Why we love this: Corner House is gracefully tucked away in the heart of Singapore’s luscious Botanic Gardens. This alone makes for a lovely dining experience in which part of the journey lies in searching for the peaceful restaurant hidden among verdant palms and tropical flora. As the home of Gastro-Botanica pioneered by Chef Jason Tan, Corner House promises diners a meal that’s as exquisite and vibrant as its surroundings.
Chef Jason Tan always loved French restaurants inside the garden chateaus around Europe. He’d been eyeing the location of his current restaurant many years before he took it over.
“This location is always something that I liked very much. When I first started out to be a chef, I idolized French chefs a lot. In France you always have a restaurant in the garden, in like a chateau. In Singapore it’s very city. There’s a lot of green but the restaurants are always in hotels or either in a mall or a shop house. [A garden restaurant is] something that I always would’ve loved to have.
Of course there was a restaurant here for many, many years. This was a restaurant for 16 years. When I was a young cook I dined here before and I really liked this place because I think this is the closest that you can find in Singapore which resembles a restaurant in Europe. We got very lucky. The restaurant was about to close so we took it over to open my own restaurant.”
When Chef Tan opened Corner House in 2014, he realized his dream of attaining a refined French restaurant inside one of the lushest gardens anywhere in the world. He has invented the contemporary cuisine, Gastro-Botanica, through which he constantly innovates new dishes grounded in the French culinary tradition while showcasing a “devotion to provenance, terroir and seasonality.” Corner House has been awarded one Michelin star for three consecutive years and continues to place among Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants.
Chef Tan is particularly proud of having an all Asian team that can execute a refined classically French menu. Everyone from his culinary and service team is from Singapore, Malaysia, Japan, the Philippines and other Asian countries.
“Whenever I talk to some of the guests, they like to visit the kitchen and they’re amazed that there’s a bunch of young Asian people being able to execute cuisine like this. Even some guests are very curious to see me because they think it’s a Frenchman cooking in the kitchen… And now I hope that our restaurant will inspire a new generation of Singaporean or Asian chefs to come out and do their own.”
Corner House is set in a classic colonial house which originally served as the residence of E.J. Corner, Assistant Director of the Botanic Gardens. The house was constructed in 1910 and it still retains all of its vintage colonial elegance. The cool, rustic white interior is the ideal respite from the city’s humid climate. Clear glass windows sprinkled with dew that look out to the lush flora creates the perfect perch for a colorful Michelin meal.
Corner House is where Chef Tan engineered Gastro-Botanica. As the term suggests, Gastro-Botanica “gives equivalent weight on the plate to protein and botanical elements” and “plants are given fuller elaborations.” There’s a keen emphasis on fruits and vegetables which highlight their essential role for every meal as well as Chef Tan’s creativity. The restaurant’s signature dish, Oignon Doux Des Cevennes, is the ultimate embodiment of Gastro-Botanica as the chef explains what inspired him to create such complex dishes around vegetables:
“Our signature dish is called My Interpretation of Onion. It happens to be my favorite vegetable…I wanted to find an ingredient that is very humble. The onion has so much use everywhere. You spend time in many parts of the world, onion is used in every kitchen, every cuisine. I always refer to onion as the sidekick of ingredients. It’s never the main character or the hero. Maybe it’s in the sauce or maybe it’s a small garnish on the side just to make a fragrance for a dish. So it’s something that is often forgotten by people. I really appreciate onion because it’s not common to make it the main dish. I always tell people that actually I don’t make the onion, the onion makes us a hero. It’s unique in this way because of its humbleness.”
On the menu one will find superior proteins such as Queensland spanner crab, carabinero prawn and pork jowls accompanied by exquisitely prepared garnishes in which the flavors lie. Whether it’s frozen crème fraiche, a perfectly dehydrated onion slice or bright edible flowers, Chef Tan conjures a bountiful feast for the senses.
Don’t Leave Without Trying:
Oignon Doux Des Cevennes—Chef Tan’s signature dish based on his favorite vegetable is not to be missed when visiting Corner House. It comes in four iterations and different preparations of the Cevennes onion.
- Baked Cup: A s whole onion cup is baked and filled with 62 degree egg, onion puree, confit and black truffles.
- Onion Tart: A sliver of filo pastry is layered with onion confit, slow-cooked in butter for 6 hours, and topped with parmesan cheese.
- Onion Chip: A delicate slice of onion is dehydrated and lightly salted creating the most beautiful vegetable chip you’ll ever see.
- Onion Tea: More like a salty, savory latte than a tea due to its rich foamy texture.
My Interpretation of Kaya Toast
Kaya Toast is the traditional breakfast food of Singapore. Kaya is a sweet sticky jam made with pandan and coconut. This dessert is as stunning as it is tasty. An ice cream cookie sandwich of pandan and coconut is served with a lemony sorbet and gula melaka.
Elegant lunches, Romantic dinners, Michelin foodies, Brief city breaks
Photos: Nadia Cho