Sunday, December 7, 2014

Shelter In The Woods - A Master Class in French Classics

It is not easy to get French classics done right in Singapore. For one, the produce which is essential to French cooking is hardly the best you can find here.

Secondly, there are many eateries who profess to cook up rustic French home styled cooking, but very few can nail it perfectly. There is nothing worse than a poorly executed French classic dish.

It is a surprise, then, to discover that probably the best French eatery to date is actually helmed by a Japanese chef.

But he is not just any chef. He has worked with a number of Michelin starred restaurants in Europe (Robuchon among them), and we are both fortunate and privileged that he has decided to settle in Singapore and present some of his exemplary cooking to the diners of Singapore.

When I say exemplary, I am being somewhat conservative. He is a master, no doubt. But what is even more impressive is his sense of balance and finesse that betrays the rustic French style that Shelter used to be imbued with.

Let us just dispense with the decor of the place. It is compact, cosy, comfortable and has a cabin woods atmosphere. Suitable for both a family outing as well as a romantic date. It is the perfect setting for Chef Masashi Horuichi's sublime cuisine.

Charcuterie Platter

We started off with a stunning charcuterie platter of pates, terrines and foie gras. The pate en croute was a definitive highlight. A flaky, buttery crust encased the smooth and creamy duck foie gras within. There was also consume jelly which gave it an added boost of texture.

Every bite was like an explosion of flavours in the mouth. Not to be outdone, the burgundy terrine was also marvellous, rich with the suave perfume of alcohol that helped to cut through the richness of the gorgeous terrine.

Endive and Roquefort Salad

Salads can be quite intimidating for some, especially considering the quality of ingredients we get here. And endives is a challenging vegetable to say the least.

In this refreshing and colourful plate, Chef Masashi has dressed it immaculately with a citrus honey dressing that gave it both the subtle and zesty acid, as well as a gentle sweetness to take away some of the bitterness from the wondrous crunch of the intricately chopped endives.

DIY Steak Tartar

Steak tartar is hardly served here due to the fact that many diners are adversed to eating raw beef, which is a shame. The so-called DIY element is basically mixing up all the elements as it is served.

Beautifully hand cut angus beef, mixed with a mixture of chives and capers really brought the flavours out to its full intensity. Finished off with an elegant quail's egg, this was simply the best steak tartar that I have had here. A giddy mix of textures, supreme protein and flavours to intoxicate one's palate.

Rotisserie Rack of Lamb

I am always apprehensive when it comes to rotisserie items in a restaurant, so I must admit that my fears were well set aside by Chef Masashi's roasts. In particular, this magnificent beast of a plank that presented the finest rack of lamb that I have seen for some time.

Beautifully seasoned, and despite the fact that our meat was slightly on the well done side, it was still moist and succulent within. There was a hint of a parsley and pepper rub on the outer part of the lamb, and that was just enough to counter any gamey aroma of the lamb.

Served with a veal sauce, it was a perfect roast. I tend to complain about how classic French roasts tend to be dry and without accompaniments. Well, absolutely no complaints here.

Thin Crispy Apple Tart

It might look simple but this dessert plate probably embodies Chef Masashi's philosophy better than anything else on the night. The classic apple pie and ice cream combination.

A pretty homemade ice cream and a slice of his own buttery and aromatic pastry garnished with perfect cooked apple slices. The thinness of the crust is where Chef's refined skills comes in, and eaten this way, it left you enough to be wanting more and makes for a comfortable and elegant way to consume this French classic.

Suckling Pig with Caramelised Pineapples

There are other great plates here on the menu too, and they offer Anxin rotisserie chicken as well. Almost all of the items are of a very high standard of cooking, and even the suckling pig with roasted pineapples will take some people by surprise.

What I admire most is his restraint when it comes to his food. Everything on every plate is perfectly seasoned, and nothing is too bold nor too light. It takes an experienced chef to achieve this, and judging by his eager looks into the dining room every once in a while, you can tell Chef Masashi is very vested in his food.

It is hard to describe how sublime the food is here without taking a trip here to savour it for yourself. It sounds quite rustic, and the menu may reflect that. But ultimately, Shelter In The Woods is about nailing the classics perfectly on the money.

Chef Masashi is a master of his craft. And boy, does he have a great smile too.

Shelter In The Woods
22 Greenwod Avenue

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