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A touch of fun at table65
Resorts World Sentosa
8 Sentosa Gateway
Open for dinner only from Thurs to Mon: 6.30pm to 10.30pm. Closed on Tues and Wed.
"ARE we having fun yet?"
I'm not sure. Does fun happen naturally or can it be imposed upon you?
At table65, to not have fun is like telling a new mother her baby is kind of ugly. It would pierce the heart of a restaurant that makes fun such a big part of its agenda, almost as much as the "fine casual" cuisine that chef Richard Van Oostenbrugge created in his one Michelin-starred Restaurant 212 in Amsterdam, and now in his new space at Resorts World Sentosa.
The idea he is importing is that fine dining doesn't have to be formal and expensive (read: like the pomp and grandeur of previous tenant Joel Robuchon restaurant). You can have a full dinner at table65 for S$148, or S$218 if you want to go all the way.
It can also be fun, in the form of a convivial and relaxed environment (read: kind-of-but-not-quite like previous neighbour L'atelier de Joel Robuchon). Of course if you go downtown you will find many similar concepts but perhaps the Dutch way is different and we're eager to find out how.
The first part is visual. Before you, a gleaming stainless steel open kitchen captures your attention, as well as much of the light in the restaurant. Bathed in its luminous glow, it looks like something beamed down from the Starship Enterprise by a peckish Mr Spock. Around the kitchen is a counter filled with Vulcans, oops, diners, at different stages of entertainment by the saucepan-wielding, spatula-waving and liquid nitrogen-spewing cast and crew.
They are so anxious to start the show that your bum has barely grazed your seat when a little pot of gnarled, twig-like crackers is set before you along with a small ceramic slab piled with breadcrumb soil-covered mushroom dip. Like a blink-and-you-miss-it magic trick, the word "Welcome" suddenly spells itself on your table like a Hogwarts textbook, while the ceramic "catches" hologram fire and sizzles into oblivion in seconds.
Except that we DO blink and miss it. And in a bizarre but well-meaning move, our server simply reaches over to press a button and lo, the holographic image appears again. Nice, but maybe this guy's next job should not be that of a magician's assistant.
The food here is technically sound, even if it almost but doesn't quite send us into superlative-spewing territory. There's a trio of amuse bouche that almost makes you believe we live in a land where there's no fresh seafood - a variety of smoked and cured fish appears in minute morsels that are imaginatively put together. There's cured mackerel rolled and filled with quinoa tossed in fruity strawberry vinaigrette; and firm tomato jelly where bits of marinated sardines hide in plain sight - you don't notice them till after you savour the jelly and get just a touch of salty fish that's a surprisingly good pairing. The most eye-catching of the trio is smoked horse mackerel swimming in a pool of coconut milk spiked with calamansi and topped with a slice of sweet pickled turnip, encircled in a green border of possibly dill oil.
Just because there's no cutlery on the table doesn't mean you're supposed to eat with your hands.Perhaps influenced by Korean barbecue joints, you'll find flatware in a neat drawer under the table. But instead of heavy metal chopsticks and flat spoons, there's a full set of cutlery laid out like a WMF box set you buy on sale at Takashimaya sometimes.
"Os a moelle" seems to be a signature dish - a bone marrow doppleganger that's made of herringbone jelly. While it's great to make use of fish bones, there's just too much of this odd, savoury, smoky jelly to cut through to get to your reward - some real meat in the form of veal tartare tossed in sour cream, topped with a large dollop of Iranian caviar that's exclusively brought into Singapore by the restaurant.
Oyster ravioli is well worth the trouble that goes into making it - chopped French oysters make up the filling, finished off with a creamy veloute and a whole Dutch oyster on top in a delicious case of discrimination.
There's also a langoustine poached in duck fat, topped with coffee powder that lends colour but is otherwise useless, served in a rich emulsion of foie gras, dashi and lemon - topped with milky white flakes of katsuoboshi.
French turbot poached in eel oil is part of a multi-layered combination which includes meticulously sliced truffle, lots of black truffle shavings, with a layer of choucroute for much-needed acidity. It's finished off with a sauce that has just a slight funk of oxidised wine that adds interest.
Meanwhile, the only nod to local produce is Malaysian duck breast, sous vide and matched with offal-enriched sauce offset with blueberries and topped with shavings of frozen mole sausage.
The highlight of any meal is dessert, and the signature Apple gets top marks for its incredibly cute apple core of sorbet and 'seeds' sitting on top of a not-too-sweet apple tart and covered with a clear sugar dome.
Even if the food can get heavy-going and is slightly alien to our tastebuds, it's a lighthearted evening filled with banter and an engaging, hard-working team that really wants you to enjoy yourself. Yet at the same time, it feels like they're working from a playbook that is a direct translation from its Dutch original, and something is lost along the way. There's a difference between where they come from and where they are, and when they figure that out, that's when the fun will begin.
WHAT OUR RATINGS MEAN
10: The ultimate dining experience
7-7.5: Good to very good
Our review policy: The Business Times pays for all meals at restaurants reviewed on this page. Unless specified, the writer does not accept hosted meals prior to the review's publication.