21 Oct 2015
In the fickle world of F&B, many things can change within a year. A restaurant can go from being the toast of the town with moneyed hipsters beating down its doors… to empty tables and creditors now doing the hammering.
That Spago, a fine-diner which opened in West Hollywood in 1982 (it later relocated to the Hills), continues to thrive today, even winning accolades from American critics as recently as three years ago after a revamp, is nothing short of a miracle. And it opened an outpost here in Singapore recently. This is Austrian-born chef Wolfgang Puck’s first American venture which brought him fame, and here’s a little introduction.
The look they were going for here is “verdant country garden home”. French-style windows are a surprise touch, since they somewhat obscure the view of the pool. The restaurant takes over the prime spot vacated by the executive lounge for the hotel’s guests.
Indoors, warm colours and plenty of oak, brick and stone make this 90-seater more intimate, cosy and less intimidating than your typical swanky fine-diner. The semi-open kitchen with a marble-topped counter surrounded by white louvre doors looks homey and familiar, like we’ve seen it on some American drama serial. But instead of a glamorous blonde couple rustling up some salad, there is an army of local chefs here on opening night, led by talented executive chef Joshua Brown, who also oversees the cooking at sibling restaurant, Cut. The Californian has come full circle: he began his career in Spago in LA in 2001.
21 Oct 2015
Wolfgang Puck has been serving modern American food probably before the term was even invented. And here, the menu offers Californian plates with global flourishes, some heavily Asian-accented ones (mostly Japanese, a couple Singaporean like the Pan Seared Striped Bass “Laksa”), and Italian pastas with American kisses. There’s really something for everyone here… provided everyone has cash to blow.
What wowed us are the exquisitely done starters. Such as the Big Eye Tuna Tartare Cones (above, $24): cool, clean flesh tumble in a riot of garlicky chilli aioli, smoky bonito, and briny fish roe flavours as you crunch into the shatteringly crisp, toasty sesame tuile cone.
21 Oct 2015
The Late Harvest White Corn Agnolotti Pasta with Mascarpone ($29; $84 with Alba White Truffles, above) is something else. Silky parcels harbour a creamy core of mascarpone cut with sharp parmesan and mildly sweet corn mousse, tossed in a sauce that tastes like divine burnt butter. If you’re feeling flush, pay for the perfume-y truffle version.
The main course of Grilled New York Sirloin Steak ($139 for 240g Snake River Farms American Angus/Wagyu) is perfectly good, as you can expect from a chef who also runs Cut steakhouse. But the real showstopper on this plate is the Comté-Bacon Yukon Gold Potato Terrine, beauteous bricks of spud layered with cheese and bacon, then baked, chilled, and seared till crisp-edged, fatty and buttery.
Tip: get the $250 nine-course tasting menu, it’s a neat introduction to Spago’s varied offerings.
21 Oct 2015
Let’s get real: the Americans and Europeans make the best restaurant service staff. And while the vibe in the dining room is casually luxe, the service, led by Texan General Manager, Wes Guild, formerly from Cut, is assured and professional, yet warm.
We are served by two fresh-faced new employees: bubbly restaurant captain Janet Lee, a tanned, pretty California-born Korean who used to work at Puck’s WP24 in LA and cheeky Italian assistant manager Fausto Bouchaira, formerly from Cut in London, who looks a bit like actor Paul Rudd.
P/S. Girls, the 25-year-old is newly single, though he says he’s “not looking”. We don’t believe him for one second.
21 Oct 2015
Spago’s next-door al fresco lounge terrace teemed with the beautiful, affluent set when we popped by for a look. There’s a swish resort vibe here with cabanas, low tables and cushions, all anchored by an impressive bar. The view of the pool and skyline is better than at the dining room too. Besides some tasty cocktails and wines, you can sample Spago’s food via the more affordable snack menu here. Some items, like the Spicy Tuna Tartare Cones ($24), are exactly what the restaurant offers; others, like the Chinese Bao and Glazed Short Ribs ($16), are unique to this glam watering hole.
Level 57, Marina Bay Sands Hotel Tower 2, (access from Hotel Lobby Tower 2). 10 Bayfront Ave, S018956. Tel: 6688-9955.
Open daily 6pm-10pm; till 11pm on weekends. Last orders 10pm. Bar open daily 5pm-midnight. Last orders 11pm. www.marinabaysands.com/spago