Tetsuya’s Restaurant Waku Ghin at the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore

This is a Continuation of “Trip Report – A Private Jet Experience: Alone in First Class on ANA and Thai, Plus Singapore First, a Suite, a Villa, and Some Incredible Food Porn”

Past installments:

One of the best meals I’ve ever enjoyed was at Tetsuya’s in Sydney several years ago. So when we heard that Tetsuya had opened a second restaurant, at the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore, we decided we wanted to give it a try on our visit.

The restaurant does two seatings per evening, 6pm and 8:30pm. I had a strong preference for 6pm because I worried about jetlag, that 8:30pm for a dinner start time could mean that I was just too tired by the end of the meal to really enjoy it. I didn’t mind an early booking, and it seemed the safe choice.

On January 2 I made a reservation request for 6pm on February 17, and they confirmed it the next day. They sent me a form requiring a credit card to confirm the booking. There’s only 25 seats in the restaurant, and reservations are only tentative until confirmed with a credit card. Cancellations are required 24 hours in advance or else you’ll be charged SGD$400 per person, which is the cost of the meal without food and exclusive of service charge.

So I had a guaranteed reservation, made six weeks in advance, but then a week before my booking I received the following email from the restaurant:

Dear Mr Leff,

Regarding your reservation on 17 February 2011, we would like to check with you if it is possible for you to move the dinner reservation to 8:30 pm.

Please accept our apology for the inconvenience, this is due to a Marina Bay Sands Grand Opening event that takes place on that day, so we will only have 1 seating time which is at 8:30 pm.

We look forward to hearing from you.

As I said, I had a confirmed booking and I didn’t want an 8:30pm reservation. They weren’t going to honor my 6pm, and 8:30pm wasn’t going to work for me. I asked about shifting my reservation earlier or later during my Singapore trip, and they let me know that wouldn’t work either.

Dear Mr Leff,

Unfortunately we are closed for private function on 16 February 2011.
At the moment, the only possibility is on 17 February 2011 at 8:30 pm.

We are very sorry for the inconvenience caused.

Thank you for your kind understanding.

Well crud. I really wanted to try the restaurant. I let them know that I was disappointed. And I didn’t hear back. I prompted them a couple of days later, and got a reply which I read in the morning at the Intercontinental O’Hare after I had already commenced my travels:

Dear Mr Leff,

Please accept our apology for the late reply.

We are pleased to inform you that we will honor the 6 pm reservation on 17 February 2011 and we look forward to welcoming you and your wife to Waku Ghin.

Apologies for any inconvenience caused.

Thank you.

Well whaddaya know? No explanation for why the change. But we were going to have dinner there. I admit, I felt a bit awkward having pushed. And I worried that we wouldn’t really be welcome. Onward an upward!

Finding the restaurant was a bit of a challenge, the best way to enter is via the Shops but our cab dropped us off in front of the casino, down the street from the shops entrance. We walked inside and were asked for our passports in order to enter, which we hadn’t brought with us! Confusing enough, and I asked whether there was another way to access the restaurant we were told “no, you need your passports.” I realized later that this was completely wrong, but I made a quick turnaround, grabbed a cab back to the Intercontinental which is only about 5 minutes away.. ran up to the room for our passports while the cab waited, and made it back to the Marina Bay Sands. The whole thing took about 15 minutes, we were early to dinner anyway, and we made our way to the restaurant through the casino.

I hadn’t understood the reference to the Grand Opening of the Marina Bay Sands, the property has been open since last year. It turns out though that it’s been a soft opening because the night we had dinner at Waku Ghin was the ‘official’ grand opening. And the restaurant was going to be closed, much of the staff would be involved in the event.

When we arrived at the restaurant we discovered that they had opened just for us. We were greeted by the manager of their wine program, who apologized again profusely for the difficulties in advance of our evening but assuring us they were happy to have us and that they’d ensure we would have a wonderful evening.

Upon entering the restaurant you’re led into a private room with stools to sit at a bar in front of a grill. The meal is prepared by your own dedicated chef for the evening, teppan yakki style. The chef was really down to earth, and made us feel at ease. Make no mistake, though, this is no Benihana…

Shiroebi from Toyama Prefecture

Lots of things going on at all times, the chef would cook for you.. explain what he was doing.. serve you something to try.

Marinated Botan Ebi with Sea Urchin
and Oscietre Caviar

Tachiuo Wrapped in Pancetta
and Braised Witlof and Aonori

Here’s the wagyu beef we’d be enjoying shortly.

Alaskan King Crab with
Yuzu Scented Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Puree of Potato with Soft Poached Egg, Black
Truffle Caviar

Braised Lobster with Tarragon


And after:

Watching our chef baste the lobster in butter just tempted me for several minutes, and it was incredible.

Japanese Wagyu Steak from Kagoshima Prefecture
with Wasabi

This was the most incredible dish of the evening. Fresh shaved wasabi went surprisingly – and incredibly – well with the wagyu beef, the fat from the meat offsetting and balancing the wasabi in a way I wouldn’t have expected but that makes perfect sense.

Consomme’ with Rice and Fugu


The Wikipedia explanation is here, it’s an expensive green tea that’s grown under the shade rather than the full sun.

After our ‘meal and a show’ we were escorted into the main dining room and showed to a table in the window looking out over the Grand Opening gathering and fireworks. They serve the desserts in the main restaurant since those aren’t being prepared by your chef.

Strawberry shortcake

The strawberry shortcake was actually very similar to a dessert I had at Tetsuya’s several years earlier. It’s one of his signature desserts, so not surprising, and it was good, but I found it a bit surprising.

Ghin Cheesecake

Petit Fours

Overall, and despite the rocky start over our reservation, I’d rate this as one of my top 5 meals. Was it worth SGD$400 per person plus service and tax, without alcohol? Perhaps not. It’s a celebrity restaurant at the Marina Bay Sands, those celebrity restaurants in Vegas are usually overpriced for what they are and often not even good. This one was very good.

After dinner we went upstairs to Ku De Ta, the nightclub on top of the Sands. We went through the Shops, where we discovered signs that would have led us to the restaurant without going through the casino and needing our passports…

It was a strange experience, a bit of a velvet rope kind of place where I saw a man walk up and say that his friends were already inside, he was meeting them for drinks. And the woman at the door replied, “I’m sorry, sir, you’re not on the list.” And with that she turned him away. My wife and I walked past the entrance, she got our attention to ask if the lounge was what we were looking for? And we were invited right in. I’m not usually the hip, skip the line kind of guy, at least without greasing someone’s palm with a singificant tip or paying someone else to do it for me. All I can figure is it’s because we were in Asia, well-dressed, and white. Very strange.

The view up there was incredible:

We didn’t spend much time up there, unsurprisingly I was a bit jetlagged, and we headed back to the hotel relatively early in the evening just as the party up top at the Sands was really getting underway.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Wow Gary, looks like an incredible meal. The artistry in the presentation….amazing. Would you rank it above the Fat Duck?

  2. @JamesORD definitely above Fat Duck in terms of enjoy the actual food. Probably not El Bulli, but of course a very different style of meal.

  3. Wonderful report and photos – thank you. Tetsuyas in Sydney remains the best meal I have ever eaten (better than the Fat Duck, French Laundry and the original Gordon Ramsey before he over-expanded). After about the 8th course I found myself literally purring!

  4. Hi!
    Good restaurant report – once it started.

    To start my rant: in SIN you don’t need to refer to the color of your skin if you receive good treatment… tsss.

    I perceive your pushyness re the reservation as very inappropriate.
    They TOLD you that the Grand Opening was unfortunately timed on the same date (which was done post your reseveration if you did not find out by now).
    Try your ‘but I MADE my reservation well in advance and you confirmed it!’ approach in ANY top notch place in the US. I bet we all know the outcome… tsss again. Kudos to the gents/ladies to accomodate you nonetheless…

    I usually really like your reports but this one is beyond what I can find acceptable. Sorry.


  5. Gary —

    Even though it was Singapore, you executed a perfect Gaijin Smash:


    The only oddity is that surely they knew about the grand opening when they first accepted your reservation. Therefore someone on the inside perhaps made the error. When you travel half way around the world for dinner, I would probably be firm too.


  6. Nice dinner report!

    I thought there was a ~$40 fee to go up to the Sky Garden to visit Ku De Ta- they didn’t charge you anything? Did you access the elevator from Waku Ghin?

  7. Gary,

    The food just looks amazing… its looks like some masterpiece presentation.

    Thank you again for the wonderful review and sharing. I might just bring my wife over on our anniversary ^^

  8. I’m staying at the Marina Bay Sands this week. Quite impressive – especially the Skypark. For guests it is free. An interesting item is that for most of the restaurants in the connected shopping mall (mostly high end designer shops), you can charge the bill to your room at the Sands. Very convenient. The only downside to the Sands is that there is so much non-guest traffic in the lobby that it can be somewhat crowded just trying to get to your elevator. Once on your floor, things are quiet. The city view is spectacular from the 52nd floor. Weekends are VERY busy for breakfast and brunch. There are lines, but they move quickly.

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