Tucked away in the corner of Raffles and Temasek Avenues and embraced within the posh interior of the Ritz Carlton Millenia Singapore is the Chihuly Lounge, the next stop for My Favourite Things and our focus for the week: an 8-course high tea set.
While buffet meals avail to us many choices, they often leave us none the wiser. Attention to quality tends to get smothered by sheer quantity. Besides, how much can we eat before the law of diminishing marginal utility sets in? And that’s something Chihuly Lounge successfully avoids with their latest high tea repertoire that packs a punch but goes easy on your waist. But can a set meal really give you more ooomph and value-for-money than a buffet? I was there to find out.
But first let me introduce you to the man behind the scenes: Executive Chef of Ritz Carlton Millenia Singapore, Mr Arnaud Thulliez. He’s the man who’s behind the novel idea of an exquisite 8-course repertoire that has just been launched recently at Chihuly’s. So really, what’s the intention behind a set menu for high-tea when almost everybody else does it buffet style? The keywords here are “simple and fundamental”. In fact, throughout my interview with him, I noticed him using the word “true” several times, underscoring his personal convictions about how important it was to ensure fundamentals and integrity in his every culinary endeavour. Here was a man who truly understood what it really means to go back to the basics and the urgent need for it in modern dining.
A lot more was revealed about Chef Arnaud’s culinary approach when I asked him for his opinion on celebrity Chefs who have made it big through cooking programmes. I could sense a polite reservation in his response. That said, he’s anything but a culinary prude. A puritan perhaps, but certainly not a prude.
My visit to this dining enclave started off with a ritzy welcome by an entourage of staff and a tall glass of refreshing passion fruit concoction. Being surrounded by such hospitality, I felt instantly at home. That, however, didn’t quell my curiosity about what’s in the drink that gave it a kick like no other. Chef Arnaud was obviously unwilling to tell me more, smiling sheepishly, and comfortable in his settee. His reticence reminded me of the espionage movies I’ve watched before: “If I tell you, I would’ve to kill you.” Ok. I probed no further, and just enjoyed the drink.
After an elaborate tea ceremony as part of the whole experience, I was served a handsome chunk of Salmon Coulibiac all neatly wrapped in a meticulous layer of crisp puff pastry. Embedded in the centre was a gelatinous blanket of glutinous rice and fresh baby spinach, creating a perfect balance of taste and texture that was completely new to me but really yummy. What stood out for me most was the fact of Chef Arnaud’s ingenuity in putting east and west together, creating a culinary showpiece that symbolised a multi-cultural exchange that welcomed and allowed for respective distinctiveness. Ode also to the delicious sauce gribiche that made the finishing touch good to great!
What followed next was a gold circular tea set stand that was itself as impressive as the delicious morsels sitting in it. In fact, everything looked so good that I was actually unwilling to sink my teeth into any of them! For this course, there was a good variety of items, including the savoury and sweet. There were open and closed sandwiches, smoked chicken and chestnut salad in Laugen Roll, macaroon pistachio, strawberry puffs that looked like tiny hamburgers, and berries with bora-bora vanilla cream.
For me, my favourite had to be the raisin scones. I do admit that I have a weakness for scones and having tried quite a few here in Singapore and Australia, I must say that Chihuly Lounge really serves very good scones in comparison! Well-buttered, perfectly baked and of the right-size, the scones had the right amount of fluff that complemented the richness of the cluttered cream straight out of Devonshire and the rich fruity flavour of the strawberry jam.
“This cream is not your average whipped cream that you find elsewhere,” says Chef Arnuad with a hint of puritanical pride, “we specially import this straight from Devonshire”.
And as I was thoroughly enjoying the bite-sized delights, Chef Arnaud proudly shared with me his philosophy of this 8-course repertoire and the good services at Chihuly’s: nothing’s mass-produced, everything’s personalised right down to the chinaware with gold leaf borders on which these afternoon treats were served. I was really impressed. After all, at a good price of $39 per guest, what you can get out of this whole experience beats handsdown the huge amounts you would have to pay elsewhere for food that’s often the usual same-old, same-old.
Speaking of which, did you know that the fine china shaped in an ice-cream cone and secured by a gold-plated bracket is also a special customisation done only for Chihuly Lounge and straight out of France? The tangy and refreshing raspberry sorbet which it contains is also something you wouldn’t want to miss. Dig deeper and you’ll find that right at the bottom, you’ll get a wonderful smattering of rose jelly and lychees, giving this awesome sorbet an excellent degree of bite!
The grand finale could have qualified as a complete treat in itself. For this last course,Chihuly Lounge serves a dazzling range of tea cakes, cookies, kuey lapis, and four types of praline, all lavishly displayed in a customised pass-around trolley that seemed more antiquarian than the Singer sewing machine table I have at home. Here at Chihuly’s, they really know how to pamper you with all the niceties right down to the jot. It was a really sweet end to an afternoon of great food and relaxation.
In a city where everything runs like clockwork, it’s great to know there are places likeChihuly Lounge where you can slow down, enjoy a good read and not have to make executive decisions about which high-tea buffet package to get.
Find out more on what Chihuly Lounge has to offer and stand a chance to win cash vouchers on My Favourite Things every weekday. Tune in to Evening Drive from 5 to 8 pm only on Symphony 92.4fm.