Few restaurants here are as iconic and well-known as Waku Ghin. Helmed by renowned chef Tetsuya Wakuda, the fine dining establishment specialises in modern European-Japanese cuisine and offers a 10-course degustation menu. It’s also one of Singapore’s most highly regarded eateries, as seen from the buzz it generated at last year’s Michelin Guide Singapore award ceremony, where it received only one star. Local foodies were up in arms about the result, believing that Wakuda deserved more. That was quickly rectified in this year’s edition of the Guide, though, with the restaurant receiving two stars.
But a good meal comes at a price. At S$450++ per person, it’s no secret that one needs to have pretty deep pockets to dine at Waku Ghin. While the place serves up luxurious ingredients such as uni and caviar, its hefty price tag may perhaps only seem justified for an extra special occasion such as a wedding proposal or anniversary celebration.
Which is why we’re particularly hyped about its recently expanded, à la carte bar menu. Offered at The Bar at Waku Ghin, the restaurant’s in-house lounge, this refreshed repertoire features some 15 tapas-style dishes such as aburi Tasmanian ocean trout, fresh oysters, and beef tartare — so you get to try Waku Ghin’s specialties without committing to a full three-hour tasting menu. Five of the food items are new additions. There’s also an extensive range of over 85 cocktails, sakes, wines and spirits available.
Eager to sample its new offerings, we stopped by The Bar at Waku Ghin for dinner. We started off with a salad of raw vegetables (S$20, see main image) such as carrot, cucumber and broccoli paired with an umami-packed bagna cauda dip — an Italian-style sauce composed of garlic, olive oil and anchovies. Simple but refreshing, it made for a great appetiser to our meal.
Next up was a platter of toasted sandwiches stuffed with silky smooth slivers of parma ham (S$26), which were engulfed in melted cheese and studded with black truffle. Salty and decadent, we couldn’t resist wolfing down all four of the crisp, thin sandwiches.
We also adored the sea urchin rice (S$38), which came topped with bouncy pearls of salmon roe. It’s a tried-and-tested combination that we’ve had at several restaurants in Singapore, but The Bar at Waku Ghin’s rendition won us over with its generous portion of the sweet, briny delicacy.
Another favourite was the WG Marinated Fried Chicken (S$20), which is essentially Wakuda’s take on chicken karaage, a popular bar snack. At first glance, the dish looks rather ordinary. But give it a chance and you’ll be pleasantly surprised — the chunks of chicken are marinated in a secret mix of ingredients including mirin and soy sauce, before being deep fried till crunchy. Add a squeeze of lemon to perk up its flavours, and you have the perfect bowl of comfort food.
For meat lovers, load up on the bar’s luxed up version of yakiniku don (S$30), where succulent, slightly charred slices of grilled Ohmi wagyu beef are set on rice. The fatty beef is deliciously smoky from the grill and is so addictive, you’ll find yourself lapping up every bite.
For dessert, we indulged in Waku Ghin’s signature cheesecake, which comprised a dainty, creamy confection filled with tangy lemon curd filling. It was dusted with sugar and topped with a paper-thin white chocolate feather.
Naturally, we couldn’t leave without trying some of The Bar at Waku Ghin’s famed cocktails. The establishment offers a variety of spirit-based cocktails, with classics such as Bloody Mary, Negroni and Cosmopolitan on its menu. But we decided to try its fruit fruit concoctions instead, which are changed every week depending on what’s available during the season. Current flavours include persimmon, white peach, and passionfruit. These are priced at S$30++ a pop.
We loved the Kyoho grape cocktail, a vodka-based brew bursting with bright and clean flavours. The drink showcased the natural sweetness of the grapes, and contained a dash of lime juice and soda water to prevent it from being too cloying. Another standout was the musk melon cocktail, which was also vodka-based and had a frothy consistency that reminded us of a smoothie.
The Bar at Waku Ghin opens at 5:30pm daily and accepts walk-ins, so one needn’t worry about making a reservation. This is unlike the main restaurant, which has two fixed sessions at 5:30pm and 8pm, and requires patrons to book their seats in advance. Despite offering a more laid-back dining experience, the bar area feels just as posh as the rest of Waku Ghin with its marble topped counter, dim lighting, and touches of gold.
What we like is that we aren’t confined to a fixed menu, and are able to enjoy a taste of what Waku Ghin has to offer without burning a hole in our pocket. Perhaps our only grouse is that Wakuda’s famed marinated botan shrimp with uni and caviar isn’t part of the bar’s repertoire.
Nevertheless, The Bar at Waku Ghin is a place worth visiting if you’re looking to pamper yourself with tasty drinks and bar grub after a hectic work day. The food and cocktails aren’t cheap, but are well executed with premium ingredients. If you’re seeking something close to a Michelin star-worthy experience without the eye-watering price tag and hassle of making a reservation, this is it.