A meeting point for different cultures, Singapore is renowned with its order, rules, cleanliness and bans. I have a small list for the supreme tastes in Singapore.
The list includes choices like Andre reworking the French cuisine with its artisan ingredients; Iggy’s offering Japanese tastes with light and beautiful presentations; Lei Garden, Imperial Treasure Super Peking Duck where you can taste the most delicious crispy duck skin and crepe on earth; Tippling Club, the new eclectic restaurant with its highly enjoyable design; Cut, run by the legendary chef Wolfgang; the atelier of the emperor Joel Robuchon at Sentosa Island; Hide Yamamoto, famous for its delicious sushi, sashimi and teppanyaki. Although the overall gastronomic potential of the city will be increased with the opening of Gordon Ramsey in 2015, I’ve already chosen the “cream de la cream” of the Singapore’s culinary scene: Waku Ghin.
As it had been in my plans for a long time, eventually I had the opportunity to visit the restaurant on my last business trip. Waku Ghin offers “modern Japanese cuisine”. Those who know about my passion for the Japanese cuisine may think that I can’t be objective in my review. But I can’t imagine anyone would deny the fantastic tastes the chefs make out of the first-class ingredients.
Miracles of Teppanyaki
Besides the sparkling windows of the globally known brands, the epic towers of Singapore, Marina Bay Sands has become a heaven for food with its more-than-50 quality restaurants. Located on the first floor of the towers which cost around 8 billion dollars, Waku Ghin is obviously one of the strongholds of this culinary heaven.
The chef of the restaurant, Tetsuya Wakuda is actually mostly known for its position at Tetsuya’s in Sydney. He put his belongings in one suitcase when he turned to 23 years old. With his heart of gold, he filled his suitcase with his passion for kitchen and left his hometown for Singapore with a little money in his pocket and a little English.
For Wakuda, Waku Ghin is a “playground” with its 1000 m2 space in his words. Considering the Australian limits and cumbersome conditions on the imports, Singapore should be a real playground for the chef who is trying to find the best ingredients from all over the world.
The name of Waku Ghin is derived from two Japanese words: “waku” means “arise, gush out” and “ghin” means “silver” which is the prevalent color in the restaurant’s design. Although Waku Ghin is quite spacious, it has a serving capacity of 25 people. The menu has 10 special dishes and it is served in two sessions: the first one is at 17.30 and the second is at 20.00.
The restaurant is divided into special rooms, each of which can take up only 6 visitors. The rooms are well designed in accordance with the fine-dining concept and the diners sit around a spotless, stainless teppanyaki. Despite the metallic colors of the restaurant, the rooms are quite cozy in terms of colors and design. And the only servicing staff in the room is the chef behind the teppanyaki and a Sommelier.
If you arrive there on time, the first thing you will get is a seafood basket. When you look closer at the seafood imported from the various countries such as France, Alaska, Japan and the United States; you can see them wiggling slowly. Because everything in the basket is still alive!
After the chef introduces himself to you, he asks you whether you’re allergic to anything in the basket and presents you what he will be cooking for you that day.
The first dish of the night, for us, was the French Gillardeau oyster which was still alive as it was traditionally farmed by the famous Gillardeau family. With a drizzle of ginger and rice vinegar which is generally used for sushi and a sprinkle of thinly sliced chives, it was transformed into a delicious taste to eat just in one bite. Although I generally prefer oyster with a few drops of lemon juice, the Waku Ghin version did not leave any bad aftertaste at all.
The second dish was the signature dish of the restaurant: marinated botan shrimp with sea urchin. The moment I saw these two scrumptious ingredients in one plate was the moment the restaurant won my heart!
2-3 times bigger than the pink Alaskan shrimps, Botan Ebi shrimp is an exclusive sea food, since it is sourced from the 300-500 meters deep sea waters of Hokaido, home to the best Japanese seafood. The shrimps were accompanied by the beautiful orange caviars of the sea urchin and crowned with the soft and salty “oscietra caviar” of Beluga. The dish was the umami itself!
The following dish was composed of slow-cooked Japanese fish amadai and truffles which didn’t have a strong taste since they were sourced from Asti. But the combination was harmonious.
Probably the most basic but the most delicious dish of the night was Alaskan king crab. First, the chef poured some salt on the teppanyaki and shaped it like a dome. When the salt got warmer, the chef poured some water over the salt to form a little pool on top and placed the crab legs over this pool. He covered them with a lid and left for two minutes to cook with their own steam. He, then, crowned them with a drizzle of the favorite sauce of every kitchen, olive oil and lemon juice. Served on top of bamboo leaves, the crab legs were just enchanting. The only thing we could think was “Something as basic as this should not be delicious this much!”
One of the crustaceans genuine to Tasmania located between New Zealand and Australia, abalone arrived at the table alive. Each side of the crustacean was fried on the teppanyaki for two minutes and then served on top of some “fregola”, a type of pastina peculiar to Sardinia in Italy. Boosted with a Mediterranean touch: tomato, garlic, chives, Himalayan salt and black pepper, it was one of the successful dishes of the night with its fleshy and juicy texture.
The following dish, Canadian lobster was inspired by the French cuisine. When a mixture composed of couscous, butter, garlic, paprika mayonnaise, red onion and edible sea moss “wakame” was boiled, the lobsters were thrown into the mixture. When the mixture started to get infused with the lobster juice, the chef served it with a slice of baguette. It had a quite nice balance of taste and appearance.
Again from Tasmania, Tasmanian wagyu steak was another dish. It was made from the Tasmanian cattle feeding on only grass. The highly quality meat was worth the money and the effort. Each side of the steak was cooked for 1 minute only. Accompanied by wasabi root and enriched with wasabi mustard made from shark skin grated with natural tools, its taste was stunning with one word.
Probably even better tasting than the Japanese Kobe, the wagyu “Ohmi” was sliced into 1-2 mm pieces as if it was going to be cooked in “shabu-shabu” style. Served in rolls, the wagyu was cooked just right and had a marbled texture as opposed to many restaurants I visited where it was overcooked. At Waku Ghin, the ohmi slices were cooked on teppanyaki for just 7-8 minutes. Accompanied by some wasabi sauce and delectable garlic chips, the dish had a well-balanced taste.
The following dish was a cold noodle soup made from very thin wheat noodles somen which was boosted with “myoga” made from ginger buds, “junsai” the mucus covering the underside of the water lily leaves. As it was very fresh and refreshing, it cleansed our palates like a sorbet.
Finally, we ended the mains with Gyokuro as it was called “the king of teas” and made from the most expensive tea leaves. For gyokuro, the tea leaves are plucked 3 weeks earlier than the common harvest and for it not to get pungent, it is boiled up to 70 degrees and consumed when it cools down to 40 degrees.
The dessert session took place in a special room for desserts, coffee and digestives. There were 5 tables in the room that looked like a refined restaurant. The chocolate mousse we tried in front of the wine cellars looked like a black glass with its neat and minimalist surface. Even though I did not want to spoil this view, I took one bite from the mousse and its taste just eased my hesitancy.
Following the chocolate mousse, the famous Sicilian dessert, Granita was made with lemon and gin jello. Accompanied by some Tasmanian honey ice cream, the dessert was like a sweet breeze freshening up our palates while we were basking in the lights of Marina Bay Sands.
Only Two Words: Quality Ingredients
The menus cost $400 per person.
Those who notice Waku Ghin uses pretty basic ingredients might think that they could cook the same with the same fish they bought from store. That is right that the Chef Tetsuyada presents his dishes as basic as it can be with no more than 3-5 ingredients. Because he’s got only one goal in doing this: He tries not to overshadow the ingredients that he imported from all over the world.
Of course, the effect of atmosphere, presentation and the talents of the chefs are undeniable. But I dare say that the ingredients speak for themselves in Waku Ghin! And they are totally worth the money.
Although I had recently dined in San Sebastian, a heaven for gastronomy, Waku Ghin impressed me a lot. If you happen to be in Singapore, it is definitely worth the money!
Bon appétit and enjoy the taste of life…
Atrium 2, Level 2, Marina Bay Sands,
10 Bayfront Avenue,
+65 6688 8507