Ocean Restaurant opened in 2013 in conjunction with Resort World Sentosa. It was such an irony that one would open a seafood restaurant in an aquarium. SEA Aquarium in RWS was the world’s largest open tank aquarium. And in the depths of the Open Sea tank was Ocean Restaurant by Cat Cora. The concept behind this restaurant – sustainable seafood in the overfished world, so everything in this restaurant will be responsibly sourced and farmed.
Cat Cora is the first female Iron Chef America. She served the role for 12 years, and opened several restaurants in US and this was her first outside of US. Her cooking was Greek influenced because of her heritage, but her techniques were totally French.
Starting the dinner was a simple apparatus mouse with parmesan foam.
We ordered four starters, for three persons 🙂
The first to come was Tasting of Oysters, left to right
- Warmed Oyster Tartare, Bean Sprout & Sago – very Japanese styled raw oyster with a soy sauce and the sago providing extra texture.
- Yuzu Soy Reduction & Purple Shiso Ice – Not a big fan of Shiso, which is mint and parsley at the same time, but incorporated into ice shaving on a raw oyster was quite a treat.
- Chilled Ham Cream & Smoked Paprika – this was the least favourite of mine, the cream overpowered the
The 42ºC Sous Vide Salmon, Salmon Mousse, Citrus Minestrone, Ikura & Shaved Fennel Salad was one of Cat Cora’s signature dish. Sous vide is a technique that used temperature controlled circulation of warm water slowing poaching a vacuum-packed ingredient. The trick is the temperature and the time used for the poaching. This salmon was sous vide to perfection. A little piece of crisp salmon skin added the saltiness and couch for the dish. It was more of a lemon bath that a minestrone but that gave the dish the acidity it needed.
Tartare of Pink Shrimp, dashi jelly, compressed watermelon, avocado & yuzu-soy reduction was another of Cora’s signature dish. A sweet Amaebi served raw with pearls of dashi stock on compressed watermelon spiced with soy and yuzu sauce, and a side of nori and barleys crisp provided more couch and umami. This was a very good dish. I enjoyed every bit of the dish because it was a fine balance of sweet, sour, salt, umami and sensation of different crunch from different ingredients – watermelon gave the satisfaction of biting into something juicy, barley crisp of wheat and cereal, dash jelly was jelly and finally the shrimp. $35 for one piece of shrimp, not much of value-of-money.
Smoked Eel on sunchoke jelly & shaved duck terrine. Sunchokes are a tubular-shaped, thin-skinned root vegetable of the sunflower plant family that’s in season from late fall through early spring. Often mistakenly referred to as Jerusalem artichokes, sunchokes have no origins in Jerusalem, and they really don’t taste like artichokes. If anything, sunchokes can be accurately compared to potatoes, both in how they’re grown underground and their earthy flavor profile. But it’s possible the mix up between sunchokes and artichokes has more to do with the disenchanting root word they share: “choke.”
The eel was mixed into a pate of herbs with crunch provided by bits of pepper and chives. If you were expecting unagi, this was not that. Bits of duck foie gras on the eel pate served on a sunchoke mash. The taste was unilateral – salty and forgettable.
Cream of Sunchoke, buttered crouton, watercress & black truffle tasted buttery (in a good way) and the truffle added that umami that it needed. A very balanced presentation, although I didn’t appreciate the croutons. Never like them in my soup. I guessed if you just served cream of potato soup, it would not have cost $25. But despite the truffle, it still tasted like Campbell’s cream of potato.
Lobster Milk, raw marinated lobster & crème fraiche was much better. First, the lobster meat was not cooked to death. It was delicately poached and served with a fantastic lobster bisque.
The red gurnard is a Mediterranean fish usually found in the chilly Atlantic Coldstream. Buttered Fried Red Gurnard, Scottish mussels, mussel basil reduction, dill cream & preserved lemon. It has a buttery texture, and here the skin was crisped on butter. Little mussels were served on the fish with a basil-dill cream sauce. A lemon roll completed the dish. Really, it tasted like snapper. I would expected a finer fish.
The force de resistance for the evening was this Seared Hokkiado Scallop, pumpkin bulgur wheat, sea urchin cream, pickled baby fennel, apple slaw & crackling pork skin. Seared scallops can never go wrong. Bulgur wheat paired with pumpkin was another combination that was never wrong. And the apple slaw reminded me of achar that came with Peranakan dish that provided a tartness to the dish. I did not get the sea urchin cream, but what set this dish apart was the crispy pork skin on the scallops. Such a simple ingredient made this delightful dish wonderful.
This was the first time I had monkfish. Roasted Monkfish, black olive oil, chorizo puree & ratatouille. Monkfish was described as one of the ugliest fish in the world. Under the black, thick skin was flesh so milky white with the texture of lobster. But it was a tasteless piece of white meat. So you needed the Chorizo and caramelised balsamic and EVOO to provide the taste. And the ratatouille was a let down.
We did not order any desserts.
Set in the basement of the SEA Aquarium has its advantages – this automatically qualified as one of the most romantic and magical dining experience in Singapore. But because it is in one of the largest open tank aquarium in the world, you will be expected to have the most eclectic crowd for dinner – tourists, families, couples. So in between the flashes of cameras whenever the hammerhead swam by or the oohs and ahh of the path of the stingrays, you will be served with an exquisite dinner – not the best, but exquisite.
It was expensive. A 4-course will set you back around SGD150 pax without wine.
Flash photography is not allowed. Which fine dining restaurant will allow that anyway. I would also not advice using the flashlight on your mobile phone. The light just makes the food look unappetising. So if you are serious of getting good shots of the food here, get a good SLR with a good 20mm f/1.8 lens.
Or just enjoy the dinner like I did. And worry about the photos later in Photoshop. These softwares do wonders these days.
I seriously doubted the sourcing of the ingredients – Gurnard, monkfish, Hokkaido scallops were not exactly seafood from these seas. But one cannot charge more for snapper, local monkfish, and local scallops. So I don’t really buy the concept of a responsibly sourced seafood restaurant.
The technique of the team was accomplished, but it would not be Michelin standard. Cora was not known to be a powerhouse in haute cuisine, more of a celebrity chef. I would go for really special occasion, and I did, so I would not go again.
Ocean Restaurant by Cat Cora
S.E.A. Aquarium, Level B1M
Opening hours: Lunch 11.30am – 2.30pm (Last order at 2.15pm) | Dinner 6pm – 10.30pm (Last order at 10pm)
Dress code: Smart casual
Date Visited: Aug 2014