I step inside Monti at lunch time and it is buzzing. But instead of executive chef Luigi Calcagno in the kitchen, it’s chef Dirk Hoberg from Michelin-starred restaurant Ophelia in Germany. He’s in town until Saturday as part of Michelin’s and Robert Parker Wine advocate’s international chef showcase, which sees chefs from around the world giving Singaporeans a taste of their cooking.
The meal begins with an appetiser of foie gras terrine mixed with charcoal. I would normally find this overwhelming, but the pairing with apple puree cut through the heaviness and gives it a burst of tanginess. It gets better when I spread it on the lightly toasted, buttery brioche.
The appetiser awakens my palate for the next dish—Hokkaido scallops with cucumber and tapioca pearls. These are sliced thinly, lightly salted and served raw. I would have preferred the seafood to be slightly colder but it’s intriguing how the cucumber is presented in different ways—sliced, ice cream and sauce. They play on my palate with their different textures and flavours without overpowering the main ingredient.
Hoberg built his cooking philosophy by marrying seafood with global ingredients, and the next two courses emphasise that. His carabinero prawn is sous vide for three minutes at 59 deg C, making it juicy and tender. It is paired with slightly salty espuma (which he uses to complement its sweetness), pickled cabbage, ginger and coriander puree and keropok.
The turbot, which Hoberg confesses is one of his favourite dishes, is simple. It’s not fancifully plated, but it’s memorable. The snow white fish is fork-tender and sits on a creamy white sauce. The flavourful kick comes from the brininess of the oyster, oyster leaf and caviar as well as the smokiness of the cauliflower.
Pigeons are tricky; you don’t cook them well and them will turn out dry or bland. Hoberg has masterfully cooked the fowl. He marinated it with white miso paste, which tempers the gaminess and gives it a hint of sweetness, then topped it with cashew nuts. It lays on a bed of earthy mushrooms and crunchy broccoli, which not only gives the dish colour but also an added crunch.
Chef Dirk Hoberg’s four-course lunch and eight-course dinner menus are available until February 25 and are paired with 90-pointer wines specially selected by Robert Parker Wine Advocate.