Cross Out What You Don't Like: This Singapore Restaurant Leaves the Menu Up to You
Located along Tras Street in the Tanjong Pagar area, Chef’s Table By Chef Stephan Zoisl is a restaurant that offers modern European cuisine with a slight twist. Instead of a proper menu, diners are handed a piece of paper with a list of 28 ingredients. This represents the best and freshest seafood, meats and produce the restaurant sourced for that day. Customers are then encouraged to cross out any ingredient they don’t like. It’s Zoisl’s take on the traditional Japanese style of omakase.
“If I come to your table and you say, ‘I’m not a fan of lamb, I don’t eat pork, or I don’t like mussels,’ we get this information and we start writing the menu for you on the spot,” he says.
Depending on their appetite level, their budget or how much time they have, diners can choose between a four, six, or eight-course dinner, which range in price from SG$98, SG$128, and SG$150.
“The idea of omakase is to always serve the best food,” Zoisl explains. “It gives us the choice of serving the best quality to the customer, but at the same time, we don’t want to force you to eat something that you don’t like.”
An additional challenge that Zoisl imposes on himself and his team is the promise to never serve a customer the same dish twice. This is easier said than done, especially when you consider repeat diners who come on successive days. But an old-school style logbook, which Zoisl and his team call their “bible,” ensures that every meal is properly recorded.
The culinary team prepares the food in the Gaggenau-equipped kitchen. Zoisl says he prefers the German brand not just for its functionality and durability, but for crafting cooking equipment that helps chefs achieve their cooking goals rather than doing it for them completely. “They don’t give you an oven that literally does the cooking for you; they give you an oven that gives you the ability to do what you want to do with it. It’s up to you to cook.”
When the dishes are done, they’re carried over to the dining area not by servers but by either Zoisl himself or his head chef. This is also an opportunity for him to explain the dish and chat with the customers, and the high tables ensure that chef and diner are almost at eye-level. “When you have low tables, you’re looking up and I’m looking down at you. So it doesn’t make sense. We should be the same height.”
Burrata cheese, artichoke chips, jamon Iberico, rocket, Taggiasce olives, olive oil caviar
Alaskan Halibut, squid in rocket sauce, fioretto cauliflower, snap peas, pea blossom, rocket oil
Chocolate mousse, chocolate parfait, chocolate sponge cake, raspberry sorbet, and fresh chocolate ice cream made with nitrogen
Zoisl, who has worked at some of the most celebrated restaurants in the world, including Heston Blumenthal’s The Fat Duck and Grant Achatz’s Alinea in Chicago, came to Singapore in 2006 after a text message from an old colleague. He worked in the kitchen of Novus Restaurant here for a few years before he and a partner opened a cooking school in the Tanjong Paga area. When his partner left, he kept the space and unveiled his latest concept.
“Cooking is all about the mood,” he says. “If you’re in a good mood, you cook 10 times better. If you have a lot of problems in your head then it’ll reflect in your food.
“At Chef’s Table, we always start from scratch so we don’t become stagnant,” he adds. “It keeps us on our toes.”
Chef’s Table By Chef Stephan is at 61 Tras Street, Tanjong Paga, Singapore; e-mail [email protected]