Two weeks after chef Tetsuya Wakuda’s last visit to Singapore, where he received two Michelin stars for Waku Ghin, he’s back again in the country he also considers home. “I (feel) Singaporean now. I’ve been coming here for the past 20 years; I have many friends here and I love the food,” he confesses.
But he’s glad to stay put in Singapore for a few days, especially since work requires him to travel constantly. He has stopped keeping track of the average number of hours he’s on the plane, but a peek into his hectic schedule reveals that he has been to Singapore, Switzerland, Italy and Barcelona in just eight days.
Not that he’s complaining; in fact, he relishes his trips as they expose him to people and produce—two of the things that spark his creativity in the kitchen, which is reflected in Waku Ghin’s ever-changing omakase menu; and also in the dishes that make up The Bar at Waku Ghin’s extended menu. Both menus feature a distinct focus on Japan’s seasonal produce, with 90 per cent of the ingredients imported from Japan.
Currently, seasonal vegetables from his hometown of Shizuoka (where he’s also the de-facto ambassador) dominate the bar menu. We try the seasonal vegetable salad of asparagus, carrots, radish, and cabbage—served uncooked to preserve the flavours—and presented like a mini garden on a bed of ice. The greens have an innate sweetness that is contrasted with the bagna cauda sauce, an interesting concoction of anchovies, garlic, butter and oil for a touch of saltiness. There are also grilled seasonal vegetables served with anchovy oil, and caramelised onions.
But make no mistake, “properly cooked” bar snacks can be had, such as golden nuggets of fried chicken served with a zesty hit of lime juice; parma ham and black truffle sandwiched between crisp, buttery toasts; and fresh tomato pasta with pure, clean flavours.
It’s no secret that Tetsuya has a passion for drinks too, more specifically sake, which he says wasn’t so popular in Australia 15 years ago. To introduce this culture, he would often host sake sommeliers who would bring bottles that he would serve at his restaurant in Sydney. He eventually became a “sake samurai”, proudly adding that he is the first person outside Japan to earn the prestigious title in 2006.
His years as a sake samurai have led him to discover a treasure trove of premium sakes; some are so rare, you won’t easily find them in Japan. But what he’s most proud of is the relationship he has built with sake makers through the years. Isojiman Shuzo produces the Waku Ghin Isojiman Junmai Daiginjo M label, exclusively for the restaurant.
With a few days to spend in Singapore, we ask him what’s on his agenda. Without hesitation, he says, "eat", adding how he likes to explore the dining scene here.
He has been to the Old Tiong Bahru Bak Kut Teh in Tiong Bahru, Imperial Treasure Fine Teochew Cuisine at Ion Orchard, and Gunther’s. But he always makes time for one of his favourite sushi restaurants, Shiraishi at The Ritz-Carlton.
In fact, he shares that there was a time he went to the restaurant 14 times in one week; on the last day, chef Shiraishi Shinji told him, “Thank you for coming, but I can’t do it (cook) anymore… too much pressure!”
The Bar at Waku Ghin, Level 2 Dining, L2-01, The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands, 2 Bayfront Avenue, S(018956), Call 6688 8507 or click here for more information.