Story and photos by Dr. Michael Lim The Travelling Gourmet TM
All rights reserved
The intrepid and indomitable Travelling Gourmet TM goes to Marina Bay Sands not to gamble in the Casino BUT to taste the cuisine of…
MASTERCHEF Tetsuya Wakuda in Waku Ghin. I will always remember the first time I went to taste Tetsuya’s celebrated cuisine in Sydney. It was in his first restaurant in a small suburb in Rozelle, before he relocated to Kent Street in the CBD area. I remember him telling me with a wry smile, “They always steal my Restaurant signboard!” There was no set Menu and he simply created a Degustation Menu of all the best and freshest produce he could find in the market that day. At that time, a revolutionary “think out of the box” concept. Contrasting the cuisine served in Sydney and that in Singapore, Waku Ghin has more seafood and the style is more towards Asian and Japanese with French nuances. in Sydney there are more meat dishes and the style of cooking is more towards traditional French.
Tetsuya Wakuda comes from the small town of Hamamatsu in the Shizuoka Prefecture of Japan. Truth is often stranger than fiction and Tetsuya’s story is an example of that adage. With a very limited knowledge of English, and of the country that would become his home, Tetsuya arrived in Australia at the age of twenty-two. He never imagined that one day he would be acclaimed as one of Australia’s top chefs.
Landing in Sydney in 1982 with nothing more than a small suitcase and a love of food, Tetsuya found his very first job as a kitchen hand at Fishwives in Surry Hills. A year later he was introduced to Sydney chef Tony Bilson, who was looking for a Japanese cook to make sushi at Kinsela’s. It was at Kinsela’s that Tetsuya learned hands-on classical French techniques, thus forming the beginnings of his own style of cooking, combining the French technique with the Japanese philosophy of using natural, seasonal flavours. “I made a lot of things up along the way and, luckily for me, people liked the way it tasted.” says Tetsuya humbly. Strangely enough, when Tetsuya and I get together and talk, the topic is not so much about food but…about guns. Tetsuya is a keen Pistol and Rifle shooter and has a veritable arsenal of autoloading handguns and rifles kept carefully under lock and key in a separate building next to his house in Sydney. He even has a Desert Eagle Israeli autoloading Pistol and a Beretta 9mm. I confess that I too love to shoot and I also go hunting from time to time.
Waku Ghin means Silver Fish in Japanese, and silver is Tetsuya’s favourite colour, hence the name. Here you dine in small and cosy private dining rooms at a counter fitted with a large stainless steel Teppanyaki style hot plate. The Chef shows you all the yummie goodies that will be cooked before your very eyes before the feast begins. I was very impressed with the sight of all the food, mostly seafood…but especially by the “live” Abalone air flown from Hokkaido in Japan! As I gawked at it and the Canadian Lobster, the Abalone in its shell started moving and convulsing as its muscles contracted!
Relshing the Uni (Sea Urchin) served in its spiny half shell with Oscietra French Caviar is a veritable sublime gastronomic moment…Topped with a big dollop of French farmed Osetra caviar, I took a morsel and with trembling fingers put it in my mouth. Ahhh! Mmmmm…it was so very good!
At Waku Ghin, your pungent aromatic jade green Wasabi or Japanese Horseradish does not come out of a toothpaste-like tube…BUT it is freshly and enthusiastically grated right in front of your eyes! Seeing is believing as my friend Ken in Hong Kong always says!
Everything you wanted to know about Wagyu Beef and “WAGYU A5″ but wre afraid to ask…
Beef cattle is classified into four categories: Japanese Black, Seed Japanese Brown, Japanese Shorthorn, and Japanese Polled.
It is Japanese Black that is prized by connoisseurs. A5 is the highest grade given only to the finest beef.
Fascinatingly, the ratio of monounsaturated (so-called ‘good’ fat) to saturated fats in Japanese Wagyu beef has exceeded 2 to 1 in test samples. This is in marked contrast to the approximately 1 to 1 ratio observed in beef carcasses in America. Therefore it may be that Waygu beef despite its high fat content and marbling may actually be not so unhealthy after all! Good to know!
The standards of grading beef consist of Yield Grade and Quality Grade.
“A” of “A5″ means the yield grade, while “5″ shows the quality grade.
Moreover, the Japanese beef grading system has 5 quality grades. They are (1) marbling, (2) meat color and brightness, (3) firmness and texture of meat, and (4) color, lustre and quality of fat.
A brief description of the Japanese beef grading system is as follows
Yield Grade, in short, is the standard set to evaluate cutability (the proportion of meat obtained from a certain part of cattle body).
According to the yield grade, score A, B or C is determined.
Grade A : above standard
Grade B : standard
Grade C : below standard
Marbling is flecks or thin strips of fat in beef. In Japanese, “SASHI”. It is actually intra-muscular fat which is where most of the flavour is.
Marbling is classified into five grades.
(The larger the number, the higher the grade. 5 is the largest and the highest.)
Furthermore, these five grades are ranked from No.1 to 12 by BMS (Beef Marbling Standard).
Grade BMS No.
5: Excellent 8 – 12
4: Good 5 – 7
3: Average 3 – 4
2: Below average 2
1: Poor 1
Color and brightness
Beef color and brightness are evaluated by visual appraisal.
2: Below average
Firmness and texture
The firmness and texture of beef are also evaluated by visual appraisal.
2: Below average
Color, lustre and quality of fat
The color, lustre and quality of fat is evaluated by the beef fat color standards, while evaluation of luster and quality of fat is by visual appraisal.
2: Below average
Thus the grade of beef is classified along the standards of Yield grade and Quality grade. Quality grade has several items of evaluation. In the quality grade, the lowest score from the four items of the yield grade is adopted. In other words, even if grade 5 was given to marbling, color and brightness, and firmness and texture, but the fat assessments was grade 4, the quality grade of this beef is then classified as grade 4.
Through these strict evaluations, Japanese Black beef is classified into 15 grades from C1 to A5. And even among the A5 grade, marbling varies from No.8 to No.12. The A5 grade Japanese Black WAGYU cattle is fed only good quality grain (corn and rice straw) and raised with scrupulous care.
The particularly good balance of fat, extremely smooth texture, and juicy flavor pleasures the palate of the gourmet. These are the unique characteristics of WAGYU A5, the highest quality Japanese beef.
When you consider the top quality produce like live Hookkaido Abalone and Canadian Lobster, expertly cooked and served here to delight your palate, the price to quality ratio is actually very good. The experience of dining here is worth a Shogun’s ransom…
ENJOY! Itada kimas! (Bon appetit in Japanese) 🙂
The hauntingly beautiful immortal Japanese folk song celebrating the Cherry Blossom…
Marina Bay Sands
Casino Level 2
10 Bayfront Avenue
Tel: +65 6688 8507
To be continued…