I have a confession.
While in Singapore this past week, I tiptoed off to Waku Ghin,
Chef Tetsuya’s second restaurant at Marina Bay Sands Resort which he opened in 2010. While Chef Tetsuya was born in the Japanese town of Hamamatsu, it was in Sydney where he opened his first restaurant, Tetsuya’s, in 1989 and where his journey to culinary acclaim began.
I blame the whole incident on serendipity. Was it a coincidence that I had just been in Sydney right before arriving in Singapore? The same path taken by Chef Tetsuya. Was it just by accident that Waku Ghin specializes in modern Japanese and I happen to love Japanese cuisine and all things raw?
Clearly, it was meant to be.
As I curiously called up the restaurant to see if they had any free openings for the two evenings I would be in Singapore, I was told indeed there was a free slot. Spontaneity got the better of me – so if your name happens to be Clint Stark and you are my husband, please forgive me for indulging in this culinary adventure without you. Just remember, I don’t love you any less.
Waku means “arise”. Ghin means “silver”. So arise my taste buds, and break out the silver spoons. Let’s feast!
P.S. As this was a spontaneous outing, these photos were taken with my Apple iPhone.
In Photos: Waku Ghin
Started the evening with some tea. I was mesmerized by the intense green. green
I was seated in one of three cocoon rooms. Instead of a large dining area, the 10 course tasting menu is served in these rooms that seat a maximum of about 6 people. For this evening, I was in a room with a vacationing couple from Indonesia.
Selected a glass of Billecart-Salmon Rose Champagne to start.
Found both the Champagne and the green tea paired well with the 10 dishes. Chef Tetsuya’s cuisine has been described as Modern Japanese.
Chef Jason presents the box of fresh ingredients to be used for this evening’s meal. It looked like the treasure of an Iron Chef battle where the secret ingredient is “Jewels of the Sea”. Part of me also wondered if these were really the ingredients to be used for the evening – they looked almost too perfect. I wanted to reach out to make sure they weren’t plastic.
It looked like the treasure of an Iron Chef battle where the secret ingredient is “Jewels of the Sea”.
Carpaccio of Toro Tuna with Bitter Salad. When this dish was first introduced, Chef Jason, who was the chef in our room, noted it was tuna. It was clear from the fatty marbling and the melt-in-the-mouth texture that it was toro. This was offset by the palate cleansing bitterness and crunch of the salad.
Marinated Botan Shrimp with Sea Urchin and Oscietra Caviar. This is Chef Tetsuya’s signature dish. The shrimp is sourced from Canada, sea urchin from Japan and caviar from France. Given that Waku Ghin is in Singapore, this is quite the feat. The presentation is stunning and thoughtful. For example, the mother of pearl spoon one uses to eat this dish is chilled in ice. I thought the coolness of the spoon somehow made this indulgent trio evermore luxurious. Some have noted that this dish which pairs 3 great ingredients requires little culinary skill for a restaurant which is suppose to showcase culinary mastery to command such prices. I disagree. I think true art also requires understanding restraint and balance. Why adulterate a perfect combination? Chef Jason also shared with me that the marination of the shrimp is instrumental. There are key ingredients that go into this to make sure the flavors and richness of the sea urchin does not overpower the delecate flavors of the shrimp. From texture to taste to style, I could easily see why this is the signature dish.
Masuizumi. This is the ultimate Sake from Waku Ghin. It runs about $70 a glass and I received a sample of it to go with the signature dish. I am not a sake fan, wine is more my thing. However, this sake was incredibly delicious and had flavor notes unlike any other sake I’ve tried. Besides an extensive wine list, Waku Ghin is a place for sake lovers as well. Chef Tetsuya was the first sake ambassador outside of Japan.
Grilled Anago with Foie Gras, Confit of Zucchini and Sanshou. I like the choice of anago, instead of unagi, which has a much more delicate flesh. While I liked the textures of this dish, I found the actual sauce to be too salty and overpowering. This is disappointing as seared foie gras is a favorite of mine and I could see how it would just be heavenly with a nice juicy piece of anago. The zucchini provided some reprieve from the rich sauce – but it was such a small piece that it was not match for the salt monsters. Perhaps Chef Tetsuya was trying to explore umami in this dish and overshot.
Abalone for the next dish was presented on a gorgeous plate.
Quite a bit of the dishes are prepared in a kitchen behind the scenes, However, a few of the exciting steps are performed in front of your eyes. It was like watching a live taping of a show on the Food Network. For foodies, the showmanship is definitely part of the overall experience. Chef Jason was very knowledgeable on the source of the food as well as sharing a few cooking techniques.
Grilled Abalone with Fregola and Tomato. The abalone was simply seasoned with salt and pepper. The rest of the dish is a combination of Fregola pasta with tomato and basil. First press olive oil is drizzled on top. I thought the dish was good, but I could think of so many other ways to prepare abalone. This combination was not my favorite. The texture and characteristics of the abalone seemed out of place in a tomato-y pasta dish.
The lobster for the next dish was prepared with a bit of garlic and butter. After a light sauteing, Chef Jason takes it to the kitchen behind for slow cooking.
Braised Canadian Lobster with Tarragon. I really enjoyed this dish. While the lobster was good, it was the sauce of preserved Meyer lemon and tarragon which I enjoyed the most. I was brought a side of bread to soak up all the juices. It was also at this point in the dinner that I noticed the tea service was impeccable. My tea was always hot. If the tea started to get cold, the staff would change out a cup just so that the tea would be at a nice hot temperature.
Chef Tetsuya’s Wasabi Mustard. This slightly green mustard was presented as the perfect pairing for the next dish of Tasmanian beef. The story is that Tetsuya could not find the perfect sauce to go with this dish so he created his own. Of course, if you want to take some of it home with you, it can also be purchased.
Charcoal-Grilled Fillet of Tasmanian Grass-Fed Beef with Tetsuya’s Wasabi Mustard. This steak was prepared in front of us and was was cooked to perfection. A nice warm red in the center. Like the eel, it was a little too salty for my liking. The watercress salad was a nice balance to the steak. I think I would have enjoyed the mustard more if the steak wasn’t already plenty seasoned.
Having gone to many Japanese restaurants where the wasabi was churned from green powder, it was a special treat to see fresh wasabi. This piece of wasabi took over 2 years to grow and like a fine wine, the location and quality of the water has an impact on the taste. Chef Tetsuya has sourced this from the Shizuka prefecture. Seems like you have to know the specific wasabi farmers to get the really good stuff.
I couldn’t help it. I asked if I could try grating the wasabi. As a lover of sushi, it was a fun experience to have grated real wasabi.
Presented like three bars of pure gold, these Japanese Ohmi Wagyu Roll from Shiga Prefecture are up next!
Chef Jason applies a light seasoning to the Wagyu beef rolls. The heat with the marbling of fat provide the perfect base for the seasoning.
This is the way to have Wagyu beef!
Japanese Ohmi Wagyu Roll from Shiga Prefecture with Wasabi and Citrus Soy. This dish and the signature Botan Shrimp dish were the highlight of the evening. Perfectly seasoned and with the addition of fresh wasabi – a decadent, memorable treat. This is the way to have Wagyu beef! The garlic chips on the side, while pretty, didn’t do anything for my taste buds. Beef, a restrained brush of citrus soy and an evenly distributed smear of wasabi…and the rest is foodie history!
Consomme with Rice and Snapper. I know this is a palate cleanser after a rich dish of Wagyu beef. However, it was underwhelming. For example, I’ve had Chef Charles Phan’s noodle soup after many rich dishes at Pebble Beach Food & Wine and I’m reminded of how something so simple can really shine. Or Nong’s Khao Man Gai after a series of buttery snacks from Portland food trucks. This dish did not do this for me. The snapper also seemed slightly overcooked.
Serving of the Gyokuro Tea. There is a unique method of preparing Gyokuro tea which involves using twice the weight in dry tea leaves to quantity of water and a lower brewing temperature of 50°C–60°C (122°F–140°F) instead of 65°C–75°C (149°F–167°F).
Gyokuro tea is one of the highest grades of Japanese tea. Enjoyed the intense flavors of this tea.
Musk Melon is served in the dessert lounge. This melon is from the Shezu region of Japan. Chef Tetsuya has specific farms and farmers he works with in Japan to source his raw ingredients.
Ghin Cheesecake. The signature desert. I loved the presentation with a dot of silver on top of a delicate white veneer. While it was delicious, I do prefer my cheesecake New York style with a robust graham cracker crust. This desert, while nice, was not incredibly memorable for me.
Coffee and Petit Fours. This seems like a common way to end an evening of exquisite dining. Just when you think all is at an end, a tasting of a multitude of desserts provides a soft landing to an end of a culinary journey. It is also a great way for the Chef to remind the diner of the skill needed to craft the evening’s meal. As I ate my desert I reveled at the light show that was starting against the evening sky. In the stillness, I felt an intense gratitude to have had this experience.
Spectacular view of Singapore from the dessert lounge at Waku Ghin. This same area would be the scene of Singapore’s 50th anniversary just a few days later.