Food & Drink

A Meal With Chef Tetsuya Wakuda at His New ‘Everyday Gourmet’ Restaurant in Singapore

We have a legit mouthgasm at the new eponymous restaurant by two-Michelin-starred Japanese-Australian chef Tetsuya Wakuda.

Yuba at Wakuda

Yuba

By Christian Barker

Jul 7, 2022

ONE OF JUST FIVE RESTAURANTS in Singapore to be awarded two Michelin stars, chef Tetsuya Wakuda’s Waku Ghin at Marina Bay Sands isn’t the sort of place you’d eat on a weekly basis. A 10-course degustation feast consumed over the course of nearly three hours… well, dining here requires a significant commitment of time — and money. The two set-menu options are priced at a lofty SG$550 or SG$700 (plus tax and service) per person.

Setting out to make his offering slightly more egalitarian, last year, Tetsuya opened The Bar at Waku Ghin, a no-reservations space adjoining the main restaurant. Here, guests can drop by on the spur of the moment to try a painstakingly crafted cocktail (around SG$25) and their pick of select à la carte dishes, including the legendary mélange of botan shrimp, uni and caviar that has long been a highlight of Waku Ghin’s lavish omakase menu. The Bar’s worth visiting solely for one of pastry chef Yasushi Ishino’s exquisite sweets — so beautiful you’ll be reluctant to desecrate them, so delicious you’ll be glad you did. 

Wakuda Bar
Wakuda Bar

Just recently, Tetsuya unveiled a new addition to his Singapore portfolio, Wakuda. Like The Bar, its goal is to open up the Tetsuya experience to a broader clientele. “I believe that good food and drinks are meant to be approachable,” the chef tells me. “We envisioned Wakuda to be an ‘everyday restaurant’ — a place where people can visit us for any occasion.” 

Indeed, on the night T+L visited, there were solo diners happily tucking into straightforward meals of bara chirashi (SG$42), frosty beer on the side. Meanwhile, a table of 10 celebrated a birthday with a budget-busting multi-course banquet. As Tetsuya intended, it’s the kind of place you can go when marking a significant milestone, or simply because it’s a day ending in Y and you deserve a treat. (Dozo, bro. YOLO.) 

What should those who’ve been lucky enough to dine on the chef’s selection at Waku Ghin or his eponymous Sydney restaurant, Tetsuya’s, expect to find different about this new property? In a word: choice. With an extensive menu featuring everything from classic zensai (appetizers), beautifully presented sashimi and sushi (SG$14 to $36 per piece), to tempura, cold soba noodles, yakimono (grilled morsels) and desserts (miso soft-serve ice-cream, anyone?), the chef says patrons at Wakuda can select from a far broader variety of dishes, in contrast with the strict parameters of the degustation menus at Tetsuya’s and Waku Ghin.  

“One thing that remains consistent across all my restaurants is the respect we have for high quality and fresh produce,” Tetsuya points out. “I have been brewing our own Wakuda-exclusive sakes in Shizuoka and Toyama since autumn of 2021, and we also source fresh produce from exclusive suppliers in Okinawa. This is in addition to a wider variety of ingredients we’re sourcing from Australia, Europe, Japan and New Zealand.”

The chef firmly believes the success of a dish comes down to the standard of produce used. “It is always quality over quantity for ingredients. Every component of a dish must be present for a reason, either to complement the flavors or add a new dimension to the textures,” he says. “When too many components come together, the dish loses its focus.”

Cold Soba with Truffles, Botan Shrimp Shaved Musroom, Caviar at Wakuda
Cold soba with truffles, botan shrimp, shaved mushroom, caviar

A sterling example of just a handful of outstanding ingredients combining to create one unforgettable dish is the yuba (SG$38) offered as an appetizer at Wakuda. “That’s one of my personal favorites,” Tetsuya says. “It is a simple dish that is big on flavors.” Presented in a martini glass, this perfectly balanced, three-element culinary composition features artisanal beancurd skin handcrafted in Kyoto, smothered in fresh Hokkaido uni, with a topping of tonburi — a delicious ‘vegetarian caviar’ made using the seeds of the herb bassia scoparia. Mouthgasm. 

Although he has just launched another branch of Wakuda in Las Vegas, Tetsuya has no plans to open dozens of outlets all over the world, as so many ‘celebrity chefs’ have done (with mixed results). He’s happy keeping his empire small and manageable. “Consistency is the foundation of every restaurant. We want our guests to return time and again, knowing we can deliver to their expectations,” he says.

Tetsuya has spent the better part of the past 12 months in Singapore getting Wakuda, its menu and its staff up to snuff. “I’ve seen the hard work collectively put in by everyone from the team to contribute to its success,” he says. He’s also clearly committed to being present on-premises enough that standards are maintained, and that he has the chance to foster the next generation of talent. 

To that end, the restaurant is currently recruiting front-of-house and kitchen staff — an incredible opportunity to learn from one of the finest chef-restaurateurs at work today. Prospective employees, take note: chef Tets is looking for more than skill with a blade. He wants personnel with soul. 

Wakuda Main Dining Room
Wakuda main dining room

“Of course, in this industry, you must love to eat, to taste, and to experiment. But the most important attribute I look out for in new hires is the love for people,” Tetsuya says. “Skills can be taught and knowledge can be imparted, but the innate love for people is the driving force for us to serve and improve.” 

wakudajapanese.com; see here for the full Singapore menu with prices.

All photos courtesy of Wakuda.

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