Celebration of life
C’est la vie, change is the only constant in life, so Ce La Vi now looks almost like a brand new restaurant after a dramatic makeover to its interior, and a revamped menu to match. New executive chef Joseph Sergentakis of Hong Kong’s Mr and Mrs Fox fame brings diners on a gastronomic adventure of modern Asian cuisine led by his signature out-of-the-box approach and bold flavour combinations.
With the newly conceptualised menu, Sergentakis proves that he is capable of many things. He’s good at being tender, as shown by his Warm Salad of Tochigi Wagyu Beef, where beautifully marbled Tochigi wagyu is thinly sliced and seared for a caramelised layer on the outside, then made melt-in-the-mouth soft in a low temperature sous vide. He’s exceptional at giving little surprises, as apparent in the tangy bursts of flavour in the Tuna Tartare Jicama Rolls, which has minced blue fin tuna, mango coulis and yuzu dressing wrapped in sliced Jicama and topped with crispy taro. He’s also the maestro of striking a good balance, as evident in the Rice Flake Crusted Lobster, a delicious amalgamation of soft and crispy textures featuring perfectly cooked lobster encased within fried rice flakes. It’s in this dish that Sergentakis’ inventiveness truly shines. Accompanying the lobster is a fricassee made from bell peppers, Chinese sausages and pineapples – a definite departure from the traditional creamy French sauce, and with a Southeast Asian twist to boot.
Strong influences from Sergentakis’ stellar culinary past shine through in some dishes. The Hokkaido Scallop and Oyster Ceviche is inspired by his stint working with fresh seafood with Michelin Star chef Daniel Boulud. Whole scallops are halved and layered with whole oysters, then flavoured with a refreshing dressing of calamansi, blood orange, pomelo and belimbing wuluh, a South-east Asian fruit closely related to the starfruit. From his time with Mr and Mrs Fox, Sergentakis mastered the smoking of meats. His extensive experimentation with smoked flavours found that black tea leaves can impart a unique fragrance to meat, thus giving birth to Black Tea Smoke Duck, which is theatrically served on still-smouldering tea leaves.
It’s been said that we also eat with our eyes; the presentation of a dish and the environment in which we dine can do a lot to whet or diminish the appetite. In the new Ce La Vi, guests dine cosseted in dark marbles, raw stones and natural woods, a mix of materials dreamt up by local studio Imajin Design. Designer Brendon Lim was inspired by the temples half hidden in the lush jungles of Bali and Cambodia’s Khmer architecture. It can’t hurt that one good thing has remained the same despite all these changes – the restaurant’s rooftop location, and with it, the panoramic views of the city and Gardens by the Bay.