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A taste of Euphoria
76 Tras Street
Open for dinner Tues to Sat: 6.30pm to 11pm.
Lunch on Thurs & Fri: 12pm to 2.30pm.
Closed on Sun and Mon.
For reservations go to restaurant-euphoria.com
IN Onion Land, Jason Tan is king. Ruler of a custom-made fiefdom whose subjects swear allegiance to the Yellow One. A lowly vegetal commoner, now conferred deity status in a shrine devoted to its likeness - gilded pots, undulating walls and a pop-up card. Followers flock from near and far to partake of its sacred rituals - the pontification of confit and sauce, the tenets of allium ideology. Non-believers beware, for you are dispatched to a waiting abyss, your cries fading into a yawning void: "But . . . it's . . . just . . . an . . . onion . . . . . . . .!"
We know a humble onion or two that might be downright embarrassed at the overt display of vegetable affectation at Chef Tan's much-awaited new opening in Tras Street. But if you can get past the 50 ways to skin an onion, you will find a high-calibre menu that may not be euphoric but ticks all the right boxes.
For sure, the former Corner House head chef has shaken off his past and spared no expense in turning Euphoria into a personal showcase. More detail-oriented than flashy, the decor is warmly lit with calm colour tones. The walls curve to follow an onion's silhouette, and fake plants support the chef's gastro-botanico messaging. Customised onion-shaped bowls, coasters and assorted bric-a-brac appear at every course, while the real thing goes into everything from stocks to sauces to the main event.
There are just two options for dinner - a six- and eight-course tasting menu priced at S$208 and S$258. It's pricey considering there aren't a lot of expensive ingredients apart from a bit of uni and caviar, and a shower of grated black truffle in the signature onion dish. The premium probably comes from the time-consuming vegetable-based sauces that are the backbone of Euphoria's cuisine - delicate but still as full-bodied as meat stock reductions.
There are three elegant starters to kick off our eight-course meal. Feuille de brick are waves of crisp pastry decorated with dabs of caviar topped with dots of root purée, and edible flowers including a spider orchid. We imagine that we are deities, eating chips and dip. The wagyu bikini makes a heftier impression, with fried toast fingers sandwiched with beef tartare that gets a kick from yuzu kosho and texture from minced shallots and tobiko.
While Chef Tan publicly votes vegetable, he seems pro-seafood at heart, steaming French oysters and serving them in little nuggets draped in a slightly spicy coconut cream jolted with finger lime acidity. Dots of shiso oil balance out this well-conceived composition of brine, cream and zest.
Such controlled acidity follows in the first course of bafun uni, swimming in a sweet-sour dashi of onion and kombu infused with gooseberry and tomato. Pickled daikon and caviar come into play, slightly distracting from the enjoyment of the creamy uni but all in a refreshing idea.
Chef Tan's claim to fame appears early in the game - a dramatic three-part harmony of Cevennes onion composed of a dehydrated onion chip, crisp tart and the no-fail combination of confit onion purée, soft cooked egg and a shower of minced black truffle. It's rich and comforting, finished off with a perfumey earl grey and onion tea infusion to be mixed with onion espuma. Since he created this dish years ago at Corner House, it is no eye-opening debut, but still equally enjoyable. This time, it comes with its own souvenir - a cute, intricate laser-cut onion that pops out of a card, with even more literature on the dish's creation in case you missed it the first time.
Personally, we think the adulation should be reserved for the mochishire - a genius twinning of Brazilian mochi cheese puffs and yorkshire pudding that is also an ode to French onion soup. We even want to bring home the wooden onion bowl holding the baby pillows of dough that have the chewy bite of mochi and the airy crispness of Yorkshire pudding, with a crusting of gruyere cheese. Spoon over some caramelised onion dip if you like, but it's perfect on its own.
Chef Tan also engineers an elevated version of claypot rice with a Spanish accent as he serves chewy Bomba rice cooked in a capsicum stock cleverly topped with crunchy-tender Japanese mirugai (clam). He serves the rice in a cigar of fermented rice tuile that emulates the socarrat at the bottom of claypot rice - it has a taste of home, a whiff of the Mediterranean and a dollop of joy.
The seafood flair continues with his treatment of local patin fish - two fillets that he shapes into a whole and lightly steamed for a shiny, slippery, mackerel-like texture. He magicks the muddiness out of the fish and pairs it with a beurre blanc of cabbage stock, emulsified with cream and vin jaume. Classically French, a show of skill and technique.
Moving along similar lines is the pan-fried langoustine also in a cream sauce, paired with a swiss roll of carrot sliced by an OCD chef who somehow manages to get the layers to resemble that of an onion.
The only presence of meat is slow cooked lamb neck, finished on the binchotan and dressed with a vegetable demi glace that is a dead ringer for its veal cousin. To cut the meat, we are presented with a case of steak knives forged by the very swordsmith who made the weapons for the movie Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. They are said to be the only ones in the world as the craftsman tired of making them after this batch. They're beautiful, but not the sharpest knives in the shed.
Dessert is also showtime - first with a savoury-sweet celery palate cleanser, then a winning corn concoction of semifreddo, financier, puffed buckwheat, calamansi and corn snow. And a Chinese New Year-appropriate petit fours box that opens to reveal warm madeleines, bandung mochi ice cream, caneles and rich chocolate truffles.
No theatrics are needed to prove that Chef Tan knows his stuff, and in fact they distract from the fact that he has a very strong homegrown team working with him to lift the Singapore brand. If anything, the dishes tend to follow a similar trope which can get predictable after a while. And while the mastery of vegetable sauces is commendable, there's a tad too much reliance on cream and butter to pad up the flavours.
Euphoria puts on a good show and the onion makes a good storyboard. But we're waiting for him to peel off the remaining layers and show us what else he's got.
WHAT OUR RATINGS MEAN
10: The ultimate dining experience
9-9.5: Sublime 8-8.5: Excellent
7-7.5: Good to very good
Our review policy: The Business Times pays for all meals at restaurants reviewed on this page. Unless specified, the writer does not accept hosted meals prior to the review’s publication.