Monday, October 24, 2011

DBS Underground SupperClub Kicks Off With Chef Anthony Genovese At St Regis

It was an evening of mystique, surprise and delight.

A whispered invitation led me to a mystery meal held in an intimate setting. Only about 20 of us had the privilege to taste Chef Anthony Genovese's specially crafted "Food for the Soul" menu at the Decanter, St Regis Singapore.

Beautiful setting for the first DBS Underground SupperClub
This is the first ever Underground SupperClub by DBS Indulge (the bank's card dining platform) and it's another series of experiential dining that will gets you dining with renowned chefs in an intimate after-hours setting. There are six of such sessions in the pipeline, and each will feature a different theme.

Underground supperclubs have been popular in the West, but only recently gained traction in Singapore. Many of these are held at private homes or roving premises, and diners sometimes sign up without knowing what will be served and where (until the day of the event). The element of mystery and surprise is all part of the secret dining experience. The DBS Underground Supperclub looks to combine this with the opportunity to dine and interact with a famous chef.

Ooi Huey Tyng, Senior Vice President and Head, Cards and Unsecured Loans, DBS Bank, kicked off the exclusive supper
Ooi Huey Tyng, Senior Vice President and Head, Cards and Unsecured Loans, DBS Bank, welcomed everyone to the exclusive supper. The guests included the Attaché and Director of the Italian Cultural Institute of Singapore, the Managing Director of St Regis Singapore, Asian Food Channel management, select media and members of the DBS team.

Chef Antony Genovese (right) is owner of two-Michelin starred Il Pagliaccio in Rome
Chef Antony Genovese (right) is owner of two-Michelin starred Il Pagliaccio in Rome. He was at St Regis for the three-day "Italia Mia" celebration of food, art, music and culture. He was assisted by a familiar face, Alexandre Lozachmeur (left), who is now Chef de Cuisine at Brasserie Les Saveurs.

Chef Genovese turned out to be quite an interesting character. He was born in France, but his parents and grandparents who were from South Italy always reminded him he was Italian. We found out a lot more about him, and how he loves Asian food (he lived in Penang for two years), especially Thai and Vietnamese cuisine. It was nice that he made his way round the table to chat with the diners. I hear that normally he is much more reticent back in his restaurant in Rome, preferring to stay in the kitchen.

I'm sure you've spotted the lovely ingredients on the table - those are for the starters (and how I wished I could have the whole tray). Here they are:

Nduja, Freselle, Guanciale, Pecorino Cheese
Nduja, Freselle, Guanciale, Pecorino Cheese. The nduja was a fiery red Calabrian salami that's as spicy as it looks (which is pretty rare for most cured meats). It's divine! I fell in love with it. The pecorino too is impeccable; I couldn't have enough of it. I may have missed the guanciale (fatty pork cheek bacon) but the freselle (a crispy South Italian bread) was cute, almost like a biscuit. Anything crunchy, me like.

We were also given a teaspoon of the most amazing olive oil (see first photo of the chefs personally pouring the oil). It was so smooth and light, not oily at all.

A bite of true al dente pasta
The Italian cultural attache said this was the highlight. Truly "al dente" pasta. It's cooked and yet with just the right amount of bite at the center. Very simply, a mouthful of wow.

Potato Ravioli Dumplings with Nduja Salami & Figs
Potato Ravioli Dumplings with Nduja Salami & Figs. The dumplings were a burst of warm, soothing comfort on the tongue. The kind that make you close your eyes and think of home.

The potatoes were just mashed with a fork and flavoured with nduja oil (that's what gives them the orange tinge), and wrapped with a skin made from water and flour (no egg!). The clear greenish yellow liquid you see is "tomato water" (which I would encounter again in Tomonori Danzaki's masterclass the next day). It lent the dumplings a spark of fruity tang. The pureed fig quenelles gave a lovely sweet contrast (plus tiny crunch sensations from the seeds). Fantastic.

Caramelized Lamb; Aubergine; Pinenuts, Capers & Anchovies Chutney, served with mashed potatoes.

Everything on this plate was amazing. The lamb had been marinated and steamed before it was pan-seared. So it was really tender in the middle and gorgeously caramelized on the outside. The mixed chutney of pinenuts, capers and anchovies were an intense party of flavours - savoury, nutty, tart and umami.

But the biggest surprise of them all - the mashed potatoes. They were flavoured with the most fragrant vanilla! You'd never think to combine the two and yet, after having a taste, you feel as though potatoes and vanilla are as natural together as can be.

Excellent wine pairing for the evening
We also had excellent wine pairing for the evening. The dumplings went nicely with a Langhe Roagna Bianco from Piemont, Italy. The lamb set married the Brunello di Montalcino Castelgiocondo, Frescobaldi, Tuscany (2003). And the dessert wine was Passito di Noto, Planeta, Sicily, Italy.

Clafoutis, Dark Chocolate Sorbet, Lemon Marmelade
The sweet course consisted of "Clafoutis, Dark Chocolate Sorbet, Lemon Marmelade" and pieces of possibly champagne jelly as well as rice crispies coated in chocolate and caramel.

I liked that there was quite a bit of variety in the meal, in every course. And each course held pleasant surprises to be had. I now understand why they chose Chef Genovese. His Italian cuisine is not run-of-the-mill, and still has the capability to surprise even jaded palates.

The inaugural DBS Underground SupperClub was held at The Decanter, St Regis Singapore

I wonder which chef they will line up next. What's your dream supper like? Dinner with Andre Chiang at his home? A mini kaiseki with Kunio Tokuoka? Have Daniel Boulud personally cook for you? Oh wait, I had that already.

Well, I'm glad for these events that bring greater value to cardholders, beyond discount dining (quite honestly, 1-for-1 deals lost their lustre really quick). The earlier DBS Masterclass series featuring cooking classes by culinary maestros is already a phenomenal hit, and is often sold out. I expect the Underground SupperClub to be even more popular and highly prized given the intimate, small-number setting. The good news is, I hear DBS is not restricting this to platinum or any special strata of cardmembers. Any food enthusiast is welcome, on a first come, first served basis. Keep a look-out for it!

Most gracious thanks to Edmund and the DBS team for the privilege of experiencing this inaugural supperclub dinner.


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