Wednesday, August 17, 2011
Marina Bay Sands Waterfront Dining: The Moluccas Room
You'd think that with the proximity, Singapore would have many Indonesian restaurants, and good ones at that. Sadly, we don't. Really good Indonesian cuisine requires a lot of effort and time, so this probably makes it a difficult business. But one restaurant has come on the scene with great promise.
The Moluccas Room elevates Indonesian cuisine to a new fine-dining high. It's one of the waterfront dining outlets at Marina Bay Sands, which means it has a gorgeous view of the Singapore skyline. But it's the food you will come here for.
"Moluccas" is the former name of Maluku, famed in history for its abundant spices. Plenty of spices are used in this kitchen indeed, but the cuisine featured is from all across Indonesia, not just one region.
Chef Alicia Tivey is Australian but she had an Indonesian mother, and grew up loving the kitchen. She always knew she wanted to be a chef. Alicia also trained with Tetsuya Wakuda in the 1990s. Here at The Moluccas Room, she combines her knowledge of classic French cuisine with the Indonesian food that she learned in early life. I like her natural warmth and charm - you can almost feel the love that goes into her cooking.
Here's what we had for the ten-course media tasting menu.
To start with, some insanely delicious "krepek" (vegetable crackers, I think tapioca) that really dialed up the appetite.
The amuse bouche changes daily. It's one of the ways Alicia and her team get to be creative with food, without changing the menu too often.
The appetiser was a mixed platter of their signature Satè (charcoal-grilled meat on skewers).
Each of these had their own individual dip designed to match the meats!
From left to right:
Satè Angus (S$27 for five skewers) - sweet and savoury beef sate with a touch of citrus, served with a peanut and sweet soy sauce
Satè Padang Lidah Sapi (S$25 for five skewers) - buttery rich and tender Angus beef tongue sate done Padang style, served with warm beef broth sauce. It's really tender and savoury - you might end up preferring this to the regular beef sate! If you have qualms about having bovine tongue action, get over them. It's worth it.
Satè Ayam Madura (S$22 for five skewers) - an Eastern Java delicacy of grilled chicken tenders, served with creamy roasted peanut sauce (this is most like the satay sauce we know, but with a hint of lemongrass).
There are several other Satè available. Veal breast, Angus short ribs with grated spiced coconut, lamb sausage, and Javanese grilled prawns.
Soto Ayam Lamonggan (S$22 for full portion) - Indonesia's favourite chicken soup.
This is the most dainty and delicate soto I have ever experienced. Maybe a little too light.
But fortunately along with the soto come condiments like fried onions, lime and pounded sambal chili. Customise the taste to your heart's content! I added everything and it really livened up the soup.
And now we come to Mixed Entrees: these are obviously bite-size tasting portions.
Udang Blado Padang, in foreground (full portion S$35): fried king prawn topped with an aromatic Western Sumatra sauteed chili sambal. Nice fresh prawn with chili.
Ayam Tangkap Aceh with Selada Mangga (S$22 for full portion): that's the one on the upper right. It's deep-fried shrimp paste marinated chicken garnished with shredded and fried leaves (kaffir lime, curry, basil, lemongrass, etc). The Selada Mangga is a tangy green mango salad.
Ikan Bakar Jimbaran (S$35 for full portion). This calls to mind the beachside seafood restaurants at Jimbaran Bay, Bali. But this rendition of sweet and spicy grilled fish fillet is certainly a lot more refined than what you get there.
Angus Steak Rendang (S$35 for full portion): this is essentially a steak doused with rendang sauce. It is good meat, and the rendang flavours are there, but I am just not used to rendang that is "watery" in texture.
Confit Sakura Ayam Tuturaga (S$32 for full portion): this is a light, citrusy chicken curry from the North Sulawesi region. The chicken is cooked confit style, so it's supremely tender. I have to say the flavours for this one blew me away. Possibly my favourite dish of the entire evening.
Tumpeng Nasi Kuning (left) and Nasi Moluccas (both S$6 each). We had rice on the side, as the dishes were just too good to be savoured alone. The "tumpeng" sounds similar to "topeng" or hat in Malay. The cone-shaped nasi tumpeng is a ceremonial rice used to celebrate important events, especially the "syukuran" or thanksgiving ceremony. This one here is basically turmeric rice.
We loved the Nasi Moluccas, richly infused with spices and topped with these crispy shreds of dried beef. Delicious even on its own.
Several types of sambal chili and condiments are also served here. In Indonesia, these are common accompaniments to rice.
Desserts here are only a handful, but they are divine! Sri Kaya creme brulee (S$19, extreme left) is a thick and creamy custard given a coconut and pandanas treatment. Very rich indeed.
They make their own ice creams and sorbets here too (each scoop S$8). The gula melaka ice cream (middle) carries a bitter caramelisation aftertaste that helps cut through the sweetness.
But above all, you must try the stupendous soursop sorbet. It's like all the fragrance of soursop chilled and distilled!
Es Alpokat - Avocado smoothie with chocolate. It's monounsaturated fats, so indulge! For lower calorie options, you can choose the lemongrass tea, or the cucumber drink (comes with long slivers of refreshing cucumber and tiny, diced chillies). Cocktails, mocktails, spirits and wines are also on the menu.
Towards the evenings, the columns light up with beautiful ethnic art. It lends the place a romantic look.
There are little touches of thoughtfulness too. I love the bag hooks on the arms of the chairs, embossed with the restaurant logo.
Service here, of course, is as fine as the food. Everyone is discreet, polite and reasonably knowledgeable about the dishes.
There are a couple of set lunches available. The Rijstafel set lunch (S$55) gives you six dishes plus dessert and coffee/tea. The Contemporary set lunch (S$45) lets you choose your own appetiser and main from signature items, also with dessert and coffee/tea. All prices are ++. You can check out the menu at their website too.
THE MOLUCCAS ROOM
2 Bayfront Avenue
#01-81 The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands
Tel: +65 6688-7367
Lunch 11.30am to 3pm
Dinner 6.30pm to 10pm
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