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After five years, SoHo’s beloved BELON has outgrown its original bistro veneer and graduated to a more sophisticated, polished outfit to match its refined cuisine. What began as refined neo-Parisian cuisine grew and expanded under the helm of Chef Daniel Calvert, bringing it to the playing fields of Michelin and Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants.
Chef Calvert’s recent departure marks a new chapter in BELON’s story, retold through a more elegant interior and narrated by Chef Matthew Kirkley, a seasoned chef who has honed his skills in some of the world’s most iconic kitchens.
Reopened just a weeks ago, the new BELON sits atop the Black Sheep Restaurants empire (literally!), next to Ho Lee Fook and on top of Fukuro. The nondescript sign is so well hidden, etched into the fine marble entryway wall, that it took a few walks around the block (scrolling viciously on Google Maps) in order for us to find it.
Up the stairs we went into an elegant space awash in calming blue-grey tones. Designed by Joyce Wang Studio, velvety blue curtains and curved banquettes wrap the space in demure luxury and intimacy. A showpiece on its own, the vibrant blue-tiled kitchen is hidden behind sliding-glass doors bordered in gold. For those who crave a ringside seat to the action, there’s a four-seater Chef’s Table inside the luminescent blue kitchen.
Chef Matthew Kirkley, who hails from Maryland in the USA, comes with a pedigreed CV that spans over 20 years in the world of fine dining. He cut his chops at The Fat Duck and Le Gavroche in the UK and Le Meurice in Paris before leading Chicago’s L2O to two-Michelin-starred status and San Francisco’s COI to three-Michelin-starred glory. At the front of house is the affable Lauren Kirkley, whose culinary career took her from kitchen to dining room at illustrious institutions the likes of Thomas Keller’s three-starred The French Laundry and who, coincidentally, is married to the chef. This is the first time the husband-and-wife team have worked together.
From top left clockwise: amuse-bouche of choux pastry filled with aged Comté, foie gras tartlet with Sauternes, carrot stroopwafel with dill pistou, pig’s trotter with horseradish mustard, cod tarama with karasumi and mitsuba
Our tasting began with an amuse-bouche of choux pastry filled with gooey aged Comté. The crunch of the slightly sugary exterior was a great contrast to the savouriness of the cheese. Almost like an exotic beetle, the black-and-white foie gras tartlet ($98) was silky on the palate, with an added depth from Sauternes, while our favourite small bite had to be the unexpected flavour combination of carrot and dill in the crunchy, delicate stroopwafel. The subtle sweetness of the crispy carrot stroopwafel ($38) against the sharp flavour of dill made this a standout amidst the more indulgent bites. The pig’s trotter ($78) was flavourful and had quite a robust chew from the addition of horseradish mustard, while the cod tarama ($58) had such a delicate, wafer-like crust that it shattered at first touch.
The kinmedai with zucchini ($788) is simplicity executed with finesse. We were fascinated by the degree of care it took to conically wrap each strand of courgette around the creamy sauce, although we would still prefer to eat sashimi when it’s presented in traditional Japanese fashion.
The asparagus with caviar and citrus anglaise ($998) looks almost like an art piece with its vibrant contrast of green, yellow and black. The sauce was a lovely surprise; we were expecting something quite rich but were pleasantly awakened by a delicate, citrusy concoction that reminded us of lemon curd.
Bursting with classic French flavours, the salade gourmande ($528) is no mimosa. It’s also not a salad to order if you’re on a diet. The bold, savoury intensity of the “salad” is inspired by the great Michel Guérard, with slices of layered beef tongue and foie gras sandwiched between greens and haricots verts. This dish is unapologetically indulgent, a glutton’s utter seduction.
For anyone who’s had a fish ball, the crêpe soufflé with caviar ($398) will draw comparisons to the popular southern China staple. The finely minced turbot here was delicate, with a slight bounce, although its texture similar to fish balls kept making us wish for a bowl of vermicelli noodles to eat with it!
The French certainly do not shy away from carbohydrates and fat, and the cervelas en brioche ($298) beautifully showcases this ideal pairing, with vibrantly spiced homemade sausage baked into fluffy brioche. We loved using the brioche to mop up all that truffle sauce.
The turbot with beurre cancalaise ($888) reminds us of the classic children’s book The Rainbow Fish, thanks to its multicoloured “scales” made of various root vegetables and fennel. A nod to the old traditions of Hôtel de Ville and master chefs the likes of Frédy Girardet, Philippe Rochat and Benoît Violier, Chef Kirkley reminisced with us on how he learned the technique of making these “scales” from culinary legend Joël Robuchon. The sauce, which should be bottled and sold under the name “heaven”, pays tribute to Philippe Rochat’s beurre cancalaise side dish. We thoroughly enjoyed the flavourful crunch of the finely chopped mirepoix of vegetables in the velvety cream sauce against the tender flakes of turbot.
An iconic dish synonymous with BELON, the pigeon pithivier ($768) with carrot and cabbage is artfully plated, with one claw seemingly reaching for the sky (sorry, birdie, but you’re not going anywhere!). The pigeon, baked to a blushing ruby, was so tender it melted in the mouth, with an addictively buttery pastry crust made even more luscious when soaked in the jus.
A cornerstone of the French dessert world is given a haute-cuisine dazzle with sugar flowers that add both sweetness and crunch. The île flottante with almond and caramel ($188), made with fluffy, cloud-like meringue swimming in a pool of vanilla cream, is what Instagram dreams are made of – and an elevated version of this classic French dessert.
A play on savoury and sweet, the Brie de Meaux with black truffle ($388) with a cube of honeycomb is the perfect option for those who can’t decide between a cheese plate and dessert. Despite the beauty of the other desserts, this was our favourite owing to the contrast between sweet and savoury, all wrapped up with the intoxicating scent of black truffle.
Nothing can go wrong when there’s chocolate involved, and the chocolate hazelnut cake ($188) did not disappoint, even though it is a bit on the predictable side. The layers of chocolate, hazelnut crème and cake were deliciously pronounced in each bite.
Coming full circle, we concluded our meal with another choux pastry, this time infused with chartreuse, a classic French liqueur. The sharp, herbal taste was a great palate cleanser.
The reinvented BELON feels more refined and elegant than its former self. We think the new venue further articulates the calibre of care and attention given to executing the fine French cuisine showcased here, and we’d be surprised if Michelin doesn’t come calling again soon. The dishes are all beautifully presented and imaginative, yet rooted in classic French techniques. The prices are eye-watering, but BELON is definitely worthy of a special occasion.
This write-up is based on a complimentary media tasting provided in exchange for an honest review and no monetary compensation. The opinions expressed here represent the author’s.
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