I first met chef Anderson Ho in 1998. He and another young chef named Jimmy Chok were at the helm of a fantastic little restaurant called Fig Leaf. I loved eating there. These two young chefs prepared lovely European and fusion dishes. The food was good. It wasn’t too refined or sophisticated, but it was delicious.
After his stint at Fig Leaf, Anderson (unlike his partner Jimmy, who went on to run and work in a number of well-reviewed restaurants) disappeared from Singapore’s restaurant scene. Instead of moving to another restaurant, Anderson accepted a position with SATS, the in-flight catering company responsible for the meals served on Singapore Airlines, as well as many other airlines. I remember my disappointment when I heard about his decision to work at SATS. I liked Anderson’s cooking and I couldn’t believe that the only way I’d get to eat something prepared by him was by buying a ticket on SQ. Fortunately for us Anderson fans, in 2003, he and his award-winning photographer brother Edmond, produced a deliciously beautiful cookbook. Menu Degustation is a treasure trove of innovative fusion recipes. My wife S and I have enjoyed cooking many of the dishes found within its pages. And, through this book, we’ve become even bigger fans of Anderson’s. So, you can only imagine our glee when we found out earlier this year that Anderson was finally returning to a restaurant kitchen. He and his brother have opened a small, bright and peaceful Modern French place called Le Papillon, located in the new Red Dot Traffic Building.
I’ve had quite a few meals at Le Papillon since it opened on 8 May 2006. All of them have been good, with some better than others. S and I went back again for lunch this past Monday. We had a small but lovely meal. S started with one of her favorite dishes here, marinated goat cheese with pesto on watermelon and Pedro Ximenez reduction (pictured top left above). This is something she’s had every time we’ve visited Le Papillon. She tried it on our very first visit and she’s ordered it ever since. The combination, while unexpected, is very good. It’s sweet, tart, juicy, crisp and cool. I started with sautéed Hokkaido scallops served with an herb risotto, asparagus and morel mushrooms (pictured top right above). This is a nice, hearty and tasty dish. For her main, S had another of our favorites, Anderson’s confit of crispy pork belly and sautéed tiger prawns on green tea mousse, served with a rocket and spinach salad (pictured at the very beginning of this post). For my main, I had a roasted king fish with slow-cooked oxtail, truffle cream and herbed mashed potato (pictured bottom left above). Both these dishes are very good. The pork is succulent; the meat is soft and skin crispy. The prawns are cooked perfectly and the mousse full of flavor. The fish is nice and light. And paired with the oxtail and mashed potato the dish takes on a rich sensuality. Another favorite main course is Anderson’s beef tenderloin served with what he calls an oxtail parcel — braised oxtail wrapped in Filo pastry. As you might already surmise, all of these dishes are duos of sorts. i.e. dishes composed of two equally delicious propositions. And this is something that I like very much about the food at Le Papillon. Anderson pairs ingredients expertly, creating the kind of food that I’d love to be able to cook for friends. Over the years, Anderson’s food has become more mature. It is cleaner and more refined than it used to be. And somehow both simpler and more sophisticated. I envy his technical skills tremendously. And, because almost every dish on his menu sounds great to me, I am very inspired by his palette.
Anderson and his restaurant show great promise. If he and his team can iron out a few understandable opening kinks (and upgrade the desserts, which while good are not as good as the rest of the food), it could quickly become one of Singapore’s top tables.
28 Maxwell Road, #01-02, Red Dot Traffic Building.