Iggy’s @ Hilton Singapore

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iggys_sg_bl1Currently ranked 4th in Miele Guide Restaurants in Asia 2013 (but was ranked 1st for two years in a row since 2011), it is the perfect treat for me to wine and dine in Iggy’s restaurant for my 39th birthday. My wife made the choice given the reputation of the restaurant for my birthday celebration as well as to support my fine dining endeavours. My overall first experience in Iggy’s Singapore was not just good but great even with early glitches in first impression. What made the experience interesting is that both my wife and I are given the experience to look at the kitchen and also speak to one of the chefs in the restaurant.

Let start with the glitches before the experience. This time round, my wife made the booking using the online reservation form on the site. Upon giving the date and time for the reservation, she was asked for her credit card details. What was surprising, the restaurant asked for CVV2 code (which I considered to be sensitive information) from the customer. I have experienced a similar procedure before through my booking on Valentine’s day with Garibaldi from Purvis Street, but it is limited to giving my credit card details without the CVV2 code. My wife went ahead with that and the first issue she encountered was that the restaurant did not send her any form of confirmation by email or phone. So, until the actual day, she had to call the restaurant to check if the booking was actually confirmed. Contrast that with Garibaldi, I have received an email reply and a phone call that the booking was confirmed.

The second glitch was minor. We arrived at Iggy’s early at about 6.55 pm. It is common in New York or London that reputable restaurants typically have their doors closed because the tables they served on that night were done by reservation. That’s the same here. We waited for about five minutes despite we pressed the door button. The best part was that my wife has to call the restaurant and ask them if they can open the door. In the end, we got into the restaurant and was told that they only respond to the door alarm and open the door for customers upon 7 pm. As we entered the restaurant, the door was shut again. We were probably the first to reach the restaurant and seated at a table close to a Zen like structure statue next to us on the walkway.

Once we got beyond the glitches of booking and entry, everything forward from there was great from the service to the food. The menu for Iggy’s distinguished itself from the other fine dining restaurants in Singapore. First of all, there were only three choices for the customers: a five course dinner menu, a ten course gastronomic menu and a ten course vegetarian menu. Limiting the selection made the choice simpler not just for the customer but also the chef and his team in the kitchen to focus on crafting the best taste in the food on that menu. Second, you cannot pick a different menu from each other. Both my wife and I differed on the choice between the dinner and gastronomic menu. In the end, given the occasion, we decided to go with the gastronomic menu which was probably a good choice on hindsight. On top of that, we decided to pair a glass of red wine along with the menu and selected the house pour: Jean-Louis Chave Selection Cotes du Rhone Mon Coeur (2005). My gripe was that if I was not driving that evening, I would have gone for a bottle instead. While the food menu was presented in the form of a paper book, the wine menu was shown to me on an iPad mini. In retrospect, I would preferred the consistency that the restaurant should go fully digital or paper with their food and wine menus.

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Briefly, in chronological order, here’s how the entire gastronomic menu proceeded (see slideshow above):

  • Snacks: (a) Kawa ebi, tomato beer, (b) Iggy’s sushi, caviar.
  • Ratatouille: provencal vegetables, tomato gelee, basil pesto.
  • Fennel: blood orange, burrata, avruga.
  • Matsutake: sweet fish, sudachi, sauce from sweet fish bone.
  • Alba White Truffle: Tajarin, poultry jus, Parmigiano reggiano.
  • Sanma: wild rice, kalamata olive, thyme
  • Joshu Beef: Japanese nasu, kujo negi, Saridaise potato, rosemary oil.
  • Guava: Kyoho grape, cherry tomato, Kyoto sesame, tarragon, rose.
  • French Toast: milk ice cream, frozen chocolate clay, sabayon.
  • Hinoki Chocolate box: selection of home-made chocolates and macaroons.
  • Birthday special: a chocolate mousse crafted within a chocolate shaped egg.

Of the whole gastronomic menu, two dishes stood out: Matsutake and Joshu. The first dish incorporated a sauce which is made by blending the fish bone. You would notice the foam on the dish with the picture I have taken and that is the sauce. The second dish kept it simple and the taste of the beef was not heavy as you would have eaten a steak but followed the consistent flow of dishes with the gastronomic menu. One other dish I was quite impressed was the first dish: the tomato essence crafted to look like a small cup of beer to blend with the prawns.

The ambience of the restaurant was perfect for a romantic date or a group gathering (but you probably should book a private room). There was a lot of space between tables which made the customer feel at ease with the environment. Coupled with slow jazz music in the night, it gave me the downtown Manhattan or Chicago feel depending on how you would want your night to be. Throughout the evening, we observed the assistant and trainee chefs working in the kitchen from the special glass door from where we were. The glass door was able to switch from a translucent mode where you can see nothing to a transparent one where you can peer right into the kitchen. My wife and I were discussing if such types of glass could be used for the future architecture of our home. You could see that at any instant in the night, there are multiple chefs working on one dish at a time. The waitress serving us was attentive to our needs throughout the night while the waiters who brought us each dish gave us a little description of the food prepared. If you are the type who are want to know more about the dish, you would not be disappointed.

The best highlight of the evening was to visit the kitchen and meet the head chef, Akmal Anuar. Basically, I just asked the waitress who attended to us for the whole night, and requested to visit the kitchen and meet the chef. In some fine-dining restaurants in Singapore, if you are the first customer for the evening, the chef will come in to have a chat with you. That’s a common tradition in Europe but not so much in this part of the world. So far, this type of experience (from my anecdotes) usually goes with European restaurants in Singapore. Sidestepping the discussion about individual dishes which I found interesting and our thoughts on sous vide cooking, the discussion on how he approached in making the dishes better was far more interesting. Given that there are only three choices in the menu, all the assistant and trainee chefs were focussed on one dish at the time. Many of them were simply working on one dish at a time. Akmal pointed that the challenge of the restaurant was to focus and maintain the consistency of great taste in the best dishes while experimenting new ideas at the same time. Given many regular customers come back most of the time, the challenge to introduce new dishes can be a daunting one if they wanted to try the same menu earlier. It’s similar to how Apple thinks about the product as Craig Federighi, the current head of iOS and Mac OS X said, “New is easy but right is hard.” Getting the taste of the dish consistent is not a easy feat because they have to do this everyday. That is what I often feel that fine dining should about and that’s why I loved great food like the way I liked great products.

If I am willing to take out the reservation and entrance glitches, my overall experience with Iggy’s have been great. That being said, I would probably have to return for the second time sometime in the future. The reason is to verify the consistency of taste that comes with the food on the menu and also the great service we have over the evening.

Here’s my rating for our entire first experience with Iggy’s Singapore:

  • Service Standards: 7.5/10
  • Ambience: 8/10
  • Food: 9.5/10
  • Knowledge of Waiters: 9/10 overall.
  • Overall: 9/10

Information about the restaurant:

  • Restaurant Name: Iggy’s @ Hilton Singapore
  • Food Genre: Fusion (European & Asian)
  • Address: Level 3, Hilton Hotel, 581 Orchard Rd, Singapore 238883
  • Reservations: Call @ +65 6732 2234, SMS @ 8188 3200 or use an online reservation form (no direct URL because it’s a flash site).
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Bernard Leong

A Pragmatic Idealist