SPAGO by Wolfgang Puck

SPAGO is celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck's second venture in Singapore. Serving Californian cuisine, where flavours are clean, fresh and balanced, expect fusion fare with an emphasis on the lean and mean. So think lots of vegetables, fish, and white meat. Excellent for the health (and waist) conscious. 

Perched on the rooftop of the Marina Bay Sands complex, the sun-drenched dining hall is gorgeous. And romantic. We were just saying, Spago must get more than its fair share of proposals here. A tip is to request the sea-facing tables when making reservations, the panorama is infinitely more pleasing than the pool view, which spectacle is replete with saggy man-boobs and pale paunches

Service was amiable, but a little perfunctory for an upscale restaurant such as this. We were also bemused by the waiter's opinion that the dishes were portioned massively, and concern that we wouldn't be able to finish our food. Turned out, Spago's dishes were kid-sized. Clearly, the waiter had a very different perspective on scale. I mean, only a anorexic model would be stuffed with just the salad that was purportedly a substantive meal on its own. Oh well, he may have thought we needed to eat less. heh 😁

A compelling must-try, the Big Eye Tuna Tartare Cones ($36) cured with a punchy chilli aioli, soy, and wasabi marinade, was topped with shaved bonito, and masago.

A modern interpretation of Korean bibimbap, the Bincho Grilled Salmon Salad ($29) was set on a bed of glutinous-like hijiki seaweed rice, paired with an assortment of vegetable banchan: spinach, spring onions, mushrooms, radish, cucumbers, seasoned with a dollop of gochujang, and finished with a sprinkling of sesame seeds.

I'm not a fan of the current trend of serving pork medium-rare (seriously, what's with undercooking chicken/pork these days?! What's so difficult about cooking the meat through?? If the meat is of top-notch quality, it'll remain moist even if cooked well anyway. I just think serving pink meat is such a lazy way of ensuring moistness), so we asked for the our Grilled Iberico Pork Chop ($48) to be done medium-well. The piquancy of the pickled cabbage, and bite of the celery root-mustard seed puree, was a lovely contrast to the honeyed sweetness of the caramelized fuji apples, fluffy pork crackling, and luscious pork.

Another must-try, the Tagliatelle ($34), dotted with bacon, black kale, and trumpet mushrooms, was slicked in a rich tomato confit heady with garlic and a shower of grated fiore di sardo.

Although a smidge waterlogged, the Roasted Brussels Sprouts ($18) had an aromatic smoky char. The mellow rounded body of the shiro miso was balanced against tangy yuzu citrus for added flavour, while rice puffs provided a crunchy texture.

Complimentary bread basket, fresh out of the oven, with plain and seaweed butter.

Spago by Wolfgang Puck
10 Bayfront Ave
Marina Bay Sands Level 57 Skydeck
Tel: 6688 9955
Open Sundays to Thursdays from 12noon to 2.30pm for lunch; 6pm to 10pm for dinner;
Fridays & Saturdays from 12noon to 2.30pm for lunch; 6pm to 11pm for dinner


Hua Ting Steamboat

We'd passed by Hua Ting Steamboat when we had dinner at The Peranakan, and made a mental note to dine in the restaurant another time. A new-ish concept by Cantonese stalwart Hua Ting at Orchard Hotel annexed to Claymore Connect, Hua Ting Steamboat serves up a worthwhile hotpot. The range of stock may be limited, but they're creative and unique; and while the soup bases are watery, there's nuance and depth of flavour, so there's little need for the array of dipping sauces. Ingredients here are of the premium sort, and are sparkling fresh, so expect a correspondingly upscale pricetag. 

We had the Yuan Yang Soup ($26) of a milky, collagen-boosting Sharks Bone Cartilage base, sweetened with red dates and wolfberries, and contrasted with fresh leek and beancurd skin sheets; and the Tomato Soup, sans parsley, delicate and more tangy than Hai Di Lao's version.

Good on its own as a snack, the Crispy Fish Skin ($4) was also yummy dipped in chilli sauce or softened in the soup.

The 'Stuffed Bean Curd Skin with Salted Egg Yolk' ($6) was a bit of a misnomer. The salted egg yolk was so scant it shouldn't have been named "stuffed". On the upside: less cholesterol!!

The Kurobuta Pork ($6), fresh and beautifully marbled, was luscious.

Ditto for the Sliced US Angus Beef ($12) which fatty marbling cut through the full-bodied heft of the meat.

I loved the clean and clear flavour of the Australian Sea Scallops ($14). Just be sure not to overcook it.

We'd left the Sliced Grouper ($13) bubbling in the pot and forgotten about them, so it turned out tough and rubbery.

Half of the Four Fortune Ball ($10) were unfortunately laced with parsley. They were delicious otherwise, possessing a delightfully bouncy and chunky texture.

I liked the pairing of the Bamboo Pith Enoki ($8).

The fish paste Stuffed Beancurd Puff ($7) was also full of parsley, so we scraped the fish paste clean off the beancurd.

Shitake Mushrooms ($4) lent a lovely woody accent to the soup.

A staple order of mine, the Deep Fried Yam ($3) soaked up the soups wonderfully.

The assortment of Condiments ($3 per person) were varied, and I particularly liked the freshly fried shallots and the chilli sauce.

Hua Ting Steamboat
442 Orchard Road
Claymore Connect Mezzanine Level #01-08
Tel: 6739 6628
Open daily from 11am to 2.30pm for lunch; 5.30pm to 10.30pm for dinner


Open Farm Community

I've been looking to revisit Open Farm Community, ever since my delicious but uncomfortable dinner a year ago. This time round, I made reservations early, so we wouldn't have to sit at the bar, and brought the Hubs and MJ along. MJ was just coming off a juice cleanse, and I thought Open Farm Community, or 'OFC' for short, would be a terrific place to reintroduce him to a diet of solid foods.

The restaurant's still buzzy, drawing a full-house most days; in no small part due to the rotating menu:- the menu refreshes every now and then, to highlight the season's best, but popular dishes remain mainstays. 

The Warm Broccoli Salad ($20) was a medley of mesclun, sauteed sugar snap peas, roasted broccoli, crumbed feta, and pinenuts. Beautiful textures, clean, and light. I'm now inspired to make something like this at home.

I loved the soft peppery notes of the Watercress Soup ($19), complemented by a softly poached organic egg and crispy kale, and sided by pita to mop up every last drop.

A signature of OFC, the Crispy Jurong Frogs' Legs ($26), battered and fried, was succulent and tender. The legs were dunked into a red curry dip, rich with root vegetables and coconut milk, and topped with fried curry leaves for added aroma. I'm not a big fan of frogs' legs, but this was superb.

A must-try, the Saffron Carnaroli Risotto ($30) flecked with chorizo, cuttlefish, green peas, Serrano ham, and a ebi cracker, was sumptuous but balanced. So so soooo good!!

The only lackluster dish, the Roasted Red Snapper ($32) was overdone. That being said, I liked the refreshing piquancy lent by the calamansi & sesame cucumber salad, beetroot pickled cucumber, floral elements of the garden roselle & hibiscus ketchup, and nuance of the blackened barley.

Another must-try, the Red Grouper Burger ($30) layered chunky tar tar sauce, pickled cucumbers, local greens between squid ink sesame seed buns. A most excellent fish burger. We were all trying to avoid carbs, but the skinny fries were so scrumptious we finished it anyway.

We also ordered a couple of sides to supplement the mains; the Yoghurt & Southern Wood Dressed Cauliflower ($17) spiked with cumin, dill, and spiced pan crystals, was an exercise in restrain of flavours.

The Smoked Paprika Buttered Sweet Corn ($17) finished with chimichurri and sprinkled with salted caramel popcorn, was juicy and sweet. A must try as well.

Open Farm Community
130E Minden Road
Tel: 6474 5964
Open weekdays from 12noon to 10pm;
weekends from 11am to 10pm
Website: www.openfarmcommunity.com


SPRMRKT Kitchen & Bar

It's been a while since we last brunched. I'm usually asleep till mid-afternoon most weekends, so I don't wake up early enough for brunch. But, because we had friends to meet up with, I made the extra effort to get up before noon. Okay, okayyyyy...the Hubs had to push me off the bed before I would rouse...but...same thing, no?

We headed to SPRMRKT Kitchen & Bar, an offshoot of the CBD-favourite SPRMRKT. Located next to the Singapore River, the first level of the bistro, SPRMRKT Daily, is breezy and laid-back, whereas the second level restaurant is a little more swish. There wasn't any availability in the extremely contrained air-conditioned indoor area of SPRMRKT Daily on the first floor, so we opted to dine on the second level instead. The brunch selection on level 2 is decidedly limited, as their focus is on dinner, but what they lacked in variety, they made up in quality.

A twist on kong bak baos, the D Pork Buns ($25) sandwiched hunks of roasted pork belly and poached eggs, between halved fluffy buns. The mild spice and creaminess of the paprika hollandaise brought the ensemble together.

The Huevos Tostados ($26) layered sumptuous slices of flank steak, shredded lettuce, poached eggs, and corn tortillas, with a generous slather of curried hollandaise.

The hipster-sounding #OmeletteDuFromage ($19), studded with chorizo and feta was, thankfully, a lot less pretentious than expected. A side of vinaigrette-dressed arugula salad lent a peppery kick.

A must-try, the Savoury French Toast ($23) was more crepe than bread. Flecked with ground pork and seasoned with worcestershire sauce, the beautifully charred crepe was topped with tomato salsa, fresh avocado, and arugula leaves.

A must-try side dish, the Brussels Sprouts ($10), roasted to a fragrant nutty crisp, was finished with a slick of sambal mayo.

SPRMRKT Kitchen & Bar @ Level 2
41 Robertson Quay
Tel: 9736 4170
Open Tuesdays to Fridays from 6pm to 10pm for lunch;
Saturdays from 9am to 4pm for lunch; 6pm to 10pm for dinner;
Sundays from 9am to 6pm;
Closed on Mondays
Website: www.sprmrkt.com.sg


Kazu Sumiyaki Restaurant

The last time I was at yakitori specialist Kazu was when I was a broke-ass student living off the charity of my older and very generous already-working friends. That was more than a decade ago. Since then, Kazu has grown, from a tiny, cramped, and smoky little joint, to a spiffier, slightly less cramped, and much less smoky premises. Being the purportedly best sumiyaki restaurant in Singapore, it's still wildly popular, and so reservations are absolutely necessary.

The menu, an extensive variety of grilled foods, mostly skewered, also offers a smattering of sashimi/sushi plates and rice/noodle options. I say, you can't go wrong sticking to the grilled stuff, it's what Kazu's famous for anyway. Budget about $100 per person if not filling up on carbs and without alcohol, as the skewers are modest in size and quickly add up to a lot.

Service was a mixed bag of 3 distinct cliques: the Filipinos, who were friendly as heck; the pretty, heavily made-up Japanese front-of-house, hospitable and smiley, and obviously positioned to make the Japanese expats feel at home; and then there's the Chinese locals, surly sourpusses who incoherently muttered the names of the dishes as they plopped them down on our table. If there ever was a reason why foreign labour is sometimes more sought after over our locals, this was it. That said, the kitchen was incredibly efficient: dishes arrived in well-timed succession, and it was barely 5 minutes after our orders were taken that the first dish arrived.

A signature for good reason, the Okonomiyaki ($3 per pc), 'Kazu Pancake Ball', a chunkily textured blend of vegetables and minced pork, was dripping with juiciness.

A staple, the Ji Momo ($4 per pc) 'chicken thigh' was succulent and well-marinated.

I love love LOVE bacon, and Kazu swaddles just about every food in bacon, so I ordered just about every item on that section of the menu. Like the Issebi Bacon ($6 per pc) 'lobster bacon roll' with leek.

Another seafood roll, the Hotate Ebi Bacon ($6 per pc), bacon-wrapped scallop and prawn with leek was perfectly cooked.

The Avocado Buta Maki ($2.50) bacon wrapped avocado roll was a fine example of how some foods pair beautifully together. The buttery nuttiness of mashed avocado and salty smokiness of the bacon was just lovely. 

Another superb pairing, the Minced Chicken and Cheese Zucchini Roll ($3 per pc)

A classic, the Aspara Buta Maki ($5 per pc) 'asparagus pork belly roll'.

The artery-clogging Kawa ($3 per pc) 'chicken skin', simply seasoned with salt, was grilled to a tantalizing crunch. A consolation to any ensuing guilt: it wasn't dripping in oil at all.

The Hubs loves lady's finger and the Okura Buta Maki ($3.50 per pc) 'lady's finger bacon roll' was doubly awesome.

A must-try staple, the Tsukune ($3 per pc) 'minced chicken ball' was wonderfully textured and juicy.

I love shishito, and the mild kick of the Japanese pepper in the Shishito Buta Maki ($3.50 per pc) 'green pepper bacon roll' was nicely contrasted against the salty bacon.

LOVE the Uzura ($2 per pc) 'quails' eggs' which were subtly marinated and perfectly cooked.

The Mini Wagyu Hambug Burger ($8 per pc) was just melt-in-your mouth. Soooooo good!!

A fail-safe option, the Enoki ($3.50 per pc) 'bacon enoki mushroom roll' was fantastic as well.

An excellent must-try, the Buta Ringo ($4.50 per pc) 'pork belly and apple skewer' was a brilliant combo. Like peas and carrots, pork and apple just match so well together.

We scored the last stick of Gyu Cheese ($5 per pc) 'beef and cheese roll', ozzy and glorious and meltingly good.

The Wagyu Enoki ($5 per pc) 'wagyu beef and enoki mushroom roll' was yummy too.

Although touted as a signature, I didn't think much of the Gura ($8 per pc) 'foie gras'. It may be value-for-money, at such price point, but on its own, I've had way better foie gras. This was meatier, stodgier, and tasted too much like pork liver that I'd like.

Smoky and juicy, the Tenkeiko Shitake ($18) 'shitake mushrooms' was grilled simply, and served with pink salt and spiced ponzu for flavour.

Kazu Sumi-Yaki Restaurant
No. 5 Koek Road
Cuppage Plaza #04-05
Tel: 6734 2492
Open Tuesdays to Sundays from 6pm to 10pm; Closed on Mondays
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