Kappo Cuisine at the Marina Bay Sands
Tetsuya Wakuda's interpretation of Osaka's Kappo cuisine
Tetsuya Wakuda’s Waku Ghin seems like a restaurant from another planet: The huge space seats no more than 25. Divided among a number of small private rooms, you are shown the products of the day, which are then prepared in front of you. Whilst this sounds simple, there is more to it than you might think.
What defines Waku Ghin are the products. Very few locations in the world have access to pristine seafood in the way that Singapore does. Whilst not much locally seafood, or meat are used, the chefs have one advantage, as this allows them to import Hokkaido sea urchin, botan ebi, and New Zealand langoustines amongst others. Seeing the day’s offer on the tray, which precedes a meal here, you start to get a feel for what is about to come.
The food is fully centred on the quality of the seafood and meat. Inspired by Osaka’s kappo cuisine, the dishes at Waku Ghin appear simple, but showcase precise technique and the purest flavours of the respective protein. In some cases, the result is more Western influenced, such as lobster with tarragon sauce. A lesson in simplicity, all it features is perfectly cooked lobster meat and a rich tarragon infused lobster jus. The dish is served as such, without decorative greenery or other vegetables. This is all about the concentrated flavour of lobster. The sauce is rich, complex and balanced, whilst the texture of the lobster is unusual for the Canadian sort. It has the crunch that you find with good blue lobster, but is softer. Combined with the salty kick from the sauce, the inherent sweetness of the meat, really comes through.
Even better is another minimalistic combination of caviar, Hokkaido uni and botan ebi. “Barely touched”, as Eric Ripert would call it, this is about as good as it gets. Given the different textures and flavours of the three products, this is the sort of dish that doesn’t really need much seasoning, or much human intervention. Dishes like these could be what Alain Passard has in mind, when he talks about a cuisine that reduces the cook’s role to the absolute minimum. At the bottom of the shell, you have the soft, creamy uni, which is topped with the incredibly firm, crunchy spot prawns. To top it off, the caviar does not only add a savoury aspect to the dish, but ties things together. Given the quality of the products at hand and the perfect balance between each component, this is one of the most compelling dishes around.
Waku Ghin, however, is not all about seafood. Wagyu beef from Shiga prefecture is simply grilled and served with classic condiments. Again, this is the sort of dish that only works with products of such high quality. When you eat it, the balance of fat and meat means that you don’t have the feeling of eating butter, but are reminded of eating beef; beautiful!
Whilst the savoury dishes here are more on the simple side, the desserts are and clearly more elaborate. Perhaps more French, the technical precision found throughout the meal is still very much apparent. A mont blanc – that glorious French classic – would make most French interpretations pale in comparison. Whilst you often have too much whipped cream in this dessert, making it somewhat dull, at Waku Ghin, the chestnuts really stand out. Managing to keep things light and fresh, this is one of the most impressive mont blancs we have eaten.
Tetsuya Wakuda is one of Australia’s most famous chefs. Having come to the country without speaking a word of English, he set up his restaurant, combining Japanese and French cooking methods and produce. Despite his rise to international fame, Waku Ghin is only his second restaurant. Being very much attached to his native Japan, his favourite restaurant is Kahala in Osaka. In conceptualising his Singaporean restaurant, the influence of that particular restaurant is evident. However, given the inclusion of French techniques and occasionally sauces, the cuisine here branches out a little more. The service under the leadership of Hitomi Matsumoto is hushed, warm, friendly and elegant. This creates an intimate and relaxed atmosphere in the restaurant.
Eating at Waku Ghin is like stepping out of this world for a few hours. Here you can simply forget time and focus on remarkable food. Very few restaurants will give seasoned diners an experience akin to that of Waku Ghin.
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