Wakanui Grill Dining (Singapore)

Wakanui is also featured in my article in Destinasian here.

Wakanui Grill Dining
Wakanui interior

After a brief stint in a buried location at Boat Quay, Wakanui Grill Dining re-opened with a bang in a fancy new location at Marina One The Heart last October.

Even with interiors of wood panelling, exposed brick walls and bamboo-shaped hanging lamps by Koji Asamoto, the same architect who designed the Tokyo flagship, the glass wrapped restaurant, which looks dazzling from the outside, offers little by way of inspiration on the inside save for views of apartments in the opposite block and beyond. A picture window in the dining room offering peeks of the chefs at work in the kitchen offers a respite from the panorama.

In case it has missed a spot on your radar in the past, it’s worth taking note of the re-opening of the Singapore offshoot of this Japanese-New Zealand steakhouse perched on the airy fourth level on the west wing of the integrated development at The Heart Marina One. Now operated by a franchisee , the relaunched Wakanui in Singapore offers a renewed focus on New Zealand beef and lamb from the Wakanui region on the south of Canterbury, New Zealand.

For background, the lamb that Wakanui serves graze on New Zealand’s spring and summer pastures and are not fed hormones nor antibiotics. Slaughtered at about the age of six months (to prevent the development of the unpleasant “lamby” flavour as the animal ages) in the months of January to April, the juvenile lamb is wet-aged for four weeks to tenderize the meat and then flash-frozen to ensure there are sufficient stocks to meet demand until the next slaughter.

The Wakanui beef in question, described as “Ocean Beef”, refers to black angus cattles that are raised for 18 months on lush green pastures that apparently overlook the ocean, hence the name. Fed a diet of grains (wheat, maize and barley) for their final four months before they are slaughtered, the Wakanui beef is wet-aged for four weeks in New Zealand before export. Upon arrival in Singapore, the bone-in rib eye cuts (only) are dry-aged for three weeks to further develop the beef’s flavour and texture.

With these in mind, the raison d’être of Wakanui, therefore, are its spring lamb and ocean beef.

Lamb chop

The Wakanui spring lamb can be ordered as a lamb chop starter ($8 per piece) or as a main dish (half rack for $42, full rack for $82). Seasoned with nothing more than Christmas Island sea salt, a variety of peppers and a touch of coriander powder, the lamb is grilled over hot charcoal and finished on the bincho grill to yield tender meat with a comforting smoky tang and perfectly rendered bits of fat.

For equal bone-in pleasure, the 21 days dry-aged bone-in ribeye is also a must (1kg, $199). The colossal hunk of meat, which is dry-aged for 21 days in the drying cabinet that you will see as you enter the restaurant, is minimally seasoned (i.e. with salt only) and grilled on the charcoal and then transferred to the bincho grill to be cooked. Before it arrives at the table, the hunk is finished in the oven for about 15 minutes. Served with a trio of dips (salt, wasabi and Wakanui sauce of soy, mirin, kombu and other ingredients), the bone-in ribeye bears the hallmarks of a perfectly cooked of meat – pink insides, charred outside and tender meat.

While we much prefer the bone-in ribeye, there is also a ribeye cut (350g, $79) if you prefer not to mess around with bones but, without the luxury of meat attached to the bone, the process of devouring the flesh is decidedly less pleasurable.

Or try the Canterbury grass-fed fillet (250g for $78 and 500g for $138), a tenderloin cut for meat lovers who prefer an ultra lean cut. We find it a tad dry.

Wakanui Selection Board

If you prefer to try a variety of meats as a platter for sharing, order the Wakanui Selection Board ($268), which comes with half an a la carte serving of the dry-aged bone-in ribeye, 250g of Canterbury grass-fed fillet as well as a quarter rack of the Wakanui spring lamb.

There are items on the menu that are play the sidekick role fairly well.

Kikorangi blue cheese caesar

The milder-than-caesar salad starter of Kikorangi blue cheese caesar ($22) is a pleasant-enough assembly of Romaine lettuce, endive leaves, walnuts and Jazz apple slices enrobed in a surprisingly light dressing of Kikorangi blue cheese that is more creamy than pungent.

The side of sauteed local spinach ($10) served in nothing but olive oil may seem blend at first for it arrives completely unadorned. But when taken with the beef, it provides a strangely poignant counterpoint.

Wakanui offers a refreshing respite from the USDA prime steaks and marbled wagyu steaks that have taken the city by storm. While it offers meatless alternatives by way of NZ seafood to cater to non meat-eaters, we’d say come here for the bone-in ribeye and lamb chop.

5 Straits View, Marina One The Heart 04-02 | +65-6384 2665 | wakanui.sg

© Evelyn Chen 2013
Please note that the reviews published on this blog are sometimes hosted. I am under no obligation to review every restaurant I’ve visited. If I do, the reviews are 100% my own.
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