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L’Effervescence

There is no attempt now to woo the hip crowd: At L’Effervescence, the wow factor is all on the menu.

If you knew the place in that previous incarnation, you will find the decor has been toned down but the layout inside little changed: the large lounge by the door for relaxing before or after your meal; the semi-private alcoves in the dining room, dressed with metallic mesh curtains; the private basement chamber where you can watch the kitchen at work. And what work it is: Head chef Shinobu Namae serves some of the finest high-end contemporary French cuisine in town.

His food is inventive, precise and highly accomplished. He cut his culinary teeth working with French superchef Michel Bras, both at his Hokkaido outpost at Lake Toya and also in France. The influence is especially pronounced in the emphasis Namae gives to organic vegetables.

His signature dish is his wonderful whole-cooked turnips. The golf-ball-sized vegetables are cooked ultra-low and slow for four hours (not oven-roasted, we were told, but cooked using a “secret special process”), until they’re soft but firm, retaining much of the original texture and flavor. Cut into halves and pan-fried, they are served with a bright-green emulsion sauce of parsley.

Namae also spent a couple of years under British chef Heston Blumenthal at The Fat Duck, the acclaimed, three-Michelin-starred restaurant just outside London, working as both sous-chef and pastry chef. The influences are subtle but delightful, from the evocation of childhood taste memories — in Namae’s case, the scalding apple pie he used to bite into at a certain major fast-food restaurant chain — to the playful desserts incorporating both visual and taste double-takes.