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Posts tagged ‘Michelin starred restaurants in Singapore’

A Cut Above


Porterhouse steak at Cut by Wolfgang Puck

As Cut was awarded a Michelin star in the inaugural Singapore guide, launched yesterday, Chopstix looks back on meeting chef Joshua Brown:

Californian chef Joshua Brown had never visited Singapore before moving here with his family to open CUT restaurant at Marina Bay Sands. But the protege of Hollywood’s favourite chef, Wolfgang Puck, took to researching his new home city with a passion. “I hit the ground running,” he says. “There was all this fantastic food available 24 hours a day. I think I must have gained 20 pounds in the first month I got here.”

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Firm Friends – what is it about Les Amis?

Cheryl and Sebastien

Cheryl Koh and Sebastien Lepinoy at Les Amis, Singapore


[UPDATE: Les Amis was awarded two Michelin stars in the inaugural Singapore guide on July 21st 2016].

With Les Amis in Singapore listed as Asia’s 12th Best Restaurant last night and Cheryl Koh announced as Asia’s Best Pastry Chef 2016, here’s a look at the restaurant’s heritage:

Fans of French fine dining restaurant Cepage in Hong Kong will still be able to enjoy the cooking of head chef Sebastien Lepinoy and pastry chef Cheryl Koh even though the Michelin starred restaurant is now closed. They’ll just have to visit Singapore.

The culinary pair have been lured to the Lion City to head up Cepage’s sister establishment Les Amis. Both restaurants share the same enticing formula of sophisticated food and slick service mixed with an unstuffy atmosphere; a recipe that has made Les Amis as popular with food writers in the region as it is with regular customers.

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Wolfgang Puck – the Stars’ Chef

Wolfgang Puck_2

Celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck’s inaugural restaurant, Spago in Los Angeles, was an overnight success that has become as synonymous with A-list celebrities as it has with great food. Film and rock stars, producers and politicians flock to the eatery, originally in West Hollywood and latterly in Beverly Hills. Now the acclaimed chef, restaurateur and TV presenter has opened Spago in Singapore – the first time the concept has launched in Asia.

“Spago is our flagship restaurant so opening one in Singapore is at once very exciting and creates a lot of pressure,” says Puck. “But when the opportunity came along to open a second restaurant at Marina Bay Sands, on top of the building where the swimming pool is, I didn’t hesitate for a second.”

The jaw dropping location on the Sands SkyPark, next to the stunning infinity pool and overlooking the city, is certainly a draw but Puck is confident there’s even more to Spago. “I think having a great view is obviously a big plus but I also know that people will come back for the food, the warm and friendly service and the hospitality,” he says.

After all, Spago Beverly Hills has 2 Michelin stars and the prestigious AAA Four Diamond Award. Puck himself downplays the celebrity clientele: “Famous people, in the end, are all just regular people except everybody knows them. Since my early days in Los Angeles when I was used to serving Orson Welles and Gene Kelly and nowadays Elton John, Madonna and Leonardo diCaprio, a guest in my restaurant is my guest whether they are famous or not.”

The Singapore outpost is in safe hands with Wolfgang Puck stalwart Joshua Brown taking the helm. (Brown will also continue to oversee Cut, Puck’s successful steakhouse within Marina Bay Sands, as well).

Big Eye Tuna Tartare at Spago

Big Eye Tuna Tartare at Spago

The Californian cuisine that’s a mainstay at Spago will also feature in Singapore along with a few global elements. Spago aficionados will be happy to see a few of their favourites on the menu while first timers will have the opportunity to try Puck’s signature dishes from the Beverly Hills original. “Some of the dishes we’ve served at Spago through the years had to stay on the menu because many people come to our restaurant and ask for them,” says Puck. “If you come to Spago for the first time, I think you should try some of the Spago classics like our spicy tuna tartare in miso cones or the agnolotti pasta with white truffles.”

Crispy Black Sea Bass at Spago

Crispy Black Sea Bass at Spago

Signature dishes for Singapore include crispy black sea bass with clams and smoked potato puree; grilled lamb chops with charred eggplant; pan seared striped bass “laksa” with dry fried rice noodles; and grilled milk fed veal chop with kohlrabi orange puree and Chinese fermented black garlic.

Pan Seared Bass Laksa at Spago

Pan Seared Bass Laksa at Spago

Milk Fed Veal Chop at Spago

Milk Fed Veal Chop at Spago

“Be sure to leave room for dessert,” says Puck who admits to having a sweet tooth. “When I come to any of my restaurants, I always ask for ice cream or chocolate. I even once hired a pastry chef just to make wonderful chocolate and espresso bon bons.”

Puck, who moved to the US in 1973 and opened Spago in 1982, now has numerous restaurants around the world as well as a catering company (responsible for the Oscar’s after party every year), plus cook books and television shows. He first learnt to cook from his mother, also a chef, when he was growing up in Austria. At just 14 Puck secured his first job in a professional kitchen; “peeling vegetables and cleaning the kitchen but most importantly, I learned the basics of cooking”. After moving to France, 19 year old Puck worked at the 3 Michelin starred Baumaniere with the renowned Raymond Thuilier.

“It was all about luxury – foie gras, caviar or baby lamb – only the best ingredients were accepted in the restaurant. And it’s Raymond who really was my mentor and why I stayed with cooking because that’s where I developed my passion,” says Puck.

Veal Filet Mignon Tartare_1

His own cooking at home takes a simpler turn: “I love cooking at home for family and friends. Cooking for my family is always a pleasure and seeing the kids enjoying a meal is really wonderful. I like to cook simple things like a roast chicken or grilled fish with roasted or steamed vegetables. My kids love romaine so I’ll make a salad with balsamic vinegar and sea salt.”

While Cut is renowned for steak, Puck is also passionate about the equally superb side dishes that accompany them. “I always try to cook with vegetables. I buy whatever’s available in the farmer’s market. Vegetables are one of my favourite ingredients and we can prepare them in many different ways whether it’s Chinese, Japanese, French or Italian. They are easy to adapt to different flavours.”

His appreciation of veggies started at an early age, again inspired by his mother. “My mother taught me early on that by [sourcing] from farm to table you will end up with the best results. We had no choice – I grew up on a farm so everything came right from the garden whether it was vegetables or salad or berries. When my mother used to make vegetable soup, she hand picked for or five vegetables, washed them and made soup out of them. Very simple, yet very tasty.”

Health and wellbeing is also a priority for him these days. Most days, the he will exercise for an hour after taking his children to school and before starting his business calls. “We use organic ingredients wherever possible because I believe our health starts with the right food,” he says.

Puck is still very much a hands on chef. When he’s at home in California, most lunch times will find him at Spago Beverly Hills or his restaurant at Hotel Bel-Air and at dinner at Spago or Cut. He’s also set up a development kitchen. “My passion is the kitchen so I spend most of my time there, very little in the office and I always try to evolve and learn new things. That’s why this year I built an experimental kitchen where I can go and play and have a few young chefs working with me to test new recipes and come up with ideas,” says Puck.

“To me, cooking is an evolution so there has to be constant innovations. Not only in the cooking but also in the whole attitude and décor.”

Spago Interior_1

The décor at Spago Marina Bay Sands, designed by New York based Tony Chi, is influenced by a colonial style Singapore bungalow complete with verdant garden. There’s inside and outside seating, with the interior being more fine dining in atmosphere including an extensive wine cellar while there’s lounge seating, low tables and cabanas al fresco. Of course both have open kitchens – a Spago feature.

“When I started Spago, I wanted the kitchen to be in the heart of the restaurant, just like it is in my home,” says Puck. “Today it’s a cliché that restaurants have open kitchens but in 1982, Spago was a trendsetter and probably the first fine dining restaurant with an open kitchen.”

Puck is still as enthusiastic about his vocation as when he started out. “I love what I do, that’s the important thing for me. I still have a passion for seeing the guests at the restaurants and going to the market.” Though he does concede:”I’m terrible at cleaning up after cooking. As much as I love to cook, somebody has to do the dirty work and clean up after me.”

And he shows no signs of slowing down. “I still feel like I’m at the beginning. As we speak, I’m working on a project near Palm Springs, a new family restaurant, and I also love making wine,” says Puck. “To me, getting up in the morning and thinking, what can I do next? What can I do better? Is there anything else I haven’t done yet? That’s what keeps me going.”

[UPDATE: Wolfgang Puck’s Cut won a Michelin star in the inaugural Singapore guide on July 21st 2016]

Two Fat Ducklings in The Lion City – part two

Harvest Salad at Bacchanalia, Singapore

Harvest Salad at Bacchanalia, Singapore

[UPDATE: Bacchanalia has been renamed Kitchen by Bacchanalia and was awarded a Michelin star in the inaugural Singapore guide on July 21st 2016.]

Former Fat Duck chef Ivan Brehm has at last got the restaurant he deserves in the new Bacchanalia venue on gentrified Hong Kong Street. Gone is the moody lighting and lounge bar setting, refreshingly replaced by an airy, open space that’s like eating in someone’s (very expensive) kitchen.

More importantly chef Brehm – and fellow Fat Duck alum Mark Ebbels – are able to focus on the food. Out with the a la carte burgers and fries, in with a tasting menu only that really lets the food shine.

Ivan will talk you through the mind blowing detail that went into each component of every dish. Produce-driven is becoming an overused phrase but Brehem and Ebbels seeks out the finest ingredients they can in nearby Cameron Highlands and also grow their own on the rooftop vegetable garden.

Lamb saddle with kibbeh nayeh

Lamb saddle with kibbeh nayeh

Left to his own devises, Ivan also brings in touches of Middle Eastern. Such as the lamb saddle and charred eggplant purees with harissa and kibbeh nay (a minced raw lamb on Arabic bread) – one of the best dishes Chopstix and tasted in Singapore this year.

It’s a relief to see that old favourites like the cold pressed coconut cream aged carnaroli risotto are still on the menu too.

Desserts such as marsala mousse, coffee ganache, cacao gel and blackcurrent sorbet are equally cleverly created and delectable.

You won’t want to miss out on the superb drinks pairings from sommelier Matthew Chan either.

Gone too is the chef’s table, right in the kitchen, which is a shame but overall we’ll take the new incarnation of Bacchanalia over the old hands down.

[UPDATE: Bacchanalia has introduced a three course set dinner menu for SG$65, available Monday – Thursday. The Table D’Hote menu currently includes the classic cold pressed coconut cream with aged carnaroli risotto.]

The open kitchen interior of Bacchanalia, Singapore

The open kitchen interior of Bacchanalia, Singapore

And the Lifetime Achievement Awards goes to: Tetsuya Wakuda

[UPDATE: Waku Ghin has been elevated to two Michelin stars in the 2017 Michelin red book having been awarded one star in the inaugural Singapore Guide in 2016].

Congrats to Tetsuya Wakuda, head chef of Waku Ghin in Singapore, for his Lifetime Achievement Award from Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants and Diners Club.

Chef Tetsuya Wakuda

Chef Tetsuya Wakuda

Exclusive has become an over used word but it’s a fitting description for Waku Ghin. There are just 25 covers, dotted among four private rooms each with a chef preparing a 10 course tasting menu on a teppanyaki grill.

To start is raw seafood, maybe sea urchin and abalone, followed by “salads” such as scallops with daikon and oyster.

Waku Ghin private dining room, Singapore

Waku Ghin private dining room, Singapore

The the real magic begins as your private chef cooks a succession of fish and meat dishes. It’s part theatre, part cooking lesson and a truly exclusive experience of fine Japanese dining.

Standout dish: marinated shrimp with sea urchin and caviar.

Marinated Botan Shrimp with Sea Urchin and Oscietra Caviar

Marinated Botan Shrimp with Sea Urchin and Oscietra Caviar

All dishes can be expertly paired with wines or saki from biodynamic Sancerre to an Australian chardonnay produced especially for the chef.

Casino level 2, Marina Bay Sands, 10 Bayfront Avenue, Singapore 018956
Tel: 65 6688 8507

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