Iggys isn't just a top restaurant in Singapore, it’s a passion project from a man who knows good food, incredible wine and the magic of Japanese influence
There are plenty of great restaurants in Singapore, many of which are creative, modern and any other trendy term that comes to mind. But few have stood the test of time, while being consistently good and able to adapt to changes. Iggys, the love child of restaurateur and wine enthusiast, Ignatius Chan has done just that. Iggy’s has managed to stay on the top of foodie bucket lists around the world, it’s been awarded prime position on San Pellegrino's World's Best Restaurant List and is considered Asia's best restaurants.
Iggy’s is located inside the Hilton (not an ideal resting spot for a restaurant of this stature) yet operates independently and gives you the feeling that you’re walking into a place unknown, nondescript, speakeasy-ish almost. You know you’ve arrived when you pass the neon signs of the shops lining the hotel lobby and you find yourself in an area you’re pretty sure a restaurant shouldn’t be. Then you see the sign.
The dining room itself is small, and simple with large a few stylish design features. The most striking element is the large internal glass window, which provides a view of the kitchen and the chefs working away. Fresh flowers top the tables and around the hallways are images of Iggy and his team and the dishes they create. The focus is on the food (as it should be) yet the simple design makes the space feel comfortable, welcoming and as if you’re part of something special.
Ignatius Chan – Iggy for short – is a sommelier who went into the restaurant business in 1994. He has owned several eateries since then, but Iggy's is his main project. It opened in 2004 inside The Regents Hotel, but later moved to The Hilton as his business got more popular and needed more space. Most nights you’ll see him navigating the dining room, greeting guests, chatting about food, and recommending the best wines to enjoy with your meal.
Iggy prides himself in mixing tastes from across the world, and the influences most evident in our meal were Spanish and Japanese. This threw up some interesting combinations in our meal which consisted somewhere between nine and thirteen courses. We were brought several tasty little snacks between courses so I ended up loosing count!
The first course was Sakura Ebi, and while it wasn’t my favorite, it was certainly the most memorable. It was composed of a translucent cracker with little sakura shrimps (bright pink just like the sakura blossoms) on top. This was stood up at an angle, and sat in a bowl of pebbles. The whole thing looked spectacular. The next snack (still part of our pre- first course) was inspired by McDonald's (showing that even the best chefs can take inspiration from humble sources), and was a smartened up version of a fish sandwich. It was a cross between a delicate fish bun and a fried dumpling, which when you bit into, released an explosion of delicious flavor.
Perhaps my favorite course was the abalone. This was served on a bed of chanterelles and morels with a veil of Iberico pork fat draped over it. The fat melted over the abalone and had the perfect texture. The icing on the cake was the thyme dust which was sprinkled over the veil. The vegetable garden was another wonder, and it once again showed me that you can do truly amazing things with greens. There were fifteen different types of veggies, and they were all served with an Iberico dashi broth which give it a wonderfully smoky flavor...how do people come up with these combinations???
The last few courses were all desserts, and it was nice to try a range of Iggy’s sweets. First we were given a little sampling of “jelly” bon-bons and gado gado cookies. The cookies tasted just like my favorite Balinese salad “gado gado”, and the kaffir lime in them took me right back that magical island. Another surprise dessert was aptly named “layers of heaven”. Jasmine foam sat on top of jasmine ice cream, on top of honeycomb, and yuzu curd.
The food had exceeded our expectations and combined with Iggy's company, it made for a great evening. It was evident in his words, as well as in the food, that he had infused every aspect of the restaurant with passion and creativity. The staff – both in the front and back of house – seemed to have a genuine love for the restaurant, and this infected the guests. Somehow they managed to combine flavors that shouldn’t work (gado gado salad in a cookie!), and absolutely everything was truly delicious.
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