The occasion started off well. I arrived there fashionably late (about 10 minutes) and the SBM foodie group were already two and a half long-tables filled. Organiser Pang (Joo Lip) gestured for me to sit at Javier's table when all I wanted to do was sit beside Faye Chan. We had chatted only on FB and now finally met. Both of us are Cantonese and being the extinct species that we are becoming, I really wanted to explore some makan topics with her.
But Javier and her partner in crime, Nicosia, -as well as Jade and Jayne, turned out to be excellent company. They kept pushing leftovers to me. I dunno. My days of largess eating during NS were already long over, or do I still have the same hungry ghost face? In any case, it was done in good humor and it is always nice to be fed than have food taken away! I hate to waste food (especially veggies) and would finish up any remnant. The dishes yesterday all came in rather tasty sauces and so wiping the plate clean of any leftovers was rather "sedap" and "shiok".
Ok, so what's the verdict? Was the food at Waraku's new outlet worth the trip?
First off, according to Jeslin Ng, the Dy COO & Marketing Head of Waraku (which is part of the Wong San's group), this outlet of theirs at Vivocity is targeted at families and business. A rather strange combination given that the two groups seldom mix except on company Family Day.
But Faye's comment that the food was more for drinking (because of its perceived saltiness) got me thinking this morning that bite-sized dishes do indeed serve both clientele.
The difference lay in the presentation.
Besides, Waraku seem intent on being a business chit-chat venue by building three private rooms for that purpose. They seat 4/8/10 pax each. The restaurant itself could take 100, although how many will stand, I do not know. But the view outside is nice and would make for a pleasant, relaxing cocktail venue.
We were served the signature dishes first, a smart move as our taste buds were not yet adulterated by the many dishes to follow.
It looked pretty and was delightfully light, a great way to start off a meal! The strips made the salad chopstick friendly and pretty soon, the top ingredients were picked clean off. The only complaint I have is that the lettuce at the bottom was a bit coarse cut. A bit of color and finesse (such as fine chopped oak leaf lettuce or radicchio) would have been better. Coarse lettuce made the dish look cheap. But how to finish off a raw seafood salad is not easy and something worth thinking about.
Still, it could work as a good dim sum dish.
Now, with the signature dishes out of the way, the rest of the dishes lined up to be served like the Seven Dwarfs waddling in and making us wonder who is Salty, Sweet, Sour, Bland, Bashful, Coy and Sneaky. But not before we were given a tour of the premises. We walked past the kitchen and waved to the friendly chefs. Ms Ng then introduced each of the private rooms. They were simply furnished in cherry wood color and on the far wall, a piece of framed embroidery fabric that reminded of rich, traditional Japanese kimono designs.
Now the Miso Yuzu Pork needs some careful handling. Why? Some folks liked it, some folks didn't: they found it plain. I could taste the difference in meat texture and some flavour, which I think would be lovely with beer, typically. But with the added brown sauce, the meat became overwhelmingly salty. I think eating bits of it does it no service. Yuzu pork must be eaten in chunks to be satisfying. It's like you don't pinch a fat lady, you hold her tight and wobble in her largess! And afterwards down copious amounts of beer to forget the experience (and grab the next fat lady). I would grow a huge moustache just to have beer drip down from it to look immensely satisfied!
As the afternoon drew long, the next dishes came quickly one after the other.
The broth, to me, was, as usual, the same uplifting flavour expected from a good tonkotsu. I would, however, prefer a more generous presentation of veggie condiments atop the noodles. It would give the dish a less plain look.
I could be wrong as the dish was second last. By then we were too full to want to sample more or analyse further.
Conclusion: Right, so what is the final verdict? Food-wise just let me say that what we were served and had sampled were but a small portion of the total menu; there were lots more to choose from. What we had were the best selling items. I can see why: many of them have delicious sauces and creams that make eating out memorable. But consume them too often and it becomes "jelat" and harsh on the palate. The food at Waraku Vivocity is better than decent, so I would give it a 8/10. It is food one should fill a whole table with so one could sample a bit of this and that, given too the a la carte size of the dishes. I would equate casual dining to Food + Talk, so bite-sized chunks would work in that paradigm. As for the Spanish dishes, I think the paella rice is a good Oriental link given our staple Asian diet, but really, a lot of more (I feel) can be introduced, especially the tapas sort. It would be great for casual business, walk-in diners too; those who want to eat a little, chat a lot. For families, a place perhaps to introduce some fine dining ideas to the young ones, slightly complex dishes they can experience and delight over. Or even try cooking for themselves at home.
End [Note: All pictures here my own, taken with a Samsung Galaxy S4 (not my usual cam but convenient!)]