sky on 57
I fondly remember the last time I savoured Justin Quek‘s cooking. It was about 8 years ago, while he was still chef de cuisine at Les Amis; we were sat in a secluded corner and over a specially created menu of exquisite air-flown Japanese wagyu and otoro, delicate briny oysters and signature lobster spaghettini, B proposed. The two-part affair (we moved on to another, now sadly defunct, French restaurant on Club Street for mains and dessert) may not seem the most creative of proposals, but for me there couldn’t have been a more fitting way for him to pop the question than with a nod to our shared love of food, at our favourite restaurant at the time.
Justin has since flown the nest to build his empire in Taipei, and it was not until late last year that he made a long-awaited reappearance to the Singapore dining scene. The breathtakingly appointed Sky on 57 in the SkyPark atop the Marina Bay Sands was our first stop fresh off a tedious fifteen hour flight (complete with a lengthy delay at take-off and emergency stopover in Phuket) in from London. Too spent to study the menu in depth, we went straight for the gastronomic menu with wine pairings and got stuck into a teetering bowl of crunchy prawn and seaweed crackers, served with a homemade chilli tomato dip.
Our tasting began with a pouring of Veuve Cliquot NV and a White Asparagus Vichyssoise with Smoked Eel Cream and Oscietra Caviar. Accompanied by a truffled Asparagus tip adorned with microgreens, the creamy demitasse had nice smoky undertones, but would have been better served warm to bring out the flavour of the mild vegetable. The blanched asparagus was a refreshing counterpart but the vegetable itself paled in comparison to specimens found here in Europe.
As our opening plates were cleared I was surprised to spy chef Quek doing the rounds. It turns out he was in town for the week to oversee the seasonal menu change and was scheduled to return to Taiwan the next day so we were lucky to have caught him. He was pleased at our choice of menu but wanted us to try a couple of specialities not found on the dégustation, and told the waiter to sort us out with a portion each of Foie Gras Xiao Long Bao and Crab Vermicelli. No objections from us there.
The Xiao Long Bao were exceptional. A decadent mixture of foie gras and fine brunoise of black truffle encased in expertly-pinched dumpling skin, they were everything that the XLB at Benu were not (Corey Lee, take note). Truly one of those dishes to taste before you die.
A duo of oyster and scallop, prettily presented in their shells, followed. The French Perle Blanche Oyster with Yuzu Vinaigrette was incredibly fresh and tasted intensely of the sea.
Live Nordic King Scallop Ceviche and Marinated Lips was also beautifully fresh, and the zesty cluster of lightly-dressed micro greens accented the clean sweet flavour of the raw shellfish perfectly.
A second preparation of asparagus – Beelitz’s White Asparagus with Slow-Cooked Egg and Morel Cream Sauce was far superior to the first. The earthy, buttery morels were delicious, and worked wonderfully with the molten egg and simply steamed asparagus.
Pan Grilled Salmon with Laksa Emulsion was a skilled juxtaposition of precise French techniques and exotic South East Asian flavours. The tender pink salmon was impeccably cooked with an impossibly crisp skin that was neither greasy nor burnt. The gently-spiced laksa emulsion was delicate and nicely complemented the fish.
“Surf and Turf” of 300 days grain-fed Angus and sautéed Maine Lobster in Asian Pepper Sauce was equally delightful. The beef was tasty and melt-in-the-mouth tender but it was the lobster with its bold spicy floral notes that stole the show. A trail of velvety smooth jerusalem artichoke purée piped on the plate was also superb.
The Crab Vermicelli that Justin proudly sent to our table was sensational, topping even the xiao long bao we so loved. Soft rice noodles and sweet fleshy King Crab leg meat bathed in an aromatic whisky-spiked shellfish broth that was intense but refined, with a warm mellow kick from Johnnie Walker Blue Label added tableside. Mind-blowing stuff.
A palate cleanser of Lime, Vodka and Soursop preceded the Symphony of Dessert – a confused platter of mini puds. The quenelle of Coconut Ice Cream was pleasant and the silky Jasmine Crème Caramel nice enough, but the square of Opera cake was ordinary at best and the overly sweet green tea truffle belonged with the petits four. Easily the weakest offering from the kitchen, made worse by the amateur squiggles of berry coulis and crème anglaise covering a third of the plate.
The financiers that arrived with our coffees however, were faultless. Dainty rectangles served with a pot of warm Chocolate Sauce that boasted crisp edges and soft centres with a slight chew.
While there were very few low points on the food front, the service left much to be desired. Most of the staff had no knowledge of the dishes, silently placing them before us and our main waiter took on the job of both server and sommelier, performing the latter role rather incompetently. Our wines arrived erratically – I had to draw out a glass of champagne over three courses, then when a white finally took its place it was quickly followed by two more. They also switched the order on us, matching our fish with a Rhône then serving Chardonnay with the meat course for which the red was intended. And when it came time for the glass of Jerez we had to remind them we were due our dessert pairing.
I also was less than impressed by the dated brocade table settings and cold corporate feel of the restaurant. I totally understand that a casino eatery practically would be vast in size, but the finish of the interiors lacked the refinement of the cuisine being served and its design failed to capitalise on the stunning locale.
Despite the dreadful decor and my annoyance at the whole wine situation I would return in a heartbeat. Next time I shall forgo the tasting menu and order double helpings of the xiao long bao and crab noodles – two of the best things I have eaten EVER.
Sky on 57
Sands SkyPark,Tower 1
Marina Bay Sands Hotel,
10 Bayfront Avenue
t. +65 6688 8857