Is this modern Singaporean cuisine? Wild Rocket Singapore
Restaurant: Wild Rocket
Location: Hangout @ Mt Emily, 10A Upper Wilkie Road, Singapore
Chef: Willin Low
Awards: #39 (Asia’s Best 50 Restaurants)
Having spotted Wild Rocket in the Asia’s Best Fifty listing and noting that the cuisine was coined “Mod Sin” for Modern Singaporean by the lawyer turned chef, Pookie knew that he must make time to visit. A lunchtime seat was available at the counter for the Omakaze menu in this very zen restaurant which unlike many is whisper quiet despite there being quite a few patrons on the day. Keep a keen eye for the signage as the restaurant is hidden away inside the Hangout hotel and is by no means immediately apparent. Pookie arrives by taxi (why cant they be this inexpensive in Sydney?) on a stifling hot day just as a tropical lunchtime downpour commences – at least the restaurant air con is refreshingly cool.
Chef Willin Low has been named by the New York Times as being one of a elite set of chef who are redefining Singapore’s tradition food culture. His fine dining approach to traditional Singaporean comfort food found at hawker stalls is novel in its approach and undoubtedly draws criticism from stalwarts of the traditional way. Low has modeled his restaurant on a traditional Japanese tea-house and this comes across in its whisper quiet patronage. All aspects of the restaurant from the artsy wooden batons on the walls and ceiling, to the dining accouterments as are proudly made in Singapore. Low is certainly proud of his city and his food embodies that pride drawing from the flavours, if not the traditional recipe, of many dishes favoured in Singapore market stalls.
After the humidity and heat outside, its a fresh start the Omakaze with a Thai inspired pomelo salad with tiger prawn and frozen coconut dressing. This refreshing dish with mint leaves and peanuts has a hint of spice and turned out to be one of the best plates in the meal. The other stand out dish was the pan seared Hokkaido scallop on a nasi lemak puree, puffed rice and anchovy sambal chilli. The puree has the scent of pandan leaves. The sweet scallop and salty spicy anchovy sambal are fantastic combinations – a truly fabulous dish. Other notable twists – wagyu beef green curry, Singapore fried noodle (a dish that ironically exists only outside Singapore) and Char Kway Teow made with shaved squid rather than actual noodles.
Chef Willin has made Wild Rocket a Singaporean dining stalwart with the restaurant in its 11th year. The dishes showed polish and the menu changes with the availability of ingredients. It was thoroughly enjoyable to escape the heat and while away a long lunch in the peaceful and quiet environment tasting familiar Singaporean flavours in not so familiar dishes. Certainly worth the visit if only for the sheer surprise and delight aspect of trying Willin’s ‘Mod Sin’ cuisine.