Monday, October 26, 2015

Singapore Diary: A visit to Justin Quek's Sky on 57

Nadine Kam photos
Chef Justin Quek presides over Sky at 57 on the 57th floor of the luxurious Marina Bay Sands Resort, which covers 1.3 million acres.


Food festivals are a wonderful place for restaurant fanboys and fangirls to mix and mingle with their favorite culinary superstars, but they are no substitute for heading to their restaurants for a firsthand experience of what they can accomplish in their own kitchens with their own staff and arsenal of regional ingredients.

I’d sampled Singapore chef Justin Quek’s offerings at the Hawai’i Food & Wine Festival, but it did not leave me with a sense of his full capabilities.

An orange sunset from the 57th floor of the luxurious Marina Bay Sands Resort, which covers 1.3 million acres.

In Singapore, where he presides over Sky on 57, I got a taste of Singaporean cuisine, elevated to match its surroundings on the rooftop of the luxurious Marina Bay Sands. From the rooftop, Quek reminisced about starting his career in nearly the same spot, though 57 stories lower, in a Marina Bay riverboat galley.

He’s come a long way, and proves it via his Sky on 57 “Ultimate Dining Experience,” a degustation menu of “seasonal bespoke creations.” The cost of the meal was SG$250, but with the current exchange rate, it amounted to about $185 per person, which I felt was totally worth the price.

Here’s what Quek’s meal at Sky on 57 looked like:

The first course in his degustation menu was a parfait of Oscietra caviar over smoked mackerel. So delicious and extravagant, it set the pace for the meal to come.

Next up was an ocean salad of Hokkaido scallop, Kagoshima hamachi, French oyster and Norway langoustine with ginger flower dressing.

Foie gras xiao long bao with truffle consomme. Yup, the one in front is topped with gold leaf.

Tasmanian cod fillet with sweet sour sauce, is topped with its own crispy scales. For some reason, they don't mind scales in Singapore, so if you get the Chongqing fish in Chinatown, you'll be spitting out scales. This one is supposed to be so crispy you don't mind, but it's still much harder than the deep-fried shrimp shells we might eat at a typical Chinese restaurant.

Quek’s upscale version of Hokkien prawn mee featured lobster, and set us off to find the street version of this dish. Alas, we only found soup prawn me, which paled in comparison.

Wok-fried Kagoshima wagyu with black pepper sauce. By this time we were so full, and the richness of the wagyu made us feel we could only eat one cube, but we perservered. Could not let this go to waste.

Laksa was not part of the menu, but I had mentioned it in passing, so Quek offered up his version of the classic Peranakan (Chinese-Malay) spicy noodle soup.

"Crazy About Chocolate" finale with chocolate fondant, brownie, milk chocolate mousse crumble, chocolate tuille and Macallan 15-year-old Scotch ice cream.

How to afford such a meal on a restricted budget? Much of Singapore’s specialties are available at hawker stalls for cheap. About USD$3 will get you a huge bowl of laksa or prqwn mee, or lunch plate of fried chicken with rice, fried egg and sambal. About USD $4 will get you a plate of shrimp sauce fried chicken. Even with a splurge dinner, over six days, it’s easy to get buy on dining for $40 a day or less.
Nadine Kam is Style Editor and staff restaurant critic at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser; her coverage is in print on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Contact her via email at and follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Rebel Mouse.

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