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What Odette, Asia's best restaurant, has planned in post-Covid era

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Chef-owner Julien Royer of Odette: "Regardless of what lies ahead, what matters is we, as chefs and restaurateurs, do not lose sight of our passion and why we do what we do."

Singapore

A MORE casual restaurant model might be here to stay even after restrictions from the coronavirus lift, according to the chef at one of the world's top restaurants.

Chef-owner Julien Royer of Odette, a Singapore restaurant that holds three Michelin stars in addition to the number-one position in Asia's 50 Best Restaurants for a second straight year, envisions numerous potential changes coming to the fine-dining scene.

"I see the industry continuing to pivot toward shorter concise menus with more substance, even once elaborate fine-dining experiences taking on new iterations or identities, more casual carryout models, and off-premise offerings to service the demands of the community," Royer said in an e-mail interview. "As travel comes to a temporary slowdown, fine dining could also shift to a more local approach - adjusting the accessibility and style of the experience for local gourmands and community - for some restaurants, a new audience and clientele."

Odette is named in tribute to Royer's grandmother, who "taught him how some of the most remarkable dishes can come from the purest ingredients", according to the eatery's website. The restaurant is a collaboration between Royer and The Lo & Behold Group, which also operates concepts such as the Tanjong Beach Club and Straits Clan members' club.

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Odette is housed in Singapore's National Gallery, a busy museum - and in entering the restaurant, one almost feels transported to another world. The calm, soft environment washes over guests before they even sit down at their table. Diners might enjoy dishes such as Marukyo uni with spot prawn tartare, mussel cloud and Kristal caviar; rosemary-smoked organic egg with smoked potato syphon, chorizo Iberico and Meuniere egg; or Kampot pepper-crusted pigeon with confit egg, liver parfait and black garlic.

That ingredient list is clearly chosen with effort. Royer said Odette has been fortunate not to have experienced any major disruptions in its supply line.

"This season has brought to fore how important it is to work with our local suppliers, and has reminded chefs across the industry to be prepared for any future shocks," he said.

The restaurant has been working on modifications to facilitate operations in the Covid-19 era and keep guests at ease, Royer said.

"Some of the best solutions come under great pressure and I believe the ones that will remain for the long-term are those that have successfully and truly anticipated and met the needs of guests," Royer said. "At Odette, we rolled out a contactless curbside pickup service for all takeaway orders and also installed new cutting-edge purification technologies for our space to disinfect the air and surfaces for a higher level of assurance and peace of mind for both guests and staff."

The pickup and delivery service, referred to as Odette at Home, has clearly been well thought-out. Some of the dishes do take preparation in the home kitchen, such as heating or mixing ingredients together. But the instructions, at least for the dishes in two recent orders, have been relatively simple. Every detail is considered - there's a welcome pack from the restaurant, and the packaging is pretty, with high-quality decorated boxes that just beg to be kept and reused.

"Regardless of what lies ahead, what matters is we, as chefs and restaurateurs, do not lose sight of our passion and why we do what we do," Royer said. "We must remain nimble and be prepared to adapt quickly and effectively, and I hope we can continue to preserve the unique role restaurants play in celebrating diverse cultures and bringing people together."

As for the fate of Singapore's food scene overall, with its renowned hawker centres and famous debates about which of any type of dish is best?

"Singapore is a nation that loves food with such passion, making me especially hopeful that once the threat of the pandemic has subsided, we can look forward to rediscovering the joys of dining together - something we have all sorely missed", Royer said. "It's hard to predict what the future holds but diners are expected to be more conscious of their choices and increasingly value quality over quantity - seeking out exceptional dining experiences." BLOOMBERG

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