"What have I gotten myself into?", as carnivore me accepted a tasting invitation before realizing that JOIE By Dozo specializes in modern meatless cuisine with Japanese-European influences. My eyes were distracted by the photos of the restaurant's enticing dishes, plus, the convenience of its location at Orchard Central (next to 313@Somerset, directly linked to NS23 Somerset mrt station) played quite a decisive role in scheduling my tummy in for this dinner too.
But hei hei, after an evening of going without meat, I was filled with joy. What an experience!
Perched high on Orchard Central's roof garden with sweeping views of the city's skyline, the premises of JOIE (pronounced as 'joy') was absolutely lovely. The restaurant is bathed in tones of bronze and grey, completed with gleaming table tops and plush leather-quilted seats, and fully enveloped in a contemporary chic ambience.
With an alfresco area, a spacious main dining hall and six private rooms (seating 4 to 16 pax) available at no additional cost, JOIE can be suitable anywhere from romantic dates to business luncheons and dinner gatherings.
My initial impression was that dining in such a stylish establishment would be costly, but upon taking a look at the Prix Fixe Menu, the set is actually reasonably priced: 6-course Lunch at $38.80++ and 7-course Dinner at $68.80++.
Ahh this brings to mind restaurants like SET (Pomo) and The Clan (Bukit Pasoh Road). They too go by a similar set menu concept where diners can select their preferred choice from several options for each course. What differentiates JOIE from the others then?
(Look out for my review on SET and The Clan which are coming soon on this blog!)
Meatless! No Meat! JOIE presents this refreshing concept which is influenced by the new wave dining trend in Europe and Taiwan. Here, we will not find any mock-meat substitutes which are very common in most Chinese vegetarian eateries, because the focus is on uplifting and innovative natural fare prepared with the freshest vegetables, fruits and herbs. Sounds so healthy!
However, this meatless cuisine contains onion, garlic, and uses eggs and dairy products, so it might not be most suitable for our vegetarian or vegan friends.
Each course of the set dinner is poetically named: DIVINE (amuse bouche), PRELUDE (starter I), AWAKENING (starter II), ELIXIR (soup), CRESCENDO (main), SWEET ENDINGS (dessert) & POTION (hot/cold beverage).
With Executive Chef Sherwin Sim (formerly of Coriander Leaf Restaurant) helming the kitchen, what we can expected are refined and original meatless creations, such as Matsutake Cake, a spongy-textured steamed Japanese mushroom cake with golden enoki and pistachio crumbs, as well as a heavily-seasoned and peppery Spring Vegetable Terrine with aubergines, carrots, mushrooms encased in vegetable broth and accompanied with pistachio 'soil'.
What also impressed me are the efforts made into the presentation of each dish.
All are beautifully plated, some exquisite, some playful like the refreshing Cubes of Duo Watermelon which had colorful red and yellow watermelon, feta cheese and mint gelée stacked against each other like a rubik's cube.
The Mushroom Gratin was very much a teaser as much as it was delicious: It had the sautéed herb garlic butter button mushrooms smothered by creamy mozzarella served in escargot plate, which doped me momentarily into thinking that I'm gonna have the real thing haha.
I like it that unlike conventional set menus with limited choice, JOIE offers a good variety with 4 to 6 options per course.
Some choices rested more lightly on the palate than the others, such as the double-boiled Snow Pear and Napa Cabbage Consommé with almond which was mildly sweet and delicate in flavors. The Tomato Broth with Garbanzo (chickpea) with orzo pasta and spinach dumpling was comparatively heavier with doses of appetite-whetting tanginess. One thing in common though: both soups were delicious, I slurped it up readily!
JOIE also prides itself on using quality ingredients including Tennessee heirloom potato and Belgian endive. Just on the plate of Baby Garden Root Vegetables alone, we get to enjoy nicely sous-vide sweet golden baby beetroots and green zebra tomatoes from Holland, and Nasu eggplant from Japan served on bed of fragrant truffle mash and finished with a drizzle of horseradish butter garlic sauce.
If a purely vegetable dish for main course doesn't sound that appealing, Wild Rice, a deceptively simple-looking but highly satisfying fried wild rice with crunchy mixed vegetables or Trio Of Spheres comprising of a creamy butternut pumpkin risotto ball with curry mayonnaise, a flaky puff pastry stuffed with wild mushroom, onion and truffle, and a crispy fried mozzarella cheese ball with panko crumbs would the next best choices.
The portion of each course may seemed petite but it all added up to quite a substantial meal. I almost slumped into the typical food coma but was jolted by squeals of excitement as the dessert trolley is wheeled in. I jumped right up from my seat for some instagrammable moments!
We get to take our pick of any 5 items from the assortment of macarons, cakes, chocolates and candies! Certainly being spoilt for choice, but regrettably to say, the process of selecting was more fun and enjoyable than the treats itself.
My feel is that what was being offered were rather ordinary in terms of variety and taste, perhaps a couple of intricate and thoughtfully-plated desserts would be more aligned with the innovative element of JOIE as seen in the earlier savory courses.
We finished off the set dinner with our choice of fruit-centric beverages such as the popular Iced Fruity Refresher, Ice Rose Lemon Tea infused with pink rose buds, and Mocktail of Love, test tubes of uplifting cranberry, orange and pineapple mix.
This meatless meal at JOIE is one of those where I smiled back and say I've enjoyed all the savory dishes, albeit to varying degrees. Not to say that I will give up on my favorite chicken wings or steak anytime at all, but the occasional bout of going without meat felt healthier and almost guilt-free. I can accept.
JOIE By Dozo
Address: 181 Orchard Road #12-01 Orchard Central, Singapore 238896 (access via escalator on level 11)
Contact: +65 6838 6966
Opening Hours: Daily Lunch 12pm-3pm / Dinner 6pm-10pm
Prices are subjected to 10% service charge and prevailing government taxes.