I have always wanted to try the now-defunct Novus, the upclass fine dining restaurant in the National Museum now co-occupied by Flute and Janice Wong. It was one of those few restaurants that gained a reputation for its finesse and churning out to-die-for bread loafs. In 2013 however, the restaurant shut down abruptly. In June this year, former Novus Head Chef Stephan Zoisl started his own fusion (or rather Modern European) establishment, a breakaway from his former orthodox French cooking style in Novus.
Focusing on seasonal produces (80% sourced from Europe while the rest from Japan and Singapore), Chef Stephan Zoisl and his partner Chef Lorenz Raich invite diners to delist food items they are not fond of, while they work their way around to customise an omakase menu which comes in courses of 4, 6 or 8. There is also a in-door Herb Farm grown by the team of Chef’s Table.
A win-win situation, I thought this productive and straight forward concept saves diners the hassle of making tough choices while giving him more autonomy to infuse his own style.
North German Per Drews doubles as the Sommelier as well as the Maitre’ D. Under his charge, Chef’s Table stocks a well curated selection of wines from Germany as well as Austria where Chef Stephan Zoisl hails from.
His space occupying the ground floor of a restored Shophouse at 61 Tras Street while not fancy was definitely one that exudes funkiness. A long rack holds trays of in-house grown herbs while portraits of Noma Chef Rene Redzepi and Sean Brock adorn his toilet walls.
Our first dish of Heirloom Tomatoes with Tiger Prawn, Hokkaido Scallop, Basil, Red Veined Sorrel, Olive Oil Caviar was a majestic entrance. Some of the juiciest tomatoes were paired alongside sweet seafood while the blanket of olive oil weaves the two beautifully together in a tapestry. If Corner House did the best rendition of this dish with carabinero, then Chef Stephan Zoisl’s version would come in a close second.
Sommelier Per recommended us to try the 2014 Grüener Veltliner Hagmann ($17/glass) from a winery outside of Vienna. Grown on elevated grounds in Niederosterreich, this signature Austrian grape wine has a toned mineral body, sprightly to the palette, and has very similar properties to the Sauvignon Blanc.
With such good wine, it was by no means the Pan Seared Foie Gras & Espuma, Beetroot 2 ways, Pea Shoots & Blossoms was crafted compatibly. A very flamboyant looking plate, the beetroot was made into a solid meringue and a contrasting liquid compote. With natural sugar, the two versions of Beetroot had the perfect sweetness to counter balance the savoury goose liver.
The Halibut with Samphire, Cauliflower, Bouchot Mussels, Saffron Sauce was a heavenly creation, especially when you take a sip of the thick broth alone, made with sheer Halibut bones and laced with a dash of saffron. It was uplifting in every sense.
As I am not a fan of pork, Chef Stephan Zoisl had my plate replaced with the Monkfish Cheeks, Caramelised Garlic Crème, Garlic Flower, Horseradish, Olives, Mustard Sauce, Mustard Leaves gracefully, which to much delight was a treat in disguise. The fatty and firm Cheeks provided an interesting comparison to the easier Halibut. I certainly did not get bored with two consecutive fish course.
Looking forward to the main dish, we had the Angus Beef (Medium Roast Babette) 48 hour Braised Beef Cheek, Parsley Root Crème, Potimarron Pumpkin, Pickled Pumpkin, Nasturtium Leaves. With summer ending, the new autumn pumpkins are an ideal accompaniment to the well braised beef. While the refreshing pumpkin mash provided much width to the tender meat, the pickled pumpkin added depth to the composition.
The pairing glass of Pinot Noir from Punt Road, Yarra Valley ($19) was also excellent.
Brief stints in Fat Duck and Alinea (they are both HUGE on desserts) meant that I pin my hopes high for the desserts by Chef Stephan Zoisl, and the Chocolate, Caramel, Popcorn Ice Cream was indeed one plate that matches his accolades. Popcorn ice cream which is a little smoky and accentuated by caramel is already good on its own while the refined alternate layers of chocolate and caramel completes the insufficiency.
It was one good meal hard to fault. All the dishes were right on point without a single dull moment, and with great wine pairing, effortlessly delivering satisfaction. That is the Hallmark of a Masterchef. Chef Stephan Zoisl that is. And Chef Lorez. And Sommelier Per.
Three Menus are available at Chef’s Table
4 Courses $98+
6 Courses $128+
8 Courses $150+
The above article is written by co-editor @ramenking2016. You can find him on instagram where he shares his love for food and travel.