Five days into 2011 and pathetically I’ve still barely skimmed the surface with my Singapore food posts (no prizes for guessing my new year’s resolution for the blog). Anyway next up is Waku Ghin (or “silver metal”), the first foray out of Australia for Tetsuya Wakuda (of the famed Tetsuya’s in Sydney), and one of the new Marina Bay Sands’ expansive stable of restaurants that boasts big names such as Guy Savoy, Mario Batali, Daniel Boulud, Wolfgang Puck and Santi Santamaria. The meal almost didn’t happen. When I was informed that I would need to fax over photocopies of my credit card, ID and two signed forms to bag a table I scoffed at the audacity – not even Fat Duck or Noma required that much hoop-jumping. But curiosity got the better of me, and wanting to see if the food warranted its $400 price tag and all the extra paperwork so I obediently complied.
Waku Ghin is situated in the casino wing of the resort and getting to the dinner-only restaurant was a task in itself. First, we queued at the checkpoint and flashed our passports to gain entry (locals have to pay $100 for the privilege of entering the casino – I assume that this wouldn’t be necessary for simply dining there); we then trekked past row upon row of slot machines and tables to ascend to the second floor where another security guard checked our IDs. By the time we arrived my high-heeled feet were aching and I was ready for a drink. We were led to one of the four small open kitchen counters where we promptly ordered a bottle of Tengumai Bunseirokunen, Junmai, a sake from Ishikawa Prefecture made especially for Tetsuya’s.
Our assigned chef emerged with a box overflowing with sparkling fresh seafood; some of the ingredients for the evening. After talking us through the 8-course menu he disappeared into the back kitchen and a waitress took his place, serving us plump Pacific Oysters with ginger and rice vinegar. Creamy with a clean mineral finish, and perfectly accentuated by the zingy dressing.
The oyster suitably prepped our palates for Tetsuya’s signature Marinated Botan Prawn, Sea Urchin and Oscietra Caviar. If I had been organised enough to churn out a “Best of 2010” post this would definitely have been a contender – fresh velvety sea urchin, creamy sweet marinated prawn with egg yolks folded through and a large dollop of briny caviar. It was stuff of dreams and the amount we were given made it almost overly decadent.
The pancetta-wrapped Tachiuo that followed paled in comparison, but then again it did have a tough act to follow. The white fish was soft and flaky, well-seasoned and paired nicely with braised Chicory and Aonori (a green seaweed).
The young chef (who previously worked at Les Amis), reappeared and presented us with two glistening Australian green-lipped abalone nestled in their shells before popping them out onto the hot plate to cook in front of us.
Having only sampled oriental preparations of abalone I expected similar flavours but the resulting dish of Abalone with Fregola and Tomato was distinctly Italian. The charred abalone was immensely tender and the vibrant cherry tomatoes and basil-laced fregola worked surprisingly well with it.
Next was a Braised Lobster with Tarragon – moist lobster meat with a delicious rich tarragon-infused shellfish liquor, again skillfully prepared before us. By now though I was nearing my limit thanks to the generous portioning thus far so didn’t really enjoy it as much as I should have.
I could have done without the warm Salad of Cape Grim Grass Fed Beef which was pretty ordinary and served no real purpose except to perhaps perk me up a little with some greens for the many plates yet to come.
The previous dish seemed even more unnecessary when followed by more beef, but this time prized wagyu. The Australian Blackmore Wagyu was cooked in two portions to ensure each bite we had was hot and freshly-seared. Served with wasabi, fried garlic, spring onions and a small plate of sautéed asparagus, it was tasty with good marbling but in my opinion lacked the depth of its Japanese counterpart.
Last of the savoury courses was Consommé with Rice and Fugu. The blowfish was presented raw on a small mound of rice then topped with a light fragrant broth which cooked the delicate fish. The fugu was quite bland (I imagine it eats better as sashimi) but the rice soup was lovely and soothing.
After a lukewarm cup of quality gyokuro from Kyoto (apparently at the optimum temperature for the tea but a bit cold for my liking) we adjourned to the drawing room for dessert. Thankfully there were only two – a zesty Sorbet of Beetroot and Blood Orange and the silver-leaf adorned Ghin Cheesecake. My jaded palate welcomed the refreshing sorbet but the lemon curd cheesecake, although light was too much for me and I left most of it – no big loss as the desserts were probably some of the weaker dishes on the menu.
Dinner rounded off with tea, a few crumbly macaroons (not great) and a hefty bill. It may have been £200 a head before tax and alcohol but it wasn’t actually poor value considering the high-ticket items on the menu. What I would question though is the necessity of all the lux ingredients, having them all in succession made each less special to me and I would have preferred a little more dazzle in the cooking than just a show and tell of produce.
The whole experience also felt oddly impersonal despite dishes being cooked to order for us by a dedicated chef. The managers ran the place like a mass operation, manning the doors only to greet and bid diners farewell, and the separate counter areas (each seating 6-8) and lofty dining rooms sectioned off the restaurant, fragmenting the flow of the space.
Good cooking of some excellent ingredients and I’m certainly glad to have gone, but the rest of the dining experience (not to mention the wallet damage) means we’re unlikely to visit next time.
Marina Bay Sands (Casino Level 2)
t. +65 6688 8507