Just for today, the porch outside the elegant Restaurant André is transformed into a mini carnival. It’s a rousing farewell party for the two-Michelin-starred fine-dining restaurant, which had its last day of service on Valentine’s Day.
Last October, the restaurant’s chef-owner André Chiang, 41, shocked industry folks by announcing that he was shuttering his eight-year-old culinary institution and returning his Michelin stars.
At his farewell party today, he cooks something different from his usual haute French cuisine for his staff and members of the media: homely, no-frills Taiwanese-style beef noodles. “Every Taiwanese person knows how to cook it, and everybody has his or her own way of doing it. So this is beef noodles, André’s style,” he beams as he hands us a steaming bowl he had freshly ladled from a pot. “Help yourself!”
Even in the blazing afternoon heat, we slurp up the entire bowl of silky noodles floating in intensely robust soup and melt-in-your-mouth beef. It is excellent and we immediately long for a second bowl. When we ask the good chef if he would consider opening a beef noodle shop here, he replies laughingly: “Maybe, maybe.”
He adds that his future plans include "something fun, different. Maybe with beverages, or pop-up [shops]. Or stalls on the street selling beef noodles”.
We sure hope the chef isn't just humouring us, 'cos we'd love to be able to eat his delish beef noodles on a whim.
Goodbyes are bittersweet, but if you ask André, it’s mostly sweet. “You will still see me around!” he laughs as he gives us a goodbye bear hug at the end of the party. He already has more plans for life after Restaurant André. “There’s Before Restaurant André, and After Restaurant André,” he quips of his career timeline.
He will be transforming the restaurant’s quaint 41 Bukit Pasoh shophouse location into a “fine-dining concept in a new category that we don’t have in Singapore”. No, he won't be cooking there, and there's also no word on who will head its kitchen. It’s slated to open by the end of this year.
He will also be working on two other new projects, which he’s keeping mum on for now, but he hints that it will be “in different cities”.
Other than Restaurant André, Chef André also has stakes in other wildly successful restaurants in Singapore, including Meat Smith, Bincho and Burnt Ends. The latter will host cult favourite Hongkong yakitori joint Yardbird for another pop-up dinner next month.
Will he be collaborating with Yardbird to set up their Singapore outlet? After all, the stars are aligning. But according to André, nope. “I enjoy [dining at] Yardbird and [the owners] are great friends of mine, but I like doing something different. I already have [similar yakitori restaurants like] Burnt Ends and Bincho.”
For now, he will be moving back to his native Taipei, where he will oversee his long wait-listed farm-to-table restaurant Raw (second on the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list). He will also train young chefs there. He plans to pop by Singapore “once a month” to visit his eateries here. “I had been going back to Taiwan about once a month when I was living in Singapore, so this arrangement is the same, [just reversed].”
He muses, “It’s time to go back to Taiwan to understand more about the place I was born in. I have not lived there for the past 30 years. I worked 15 hours a day [in Singapore], but now, after Restaurant André, I will reduce the hours from 15 to 14 (laughs).”