Sunday, June 14, 2015

Review: Ocean Restaurant by Cat Cora

I normally wouldn't write restaurant reviews but I'll make an exception. This one's about Ocean Restaurant at RWS.

We decided to have an early Father's Day celebration, since SIL came across a promotion at this place, and thought it nice to treat ourselves to a nice meal with an interesting view. If you haven't heard of this place, it markets itself as a premium dining establishment headed by a celebrity chef, with the additional novelty of sharing one glass panel with the SEA Aquarium, the world's largest oceanarium. So you get to enjoy Masterchef-class food while looking at huge mantas sailing by.

Since we were such a large group (9 adults 5 kids), we were expected to pre-order from the set menu. Ok, many stuffy restaurants practise this policy, along with other regulations such as no sharing of set meals, minimum spend per person, etc etc. Sure, I understand that. Then SIL told us that they had asked her to furbish a copy of her credit card, front and back. Wait, what? Anyone with good credit sense knows to  never give out your CVV number, which is on the back of the card, to anyone you don't trust. Even hotels that require a security deposit never ask for your CVV number, and they manage to authorise the transaction anyway. So what kind of fradulent operations are you running, Ocean Restaurant? I don't know. I have sent feedback to RWS and will update once I receive their reply.

Anyway, moving on. A little bit of background here. GY, E1 and myself had a short babymoon here last year and enjoyed it immensely, or at least I did. So out of the family, we were the only ones who had been to the aquarium prior to lunch. Naturally we weren't as hyped up as the others.

But when I walked in through the door, I was still floored by the view of humongous manta rays, leopard sharks and various arrays of fish skimming the clear panel. Unfortunately, our long table was set in the middle of the room, so the kids had to squeeze in through the other tables nearer the panel to take in the view. And since the tables next to the viewing panel were already very close to each other, you can see how this would annoy the other diners who - guess what - don't have kids. It certainly makes for a disrupting meal. I asked SIL why we didn't get the place right next to the viewing panel and she said that it was another restaurant policy - only 4-seater tables are allowed next to the viewing panel. Seriously? What's the rationale for that? I'm sure these well-dressed yuppies would find rambunctious toddlers crowding around their table extremely annoying. Fortunately none of them seemed bothered enough to complain and we managed to get the kids seated for most of the meal. Honestly, what would have made better sense was to cordon off a "viewing gallery", which could have replaced the opaque wall at the entrance.

So much to say and we haven't even gotten to the food. What took the cake was the maître d' who swept around with a holier-than-thou air. I saw narry a smile on his face nor any modicum of warmth in anything he did or said. He was terse, his face an emotionless slate, and he constantly admonished us for trying to sneak out to enjoy the viewing gallery.

Now, the restaurant has a back entrance which provides direct access to the aquarium's huge viewing hall. The door is left open so that diners may have access to the washroom which is immediately to the right. That really is a design flaw right? If the establishment's policy is not to allow diners free access to the attraction, then bloody hell close the effing door and build a toilet inside. I understand that operational policies only come into place after construction, but really, there are so many other better ways to go about this. Much better than having Mr Stick-in-the-ass whose main aim in life is to catch miscreants who try to flout the rules. And really, it's not like we're gonna walk through the entire aquarium from entrance to exit. We're not that cheap.

Other than that, the food was ok. Notice I didn't post any photos of food? That's because I was starving and didn't bother. It was nice, but nothing to shout about. The smoked salmon starter I had was, well, I can do that. Wrap some salmon over breadsticks, add some caviar and salmon roe - voilà!  Smoked Scottish Salmon Gravlax.

The barramundi, however, was nicely done. The skin was crispy and the meat tender, not overdone like it tends to be. The chorizo vinaigrette was slightly heavy -it was really just sausage oil- but it went down well with E1 so that's fine by me. Comments by the others were that the duck confit was dry and the suckling pig was underwhelming. I have a fortuitous intuition when it comes to ordering food at restaurants and this time it didn't let me down. When dining at a restaurant called Ocean, best to stick with seafood. The only thing that irked me was that they served me fish without a fish knife.

My dessert, Vacherin, was something of a deconstructed lemon meringue, which I liked as it didn't try to downplay the citrusy tartness of the lemon. But really, any dessert makes me happy so I can't complain.

While we were finishing the meal, I had noticed that the maître d' had taken his sanctimonious attitude and disappeared somewhere, probably to the depths of hell. This let us continue eating in a much more relaxed atmosphere which, coupled with the contrastingly warm accommodation by the other serving staff, was immeasurably more enjoyable. So we ended our experience on a much happier note.

Shit he's coming, get outta here!

Verdict: Not a regret, but probably wouldn't go back

At $55++ per head for a 3-course lunch, this is actually a competitive price for the standard of the food. This, however, doesn't mean I'll be willing to pay more, nor will I readily return for another meal. Do be aware that if other diners bring their annoying kids, well that's your problem. Also, if you're a big eater, the food will likely be, in BIL's opinion, jiak buey ba (insufficient to satiate)

PS. If you're looking for a place for occasion-dining, I would recommend somewhere else like Pollen at Gardens By the Bay. Although it's more pricey, at least it allows you free access to the flower dome.

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