Le Papillon at Red Dot Design Museum

collageThe Red Dot Design Museum was formerly the Maxwell Traffic Police Station. Walking into the place evoked lots of memories for me; mostly of me bailing friends (and family) out of jail in the wee hours of the morning. Sometimes I think it is for the better to turn my mobile phone off at night.

The Red Dot Design Museum is a strange place. It tries to look edgy with its graffitti-inspired art but there is a certain lack of understanding of the artform that, at best, makes the images look desperately contrived and at worst, derivative. People familiar with this sort of artform will cringe at the meaningless doodles that would make Banksy reach for the whitewash.

Fortunately, there is a bright spot in this dreary environment and that is the Maxwell Road Hawker Centre that offers some of the best hawker food in Singapore and some distancing from the RDDM. No! Wait! What I meant was that within the Red Dot Design Museum is Le Papillon.

This blog was a little apprehensive about going there because at a certain televised interview on the Singaporean dining scene, when asked for the worst restaurant experience in Singapore, someone blurted out “Le Papillon”.

However, since this dinner was organized by a fellow blogger’s friend who is a friend of Anderson Ho, the Executive Chef of Le Papillon, this blog thought, what the hell. So after a very long day (I really was really tired), I met up with the Skinny Epicurean, Superfine Feline, Joone! and Hinata for dinner.

As I entered the restaurant, I was greeted by a group of service staff dressed in black. The interior was quiet (3 other tables were occupied) and cozy with comfortable lighting and seats. We were ushered into a corner right next to an unfortunate couple who had expected a quiet evening undisturbed by a group of noisy people. I was so self-concious of this fact that I refrained from using my camera flash until they left.

Service was interesting. There was a lot of pride in the waiter’s voice as he announced that Chef Anderson Ho was preparing a special meal for us with dishes not found on the menu. Wow, we are in for a treat, this blog thought.

And sure enough, it was a treat. Immediately after our mouths were amused by a spoonful of Aubergine in Basil oil (or is it oil of Basil?), we were served an appetizer that the menu called “fresh mud crab salad with tomato gelรƒยฉe and gazpacho espuma”. ๐Ÿ˜€

Gazpacho

It was fantastic. As you scoop the foam, there is a slight popping sound from the bubbles and as you put it into your mouth there is a familar feeling of eating Pop Rocks Candy that was part of this blog’s childhood memories. With strong carrot (and orange?) flavours supercharged with Tabasco pepper sauce, it felt like a party was happening in your mouth and everyone’s invited.

This blog was fortunate enough to be seated with a pretty young girl who is working in the kitchen of a famous restaurant as a Cold Kitchen Chef. What was even more amazing was she plays World of Warcraft! Woah… How cool is that? The conversation with her was fun and very interesting as she would deconstruct, along with Joone! the flavours and cooking technique of each dish.

And as we were chatting about the different characters in WoW (she’s a Paladin/Priest and I’m a Shaman/Hunter), Chef Anderson came out to inquire about the progress of the dinner. Some of us have dietary restrictions (this blog cannot abide prawns, for example), so Chef Anderson wanted to make sure. That’s because Sam had hand-carried Mentaiko all the way from Japan as a gift for Joone! and Joone!, bless her generous heart, asked that it be incorporated into the pasta dish for everyone. Chef Anderson did so by grilling it slightly before using it.

Grilled Mentaiko

As luck would have it, it’s the Prawn Pasta with seaweed in a shellfish-based oil (at least that’s what it said in the menu, sans Mentaiko). Actually, this blog’s pasta was modified by leaving out the Prawns and adding more Mentaiko. Yay!

The Rigatoni was done hard and chewy, exactly the way I like it. The smoky, spicy flavours of the Mentaiko properly balanced out the hard pasta and oils. And judging from the responses all round the table, it was the highlight of the evening.

Prawn Pasta with Mentaiko

The Skate Wing that arrived was sweet and juicy and I particularly enjoyed the Tea-smoked Chicken which was taut and flavourful although some found it to be a tad dry. I loved the smoky chicken skin. ๐Ÿ˜‰

At this time, because all the other guests have left, there was an abundance of service at our table. This, unless properly coordinated, was not a good thing. This is because there is a confusion as to where to lean when someone is serving from the left while another is removing plates on the right. So periodically, this blog would have to duck and weave in a manner that would make Mohammed Ali proud or a Bollywood director to take notes.

Diction was also a problem too.

Skate Wing Skate Wing Smoked Chicken Smoked Chicken

The other meat course was the braised beef shank. For the non-meat eater, a grilled Red Snapper was the substitute. The beef – you didn’t think, for one moment, that I would have the fish right? – was, despite the tendons, so tender that you can cut it with a spoon but yet it retained some of that beefy flavour.

I forgot what was thought of the Red Snapper. I will link to it when the review is up.

Beef Shank Red Snapper

Le Papillon opened in 2006 with much fanfare. So much so that quite a lot of people went with very high expectations only to be disappointed. A restaurant needs at least 6-9 months to find it’s legs and to get operations up; rushing in when it’s barely finished opening only serves you right. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Of course, there were rumours of Chef Anderson, being popular and all, receiving lots of offers and hence wobbling a bit. Hence this blog was hesitant in visiting; I mean why waste time and money if the Chef’s heart is not in it?

My confidence was bolstered by a call from a dear friend who frequently attends food competitions as a panel judge. He reassured me that the food is good at Le Papillon.

Well, he was mostly right. When the food is good, like the pasta and Gazpacho, it’s fantastic, but when it’s not, it’s as uninspiring as the artwork outside the restaurant. Humdrum at the Reddrum (RDDM). While it made no attempt to pair with the cooking style of the Chef, the wine list (mostly Australian) had slightly upmarket but generic labels with prices to match. Service, as noted earlier, was amusingly pretentious, a trifle clumsy and a little too casual with the facts.

Perhaps this blog was jaded after a few fantastic dinners throughout the week and really tired that night after a long day, but this blog thinks that maybe a few months more is required.

Le Papillon, Red Dot Design Museum, 28 Maxwell Road, #01-02, Tel: 6327-4177


Posted on 4th Mar 2007 in Food and Drink, French, Fusion, Italian

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There Are 8 Comments

 

hinata commented on March 5, 2007 at 12:49 pm


ok lah, as the person who made the “worst restaurant experience” comment, i do have to caveat that i was complaining about the service – if you go back to my old blog post you’ll see i was actually quite satisfied with the food. more making the point on how bad service can detract from good food. glad you guys enjoyed it, i’ll definitely go back again.


 

Ivan commented on March 5, 2007 at 2:31 pm


I think we all have the same sentiments as you after that dinner. I’ll wait a couple months more before I go back.


 

tan commented on March 5, 2007 at 8:11 pm


did the restaurant know before hand that a bunch of food bloggers were dining. or does oranising the dinner mean just making a reservation incognito?


 

Ivan commented on March 5, 2007 at 10:22 pm


You mean like “I’m a big fuc important blogger and you better treat me right?” Nah. You give bloggers too much credit. We are normal folks. Well, mostly normal.

Anyway, the reservations were done by a friend of a friend who is not a blogger (I think). He simply asked for a special menu within a certain budget for a certain number of people. You can try that too if you can’t decide from the menu.


 

superfinefeline commented on March 6, 2007 at 7:03 pm


I gatecrashed the din din though I had already told Mia that I couldn’t make it cos of my company event. Thanks June, for making the arrangements & to the others for the patience while I poured my first 2 course down my throat. Ok, I exaggerate.

BTW, Tan, I have to agree with Ivan that most food bloggers are normal folks and do not demand special treatment. We want to eat the food as it would be prepared for the general public and not a “special arrangement” that’s devised to garner a good review.

As Ivan said, the special menu can be requested by any diner (subject to availability of ingredients & time). Why don’t you try it out as you’ll give the chef an opportunity to showcase his creations.


 

Opium Gal commented on March 10, 2007 at 6:48 pm


Interesting to get a different opinion from Le Papillon, we went there for dinner a couple of months after reading great reviews from Chubbyhubby but the dinner dining experience was far from interesting. Just another one of those restaurant serving Modern European Restaurant. Great for lunch but fairly ordinary for dinner I enjoyed Ember better.

Well, it might be worth giving it another try, this time asking for the special menu.


 

ivn commented on March 14, 2007 at 9:54 am


@Opium Gal: I’ve not been to Ember *shock* *shock* *horror* *horror* but I don’t think my expectations for Le Papillon was very high, so that helped. We did ask for a special menu but it was more of a Chef’s Recommendations from the Menu rather than a created-specially-for dinner.


 

food.recentrunes.com | Pork Dinner at Brewerkz commented on June 2, 2009 at 12:52 pm


[…] of Cafe Iguana, Brewerkz and Wine Garage. The menu and wine tweaking took a few weeks and unlike the other dinner I attended, this dinner really featured items that are truly not on the regular menu. This blog […]


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