Atout boasts a beautiful open space and an outdoor area to spare too: a rustic place, picturesque and perfect for brunch. This restaurant’s the newest venture of the well-established Chef Patrick Heuberger. For those who’ve missed him, he’s made quite a journey since he sold off Le Bistrot du Sommelier in 2015. “I decided to sell my restaurant to work for a year with professionals in France”, he recollects, “I wanted to better my knowledge, and of course to know my level. I have been here for 18 years already – I knew I had the skills, but I wanted to see more.” So after some self-evaluation, where did he see himself standing compared to the French? “I was not too bad”, he responds with a chuckle.
The appetiser served is Atout’s pig head terrine. The pork itself is very lean, with very little fat inside. “Pig heads terrine sounds terrible to the ears of many people, but actually it’s not as fatty as they think. It is only made up of 0-5 percent fat.” He uses the tongue, the cheek and the meat around the eyes and uses the gelatine of the head to set the terrine. “This makes it full of collagen. It’s the perfect appetiser, very light, meaty and above all, healthy.”
Chef Heuberger speaks lovingly of his pate en croute, the exquisitely crafted dish that comes after. It’s a classic French dish that revolves wrapping meat and jelly with dough and then baking it. Apparently, it’s much harder than it looks: “It takes skill to make this. You need a lot of meat jelly to make the pate moist. But if there are any holes in the dough the liquid jellies will flow out. One small hole and it’s gone.” The story behind this dish, as told by Chef Heuberger, is that this method was originally used to preserve meat in dough when refrigeration had yet to be invented. “That time they wouldn’t eat the bread, but of course now that it has been refined over the years the whole thing is edible – it’s a complete dish.”
Black pudding is done very different here, but when are they ever the same? “Every village in France has their own recipes, all the villages in United Kingdom – even China and Hong Kong use pig’s blood in their own ways.”, Chef Heuberger says. His rendition is done without the casing and in a mould instead. After it cools down he slices it and pan-fries it, serving it with an apple mash and puree. “This way, you can get a nice and crispy texture that you won’t get with the casing.
The Toulouse sausage is a good representation of Atout’s ethos: it’s done simply with just sea salt, black peppercorn and pork meat. The secret, Chef Heuberger lets me in on, is the quality of the pork, “In Toulouse, it’s all about showcasing the quality of the pork. You can’t hide much with this dish.” He uses air-flown Canadian pork in particular that is hormone and anti-biotic free, with one key difference from the norm: “We take the meat from 150kg pigs, to give you an idea the pork on the Asian market usually comes from 70kg pigs. The Asian taste prefers milder tasting pork so they are slaughtered from a very young age. In France, for sausage making, we want pork that is more flavourful, well fed and taken good care of.”
So what has Chef Heuberger learnt so far in his long, eventful career in Asia? “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication,” he states with certainty, “Nowadays it is difficult to find things done simply. Something like a simple slice of pate au croit, if it is well made, is sophistication because where can you find the level of skill required to make it? It is something that takes time and practice.”And he’s not stopping there, he’s got his aims set high for Atout’s pate au croit – international stage high: “We’re now in the process of qualifying for the pate au croit World Cup in Lyon, France. If we make it, we’ll be the first Singapore team there. I’ve been doing this dish for two to three years now. Initially, I struggled a lot with it, but now we can even put our restaurant’s name on it. We’re constantly training to get better, better, and better.”And with how their progress is looking, they seem like they stand a good chance. If you’re tired of the over pomposity of the scene nowadays, Atout is a fresh breath of clean air amid the crazy food traffic of Dempsey Hill.
40C Harding Rd, Singapore 249548
+65 6679 1800