Sunday, February 12, 2012

Waku Ghin Singapore

Tetsuya Wakuda is one of the most famous chefs around the globe, particularly after his elegant restaurant Tetsuya's awarded as the best fine dining places in Australia and consistently ranked among top 5 in the world by UK's restaurant magazine in mid 2000's. A couple of years ago, Chef Wakuda eventually decided to enlarge his territory by opening the latest gastronomy temple in the Merlion country called Waku Ghin, meaning Silver Metal. Generally, I am not a person who will jump to visit any new top restaurants as soon as they open. On the contrary, I usually doubt any new places that have many hypes and are expensive. After waiting for 6-8 months and reading several consistently positive reviews about Waku Ghin, I finally gave it a try. I made a last minute reservation during the weekdays, fortunately they had an empty spot for the first seating and this way I could skip the credit card guarantee requirement for no-show diners. Like many other fine restaurants in Asia, the dress-code at Waku Ghin is not very strict - any smart casual/business attire is sufficient.

I learned that Waku Ghin, located in the casino wing of Marina Bay Sands, is actually not a replica of Tetsuya's Sydney. It only has a single menu - the omakase consisting of 10 courses. At the beginning, guests will be asked whether they have any food allergies or ingredients they dislike to eat. The dining concept here is rather unique; diners are seated in 2-3 different rooms: beginning at the sake lounge for aperitifs (optional), next you will be seated in one of the Japanese-style Teppanyaki rooms and lastly moved to the main dining room for desserts or relaxing (it has floor-to-ceiling view of the Singapore skyline). The flow of the meal will be as follow - the kitchen would prepare the first 3-4 courses. Following that, skilled chefs would personally cook live seafood & fresh meats/vegetables in front of guests. I enjoyed my first meal so much that I decided to return to Waku Ghin half a year later. I will share the dishes that I had in both meals below

1st meal - Jun '11

Flan of Oyster served with Puree of Bacon and Spinach - The oyster was fresh and briny, it went along with the silky chawanmushi and warm spinach

Marinated Botan Ebi served with Sea Urchin and Oscietre Caviar - Waku Ghin's most popular dish offering generous seafood. The uni was velvety and creamy combined with sweet marinated ebi and a lavish dollop of briny caviar. Not forgetting the rich egg yolk at the bottom - Excellent dish indeed!
Note: I also had this signature dish in my 2nd meal

Slow Cooked John Dory served with Roasted Eggplant - The fish, imported from New Zealand, got weak taste. The charcoal grill eggplant was more interesting in flavor - overall, nothing memorable

Steamed Alaskan King Crab served with Lemon scented Extra virgin Olive oil - A perfect example of simple cooking but delivering delicious result. The crab was prepared on a bed of sea salt served on bamboo leaves while the 'lemon sauce' added a hint of acidity. The result was a succulent and tender crab - pretty much faultless

The first few dishes are accompanied by: 2007 Domaine Leflaive Macon-Verze - Burgundy, France (Well-balanced with fine aroma and citrus notes)

Tasmanian Abalone served with Polenta, Tomato and Garlic cream - The 'greenlip' abalone was still alive. It had beautiful texture with right chewiness. The side dishes represented the summer spirit with fresh cherry tomato and cream's sourness. I like this kind of abalone's preparation better than the one served at Chinese restaurant with 'brown' sauce

Braised Canadian Lobster with Tarragon - The lobster was lightly cooked to produce right texture. The 'sauce', generating deep flavor, was not too rich but very tasty; the broth consisted of lobster bisque, olive oil, tarragon and butter. Great dish in generous portion

Japanese Ohmi Wagyu roll from Shiga prefecture served with Maitake mushroom, Wasabi and Citrus soy - Tender, heavily marbled and scrumptious! One of the best of the night ... the beef is sweeter and milder compared to other Japanese beef. The freshly grated wasabi, fried garlic, earthy maitake and citrus soy were good. There's also charcoal grilled mixed vegetables on the sides. I can easily eat 2-3 more portions of this beef
Note: I had this Ohmi wagyu in both meals. The 1st one even in 2 serving

Accompanied by: 2008 Kooyong Pinot Noir Mornington Peninsula - Victoria, Australia (A bit light with some acidity and spicy finish)

Consomme with Rice and Snapper - The clean taste consomme was essentially a double-boiled chicken stock (cooked with many different kinds of veggies). Though not my favorite, I had to say that the clear and aromatic consomme mixed well with the fish

Gyokuro - A fine Kyoto green tea, usually harvested in 2-3 weeks only. The young leaves were 'boiled' at low temperature (about 50 C). Somehow, I like it a lot - smooth and full-body. Again, this tea is applicable in both meals

Granita of Grapefruit served with Chartreuse jelly - The shaved ice granita was delicate. It produced a mixtures of bitter, sour and fresh taste

Ghin Cheesecake - Waku Ghin's signature dessert. Like other Japanese cheesecake, this was light and fluffy. There was a hint of sourness from the lemon curd that enhanced the overall experience. Probably the best cheesecake I've ever had ..

2nd meal - Dec '11

"Like Oysters" Scallop served with Ginger and Rice vinegar - Smooth scallop prepared like an oyster. The inside was vegetables with some yuzu - a light dish for an opening

Grilled Anago served Foie Gras and Zucchini - The salt-water eel was distinctively sweet while the duck liver was rich as expected. Both have soft textures, the flavors were reduced via fresh wasabi and zucchini confit

White Truffle Pasta - The al dente pasta was really good. The alba truffle would have been more effective had they been more pungent and got stronger flavor

Australian Abalone served with Fregola and Tomato - Italian-influence dish. The charred 3-year old abalone was firm yet not rubbery, with subtle sweetness. The basil-laced fregola was delicate and worked well with tomato's acidity. Love the refreshing 'soup' - this dish was better than the abalone with polenta version

The first few dishes are accompanied by: 2009 Goldloch Diel Riesling Grosses - Nahe, Germany

Braised Canadian Lobster served with Couscous and Tagine spice - This dish has Moroccan's flavor. Lobster's claw was a bit too soft while its tail was perfectly cooked. The couscous was good, but the 'stock' (lobster's juice, long pepper and paprika cream) was somewhat very tense. It's hard to go wrong with lobster, but I prefer the one with Tarragon

Somen served with Myoga and Junsai - The Japanese version of "la mian" made of wheat. The soup was chilled with light taste from the ginger and shiso.

Pan-seared Squab served with sauteed mushrooms and spinach - A bonus dish from the chef. The bird was slowly cooked, it's tender & tasty with some gamey flavor. The sauce was salty, but reduced by the chanterelle and spinach. Surprisingly good, I don't often eat good squab/pigeon - of course Passard's version is still the best

Accompanied by: 2007 John Duval Entity Shiraz - Barossa Valley, Australia

Cold Tomato Pasta - No non-sense here. Simply a tasty spaghetti enhanced by vibrant cherry tomato and basil - clean and fresh

Blueberry cheesecake - The sorbet was light and smooth with fresh and rich blueberries. Easy to savor

Chocolate Mousse Cake - A rich, intense and decadent dessert made of exceptional Valrhona chocolate. The texture was silky with some raspberry inside. Almost as good as the lemon curd cheesecake

The dining room is elegant with minimalist decor - some combination of wooden panel and cold steel; guests are seated at bar stools. The restaurants can seat about 25 guests per seating with 2 shifts daily. During both visits on the earlier slot, I noticed fewer than 15 diners eating here. The service was professional but not personal; the staffs would be around you without being noticed/intrusive but as soon as you need something, they would attend your need immediately. A couple of the Tetsuya's maitre d' move and work at Waku Ghin. After settling the bill and just before I left the restaurant, most of the staffs (5-7 of those) were waiting at the entrance door and bowed to you - Japanese hospitality. I was fortunate enough that during my 2nd visit, I had the chance to meet Chef Tetsuya Wakuda himself. Although he was busy and looked tired (just arriving to Singapore), he still took time to meet and talk with me - appreciate that. Chef Wakuda is a humble and approachable gentleman. I even heard that he still cooks in the kitchen, but not on the Teppan rooms, otherwise everybody would ask for him. I was served by Kaz Yagawa, a Japanese chef working for Tetsuya's Sydney, twice. He's nice and very passionate about food. He always listened to my feedback and tried his best to make me happy. He showed concerned when I mentioned my top 5 restaurants in the world and Waku Ghin was not one of them - typical Japanese chef, always strive for perfection. By the way, the restaurant keeps whatever dishes you've eaten - either you want to repeat any of them or chance the whole menu completely.

Overall, I am very pleased with great experiences at Waku Ghin. The food and service have been consistently very good. The cooking is a Japanese-inspired (kaiseki style) influenced by French technique. In short, it's light, clean and simple; chefs focused mostly on the luxurious and fresh ingredients available - many of the seafood were in fact still alive. Sometimes, with the price tag the restaurant charges, diners would expect for more sophisticated dishes. For me, as long as it's delicious in the palate, I will be happy. Is it worth it? Well, kinda yes subjectively. It's simply impossible to find "L'Arpege" or "Ledoyen" in Singapore, thus Waku Ghin, followed by Gunther's, is my favorite place to eat in this island thus far. Please click the following link for the dishes' pictures,

Food (and Wine): 94 pts

Service (and Ambiance): 93 pts

Overall: 94/100