How do you know when an overseas restaurant brand has ported over its concept successfully? Obviously there needs to be consistency in the quality of food, but a more difficult thing to pull off is to make diners feel like they’ve been transported to its place of origin, be it in Beijing, Berlin – or, in Spago’s case, Beverly Hills.
The Wolfgang Puck restaurant – named Los Angeles’ most iconic by culinary guide Zagat – opened its doors here mid October, and what doors they are. The tall wooden gates, painted a breezy cerulean blue, seem designed to protect the rarefied world they lead to and are reminiscent of those at LA’s Bar Marmont, a watering hole popular with celebrities that’s constructed to keep the paparazzi out.
Beyond them is a 90-seater space divided into two sections, with beautiful ceilings in gold or rattan (depending on which section you’re sitting in), warm lighting that makes everyone look good (so Hollywood) and spectacular views all around (this is the topmost floor of MBS, after all).
We would easily have imagined an A-lister at the table next to us, if not for the two girls who were there instead, snapping photos of every dish with their mobile phones and using their phone torchlights as lighting for each pic.
Fortunately it was easy to keep our attention on the food, because the grub here commands it. The menu – which is 80 per cent similar to the Beverly Hills restaurant’s list – focuses on seasonal ingredients from both hemispheres, and includes specially sourced items like micro greens from one of the chefs’ farms in Ohio, US. There’s a very LA-like fusion-centric theme running through the dishes, but make no mistake: This isn’t confusion.
A starter of Big Eye Tuna Tartare came in caramelised tuile cones topped with shaved bonito flakes, the cones and the fresh fish melting away in perfect sync in the mouth. And a rendition of “Kaya Toast” cleverly combined seared foie gras with Spago’s version of the pandan-coconut jam, slow-cooked egg yolk and foie gras-espresso mousse on toasted brioche (nothing like what you’d get at a kopitiam, but no less enjoyable).
We also loved the tender pan-roasted quail that came cheekily presented, like a pair of fat little women waving their legs in the air. And even if you, like us, don’t usually go for Brussels sprouts, you have to order the version here roasted in shiro miso with yuzu citrus. It’s that good.
Of course, there were a couple of dishes that suffered from what seemed like an unnecessary desire to luxe things up (we’re talking to you, $105 “live” Maine lobster in caramelly black bean sauce that would have done better with plain ol’ prawns), but as one of our dining companions said, “Nothing is bad.”
Bonus: Everything is served on gorgeous Bernadaud crockery and by a very international and experienced crew of staff, many of who have worked with Wolfgang Puck for years.
A success? We’d say so.
P/S: Apart from the fine-dining restaurant, Spago Singapore also has a separate bar area where a different menu of light bites and snacks is served. Your best bet if you can’t get a table in the main restaurant.
Spago Singapore is at level 57, Marina Bay Sands Tower 2. Open for dinner daily from 6pm to 10pm (11pm on weekends).