Herworld (Singapore) - - LIFESTYLE -

Eat­ing at Bistro Novem­ber is an ex­er­cise in con­tem­pla­tion. The tast­ing menu is built not just to be a palate pleaser, but to in­trigue your taste buds. What ex­actly are we eat­ing? Do we re­ally like the taste of you tiao (Chi­nese fried dough sticks) caramelised with eel honey and sprin­kled with pork floss? And if we don’t, why not?

For Chef John-Paul Fiechtner, his cre­ations should al­ways be fod­der for con­ver­sa­tion.

The 36-year- old, who goes by the moniker of Chef JP, has a ze­rowaste pol­icy. He grew up on a farm in Queens­land where ev­ery­thing on the plate (from chicken to veg­eta­bles) came from the gar­den. That background fu­elled some of his most in­ge­nious cre­ations. Case in point: left­over potato skins which, in­stead of be­ing tossed into the trash, are de­hy­drated, crushed to a pow­der, and turned into an ice cream that’s so pop­u­lar, it’s sold out by the time we ar­rive for din­ner. “We could have used it to make a stock,” he says. “But that would have been bor­ing.”

No one could ac­cuse Bistro Novem­ber of be­ing bor­ing. The menu changes ev­ery day, de­pend­ing on what Chef JP finds at the market in Chi­na­town, or on his oc­ca­sional for­ag­ing ex­pe­di­tions. “You go to the market and use what’s fresh­est, and try to make it as in­ter­est­ing as pos­si­ble. It’s im­por­tant to make peo­ple think about what they’re eat­ing,” he adds.

If he had his way, the menu would stretch ev­ery lim­i­ta­tion there is. But he ad­mits that what he dreams up in his head doesn’t al­ways trans­late well to a plate. When Bistro Novem­ber first opened in April this year, its un­usual fare drew mixed re­views. Con­ced­ing that a cou­ple of dishes were too “out there” (such as mut­ton tartare), he’s scaled back a lit­tle. But his success also lies in his abil­ity to en­hance the in­tegrity of the lo­cal in­gre­di­ents he loves. An ex­am­ple: In­spired by black gar­lic (raw gar­lic fermented un­til it turns sweet), he won­dered how ly­chee would re­act to a sim­i­lar process. The re­sult is dry, black curls of ly­chee that suf­fuse your mouth with an in­tense, can­dy­like sweet­ness. The taste is still as­suredly ly­chee, but on steroids.

“Cook­ing, like art, can be po­lar­is­ing,” he says. “Peo­ple in­ter­pret art in their own way, and you can’t ex­pect them to love ev­ery­thing you do. I ac­cept that.”

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