Rarely does a dish come along so elegant, so arresting, and so multi-sensory that it becomes a conversation piece over the entire meal. The nénuphar d’artichaut at La Varenne ticks all these boxes, and then some. Forget ostentatious lobster dishes or excessive, creamy slops – it is in this dish that I find most pleasure.
The presentation of this water lily artichoke is bold – the curvature of each leaf, the colour contrast of deep olive green against peach-hued fish. The entire vegetable treads in a shallow layer of butter emulsion, an aromatic smoked salmon sauce that invites you to just dig in.
And dig in you must. For the leaves need to be plucked by hand, then dipped into the pool of sauce held inside with nuggets of seared salmon and trevally. This dish started as a one-day special, became a hit, and is now a permanent fixture on the restaurant’s menu.
‘The Nenuphar d’artichaut is the perfect representation of what La Varenne is,’ says executive chef Nalinda Perera. ‘It showcases how humble ingredients, cooked using classical techniques, can be transformed into a restaurant dish.’
They say good things come to those who wait. And it could not be more fitting here. If tackled alone, it could take nearly an hour to reach the prized artichoke heart. That endeavour is infinitely more pleasurable when shared with someone else – making the artichoke a perfect sharing starter.
As Perera describes it: ‘The artichoke itself has great theatre and creates a natural journey as the various textures are eaten. Combined with the smoked salmon sauce, it remains simple and familiar, whilst offering something unique.’ It’s my favourite, an exquisite delight.
QR120. The Nenuphar d’artichaut can be found at La Varenne, Tornado Tower, West Bay (4499 0680). Open Sun-Thu 7am-10.30am, 11.30am-3pm, 5pm-10pm Fri-Sat 8am-4pm, 7pm-10pm.