FIRST IMPRESSIONS: Near the dining area, the whiff of burning wood together with the aroma of grilling meat whetted my appetite. The long walkway led past several private dining rooms (seating: six to 22) and a wine cellar, where after the bend, appeared the high-ceiling dining room. Conversation at every table was hushed and patrons in the cosy circular booths enjoyed greater privacy.
The open-glass theatre kitchen allowed diners to watch as their orders emerged from the oven or off the grill. Those preferring a view of the sea can sit on the sofas at the lounge or high chairs by the bar on the restaurant’s far end. Alfresco seating is also available.
THE FOOD: Using wood roasting, grilling or smoking, New York Chef Jake Klein serves up a versatile range of wood-grill smoke-infused dishes that reflect Asian, European and American styles. My dinner started with Cherry-Wood Smoked Scallops and Spinach Salad with Slices of Grilled Chinese Sausage and Quail Egg. While I remained neutral over the scallops (even if I did taste the unique fusion of smoked seafood), the salad teased my appetite into wanting more, won over by the fresh greens and pine nuts. Next up was Ginger Salt Baked Sri Lankan Mud Crab, and though I was anxious it might turn out a messy affair, the sauceless dish brought out the juicy and succulent crustacean flavour. The Stone Grilled Clam Rice and Prawns Flavoured with Diced Tomatoes is highly recommended, especially when eaten with Thai prikinu chillis that brings on the zing. Meat lovers will enjoy Cardamom Coffee Smoked Wagyu Beef Brisket, tenderised and marinated for 10 to 12 hours with a mix of cardamom, salt and paprika and smoked with walnut wood. A popular side dish to complement the beef is Oaxacan (pronounced as wa-ha-ka) Style Grilled Hokkaido Corn.
My ultimate favourite, however, was the Smoked Foie Gras Pizza with Persimmon. The sauce that laced the foie gras and ruccola topping was made with star anis with red-wine reduction, a sweet-ish tasting drip that produced a winner.
To round off the meal, I had the Banana Dulce de Leche Pizza – ice-cream atop homemade pizza crust drizzled with caramelised sweet milk and baked banana slices. What a concoction!
THE DRINKS: A wine tower housing over 500 bottles from 150 labels.
PRICE: About S$180 (US$132) for dinner with wine for two persons. Lunch at S$28 (US$21); each has a salad and entrée with coffee or tea.
VERDICT: Strongly deserves several repeat visits. Chef Klein has done an exceptional job, not just infusing wood grill or smoke with food, but also informing his creations with a wealth of cultural influences.
CONTACT: 1 Harbourfront Walk, #01-53 VivoCity, Singapore 098585, tel 65 6375 9663, www.woodrestaurant.com
Goh Chui Peng