Popiah with Alaskan crabmeat
SINGAPORE - Those familiar with the hip W hotel brand know that its signature restaurants are usually called Kitchen or Kitchen Table.
At the recently opened W Singapore Sentosa Cove, it's the latter. Kitchen Table is the hotel's main restaurant that serves buffet meals, along with a rambling a la carte menu of everything from gourmet burgers and sandwiches, to contemporary dishes like ocean trout saltimbocca.
The buffets here are extremely good value for money, which is noteworthy given our national penchant for all-you-can-eat deals.
The S$45 breakfast buffet provides eggs cooked a la minute, alongside a varied spread, from mee goreng and rice porridge, to sausages and pancakes.
At lunch and dinner (S$58), stations serving Japanese, Indian and international fare, next to others that turn out Asian noodles, dim sum and pizza feed those with hearty appetites well.
Meanwhile, a section of the a la carte menu offers food that is "closer to home" - in other words, classic Singaporean dishes given a luxe twist. Think nasi lemak served with deep-fried crispy squab (S$32) in place of the traditional chicken wing, or satay made from king prawns and served with a peanut and macadamia sauce (S$40). These dishes are by no means cheap, but they do offer a more accessible taste of local fare to less intrepid foreign guests who prefer to eschew the hawker centre. They are also a nice way to impress guests from out of town if that's on your agenda.
The must-try dish from that menu is the fresh popiah with Alaskan crabmeat (S$28). The fresh, springy popiah skin hugs a filling made of yam bean (bangkuang) that has been carefully cut into thick matchsticks so that they hold their crunch even after being braised in a sauce that is rich with fermented soybeans (tau cheo). The crabmeat adds a sweet kick to it all and lifts all those robust flavours.
Nasi lemak with crispy squab. Photo by JASON HO
The nasi lemak with squab is also worth trying, though it might be a good idea to share it between two or more people. While the rice is richly infused with coconut milk and goes well with the crispy squab and peppy sambal, the dish does get a little monotonous after a couple of mouthfuls.
Also good was the chilli crab (S$35), which is a drier, less spicy, but more sophisticated cousin of the classic Singaporean dish. What missed the mark, though, was the tagine-inspired lamb biryani (S$26), which was more like a mild pilaf, and the Angus beef shin rendang (S$36) that needed more cooking time to render it meltingly tender.
And here's the beef
Full-blood Wagyu shirt steaks hold their own, as does the spear-caught tuna. Photo by JASON HO
Across the hall from Kitchen Table is the new grill restaurant Skirt. It takes its name from the cut of beef that is essentially the cow's diaphragm, so naturally, the skirt steak here is its speciality. The Blackmore Australian full-blood 9+ Wagyu skirt steaks are imported exclusively for the restaurant. Generally, skirt steaks are lean cuts that need a deft chef with shrewd timing to get it tender and succulent. Overcook it by seconds, and it becomes tough and dry. As the 9+ Wagyu (the highest marbling score for Australian Wagyu) has a greater fat content, the skirt steaks here are more luscious and tender than their average cousins. It has deep and rounded flavours with a smooth texture that's almost like fatty tuna. And for S$44, it is an absolute steal. There are other cuts from Argentinian, Australian and American grass-fed cows as well, but it was the skirt that impressed the most.
What also impressed was Skirt's mixologist Navin Raj. This young, affable chap made some of the most outstanding cocktails and mocktails that we've had in a while, and is remarkably intuitive when it comes to pinning down what his guests want.
Helming the kitchen is Australian chef Andrew Nocente, who last worked at Jason Atherton's Table No. 1 in Shanghai. He's brought with him a modern approach to cooking with dishes such as a tartar made from Tajima 9+ Wagyu beef with radish, beetroot and made-from-scratch beef jerky (S$42). In this dish, the pieces of raw, fatty beef practically melt in the mouth and are paired with the bright flavours of capers and the smoky, crispy tendrils of jerky, which are like beef crisps.
Also outstanding was a dish of spear-caught bluefin tuna sashimi doused in a refreshing ponzu sauce and served with avocado puree and shards of wasabi "styrofoam" (S$45). The fish's texture was practically creamy and the melange of flavours and textures extremely enjoyable - lush, sharp, rich and zesty.
Sure, these non-steak dishes might be pricey, but there should be some comfort in knowing that the steaks are very affordable. They start from S$35 for a Tajima Australian crossbred Wagyu rump and S$40 for a 350g Argentinian grass-fed Angus rib-eye, and go up to S$155 for a 250g Blackmore full-blood 9+ Wagyu. (Which actually works out to be the same if you dined in any other upscale grill restaurant.)
W Singapore Sentosa Cove
Where: 21 Ocean Way, Sentosa Cove
Telephone: 6808 7268
Opening hours: Daily 6am to midnight
Telephone: 6808 7278
Opening hours: Daily 7pm to midnight, closed on Monday
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