Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Review - Waku Ghin

Hi everyone - well, we have returned from what was an amazing trip to Singapore and Sabah in Borneo. Must say that going from 95% humidity and tropical weather to an especially cold and wet Sydney winter is taking some getting used to. Hard to believe that only a day ago I was swanning around in my leopard print swimsuit drinking Sake cocktails by the pool at the Mandarin Oriental in Singapore - now I'm wearing a hoodie, tracky-daks and fluffy socks and drinking a mug of hot chocolate.  Not quite as glamorous I can assure you! One of the reasons we decided to stop over in Singapore on the way to and from Borneo was to experience two restaurants that I have been dying to get to - Tetsuyas's Singapore restaurant, Waku Ghin - and the Singapore culinary icon, Iggy's. Both have stellar reputations, and both have been named in the influencial San Pellegrino list of Top 50 Resturants in the World for 2012. Reservations secured and airline tickets confirmed, we flew to Singapore to experience these restaurants for ourselves. In a few days I will post my review of Iggy's - but today it's all about Waku Ghin.

Having dined a few times now at Tetsuya's in Sydney, I have to say I had huge expectations about Waku Ghin. I call going to Tetsuya's "going to food church" - such is the verging on spiritual quality of the experience for me. Here you have a chef who not only puts his obsession with premium produce, taste, texture and respect for the raw product on the plate - but also precision, artistry and a whole lot of love on it too. Although this is a top of the line fine dining experience, it is devoid of an ounce of stuffiness or pretention.  Walk into Tetsuya's and you feel warm and welcomed - and there is a vibe that you know you are about to experience something special.

Waku Ghin (Japanese for "silver knives") is located in the massive Singapore Marina Bay Sands Hotel complex. Finding the very discreet resturant takes a while as you cross various lobbies and networks of lifts and walkways- if you are going be sure to allow time to get orientated! We were ushered to the bar on arrival and enjoyed what were easily the best cocktails we have ever tasted, sitting up at the counter. The design fit out of the restaurant will knock your socks off - lots of wood and stone, beautiful fabrics and textures - and clean and modern without being cold. As we sipped our cocktails anticipating the menu to come, I nearly fell off my bar stool as Tetsuya Wakuda himself, wearing chef's whites walked across the room heading toward us. Now understand that there are a handful of chefs that inspire me and this guy is right up there - so what followed was a giddy fangirl moment for me as Tetsuya personally welcomed us. He was warm and humble and slightly shy. I was starstruck. Thankfully I managed not to embarrass myself in front of one of my culinary idols (although my heart was beating at 1000 miles an hour and I couldn't wipe the big dumb smile off my face!) Look, I know as adults we are supposed to be uber cool and aloof in such situations but it was such a buzz to meet someone I admire so much. I was totally thrilled about it and I'm owning it!

The Bar/Lounge Area @ Waku Ghin

The restaurant seats a maximum of 25 diners per sitting (there are two sittings each night) and is divided into a number of intimate rooms designed to seat a small number of diners around a central preparation area. We booked for the late sitting and shared our dining room with two other guests. The majority of the food is cooked and plated in front of you. It was an absolute joy to watch the dishes come together before your eyes. The skill, precision and attention to detail of the chef was the best kind of intimate theatre. The degustation menu comprised of  10 courses, with the savoury courses eaten in our private dining room, and the sweet dishes savoured in a second, more open dining room with a stunning view of the lights of the Singapore waterfront. I liked the idea of different venues for the different components of the meal - different atmospheres, different taste experiences.

Chef shows us some of the seafood we are about to enjoy.
The abalone and lobsters were still alive - fresh huh?

I managed to document almost all of the dishes, however I did miss a couple due to getting a bit over enthusiastic and devouring the dish before the photo opportunity moment! So, what did we eat? We started with Tataki of Bonito (one of my very favourite fish, so we were starting well) served with soy caramel - smoky and sweet that was a gorgeous contrast to the beautiful, fresh raw fish that tasted of the sea.

Next was Waku Ghin's signature dish - Marinated Botan Shrimp with Sea Urchin and Oscietra Caviar. My first experience of raw sea urchin (have only ever eaten a dried version before) Firstly, it looked stunning on the plate - amazing colours and textures. The taste completely overwhelmed me in the best possible way. Salty and sweet, a silky luscious texture and those little black pearls of caviar popping and exploding in your mouth. The flavours were pure and clean - yet completely sensual and decadent. One of the best dishes I've ever eaten in my life. I will dream about this one.

Marinated Botan Shrimp
with Sea Urchin and Oscietra Caviar

The next dish, Pan Fried Fillet of Ayu (a Japanese species of fresh water fish) with Daikon Radish and Fennel was delicate and beautifully cooked. I had never eaten Ayu before, and the flesh was succulent and super moist, with a very light crisp coating from the pan frying. The combination of the daikon radish and the fennel got me thinking about how I could pair these ingredients at home. Think I will be trying that combo again in my own kitchen very soon.

Pan Fried Fillet of Ayu
with Daikon and Fennel

The central ingredient of the next course came from somewhere very close to home - abalone from Tasmania. Our chef explained that the abalone is shipped live a few times a week for the restaurant, so that is absolutely fresh when it arrives on our plate. The seared abalone is served with a delicious tomato broth and al dente fregola. Savoury and delicious.

Tasmanian Abalone
with Fregola and Tomato

The next dish was gorgeous sweet Canadian lobster claws, braised in a rich tarragon sauce. The lobster flesh was particularly sweet, and the flavours were robust and rich. You would expect such a bold sauce to drown out the flavour of the lobster, but it didn't at all - just acted as a great foil for the sweet lobster flesh.

Braised Canadian Lobster with Tarragon Sauce

The next course saw us move from seafood, to food from the land - Pan Seared Squab Pigeon Breast, served with duck liver, sauteed mushrooms and risotto. I am a big fan of game, so I particulary loved this dish. The squab was cooked perfectly and the rich flavours of the duck liver and the dark mushrooms made for an almost smoky, dense and earthy combination. Just beautiful.

 Pan Seared Squab Pigeon Breast
with duck liver, sauteed mushrooms and risotto

The next course was all about beef - Japanese Ohmi Wagyu Roll with Wasabi and Citrus Soy. Thin slices of beautifully marbled Wagyu were rolled and seared very quicky, then sliced and presented with freshly grated wasabi (grated on a traditional sharkskin grater by our chef), garlic chips and super finely sliced spring onions. Young, mild ginger and citrus soy made a lovely dipping sauce that still allowed the amazing flavour of the Wagyu to come through - buttery, beefy, delicious.

Japanese Ohmi Wagyu Roll
with Wasabi and Citrus Soy

I wish I could have access to the following dish every day - one of those simple, comforting, pure tastes that make you feel like all is well with the world - Consomme with Rice and Snapper. The consomme was so clear and pure tasting, the rice slightly chewy the way it should be, a perfectly sliced piece of snapper cooked by the heat of the consomme. So simple and a pleasure to the very last spoonful.

Consomme with Rice and Snapper

Following the consomme dish, it was time to move to another dining room - a more open and public feeling space, overlooking the sparkling lights of the Singapore waterfront - to enjoy our dessert courses. On the way though, we were given the chance to take a detour via the kitchen, where we not only got to see behind the scenes at Waku Ghin - but also got to meet and chat to Tetsuya once again. I was really interested in an electric charcoal brazier that he was using in the kitchen and we discussed the use of different kinds of charcoal and the effect this has on flavour. Fan girl moment number two. Talking cooking with Tets. Wild.

Unfortunately there is no photo of the next course - Cold Soup of Dates with Tonka Bean Ice Cream and Orange. Fragrant and swoon worthly - and already dispatched before the camera made it out. It was gorgeous, I swear :)

It had been my birthday the day before we visited Waku Ghin, and when Tetsuya asked earlier in the night if we had visited the Sydney restaurant before, we had told him that it had become a bit of a tradition to visit his restaurant for my birthday every year and that it was a special place for us. We were preparing for the next dessert course when this arrived - a culinary birthday card from Tetsuya, just for me. Chalk that up to fangirl moment number three!

Happy Birthday from Tetsuya
Salted Caramel, Ganache and Silver Leaf

The final dessert course arrived -  a Sable of Pistachio, with Pistachio Icecream, Raspberry and Chantilly. Two of my favourite ingredients on one plate - pistachio and raspberry, and a match made in heaven. There were various textures of pistachio - the crisp sable, then a sticky/crunchy pistachio praline, a velvety rich icecream and a smooth pistachio emulsion. Add to that the tang and sweetness of the raspberries - in fresh and gel form - and you have a dessert to die for.

Sable of Pistachio & Pistachio Icecream,
with Raspberry and Chantilly

Despite having very high (and possibly completely unrealistic) expectations, Waku Ghin delivered in every way. Like Tetsuya's namesake in Sydney, it is a complete dining experience - so much pleasure in every dish, in the simple beauy of the presentaton, the choice of flatwear and decor and of course, the sublime artisty of the food. Waku Ghin is however, an experience of it's own. It is no carbon copy of the Sydney restaurant - the menu is entirely different, and it has it's own unique atmosphere. The opportunity to watch many of the dishes being created in front of you is very special, and one that I will remember. The whole experience was heightened for me of course, by getting to meet one of my culinary idols, such a talented and humble man who brings such love to what he does. It shows in his dishes, in his restaurant and in his staff - who are just exceptional. Waku Ghin truly deserves it's reputation as one of the great restaurants of the world.

Waku Ghin
Executive Chef: Tetsuya Wakuda
Casino Level 2
Marina Bay Sands Singapore
For Reservations :  +65 6688 8507
Dinner Daily : Two Sittings - 6pm & 8.30pm
Cost: $480pp (Singapore Dollars) food only



  1. wow that looks like one amazing meal! happy belated birthday!

  2. What a great looking meal. I was equally gaga when reviewing Azuma & Tetsuya was at the sushi bar. He thanked me personally for reviewing his favourite restaurant.

    1. Ha!! Ha!!! I'm glad I'm not the only one with a Tets crush Jac :)
      He's just so humble and lovely - love him even more now. And yes, the meal was exceptional.