As the nation comes to grips with new challenges following the Circuit Breaker initiatives, Emmanuel Stroobant’s two-Michelin-starred restaurant provides an impressive study in adapting to these challenging times while staying on-brand
Among the many things we miss in these isolating times, perhaps the most human—or Singaporean—of them is enjoying a good meal with friends and family. Yet, humans are nothing if not the most adaptable species on Earth, so barely a week after Singapore’s Circuit Breaker measures were introduced on April 7, forcing eateries to offer only take-out or delivery, high-end restaurants have adapted their cuisine for diners to enjoy in the comfort and safety of home.
It is not an easy pivot for restaurants known for their mannered service and elegant fare. The allure of a fine restaurant lies in more than just the food, which when forced to be taken out of the dining room, must be packed in sustainable options such as decidedly un-luxurious cardboard boxes.
The adept folks behind two-Michelin-starred fine diner Saint Pierre then, have made an admirable shift. Last week, chef-owner Emmanuel Stroobant launched Virtual Saint Pierre, a fine dining experience for these strange times. Served in lacquered bento boxes, these exquisite meals are delivered by the restaurant’s suited staff to be enjoyed with friends and loved ones over a Zoom conference using a link provided by the restaurant.
The 10 dishes in the bento box are all designed to be eaten cold (or at least, cool) so that standing time doesn’t compromise their flavours and textures. Stroobant and his team work with a single, exclusive source for ingredients—“like a personal shopper”, he said—so premium ingredients such as Japanese Omi beef, Royal Belgian oscietra caviar, and French cheeses continue to populate the menu even as supply chain issues have begun to affect the procurement of produce around the world.
Highlights that we sampled over our virtual dining experience with other members of the media included a silky chawanmushi (Japanese egg custard) blanketed with the sweet flesh of Hokkaido hairy crabmeat and crowned with a gleaming mound of ikura; a beautifully cooked Hokkaido scallop perched on Aomari apples and topped with a generous dollop of Royal Belgian oscietra caviar; and ponzu-kissed slivers of grilled Omi beef wrapped around toothsome enoki mushrooms.
The portions may appear deceptively slight in their square chambers, but they make up a hearty multi-course fine dining meal, replete with cheese course and perfect little petits fours, such as passionfruit meringues and frosted financiers.
This virtual fine dining experience was a first for many in our party, whose professional lives involve at least one dinner per week at fine restaurants—when restaurants could open for business. And as has often been uttered in the past fortnight, these are bizarre times indeed.
But these are also extraordinary times, where technology has gifted us the ability to remain close despite social distancing imperatives. It was a subject that dominated much of our dinner conversation that evening, as we licked our chops appreciatively and chatted with Stroobant who, as part of the Virtual Saint Pierre experience, welcomes guests to the meal as he would in real life at Saint Pierre.
Like all luxury experiences, you are not expected to do the dishes. Rather, you leave them till the morning after, when Saint Pierre’s staff will drop by to collect them. And so, this strange new world continues to turn.
Priced at $180++ or $220++ per person, Virtual Saint Pierre requires a minimum of 15 people and a maximum of 30. Reservations must be made five days in advance. For more details, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 6438 0887.