For my good friend’s birthday treat recently, I decided on splurging at Gunther’s, after my impressive meal at Mizuki.
Gunther’s is somewhat of an institution for French fine dining in Singapore, having been around since 2007. Their namesake chef, Gunther Hubreschen has an impressive resume, having trained personally under chef Alain Passard followed by a stint in Les Amis, before starting his own restaurant.
I have long heard of Gunther’s legendary cold truffle angel hair pasta, and they appear to be the pioneers of that dish in Singapore, though I’m sure this fact would be highly debated by many. Nonetheless, I’ve always been eager to try it out, and finally the opportunity had arrived.
Gunther’s Restaurant is located on Purvis street, right beside another landmark fine dining restaurant in Singapore, Garibaldi.
The interior of Gunther’s had apparently been recently refurnished, and now boasts a dim, white table cloth ambience with illuminated violet curvy highlights. Personally, the decor felt younger and modern, but at times, the purple highlights came off as tacky, feeling a bit like a nightclub. I wished the overall lighting was more consistently diffused, as one can see dark spots throughout the space. All in all, the ambience felt quite cold and I wished there was a warm component, like a warm lamp on the tables or something.
Thankfully, what Gunther’s ambience lacked in light temperature, they made up in their service.
Service was warm and friendly. After the usual welcomes and greetings, our server pushed out a trolley laid out with the various seasonal fresh ingredients available that day, and possible ways of cooking them. To be frank, it felt a bit odd for a fine dining establishment and reminded me of those live seafood markets where you buy your produce and let a kitchen cook it for you.
That said, I do understand that the intention was to wow us with the array of fresh and premium ingredients, but it left us feeling a bit overwhelmed at the choices.
In the end, we went ahead with the 4 course degustation at $148++ per pax.
Bread came in the form of freshly baked mini-baguettes.
They were warm, crusty on the outside and pillowy within, excellent with the salted butter, which I wished was more at room temperature.
I was delighted to learn that our first course was Gunther’s signature cold angel hair pasta with truffle and caviar.
It was a small fine dining portion, but I managed to get 3 bites out of it. Small as it may be, the signature angel hair dish was huge in flavours. The truffle oil and caviar came together beautifully, just short of some Hokkaido scallops to seal the deal. The pasta, perfectly done with a hint of bite. Was this as good as people say it is? Yes it was.
The Toro tartar with yuzu appeared quite underwhelming upon serving.
A single metal tumbler of sort, placed on the large plate. Within were some raw fatty tuna marinated in a sightly tart dressing.
It tasted exactly as expected, but there was nothing impressive about it.
In another restaurant, this might be acceptable, but for a place as reputable as Gunther’s, I would consider this dish too boring. A half portion of this as a complimentary amuse bouche would probably have been more appropriate.
Course number three took awhile to be served. It was a grilled/pan-seared Japanese squid with a French style meunière sauce, which is essentially a brown butter sauce.
The squid were tender and aromatic from the charring, along with a gentle sweetness that seeped out as I chewed. This dish was a testament of the quality of the ingredient and cooking expertise, but sadly, it felt quite singular. I wished there was something more on the plate to eat with the squid, both for contrast and for variety’s sake.
Our final course was a pan-seared pork jowl that was garnished with a sprig of scallion and a single baby okra.
At first sight, I had thought it was a fish filet. Upon biting into a piece of the pork jowl, my palate welcomed a rush of fats, followed by the meat almost dissolving away. I suspect this was first sous vided and then finished off with a sear. It was good. The meat had a good balance of fat and muscle, and at no point in time felt cloying at all.
This time, there were additional components on the plate to fiddle with, making the dish slightly more interesting. The seemingly simply boiled baby okra was deceptively delicious too, something I would never have chosen.
I was pleased to learn that there was an additional dessert course, in addition to the four.
Our dessert that evening was a classic mille feuille, which is French for ‘thousand layers’.
It was pleasant with a lovely custard that was neither too sweet nor cloying. A decent end to the meal, yet nothing outstanding. In fact, this felt more rustic than fine dining.
An extra slice of ‘Opera’ style birthday cake was served for the birthday boy, followed by petit fours before the meal concluded.
All in all, I was a bit disappointed at the dining experience. While the kitchen knew how to cook and cook well, I felt most of the dishes could do with a bit more effort. The toro tartar was a low effort dish and both the squid and pork dishes felt there was a missing component.
As expected with most fine dining experiences, the meal was not meant to fill one up, but more of an enjoyment of an experience and flavours, so I shall not complain that one was only minimally filled after finishing the $148++ meal.
The experience felt more like a ‘let me see what I can cook up tonight’ as opposed to ‘let me present to you some of the best dishes I have been cooking’.
My one complaint is that I had hoped that every dish would have been as memorable as the signature truffle angel-hair pasta dish, but sadly it wasn’t the case. The experience felt more like a ‘let me see what I can cook up tonight’ as opposed to ‘let me present to you some of the best dishes I know’. Given that this was a degustation menu, there is little reason for any dish to not be a blockbuster.
Regrettably, the fine dining experience at Gunther’s was not worth it.