The mention of French cuisine typically calls to mind the usual suspects of escargots, duck confit and boeuf bourguignon.
At Restaurant Jag, however, you’ll find none of these classics. While the eatery did, for a couple months during the Circuit Breaker, offer traditional fare the likes of coq au vin, its omakase-style dine-in repertoire is vastly different. Here, the spotlight is on seasonal vegetables and Savoie mountain herbs the likes of berce, soucis and verveine — names that may be completely unfamiliar to us in this part of the world.
Chef and co-owner Jeremy Gillon’s culinary process involves spotlighting a vegetable as the core of each course and building everything else up around it, starting with its accompanying Alpine herb, followed by a meat or seafood. “I find vegetables very interesting. For a beetroot, for example, you can focus on one aspect of its flavour, such its sweetness, freshness or fruitiness — to create an appetiser that highlights this. And if you’re using it in a main, you can complement its earthiness with other ingredients that are equally woody and heavy in their taste,” he explains.
The restaurant, which opened in late 2018 and bagged its first Michelin star last year, has rolled out a new autumn menu that continues in the same vein. It features seasonal produce such as salsify, celeriac and chestnuts obtained from France’s Latour region, which are dressed with herbs such as lemon thyme and bouleau (birch leaves) and finally jazzed up with proteins ranging from venison to Challans duck and locally-sourced langoustine.
This is available in four and six courses during lunch (Fridays and Saturdays) and eight courses for dinner (Tuesday to Saturday). In line with its omakase concept, every dish at Restaurant Jag is crafted depending on what ingredients are available that day, and can be tailored to diners’ dietary preferences and restrictions.
If an indulgent, lazy lunch is what you’re hankering for, go for the six-course Measured Indulgence degustation. It kicks off with unusual but delicious canapés: pretty leaf-shaped biscuits composed of white chocolate and parsnip, and bedecked with origan leaves, followed by a virtuous-tasting carrot concoction. The latter comprises kueh-like morsels of carrot jelly topped with pickled carrot and laksa leaves, and is paired with vials of tangy, smoked carrot juice mixed with mango vinegar and infused with berce oil. Also known as cow parsnip, berce tastes a little like celery.
These segue into an amuse-bouche of creamy corn velouté sprinkled with popcorn powder and crunchy dehydrated corn kernels, and crowned with sage. Warm and tasty, it’ll have you licking up every drop.
Make no mistake, this isn’t a vegetarian meal. Our first course sees salty, smoked trout diced and capped jauntily with leafy shells of raw Brussels sprouts containing a savoury cabbage broth. These sit atop a base of cabbage jelly made from vegetable stock, with springy ikura pearls thrown in for additional pops of umami, and a dollop of cashew praline powder for crunch. The whole concoction is garnished with verveine, a citrusy herb that imbues the dish with a bright, herbaceous scent.
Next up is an unlikely trio of chestnuts, uni and butterfly sorrel. It’s not the most photogenic dish, but is a wonderfully indulgent affair. The chestnuts are blended into a thick, velvety purée that’s embedded with sliced chestnuts and then festooned with sweet lobes of fresh Otaru sea urchin. Tart purple sorrel leaves are scattered over the mix to cut its richness. It’s then finished off with little sprigs of soucis, also known as pot marigold or calendula flower, that lend a slight hint of bitterness.
Other excellent seafood dishes include pan-seared Hokkaido scallop that’s marinated in framboisier (raspberry leaves) and accompanied with black garlic, smoked barley and a moreish garlic sauce; and Arctic char paired with Jerusalem artichoke that’s served braised, raw and confit (see main picture above). The fish has a silky smooth texture similar to that of cod, and comes studded with Piedmont hazelnuts for a juxtaposition of textures. On the side is a hazelnut crumble and a buttery beurre blanc sauce that ties the whole dish together. Agastache (hyssop), a Savoie herb with liquorice-like notes, features in this course.
There’s meat on the menu, too. Particularly memorable is a main of Maimoa lamb, which has been slow-cooked and hay-smoked to yield gorgeously tender flesh that’s not gamey. It’s blanketed under a mound of crisp leek roots and drizzled with lamb jus infused with yuzu. On the side are lemon-scented thyme citron leaves, and a tiny pot of creamy polenta.
Turophiles will be pleased to know that Restaurant Jag’s omakase menu includes a cheese course presented via a trolley laden with many different types alongside frills like nuts, grapes and housemade elderflower jam. This is followed by a charming dessert that has chef Gillon deftly transforming clementines into a prettily plated slab of custard decorated with sorbet (both made from the citrus fruit) and light-as-air meringue sticks cloaked in spiruline and Savoie sarriette. The whole confection makes for a sweet and refreshing end to the whole feast.
What we like about dining at Restaurant Jag is chef Gillon’s mastery in making magic out of unpredictable, unorthodox flavour combinations, all while putting vegetables at the fore. His incorporation of lesser-known Savoie herbs also makes dining there an almost educational experience, as our eyes (and palates) are opened to these new plants — some with fascinating names that wouldn’t sound out of place in a mythical book of spells. You know, a pinch of agastache, a splash of sapin, mix at midnight during the winter solstice. At the end of the whole degustation, little vessels of these herbs are even presented to you to view and smell, and chef will answer any questions you may have.
So leave your expectations of French food at the door and let yourself be surprised at Restaurant Jag. You’ll depart sated, satisfied and armed with a fresh new understanding of Alpine herbs. And if you’re really still craving something a little more classic and hearty after your visit, chef Gillon has created a takeaway and home delivery special of traditional Pot-au-Feu (beef stew) packed with Futari wagyu, carrots, celeriac and other seasonal vegetables. We haven’t tried it yet, but we just might order it for our upcoming festive celebrations.
(All images: Restaurant Jag)