Reinvigorated after a gap year, Waku Ghin’s homecoming is a more integrated dining experience with a cocktail bar and a la carte menu.
When the reigning Japanese darling of mega casino and hotel, Marina Bay Sands, closed its doors for more than a year, it got gourmands in this part of the region wondering what chef Tetsuya Wakuda had in store. Finally in March, his much-anticipated return introduced a swankier, larger space and a bar menu for more accessible a la carte options, apart from the lavish 10-course omakase the restaurant is famed for.
Graduating from the cosy 25-seater before, Waku Ghin now encompasses a cocktail bar counter with a small dining area, a Chef’s Table that seats 10, and two private dining rooms looking out onto Marina Bay; all connected with discreet hallways. Offered at a first-come-first-serve basis, The Bar and its extended dining area, partitioned by enormous swivelling bookshelves, are the newest addition to the two Michelin-starred establishment.
Head bartender, Kazuhiro Chii, dispenses refined tipples behind a well-stocked bar to go with the mirrored cabinets, art deco glass chandeliers, and abstract calligraphy by Shiro Tsujimara he’s surrounded by. While The Bar doubles up as both a pre- and post-meal waiting area, a handful of tables behind the rotating bookshelves allow for a proper dinner that isn’t necessarily Japanese.
Wakuda doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel, dishing out pub/izakaya nosh the likes of Beer Battered Fish and Chips and a Fried Beef Tenderloin Sandwich; he just does it with absolute precision. Steaming chunks of John Dory or wild caught Japanese snapper are encased in a crisp golden shell that are, of course, a far cry from the greasy variants you’ll find elsewhere. And the Black Angus beef katsu is a mouthful of tender, medium rare steak lined with a gentle mustard and sweet onion jam.
For most diners, however, it’ll be Waku Ghin’s Marinated Botan Shrimp with Sea Urchin and Oscietra Caviar that makes the trip worthwhile. It is a dish that epitomises a cuisine so highly dependent on the fruits of the sea, instantly recognisable by a mound of botan ebi, uni and caviar in a bowl of sea urchin spikes with a pearl spoon. Part of the a la carte bar menu, the treat can be enjoyed on its own without committing to a full omakase meal.
The ‘choose your own adventure’ dinner also involves delicate Japanese cakes by pastry chef Ishino Yasushi that sit pretty in a small refrigerated display to the left of the bar. Under the seven-year-old Platine by Waku Ghin offshoot, the desserts range from a classic Fraisier made of fresh strawberries, genoise and pistachio vanilla chantilly cream to an airy Ghin Cheesecake with lemon curd on almond sponge cake. They’re so popular that the restaurant opens at 10 o’clock in the morning – the first seating at both The Bar and restaurant is at five o’clock in the evening – for guests to purchase the sweets.
Between the a la carte menu and Platine, it’s a clever strategy for the fine dining brand to reach out to a wider audience especially in these times of restricted traveling and distanced seating. Diners get to experience the restaurant’s warm hospitality, including a show of the day’s live seafood carried to the table in a box, and evergreen highlights within their preferred budget.
And with crowd favourites allocated to The Bar menu, Wakuda gets more room for creativity with the omakase dinners at the soon-to-open Chef’s Table. Sashimi comes as a rounded and well-seasoned dish; raw sayori or half-beak fish is paired with crunchy young shoot of the rapeseed plant, sweet strawberries and pomegranate. While mains evoke a down-to-earth quality and finesse Waku Ghin is known for: the simply plated Korean abalone poached in sake and kombu with risoni pasta belies the punch of flavour in the soup it is submerged in; and the binchotan-grilled black throat sea perch is served on perfectly vinegared rice, roasted nori and pickled wasabi stem.
With so many ways to enjoy what Waku Ghin has to offer, we’re sure they’ll be seeing a lot more patrons coming through their doors.
Waku Ghin is located at 2 Bayfront Avenue, L02-03 The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands, Level 2 Dining, Singapore 018956.