Sky on 57 – Justin Quek’s Singapore view at Marina Bay Sands
It rains in Singapore. A lot. And when it does, a mist descends over the skyscrapers, largely obliterating any view of the city.
And so was Greedy Girl’s fate; after zooming up the required 57 storeys to reach the ‘sky park’ of the iconic Marina Bay Sands, Singapore’s CBD was hiding behind a white cloak. Given her dislike of heights, she didn’t think that was necessarily a bad thing.
It was time to try home-grown, French-trained Justin Quek’s cuisine at Sky on 57. The table by the window looked out on what would surely be an amazing al fresco bar on a clear day but even that view was soon to be dimmed as the contrast between industrial strength air-conditioning inside and the high humidity outside almost completely fogged the windows. Staff with squeegees rolled by at intervals to try to clear the condensation – their attempts were largely futile. A few lights could be discerned on buildings nearby but that was the view.
And so there was not much else to be done than to sit back, open a bottle of Larmandier Bernier blanc de blancs, and tuck into what the chef describes as an interpretation of the comfort foods of his childhood – with a distinctive European twist.
The tasting menu at Sky on 57, a huge 240-seat restaurant at the southern end of the sky park (above tower one if you’re looking for the right lift to take, the ‘flat end’ of the building as per the picture at the top of this post), is ‘only’ six courses, with a dish of ‘Asian’ crackers left on the table throughout all the savoury courses. They were described as prawn crackers by our waitress but only the long, thin ones had a distinctive prawn flavour. They were mildly salty, served with a nice chilli relish, and a good foil for the first few sips of champagne.
Surprisingly, the tasting menu does not feature one of Quek’s signature dishes, the foie gras and truffle xiao long bao. Greedy Girl asked her waitress if she could have this as a substitute. That was a ‘yes’. Her further request to have a different dessert was denied, but more on that later.
And so, it arrived. Three perfectly-formed little beauties arrived in a steamer, with a side dish of vinegar with shredded ginger. As you’d expect from a chef who spent some formative years in Perigord, this guy knows how to use truffles. Levering a dumpling on to the spoon, via a dip in the vinegar, the juicy, buttery explosion of flavour was exceptionally delicious. Greedy Girl even used bread to mop up a few dots of sauce that remained in the steamer – that’s her definition of fusion.
Gluttonous husband remained true to the tasting menu and had the duo of foie gras. A small medallion of foie gras was served cold, topped with a few peppery rocket leaves. The potted foie gras was topped with a riesling ‘gelee’ and was a triumph. Smooth, silky and a slightly citrus tang. We were curious as to what else was in there and asked our waitress. She grinned widely and said: “I don’t know. I don’t eat it”. OK, right then. Moving on …
Next up was a Hokkaido scallop. This was served with a black truffle sauce and shavings, pickled vegetables and a cauliflower puree. The seared scallop was cooked to perfection although the dish was dominated by the strength of the puree and it wasn’t possible to discern any flavour from the truffle shavings. The cauliflower worked very well with the scallop and it mellowed a bit after a while. The pickled pieces of cauliflower and radish were a nice counterpoint but a pickled pearl onion was very strong. The sauce, however, was eminently moppable. Not a skerrick remained on the plate.
Given that Singapore sources ingredients from all over the world, we were having a very international dinner. Leaving Japan, we headed for North America in the form of Canadian halibut with mussels, herb sauce and braised and steamed leeks. Again, the fish was cooked superbly, flaking easily at the touch of a fork. The mussels, however, were gritty. Greedy Girl wondered if she had just been unlucky but gluttonous husband reported the same. Certainly there was nothing wrong with the flavour of the dish (the leeks and sauce were sublime) but the grit wasn’t pleasant.
We then headed for the US with Colorado lamb loin. This had been cooked sous vide and finished in a pan to give a lovely salty crust between meat and a small layer of fat. It was soft, moist and delightful. It worked beautifully with an aubergine ‘caviar’ raviolo and sauce ‘Diable’ which is white-wine based, with a long list of ingredients including shallot, thyme, bay leaf, mustard, lemon juice and cayenne pepper. Again, yummy. There was also a tiny fondant potato which needed to be sliced up and eaten with the salty lamb crust – otherwise it needed a few flakes of salt on its own.
Unusually for a tasting menu, after meat, we went back to seafood. Maine lobster topped with Iberico ham, served with a shellfish broth and Jasmine rice. This was disappointing on several levels. Greedy Girl was sipping champagne solo while gluttonous husband had excused himself for a moment and the dish was served in his absence.
The hot broth was poured over Greedy Girl’s lobster, while it sat in a jug next to the bowl waiting for husband to return, which took quite a few minutes. Couldn’t they have waited until his return and pour the broth for us both at the same time? It was very annoying. And the dish was a let down. Lobster claw meat (Greedy Girl also had to fish a piece of shell out of her mouth) is nowhere near as tasty as the tail and the dish lacked seasoning – the only real salt came from the Iberico ham and that was a very small piece.
This was served in Chinese style with chopsticks and a ceramic spoon, so impossible to dissect the ham to try to spread its saltiness around the dish.
And so, to afters. The advertised dessert had several things Greedy Girl just doesn’t countenance – pineapple and coconut. She had requested a dessert from the a la carte menu but this was not possible, she was told. She’d just have to choose the cheese course, while gluttonous husband had the pudding.
The dessert looked impressive enough, called pina colada, it was coconut blancmange with pineapple salsa and sorbet and a Bacardi rum emulsion. It was light enough but gluttonous husband said it could have been sweeter.
The cheese plate looked OK but there was no information on what cheeses were provided.
From the taste, Greedy Girl could detect a gorgonzola, a camembert, and two harder cheeses. One was possibly a sheep’s milk and the other a variation on cheddar. It was served with a profusion of nuts, berries and a raspberry coulis. It was OK – not entirely refrigerated but certainly on the cool side. The menu states diners need to wait 15 minutes for the cheese course, presumably to bring it up to room temperature. Problem was, the room temperature is exceptionally cold. Go figure.
The service was very pleasant and efficient – almost too efficient. The first couple of courses were well spaced and the rest followed in extremely quick succession. Still feeling the effects of the long flight, we were happy to eat and run.
There’s much to like about Sky on 57 and, on a clear night, the view would be undoubtedly delightful. Unlike most fine dining establishments, it’s open all day which is probably due to being on top of one of Singapore’s major hotels. It was an enjoyable experience but will it be memorable? Greedy Girl suspects not.
Sky on 57
10 Bayfront Avenue, Marina Bay Sands, Singapore