Posted October 6, 2010on:
Waku Ghin is Tetsuya Wakuda’s new restaurant at Marina Bay Sands, and it’s also his first restaurant outside of Sydney where he has been running his famous namesake restaurant Tetsuya.
Being the last of the 3 celebrity restaurants to open, Waku Ghin has garnered a lot of talk about it, from the costly degustation menu to the 25 seatings in just 10,000 sq ft.
However, I feel that the extra time spent to develop Waku Ghin was well worth it as it has attained the high standards of service and quality that Tetsuya wanted it to reach.
The doors to Waku Ghin are closed but as you approach, they open magically as if automated but in reality the attendants behind the door are always watchful and ready to open them for approaching guests. Already I feel welcome!
Once inside, the warm mood lighting sets the tone for the meal and the curving walls invite you to explore the restaurant deeper. There’s a certain austerity to the interior design, with the wooden panelling bringing warmness thats balanced by the cold steel.
The 25 seats of Waku Ghin are divided into 3 rooms of 6 seats and 1 counter of 7 seats. The rooms are used for groups while the counter is meant for individuals or couples.
The standard of service here is extremely good, and the maître d’ who met me at the door made pleasant small talk with me as he showed me around the restaurant, explaining the concept and cuisine of Waku Ghin.
Once seated at the counter, there was always a waiter or waitress nearby, just out of sight so as not to let you feel watched but yet instantly there at your call. They were all also very knowledgable about the dishes and attended to us like we were royalty.
There were all sorts of small details, like the chefs never showing their backs when leaving the counter kitchen, or adjusting the lights to our comfort level.
The food itself is what I would call an European take on the Japanese kaiseki meal. Instead of the complicated cooking techniques, multitudes of ingredients and complex plating commonly seen at top restaurants, the dishes here are composed of luxurious and fresh ingredients, simply cooked but yet with strong sense of cohesion.
Scallop with Ginger and Rice Vinegar “Like Oysters”
I was told to eat this amuse-bouche by first sampling a little bit of the sauce then eating the scallop whole. Despite the weird name, everything went together perfectly and there was a little bit of foie gras and nori inside the rolled-up scallop to provide some taste to the softness of the scallop.
The salty but piquant sauce complemented the scallop and made it feel like you were eating an oyster instead. Definitely interesting but too bad it was so small!
Marinated Botan Ebi with Uni and Oscietre Caviar
This sinful dish is just pure seafood decadence. Raw marinated botan shrimp is draped with fresh Hokkaido uni and then topped with a lavish dollop of oscietre caviar. It would be extremely cliche to say I died and went to heaven eating this dish…but that’s exactly what happened 😛
Twice Cooked Bamboo Clam with Garlic Cream
This dish looked rather sparse at first but tasted quite good actually. The bamboo clams are first blanched lightly then sauteed, hence being twice-cooked.
The texture falls between a squid and scallop, with the taste being enhanced by the strips of chilli, parsley oil and salty croutons. Near the end of the dish the garlic cream finally came into play, a bit more foamy than expected. A nice build-up from light to heavy flavours!
Pan Fried Fillet of Ayu with Daikon and Fennel
I have to say that this is one of the most perfect pieces of pan-fried fish I’ve ever had. It practically disintegrated in my mouth but yet the skin retained its crispiness and flavour. The daikon cubes were there mainly for contrasting texture to the fish and the fennel balanced them out with the pomelo bits.
Abalone with Fregola and Tomato
At this time, the teppanyaki grill was finally being used! At its heart this is a really simple dish done really well. One large whole abalone grilled and sliced into pieces, placed on top of fregola and some tomato salad.
The abalone was from Australia and it was so fresh and firm, but yet tender enough so that it was not rubbery. Fregola are small balls of pasta, originating from Sardinia where a traditional dish is to cook them with tomatoes and clams. Not so far off from this dish right? 😀
Warm Salad of Cape Grim Grass-fed Beef
This tiny slice of beef is from Cape Grim in Tasmania, organic and 100% grass-fed, and it was probably the best piece of beef I’ve ever eaten. It was intensely full of flavour due to its grass-fed nature but still tender unlike normal grass-fed beef. No doubt the marbling helped as well!
I even finished the salad, such a rare occasion! I can’t remember what oils or dressings they tossed the salad with but it was delicious! All in all, my favourite dish of the night, even over the 2nd one! I really savoured every last bit of it and wished for more!
Australian Wagyu with Wasabi and Citrus Soy
The 2nd beef dish of the night, Australian Blackmore wagyu of marbling grade 9. First the chef grinded out some real wasabi with a sharkskin grater and arranged the plates with the condiments and sauces.
Then he cooked the wagyu rolls quickly and served them with 2 sauces. The chef then directed me to eat the wagyu in 2 ways: 1st was to dab a bit of wasabi on top then dip it in the citrus soy sauce, and the 2nd was to add some spring onions and scoop a bit of the egg sauce over it.
Both sauces did widen the experience of tasting the wagyu but luckily he served another set because ultimately I preferred the taste of eating it naked without sauces. Soft, fatty and delicious!
The maître d’ asked me to compare this to the previous one but in the end I still preferred the Cape Grim beef because it was just so potent in the flavours!
Consommé with Rice and Red Snapper
The final dish was a rice dish, which is how a kaiseki ends as well. Based on the various reviews I’ve seen so far, this dish tends to be the one that changes the most. For me it was a crystal-clear chicken consommé with rice and slices of red snapper.
The consommé was clean and strong with the essence of chicken, and I could also feel hints of yuzu dancing in and out of my mouth, with a very subtle tone of wasabi; both helped to freshen me up.
Before the desserts, there was a break for a minor tea brewing ceremony. The waitress informed me that this was Tetsuya’s way of thanking the diner for eating at Waku Ghin.
The green tea used was gyokuro, a fine and expensive tea leaf from Japan. It is grown in the shade unlike normal green tea which is in the sun, and harvested very young, about after 2 weeks. This makes the gyokuro smoother and more full-bodied, rich with umami.
Although gyokuro can be found in other top Japanese restaurants here, the waitress told me the one served at Waku Ghin is special because Tetsuya is friends with the owners of the gyokuro farm in Japan hence he can get a higher grade of it to bring in. To be honest, I’ve never had gyokuro before so I can’t really compare or verify this.
As gyokuro is steeped at a low temperature (60°C), the serving cups are warmed up with hot water first which also serves the dual purpose of cooling the water down.
I have to say they weren’t bluffing about the rich umami flavour, which is sweet and delicate on the tongue. No bitterness at all here, just one of the most amazing cups of green tea ever!
Next we adjourned to another room to have desserts. This circular room has a pretty great view of the Marina Bay area.
Japanese White Peach with Peach Sorbet
An incredibly sweet and juicy Japanese white peach, topped with a peach sorbet that compounded the sweetness. I think I like this fruit even more than Kyoho grapes! Seems like Japanese white peaches are pampered a lot while growing up, with a paper bag tied around them to protect them from insects, sun and bruises.
This lemon curd cheesecake is one of Waku Ghin’s signature desserts and it was served with some extra sides as part of the birthday wishes from the restaurant. The cheesecake itself was so light and ethereal, I really liked how the sour notes of the lemon were just mild enough to be noticed but not overpowering on the tongue. A perfect cheesecake!
And finally the petit four was a small box of 4 macarons. Vanilla, banana, green tea and raspberry – each one was so light and crumbled away to reveal the flavoured cream and what seemed to be tiny pieces of fruits inside. I’ve never had macarons before so I don’t know how good these were but they were very awesome for me.
In conclusion, Waku Ghin is an amazing experience – the service, food and ambiance was incredible! However, the food might not be for everybody as it is inspired by the Japanese kaiseki style of light and simple cooking. But if that’s the cuisine that you love, then Waku Ghin is worth the money for a once in a lifetime experience!
10 Bayfront Avenue
Marina Bay Sands
Open: Mon – Sat, 6pm – 10:30pm