed by his ex-sous chef Eric Tan, with whom he developed the menu. His business partner Mr Joye will be running the front-of-house.
Chef Mermilliod's hope is to attract customers with reasonable prices and good food made with quality ingredients, and estimates that a dinner would cost between S$50 to S$60 per person without wine. Main courses like duck leg confit and linguini aglio olio with tiger prawns cost S$27 and S$22 respectively, while their beef dishes range from S$22 for a Wagyu burger to S$38 for a 300g grilled Angus beef tenderloin.
When asked about the bistro's concept, chef Mermilliod explains that it's simply because people love beef, and it's a favourite wherever he goes, so his intention is to give people what they want.
It's also why he chose to go with a casual restaurant: "I believe that's what people want now - no more expensive fine-dining restaurants. Here there's no foam, no sauces, no garnishes, just simple good food like what you would expect to have in a small bistro in France."