The warm molten chocolate in the fondue pot that you might be expecting to dip into hasn’t been melted from some anonymous store-bought bar, but was painstakingly composed by the chef using ground cocoa, cocoa butter and sugar.
This laborious and exacting process to create something so basic is precisely what earns this store the label of Artisan, which is another name for someone who elevates a trade to a craft, typically using old-fashioned means.
In the case of Jewel’s Artisan, this special someone is Artisan Chocolatier Then Chui Foong, whose youthful looks belie the fact that she’s been in the F&B industry for more than 20 years.
She earned her sweet stripes apprenticing with world-renowned confiseur, Pierre Marcolini. She has received accolades for her passion in the culinary arts, and was conferred the prestigious Silver Medal in the Food & Hotel Asia 1994 Desserts competition and a Gold Medal in the Petits Fours. In other words, your taste buds are in good hands. Frankly, before meeting her, I had my doubts.
Prior to sitting down and basking in Middle East-inspired décor (think Moroccan lanterns and plenty of royal purple), I often had to make my way from the second storey shops around Orchard Central to the toilet, and I would catch glimpses of the Artisans donning chef hats and crafting toothsome chocolate lollies and multi-colored macaroons on my way.
But I’ve always wondered if looks translated into taste – more times than not, the handsomest cupcakes don’t appeal to the taste buds as they do to my pupils, and vice versa. Well, I guess it’s time to put the chocolate pedal to the medal.
So, as I was seated comfortably and trembling hungrily with anticipation, this came along.
Perched atop what looks like an aromatherapy burner was a pot of molten chocolate, and after a second whiff, you might also pick up something less innocent in origin – Brandy! This is one of the three choices of fondue you can pick from, besides rich, dark chocolate, or indulgent milk chocolate, for you sweet-tooths out there.
Surprisingly, all of them come at the same affordable price ($18.80++), and the absence of brandy in the other two is compensated by even more… you guessed it, chocolate! That means there’s something for chocolate fanatics who just can’t get enough! And for those who need a little help in kicking back and relaxing after a hectic week, go for the Brandy!
But half of the fondue battle is won with what you’re served to dip into the chocolate. Here, this took the form of freshly-cut slices of strawberry, kiwifruit and bananas straight from the peel, and a stack of thin, light and crisp wafers that are chock-full of sweet milk chocolate, marshmallows, and… wait, seaweed tempura?
Seaweed… in a fondue?
Explaining her peculiar choice, Chef Chui Foong said, “Ingredients in a fondue should always be interesting and offer consumers with a wide variety of tastes – maybe something acidic like strawberries, crunchy and sweet like the wafer sticks, the marshmallows are chewy and soft and sweet, and the tempura, salty and savory, and somewhat crunchy!”
She also felt that fondue platters often neglect the savory part of the human palate, and this unusual addition gives an unexpected twist to the dessert, offering an unexpected gustatory experience.
Being the food daredevil that I am, I decided to go for it!
The crispy seaweed was quickly engulfed by the viscous and umber chocolate – my taste buds were hit by an immense wave of rapture. Apart from the bitterness of the chocolate, the brandy exuded an intoxicating aroma that enhanced that of its host.
As the bitter deliciousness mellowed, I bit into the tempura and I was shocked to see it still retained its distinct crunchiness despite being smothered in chocolate. The seaweed had a slight saltiness to it that when mixed with the chocolate’s sweet-bitterness, was unique and bordering on ambrosial!
So many ingredients, which first?
When confronted with a plateful of treats to dip with, there are just too many ways to go about it. You can start off bold by popping chocolate-covered seaweed tempura into your mouth (like I did), or you may begin your adventure by savoring a succulent strawberry (smothered in brandy-infused chocolate) off a skewer.
“If you started with a slice of acidic kiwi, the subsequent bites into a piece of marshmallow might taste sweeter or might bring out unexpected saltiness in the wafer stick,” advised our affable hostess.
I couldn’t agree more as I experimented with the order of ingredients, cleansing my palate with a cup of warm water (Chef Chui Foong’s favorite beverage to accompany dips of fondue) before taking on a different permutation of wafer-marshmallow-kiwi-banana-strawberry.
More often than not, I found myself eating the chocolate (by piling on as much of it on my slice) more than the ingredients – that’s how good it is!
Fondue v.s. Fondue
Other chocolate fondues that are up there in gooey chocolatey royalty are the ones by Max Brenner and Haagen Dazs.
Max Brenner’s fondues are slightly more expensive ($20++), and despite the minor difference in price, offer smaller portions of chocolate, which tastes just as good as Jewel’s Artisan. Max, however, serves up fluffy squares of his signature banana cake and is fairly generous with ingredients.
Haagen Dazs’s chocolate fondue comes with 16 ping-pong-ball-sized ice cream orbs alongside the typical accompaniments of julienned assorted fruits, and a rather sizably deep pot of delicious gourmet chocolate, but of course, with such splendour comes a price ($42++). Not the kind of dessert you’re looking for if you’re a twosome, but a very viable option if you’re looking to feed 5 or more happy souls.
Now, back to the crafts of the Jewel’s Artisan. Another gem that the Jewel’s Artisan hand-makes and polishes to perfection is the Perle Noir ($5 each), a chocolate ball that’s covered in crunchy mini chocolate pellets, with a scrumptious melt-in-your-mouth white chocolate champagne ganache (French for filling).
A chomp into it will send you into a wild white chocolate nirvana, and as it’s crunchy on the outside and soft and sweet on the inside, you’ll get to spend more time biting down onto it, giving ample opportunity for the essences of champagne and chocolate to blend.
Priced at a reasonable $18.80 (before GST and taxes), the fondue is a definite must-try! Come on down with a bestie or with a special one and revel in some moments of chocolate-perfection together.
You can find Jewel’s Artisan Chocolate at:
Orchard Central 181 Orchard Road #02-31/32
Tel: +65 6509 8998 Fax: +65 6509 9339
Opening Hours: 11am to 11pm daily