Singapore - Review of Lunch at Justin Quek's Sky on 57
Note: While I have reproduced the restaurant review sections verbatim from my original piece, I have edited out a lot of Alsace wine talk to keep it on topic for this board. If you are interested in that kind of thing, please visit http://julianteoh.blogspot.sg/2012/11...
I was lucky enough to be invited to lunch at Sky on 57, the current home of Singapore’s first bona fide celebrity chef, Justin Quek. Quek, as most gastronomes in the region will know, was one of the four original “Amis” who founded Singapore’s Les Amis back in 1994, before blazing a trail in Taiwan with his modern French cuisine.
I have never been to Sky on 57, and my first impression is not positive. I tell them my reservation is under CIVA, as I had been told. The receptionists have no record of this. They ask for the name of the contact who made the booking. I tell them. “We have no record of that contact, sir”, says the receptionist. They take me around the restaurant to see if my companions have arrived, a bit pointless seeing I have never met them and wouldn't know what they look like (which I tell the staff!). After an aimless circuit of the restaurant, I pull the nuclear option and demand to see the reservations manifest. Unbelievably, they agree, and sure enough, my contact is on the list. Then my phone rings: it is my companions, telling me they are already seated, obviously unbeknownst to and unnoticed by the geniuses on the front desk.
Sky on 57 offers a business luncheon, S$50++ (around US$48) for three courses, and S$60++ (US$58) for four (the fourth course is soup). The wine list arrives, the kind of list on which almost every inflated price ends with an “8” and leaves you in no doubt which market they are aiming for.
Bread and butter are brought to the table, followed by our entrées.
Entrée: JQ's Signature foie gras xiao long bao.
I help my companions to the xiao long baos, and they approve of its rapport with our wine, a 2007 Domaines Schlumberger Pinot Gris Grand Cru Kitterlé . A luscious coppery-golden colour, it has an intense nose of honey, apricots and smoke, and a rounded finish. It has enough acidity to cut through the fatty texture of the foie, and the light smokiness goes well with the truffle-y hints in the filling. I am not, however, impressed with the xiao long bao itself. It does not contain enough broth to be worthy of the name, effectively weaselling its way out of the technical challenge that is a perfect XLB. Having to eat from the actual steam basket is also rather odd.
Main Course: Oriental Fried Rice, Wok-Fried US Kurobuta Pork Fillet, Asian Pepper Sauce
Looking for a spicy dish to match against the residual sugar of the pinot gris, I choose fried rice with pepper pork fillet. The rice has the smoky fragrance of real wok hei, but disappoints on the palate. While the pork is succulent and tender, the spiciness of the pepper has clearly been toned down for non-local palates. The wine is rich enough to stand up to the pork, but the pepper sauce has nothing to say to the wine’s sweetness.
Dessert: Classic Apple Tart Bordaloue
My apple tart is delicious, with caramelised apple and a pastry that goes from luscious and comforting on the inside, to crusty and sweet on the outside. A trolley of cakes and pastries is wheeled over for a companion's examination, and his choice is plated with a melange of sliced berries. Coffee is OK without being earth-shattering.
Walking back across the bayfront, I’m left in two minds about Sky on 57. While it is hasty to pass judgment on one cheap(er) lunch menu, I saw enough to make me wonder about its direction. The cuisine is schizophrenic without lapsing into fusion. On any given day, your repast could consist of foie gras XLB for entrée, bread and butter, Singapore-style beef hor fun for your main, followed by a European pastry trolley. It is also inconsistent – from what we ate, the European offerings appear stronger across the board, probably a reflection of Quek’s French training.
We also encountered a few shortcomings in service. Apart from the reception SNAFU, other jarring incidents included my entrée arriving well before my companions’, and the cessation of water service after mains were cleared. This is a three-top we’re talking about, not a state reception. I should also recount another unsatisfactory service experience. Marc Kreydenweiss, the Alsace winemaker, is hosting a winemaker lunch here on Saturday, 24 November. I emailed a reservation request for three spaces. They wrote back, confirming my booking and asking what time I would be arriving. I wrote back, saying I thought it was hosted by Kreydenweiss and shouldn’t there be a fixed starting time and if so, could you please let me know what it is? My query failed to elicit even the courtesy of a response.
In short, Sky on 57 has all the aspirations to be a fine dining restaurant but lacks the necessary hardware and software. With its views, décor, location and captive audience (i.e. guests in the 2,000 hotel rooms downstairs), it doesn’t need to provide a particularly memorable experience to keep the crowds coming in. In my view, it doesn’t.
SKY ON 57
Sands Skypark, Tower 1, Level 57
Marina Bay Sands
Tel: +65 6688 8857
Absolutely agree with you, Julian - Justin Quek's forte is in French cooking, so I'm wondering why he'd want to venture into toned-down Singapore/local/Asian cuisine.
As for the poor, amateurish service in a supposedly upmarket restaurant in Singapore - why am I not surprised ;-)
Would not be surprised if the ability to turn a quick buck was the answer, klyeoh. This is the kind of place that offers a flute of Krug Grande Cuvee with foie gras xiao long bao for, you guessed it, $88++.
There is, however, no excuse for the service. Most of the other restaurants at MBS have quite well-trained and responsive staff, and are generally a fair bit better than the average level of service you can expect in Singapore.