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Dining at Ocean Restaurant by Cat Cora is a two part experience: firstly, as the only ‘underwater’ dining experience in Singapore, and secondly, getting a first-hand taste of Iron Chef Cat Cora’s signature dishes. Each on its own is worth sinking your time in; together, they create a unique dining experience worthy of special occasions.
We sampled the Cat Cora Experience, a fantabulous 5-course dinner that you can expect to dig into when you visit Ocean Restaurant by Cat Cora - from now till end February. While we applaud Chef Cat’s dedication to using only sustainable seafood in her menus, the real question is this: does it pass the taste test?
Walking into the restaurant from the car park, your attention will be arrested by the panel overlooking the Open Ocean Habitat. Rays and fish glide by and the blue hue of the habitat seep into the restaurant, bathing everything in a calm ocean blue. The decor really enhances the feeling of dining underwater too: soft carpeted floorings, seats that you can sink into and colours like deep blues and aquamarines.
The 63-seater restaurant is intimate enough for couples to celebrate their special days. The soft contemporary music playing in the background keeps the mood light and you can literally spend hours gazing into the arresting ocean blue. A mirror spans across one side of the restaurant, which reflects the panaroma of the Open Ocean Habitat across it, accentuating the feeling of being surrounded by an endless span of ocean.
Go during off-peak periods to, hopefully, get the quiet corners in the restaurant for yourselves.
We managed to tear our eyes from the panel long enough to focus on the food, which was equally stunning. We start with…
Sous Vide 48°C Ocean Trout
Sustainable Caviar and Prosecco Pear Crushed Almond, Vine Tomato Jelly & Garden Cress
The first thing that hits you is the heavy taste of the Ocean Trout. The 20-minute sous vide 48°C water bath brings the trout to just the right melts-in-your-mouth tenderness, while sealing the sweet and buttery flavours within. The Prosecco pear and crushed almonds gave it a nice crunch and adds a bright, fruity note and an earthy, nutty flavour. The caviar – from sustainable sources – provides a salty kick to stimulate your appetite. An overall nice palate cleanser. The serving’s pretty big but of course we wolfed all of it down anyway; and still managed to finish all the courses after.
Sakura Shrimp Risotto
Morel Mushroom-Black Truffle Butter Ikura & Seared Hokkaido Scallop
Fans of truffle rejoice: the kick is really strong. It’s a heavenly combination of very creamy, fluffly risotto and mushrooms, all blanketed in the comforting and heavy aroma of black truffle. Peppered with a generous serving of lightly crispy dried Sakura shrimp, the overall experience is surprisingly comforting, reminiscent of the warm porridges mum cooks at home. The Hokkaido Scallop on top was a nice addition to the dish, but for some reason it didn’t take centre-stage as much as the truffle-infused risotto did; it was a little too tough for our liking. Salmon roe on top of the scallop gave nice bursts of flavour.
This is east-west fusion done right. The only qualm we had was that some parts of the risotto felt a little too chewy; perhaps it could have done with a more thorough stirring and cooking time.
Don’t forget to snap a picture of this before you down it: the gold leaf decoration on top makes for an instagram-worthy post.
Vongole of Manila Clams
with Spicy Sausage, Garlic broth & Toasted Sesame Croutons
Before tucking in, take a moment to inhale the scent of garlic and spices emanating from the broth. Light, clean and yet hitting all the right taste buds, the soup includes really thin slices of clams and pork sausage that you’ll never feel like you need to chew. The crouton provides the crunchy bite and you can eat it as is, or – like us – dip it into the soup to get it to the right softness. Watch out for sesame seeds dropping all over your space.
For entree, you get to choose one of two options.
ENTRÉE Choice 1
Grilled Basque Wagyu Striploin
With Leek-Bread Pudding & Roasted Sesame-Coriander Vegetables
First, the Wagyu Striploin. This striploin is the epitome of done ‘just right’: seared all around and slightly pinkish and oozing with juices in the middle, complemented with a sauce that tastes like a combination of Asian condiments (think oyster sauce and soy sauce) and a green rub (laid on top of the beef) that is made of a secret mix of spice and citrus. The Leek Bread Pudding was soft, creamy, and has the texture of a brioche, or a very sturdy mashed potato. With just a little hint of something warmly spicy, we’re reminded of the Chinese-style yam cake too.
ENTRÉE Choice 2
With Mandarin-Habanero Glaze, Meyer Lemon Couscous & Hot House Cilantro
On to the King Salmon. While we were expecting your regular cut of warm, cooked salmon, this one flakes beautifully under gentle prodding and was a darker shade of pink inside. The pan-seared salmon is slow cooked in an oven and according to Chef Cat, is glazed with the Mandarin-Habanero glaze thrice, with a session in the oven between each glaze. The result is a smokey flavour reminisce of smoked salmon infused with a citrusy kick. If you’re a fan of the zestiness of Hollandaise and salmon you’ll know how well the meat pairs with citrus flavours.
The accompanying couscous was warm, lightly moist, and infused with a garlic ginger oil reduction. The roasted vegetables provide the crunch this dish needs.
‘After Eight’ Mint Variation with Chocolate
If you love chocolate, apricot and vanilla, this is heavenly. The slightly bitter chocolate ‘bar’ with apricot filling is easily balanced by the sweet vanilla ice cream on the side. It’s a nice round-up after 4 rounds of savoury dishes. The serving is slightly large after a 4-course meal but, unless you really hate sweets or chocolate, you’ll probably wipe everything off the plate and wonder where it went.
In between fawning over the courses, we were still entranced by the calm blue of the Open Ocean habitat. What mesmerized us the most was the way the marine animals effortlessly glided through the water, especially the manta rays and the schools of fish that undulate this way and that as though part of the same fabric.
It’s pretty easy to lose sense of time and it seems somewhat otherworldly, because honestly, who can say that they’ve dined underwater? While we were sometimes startled by the looming shadow of a big fish swimming by, it’s a nice feeling of companionship.
You really do forget your troubles for a while while dining at the restaurant; the decor accentuates the feeling of blanketed comfort. This is definitely an experience you’ll have to try at least once.
Ocean Restaurant by Cat Cora is open daily for lunch and dinner from 11am to 10:30pm (last order at 10pm). From 2 to 7 February, you can catch the Iron Chef herself at the restaurant if you dine-in.
The specially created 5-course Cat Cora Experience set is available from now till end February 2013.
How to get there:
Park at the West carpark’s B1M level and walk into Ocean Restaurant, located next to the Ocean Suites. Alternatively, park around the West carpark and hop on one of the free shuttle services that makes the following rounds: Ocean Suites -> Equarius Hotel -> Convention Centre -> Hard Rock Hotel -> The Forum. Drop off at Ocean Suites.
Find out what was Cat Cora’s big break.