Neon lights and pulsating electronic music are things that one wouldn’t normally associate with a steakhouse restaurant. Then again, not many steakhouse restaurants in Singapore are like Cote Korean Steakhouse, which is a swish hybrid of a Korean barbecue joint and an upmarket American chophouse, with a bar, music room and cigar lounge all rolled into one. It opened in Como Orchard on 27 January.
The restaurant is Cote Korean Steakhouse’s first overseas outpost, after clinching a Michelin star for its New York City and Miami locations. While most of the menu here is similar to its American counterparts, there will be locally-inspired dishes fashioned after bak kut teh and oyster omelette.
During an exclusive preview that The Peak attended, Korean-American restaurateur Simon Kim peppered his introduction of the restaurant with the word ‘sexy’. With a dimly-lit space, fiery red-hued dry-ageing room and custom lighting that dances to the beat of the music, Cote has a clubby vibe that eases you into a rapturous night’s proceedings. (The restaurant doesn’t take in children under the age of 12.)
Kim shared that Cote Singapore wants to inject a dose of upbeat fun into the local dining experience. The sprawling restaurant, which spans the entire third level of Como Orchard, also has a music room, noir-inspired cigar lounge, a main dining hall and semi-private dining booths for boisterous dining sessions.
Here are some highlights of dining at Cote’s Singapore restaurant.
1. Libate at a jungle-themed bar
What greets diners at the restaurant’s entrance is a lush jungle-themed Millim Bar filled with live plants and foliage on the wall — inspired by Singapore’s ‘garden city’ tagline. An oval island bar, filled with a cornucopia of tipples, line the shelves, taking up most of the space that serves as an atrium in between the main dining hall and private rooms. Pre-dinner aperitifs include Proper Martini (available in three styles: gin, vodka and vesper), Hypnotized, a refreshing cocktail with vodka, watermelon, lemon and fino sherry, and Danger Close, a Spirit-forward tipple with Patron Silver tequila, Martini Ambrato and hibiscus.
2. The food
In a country where Korean barbecue restaurants have sprouted faster than you can say ‘kimchi’, how does Cote stack up? The meat line-up wins by a mile. Kim shares that restaurants such as CUT by Wolfgang Puck are Cote’s main competitors, instead of Korean barbecue joints.
It is apparent when one looks at the menu, which lists cuts from USDA Prime Black Angus, Australian and Japanese wagyu. We had the 10-course Steak Omakase ($295 per person), which is a carnivore’s wet dream come through.
The meal opens with a celestially named appetiser, Legend of the Seven Jades that we half-anticipated Michelle Yeoh to manifest in the private dining room, where Kim hosted us.
The dish is something like a make-your-own kueh pie tee party that wouldn’t look out of place in a Crazy Rich Asians movie. We constructed our tartlets with seven ingredients on the platter, such as beef tartare, chopped amberjack, scallops, ikura and of course, freshly shaved black truffles, all served on jade ceramic plates on a lazy susan. Our favourite combination is heaps of beef tartare and caviar on a bed of creme fraiche in a shallow pastry shell. Exceedingly rich, but no less pleasurable.
Then, the meat platter arrives, which is a sight to behold with blocks of plush and well-marbled meat lined up waiting to be called to the smokeless grill lined with ceramic charcoal. The grill’s built-in ventilation system is so silently efficient that we did not leave the restaurant with a ‘what I had for dinner’ clothes.
The heavy lifting, or rather grilling and cutting, is expertly done by the service staff, which gives us more time to ogle at the glistening slabs of meat and take in the sizzle. A testament to the importance of high quality meat source is that the cuts are simply seasoned with an in-house blend of British Maldon salt, Celtic sea salt, and Korean thousand-day-aged sea salt.
The marbling score of the meat progresses along the night. It starts off with the USDA Prime Filet Mignon and Australian Black Angus Skirt Steak and ends off on a high with the Miyazaki A5 Wagyu Ribeye.
The char-grilled medallions of filet mignon and skirt steak have more of a firm and robustly meaty bite, after being licked by the flames in the grill. Upping the steak stakes are the Australian and Miyazaki wagyu, which are buttery soft and has an extremely tender mouthfeel.
Marinated galbi concludes the beef portion of the meal. The short ribs, which are expertly cut into a diamond shape, bear a mild sweetness from the marinade of honey and soy sauce. The ‘Grand Cru’ version of the dish has a shorter marinade period that allows the beef’s natural flavours to shine.
The condiments also play a big part in shaping the meal’s experience. Filling up the table quickly are plates of banchan such as kimchi, pickled cauliflower, and black fungus mushrooms. We especially enjoyed digging into the towering pile of orange-red scallion salad tossed in gochugaru (Korean chilli powder) vinaigrette that provides a serious tangy and acidic edge to the load of meatiness.
There are also plates filled with red leaf lettuce from South Korea and shiso leaves. The meat-driven meal doesn’t feel too heavy or overly greasy as these lettuce wraps are being wolfed down effortlessly. Our meat ‘wrapper’ of choice is the shiso leaves that impart a floral sweetness to the meat that is offset by the umami from the ssam jang dip.
Cote Singapore offers a more reasonably-priced Butcher’s Feast ($98 per person). The set comprises four cuts of meat including USDA Prime and Australian wagyu, banchan, savoury egg souffle, two stews with rice and a vanilla soft serve drizzled with soy sauce caramel. The menu also has a la carte items like the Cote house salad ($22), Korean “Bacon” made with house-smoked pork belly ($28) and Steak and Eggs ($78), another signature dish of hand-cut filet mignon with Kaluga Hybrid caviar on milk toast.
3. The fun
New to Cote are two entertainment rooms: One is the music room, which has a stage for music performances. The room is flanked by booth seats, where diners can sip on cocktails. There is also a noir-inspired cigar lounge, which will also project noir films to complete the experience. Regulars can have a shot at getting a personalised meat platter stand displayed at the Cote’s Walk of Fame in the heart of the restaurant.