There is Japanese dining and there is Japanese dining and at Waku Ghin, the defining characteristic that sets it apart from the others is Tetsuya Wakuda himself. If he hasn’t tasted, seen or visited the farms or producers where his ingredients come from, it’s unlikely they would be served at his upscale restaurant at Marina Bay Sands.
The veteran chef’s reputation opens a lot of doors in Japan, and therefore access to some of the most exclusive farms such as the one in Sendai in Miyagi prefecture which breeds award-winning cattle and now supplies Waku Ghin with what he thinks is the best wagyu he’s ever tasted.
After more than a year’s delay, the new Waku Ghin is back – just a few doors away from its original location which has now been taken up by the casino. As always, discretion is the better part of its decor – a labyrinthian space that leads to separate dining rooms, a chef’s table, a dessert alcove and the bar.
The bar is the biggest difference between the old and new Waku Ghin, says Chef Wakuda. “A lot of people say, oh Waku Ghin, I have to save up to go, but no. You can come to the bar, have a cocktail, have some snacks or one or two dishes. It’s much more approachable.” Indeed, the bar space is almost like a small dining section with several tables separated from the bar itself by large movable screens decorated in Japanese calligraphy by artist Shiro Tsujimura. This is where you can order from an ala carte menu with dishes that are also found in its S$550 and S$700 omakase. “There’s no such thing as the tuna served at the bar being a different quality from what’s served in the dining rooms – all the ingredients are exactly the same,” says the chef.
Ex-Super Potato designer Yohei Akao has created a contemporary space, with Japanese materials including the cherry wood that’s used liberally in the dining room that housed the chef’s table and the giant stone sculpture from Shikoku that stands in the reception area.
The menu is “even more Japanese”, says chef Wakuda, who also uses microgreens from a farm in Kranji – an area which he was introduced to during his current long spell in Singapore (the longest he’s been in any one place, he says). The food is still classic Wakuda – Japanese but with his signature stamp on it. The trademark botan ebi, uni and caviar on egg yolk confit is still on the menu because diners insist on it, but the rest is mainly seasonal and always premium quality.
You might start off with lightly simmered ankimo served with Shizuoka wasabi; a cold pumpkin soup topped with soy caramel ice cream; glistening sayori marinated in Japanese strawberries and briefly marinated chutoro. A still bristling, live female kegani is presented to you before returning as two briefly cooked, lusciously sweet peeled legs, followed by the prime Sendai wagyu sirloin cooked shabu-shabu style over a charcoal grill and as part of a teppanyaki course. The finely marbled meat is sweet and clean with no greasy aftertaste.
Dessert is served in a separate nook that overlooks the MBS shopping mall – elegant pre-dessert, dessert and petit fours. You can also come in the afternoon just for the desserts. You’ll probably be tempted to stay on for dinner but that’s the risk you’ll have to take.
This article was originally published in The Business Times.