If a Michelin-starred restaurant changes its head chef, does it still retain its stars?
The short answer is yes. However, “restaurants can lose their stars if they close during the year of assessment, or if they do not maintain their standards to make it into the next edition of the guide,” The Michelin Guide declares in a myth-debunking article. It also says that “chefs can’t take off with the stars, nor do the stars transfer to another restaurant owned by the same chef.”
Jiang-Nan Chun at Four Seasons Hotel Singapore has one Michelin star. Recently, the Cantonese stalwart welcomed a new executive chef, Albert Au, from Hong Kong. Can he pick up the flame? There is no need to fret; he is quite the catch. The 42-year-old chef has three decades of culinary experience, and is the world’s youngest Chinese chef to obtain three Michelin stars for The Eight in Macau’s Grand Lisboa Hotel in 2014. Before coming to Singapore, he was the executive chef for Lai Sun dining group, managing its portfolio of luxury Chinese restaurants including China Tang, Island Tang and Chiu Tang. And from what we’ve tasted, chef Au is fanning the flame at Jiang-Nan Chun — with verve.
His degustation menu is Cantonese cookery of the first order, but chef Au isn’t too precious about ingredients. He brings some “western-leaning” elements to the table, as seen in the succulent blue prawn toast, crispy suckling pig layered with osetra caviar and red wine jelly and honey-glazed pork collar, which is basically elevated char siu made with Iberico pork. There’s also an eye-rollingly good, melt-in-your-mouth-tender braised pork belly served with little cubes of pineapples to give the borderline cloying dish a fruity, zesty hit.
The rest of the course is mellower and utterly restorative — save for the boisterous Boston lobster, which arrives blazing (not literally, no) with a bright orange hue and coated with superbly fragrant fried garlic and dried chilli. No spoonful is left behind of the delicately flavoured and nourishing double-boiled fish maw soup with sea whelk and dried scallops. Chef Au’s aptitude in concocting savoury liquids shines through in the braised garoupa fillet in a creamy, collagen-rich sauce and the perfectly handmade noodles doused with a comforting broth. I make sure I sop up every drop before each plate is taken from me.
The dessert is, delightfully, not a tong sui (sweet soup served at Cantonese restaurants), but a divine oolong-tea infused chocolate sphere with kumquat. It’s rich but not too sweet, accented with the sweet tartness of kumquat and a slight aromatic bitterness from oolong.
In case you’re wondering about the restaurant’s famous wood-fired roasted Peking duck, don’t worry, it’s still on the menu and served with caviar. I’ve not tried it, so I can’t vouch for its lacquered magnificence, but you bet I’m ready to coo and mutter with my dining companions when I do.
(All images: Jiang-Nan Chun)
Jiang-Nan Chun, Four Seasons Hotel Singapore, 190 Orchard Boulevard, Singapore 248646