UPDATE: Chef Stephan Zoisl is no longer with Novus
Novus has rolled out a special menu featuring local produce, for Earth Day, 22 April 2012. We all know how using local produce helps reduce carbon footprint by not requiring air-flown ingredients. But local farms in Singapore? Yes, we have a few, and rather charming ones.
Watch Novus Executive Chef Stephan Zoisl breathe in the joy of discovery and nature as he checks out these farms.
Stephan is used to working with fresh, local produce back in Austria, and has always wanted to do create a menu based on local produce here in Singapore. What better occasion than Earth Day, to make this come true, to showcase the beauty of nature on a plate.
It may be a six course dinner, but there are three amuse bouche presentations!
Amuse bouche I
FROM THE SHORE
oyster, clam, mussel, coriander, seaweed foam, edible sand
What a stunning opening act! This just blew me away. The presentation is just amazing - it really evokes memories of seaside walks and marine life. I loved every item. Appetising seafood, and that amazing crunchy, salty "sand" made from fish, potato, maltodextrin and various ingredients.
Amuse bouche II
FROM THE PERANAKAN CULTURE
prawn tartare, laksa espuma, prawn cracker
The prawns are firm and fresh, but the laksa espuma was the star - beautiful laksa flavours. Great with the prawn crackers as dip.
Amuse bouche III
FROM UNCLE WILLIAM’S FARM
quail egg and chrysanthemum infused quail tea
The tea is a hearty, savoury broth with a quail's egg that bursts in your mouth, releasing creamy goodness that blends nicely with the soup.
FROM THE GARDEN
avocado espuma, crabmeat, edible soil, assorted sprouts
Yes, eat this! The edible soil is made with black olives. Dig all the way to the bottom for the crabmeat. The tasty combination I thought would go very well with the breads.
Various types of breads (I like the dark rye/spelt best) and olives, served at the beginning but thankfully not taken away during the meal.
FROM THE HAWKER
pork rib soup, pork bun & red radish
This is Chef Stephan's take on bak kut teh.
It's like no bak kut teh you'll ever see. The key elements are there - soy in "caviar" spheres, the light soup, pieces of pork, a tender boiled egg, and more pork in the dumpling. But all executed so differently. And there's no heavy garlic or pepper here.
Or maybe those are in here - the mantou-like fried bun with gently spicy shredded pork.
FROM THE SEA
pearl garoupa en sous vide, golden cup mushrooms, wild amaranth
Every dish looks so beautiful. This is locally sourced pearl garoupa, and it's a dense, meaty slab. The texture is not flake-away soft like steamed fish, but it is prepared differently. We all loved the intensely seasoned golden cup mushrooms. All of this is sourced locally.
FROM THE LAND
farm chicken breast, 63 degrees egg yolk, rice paper, sesame powder, soy gel, coriander leaves
Chicken rice! The bowl of fragrant rice appeared first (not shown here), and we all wondered if it was real rice, or something that looks like rice but is some surprise in diguise. It was rice.
The chicken is really tender (must be sous vide), and the egg is quite unusual. Rather many runny eggs. Oh I really loved that chili sauce that my hand model Leroy is squeezing out from the tube. I want to buy that in jars! It's got that "just right" amount of chili heat. The only thing I didn't know how to appreciate was the sesame powder. I felt the dryness had robbed the sesame of its oily fragrance.
THE FAT OF THE LAND
crocodile en sous vide, spring onions, cactus, black fungus mushroom, rat tail noodles
The last course is crocodile! Yes, local crocodile - Singapore has crocodile farms. This meat is from the tail, so it's meaty and muscular, very unlike the crocodile paw I had. These slices of crocodile will taste surreal at first. We pondered a while how to describe them - they taste like chicken, but with the texture of beef - steak in particular. (The crocodile paw tastes like pork trotters!)
Meanwhile there are some "bee tai mak" or "lou shee fun" (rat tail noodles) that Chef made himself. The al dente texture caught us by surprise at first, but I quite like it.
And then came pre-dessert.
THE SWEET SIDE OF SINGAPORE
hibiscus flavoured tofu, melon gazpacho, compressed melons, aloe vera
It's no ordinary pre-dessert.
It was accompanied by a large bowl of dried hibiscus with dry ice. Dramatic!
The cool wisps made you feel like you're in heaven...for a while.
These were so sweet and fragrant (almost like hawthorn), that I enjoyed the "scentsation" almost more than the edible portion (hibiscus tofu earlier)!
SG BACK IN TIME
black sesame micro sponge, soy bean ice cream
This micro sponge cake takes only minutes to make! But you need an espuma canister. Spritz out the dough mixture and nuke it for a minute or so, and voila. Nice with the soy bean ice cream. Both not too sweet, thankfully.
durian and kaya toast
Dinner still ended on a sweet note though. I think these lollipops brought us back in time to our own childhood. The durian one is more fragrant, but kaya toast one is pleasantly delicate. These are moist cake balls coated with flavoured white chocolate.
There's no wine pairing (since there aren't local wines!) but you can enjoy 4 juices (Garden, Sea, Land and Underground) specially paired with the Earth Day menu, at additional $20++.
There's always a complimentary takeaway too. But I'll leave that as a secret for you to discover.
Novus is a really lovely, romantic place, especially at night. What a venue to celebrate Earth Day with loved ones.
Earth Day's messages of sustainability and environmental conservation should be remembered all year round. While there isn't enough local produce to power the restaurant industry, it can always be incorporated in little areas where possible.
Local produce is also more expensive, since the scale of farming is small. So I was surprised to find the six course dinner is priced at only S$88++ per person. I personally thought Chef Stephan outdid himself with certain elements in this delightful menu. I think a lot of work went into planning and putting this together.
Novus is usually closed Sundays but will be specially open for this dinner on Earth Day. Last year, the restaurant turned five; you can see my previous review here.
NOVUS RESTAURANT, BAR, CAFE & COURTYARD
National Museum of Singapore
93 Stamford Road #01-02
Tel: +65 6336-8770
Open 11:30am – 2:30pm; 6:30 – 10:30pm (Closed on Sundays, except for Earth Day!)
Many thanks to FoodNews and Novus for the dinner and warm hospitality!