Tetsuya Wakuda (“Wakuda”), Australia’s most iconic chef, needs no introduction.
Of late, much has been written about Wakuda: how his San Pellegrino World 50 Best ranking plunged from 4th in 2005 to 58th in 2011; or about Wakuda’s slide from 3 hats at The Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide – a position which he has held since 1993 – to just 2 hats in 2011.
Some say Wakuda has slipped.
I can’t speak for Tetsuya’s, Wakuda’s eponymous restaurant in Sydney. I’ve never so much as graced this 45,000 square feet temple of haute cuisine where the much-coveted tables are blanketed with the famously out-of-fashion damask tablecloths. Neither has my palate embraced his signature confit of ocean trout.
If Wakuda did indeed fall, he is now magnificently resurrected by way of his boutique outpost, Waku Ghin, in Singapore. This much I witnessed during a recent dinner at Waku Ghin; almost a year after it’s debut at Marina Bay Sands.
At about 10,000 square feet, Waku Ghin is by no means small but that it fits a maximum of 25 diners per sitting (at 6pm and 8.30pm nightly) says something about the intimate experience Wakuda intends for his deep-pocketed guests. Yes, C-level crowd, celebrities and puffed-up hair high-society types are but a common sight at Waku Ghin where dinner goes at $400++ per pop.
|Grill room at Waku Ghin – Photo courtesy of Waku Ghin|
But the first thing that strikes you upon entry at Waku Ghin may not the grandeur of space, or the silky fabrics overhung on the lofty ceiling, nor the luxurious mother of pearl paneled wall surrounds; but, possibly, the buzz of the gentle-spirited black-clad staff. An eye-popping 13 service staff runs the floor here – you don’t have to be a Mathematician to work out the intimate 1 staff –to-2 guests ratio.
Befitting Waku Ghin’s part-Japanese root (the other part is European), dinner is served in one of 4 counter-style grillrooms, much like a teppanyaki-style chef’s table, where the chef performs his culinary swagger over an induction flat bed griddle – engineered by Wakuda himself – complete with gleaming copper pots.
And the dinner? It is modern European with bold Japanese accents served tapas-style over 10 courses (number of courses may defer seasonally).
Marinated botan shrimp with sea urchin and caviar – Photo courtesy of Waku Ghin
You don’t have to be reminded of Waku Ghin’s famously photogenic uni (sea urchin) dish, lobes of uni basking in it’s own shell with lucid morsels of botan ebi marinated in frozen egg yolk custard and crowned with glistening pearls of oscietre caviar. The ethereal contrast of creamy uni with plump botan ebi and a burst of saltiness from caviar, when washed down with sake, is beyond praise.
The impeccably marbled Japanese Ohmi wagyu, often touted as the ‘Rolls Royce’ of beef, is yet another culinary trump card at Waku Ghin. Here, slivers of delicate wagyu are rolled up, deftly seared on the grill and served with a spike of freshly grated wasabi or with yuzu-scented soy sauce alongside crisp garlic chips. The lusciousness and umami of the wagyu that envelops your palate is seriously addictive; this wagyu is reason enough to plan my next visit soon.
And the voluptuous de-shelled Canadian lobster, precisely-braised and served basking in a fragrant pool of tarragon-flecked shellfish stock is proudly old school yet visually dramatic. “That’s my favourite,” exclaims the gorgeous and equally voluptuous celebrity sitting next to me.
The culinary opulence may continue with a Tasmanian abalone, precisely grilled until it gives a near-perfect bite, quartered and served on a bed of polenta with tomatoes and garlic cream; or, if you are lucky, a pristine soup of white asparagus with a dollop of savoury miso cream crowned with oscietre caviar. Both are table silencers.
Yes, they are all exceptional. More so when paired with the immaculate wines – part Australian, part-old world – some of which are Tetsuya’s exclusive house label.
In true Japanese fashion, the course meal ended with steamed rice in a chicken consommé bath studded with hirame fish slices. What more? You will also be rewarded with a gyokuro ceremony – Japan’s rarest and most expensive tea steeped ceremoniously before you. A treat for tea connoisseurs; I sheepishly asked for seconds.
Come dessert time, you are escorted to the Drawing Room for sweet nibbles and barista-brewed coffee with close by view of the nearby Marina Bay. And though the duo of grapefruit granite and chocolate mousse cake are a tad conservative relative to the fore courses, they are no less indulgent.
Still, it is abundantly clear that Wakuda is back in the playing field. Welcome home, sir!
Waku Ghin |10 Bayfront Ave., 2/F-03, Marina Bay Sands | 65-6688 8501
* For the record, this dinner started at 7.30pm and ended at 12.30am
© Evelyn Chen 2013