Sergio Herman, Oud Sluis but in Singapore
Sergio Herman was here in 2008 and even though this was two years ago, I still have very clear memories of this. Very simply, it was very good.
Life has a funny way of working itself out. I tried to get a table and shamelessly pulled every possible string to get a table here in April 2008. I got close. Really close. First on the waiting list but no cancellations and they were running a full house; close but no cigar.
No table at Oud Sluis. The alternative dinner plan was a morning at the Albert Cyup market where we lugged a leg of lamb back to roast up a feast for dinner. Not quite the same thing but since the idea of visiting Amsterdam was to spend time with friends, it was a still a great day sans the road trip to Zeeland and meal at Oud Sluis.
Later in the year, the friend whom I shamelessly persuaded to beg whoever he knew for a table at Oud Sluis called me and said, “Remember Oud Sluis and how you were trying to get a table there? Well…Sergio Herman is in Singapore.”
I was a little hesitant because I’ve attended a few dinners with some starred chefs but sometimes I think being out of their kitchen, they are sometimes a little off beat and since most of the restaurants rely on seasonal and regional produce and being away from their restaurants takes them out of their context. But I was assured by the voice on the other side of the telephone line, “I ate at Oud Sluis when it had two stars and I remember thinking, this guy is going to get a third star, trust me, you will like it.” Ok, I want a dinner reservation.
In my rather twisted logic, this restaurant has to be good. I’ve lived in Amsterdam and whilst I love my Dutch friends and they love their stamppot, I am not as enthused by it. I think most people agree with me, judging from the lack of proliferation of Dutch restaurants around the world. So therefore, by my logic, if Oud Sluis in Zeeland could attain three Michelin stars, something really magical must be happening there.
So what happened when Sergio Herman was in Singapore? He cooked at the Cliff in November 2008 and that was one of the best meals that I had in 2008.
From top left moving clockwise:
oyster cracker with freshly shucked oysters and nitrogen frozen oyster liquid, tuna with black radish and seaweed with soya foam, crispy chicken skin with curry aioli, 3 ways cucumber (marinated, frozen and foam) with mackerel sashimi and crispy rice and beetroot macaroon with foie gras.
The meal had a fantastic start, some amuse bouche had a little bit of everything and got it absolutely right. The oyster cracker with freshly shucked oysters and nitrogen frozen oyster liquid was crisp to bite followed by an explosion of cold oyster liquid. It didn’t quite look like an oyster but it tasted like an oyster three times over.
The other that I loved was beetroot macaroon with foie gras. A good amuse bouche should leave you wanting another bite. As for this one, we loved the combination of the crisp and spongy with the creamy buttery foie gras so much that managed to coax the waiter for an extra serving. Good amuse bouche.
Sergio Herman cooks cleverly. He uses modern techniques not for the sake of being trendy but as a way to achieve an excellent expression of the ingredient. He dances between traditional and the avant-garde and puts out visually seductive plates and cuisine that is highly innovative, playful and at the same time very sophisticated.
My favourite of the night, scallops “black and white”. Beautifully plated with complex “black and white” elements – Jerusalem artichokes in jelly and sliced, grilled scallops, black truffle, olive oil powder, nitrogen frozen yuzu shots - that meshed well together in a familiar but fresh way.
seabass marinated as canneloni, escabeche of shellfish and scallops, emulsion of citrus and granite of green herbs
langoustine with smoked eel, potato and cucumber, miso-verbena vinaigrette
grilled sole, oyster, shellfish, combava vinaigratte, cream of salicornia, algae chips
scallops "black & white"
As for the rest of the courses, here’s the run down of the menu – seabass, langoustine, sole, scallop, lamb and triple dessert extravaganza (that’s what’s written in the menu). The seabass, langoustine, sole and scallop followed the same vein of clever cooking but the lamb unfortunately didn’t stand out all I remember of it was that, it was a well cooked piece tasty lamb that didn’t quite interest me. The dessert, despite being a tad sweet for me helped create better memories after the lamb.
tripe dessert extravaganza from left to right: chocolate 'tattoo', cremeux vanilla and structures of caramel, macaroons and rose gel, ice cream of ducle de leche and ice cream "lollipop"
So before we left, thanked the chef (repeatedly) for the marvellous meal. I left the dinner table with glee and just one question that has yet to be answered: if this is Sergio Herman and Oud Sluis out of context – I already like it very much – what would Oud Sluis be in Zeeland?