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Star in the making

Jasmine Alimin
Jasmine Alimin • 5 min read
Star in the making
Former private dining chef-turned-restaurant owner of Fleurette, Tariq Helou, marries his mixed heritage and technical training in Michelin-starred cuisine to create contemporary Japanese dishes with an Asian twist
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A culinary savant, Tariq Helou cooks with so much technical sophistication, ingenuity and attention to detail that it’s hard to believe he’s only 28. Born in Singapore to a Japanese-Chinese mother and Lebanese father, we can tell that his refined skills were honed overseas, namely in Michelin-starred restaurants in Europe, including the two-starred Domaine de Chateauvieux in Geneva and Restaurant Louis in Paris.

His foundation is in French haute cuisine, but his love is in Japanese flavours and produce, which is why he went onto expand his repertoire in Tokyo, where he did a few internships at restaurants such as Michelin one-starred Sumibikappo Shirosaka, and Restaurant Anis, led by Marc Veyrat and L’Arpege alumni Susumu Shimizu.

For those familiar with his name, Helou was previously the co-founder of successful private dining outfit Division Supper Club, which he started with his childhood friend, Aidan Wee, serving their special brand of East-meet-West cuisine. At Fleurette, which they opened in 2020, the concept is no different, except now they have their own personal playground to make their own, and it’s very big on character.

Discreetly located in a nondescript commercial building on Rangoon Road — complete with a bak kut teh joint, kopitiam and durian stall next door — Fleurette is very blink-and-you’ll-miss-it, just like some of the best restaurants in the world. On the outside, it looks almost like a design agency with a sleek minimalist entrance decked in dark wood and blackened French windows.

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Inside the sensual space, we’re cocooned by its dimly-lit mood lighting, exposed concrete flooring and raw brick walls which form the backdrop for an L-shaped dining counter that seats 10, plus a private dining room for six. A playlist of rap and house music automatically gives away the ages of the very young service team who are all in Helou’s age group.

From the sleek woody interiors softened by floral arrangements of dried flowers (courtesy of The Humid House) to the custom crockery, each touchpoint in this intimate space is highly curated. And so is the food, which attempts to meld Japanese, French and Singaporean flavours into a memorable 8-course lunch ($198++) or 10-course dinner ($298++), best experienced with the sake pairing ($198++).

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Every dish at Fleurette tells a story of an ingredient, person or place. The elegant tasting menus are a showcase of each season’s bounty, with top-notch ingredients coaxed into sublime creations. A lot of work goes into plating where each dish is a well-balanced harmony of colour and texture. Right off the bat, a good-looking amuse bouche sets the tone for the night featuring a bright orange house-cured ikura (Helou’s grandmother’s recipe) set in a tin dish and topped with cheery yellow flowers. Served on a bed of chilled cabbage custard, it’s finished off with fresh sudachi zest and crispy croutons for texture.

While the dishes are essentially Japanese-sounding, one can expect some exciting twists that showcase his colourful heritage, such as the pan seared Hokkaido scallops served with a creamy sambal (yes, sambal) beurre blanc for a light touch of heat. Another interesting one is the tempura mussels served with a gribiche sauce that’s infused with harissa, a hot chilli pepper paste, native to the Maghreb region. The donabe dish was another standout made with crab, koshihikari rice, kaffir lime and coriander – commonly used in chicken rice. It was so good, I came back for seconds.

For the protein dish, Helou chose winter-appropriate French guinea fowl grilled over binchotan charcoal and served with potato purée, grilled maitake mushrooms, charred kai lan and XO oil.

Helou’s signature touch is undoubtedly the hassun, an elaborate tray of exquisite seasonal Japanese starters. Beautifully pimped out with a festive winter theme, it featured a quintet of bite-sized delights.

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They include a prawn-mee inspired cold somen infused with prawn oil and topped with raw botan ebi; tuna akami marinated with jalapeño and lime; nori tartlette with coriander shari and sea bream; a baked choux puff topped with fresh bafun uni; and foie gras monaka, which features a foie gras paté cured in miso for two weeks.

For dessert, we enjoy some fresh-from-the-oven madeleines laced with Tahitian vanilla. It’s perfectly paired with Hokkaido milk ice cream drizzled with Spanish EVOO and snow salt from Osaka.

Overall, a dining experience at Fleurette is a seductive showcase of top quality ingredients and culinary gymnastics – one that both gourmands and millennials will appreciate. Where the restaurant lacks in terms of space or large portions, Helou makes it up in genial hospitality. He will personally present the dishes to you or engage in banter (if you’re up for it). While certain areas lack originality or could use some minor tweaks, we are more forgiving because we want this underdog to succeed. Helou is just at the start of a long road ahead, and we are here to cheer him on.

Fleurette 204 Rangoon Road, Singapore 218451
Contact Tel: 8725 8218
Opening Hours Tues to Sat: 11am – 11pm. Closed on Sun and Mon

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