KOMA: Is it Fool’s Gold?
Marina Bay Sands has done it again. This time bringing out the big guns in the war for food supremacy against its hotel competitors with the opening of KOMA (or what I would coin the flashiest restaurant I’ve encountered this year). Yes, I floated in through the dimly lit 20-metre long torii gate-lined passageway, meant to mirror the Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto, pivoted around a 2.5-metre tall Japanese bell, approached a slight ascent on the Japanese footbridge above a reflecting pool, before lodging myself into one of the banquet seats encircling the main floor.
With the soft but clubby beats resonating throughout the restaurant, one can’t help but feel like a star in your imaginary music video. Stop to do a faux twirl on the bridge before looking pensively out into the crowd? Who are we kidding? Technically, you’re just one of the 230 diners they could potentially feed tonight, yet, KOMA rolls out the red carpet and pulls out all the stops for just about every diner. Service is impeccable, swift with just the right tinge of affability to not infringe on your personal space.
If you must know, the restaurant is a lavish modern Japanese concept by the Tao Group who has LAVO and Marquee under them too. Straight off the bat, you know these guys are professional at pushing the boundaries of partying. Here in this gargantuan high ceiling arena (where you’re half expecting silk rope dancers to drop from the ceiling anytime) which translates into a more culturally appropriate Buddha Bar-esque dining, you’ll get the same treatment. And you’ll get to live large and eat like a king.
The space is transportive and expansive: paper-lantern inspired lamps illuminate the floors and oriental gold fans layering the ceiling make this one of Singapore’s most ostentatious dining rooms. As expected, the menu strikes the same notes too: a stupendous amount of items ranging from sharing plates to skewers off the robata grill, maki rolls, tempura, to Japanese Wagyu and finally, larger plates. It’s a mammoth task deciding, unless of course you’re inebriated or rolling in dough after a successful round in blackjack. Either way, we would turn your attention towards the small plates and the maki; these inventive dishes get churned out from the kitchen at an insane pace, making a riot of a party on the table top.
KOMA touts a contemporary Japanese dining experience, cue the lowered expectations and anticipation of Californian rolls and other abominations. Just remember, that its all in good fun—and you’ll soon be rid of your naysayers’ attitude with the third round of King crab avocado pinwheels. Bottom line is, the strengths of the menu lie in its sharing plates. The Salmon Pillows ($14) may look dry and uninspired but the burst of smoked guacamole through cracker walls may stun you into submission and incite a little ‘rock-paper-scissor’ challenge at the table. We also enjoyed the Wagyu Beef Tataki ($45), teamed with a lively wasabi ponzu and Tokyo negi, best enjoyed between glugs of the Dark Room Honey ($22) cocktail featuring Nikka from the barrel, cointreau and Japanese spiced honey. From the maki menu, the Chirashi sits on the higher-end spectrum and rightfully so since it’s bombarded with a posh mix of hamachi, maguro, salmon and tai. If you’re in a group of 4 or more, order a couple of maki rolls, dabble in a few more sharing plates, perhaps the cabbage and chicken stuffed Tokyo gyoza or the ahi tuna pizza; indulge in spontaneity, soak in the atmosphere and maybe even surprise yourself.
The mains fall a little short. The delicateness of agedashi tofu ($25) is obliterated in a bubbling hot and spicy sauce along with assorted vegetables. Crispy kernels of corn or rice would be a welcome addition. This is followed swiftly by the ginger honey glazed salmon ($38) which comes perched on lotus root. Its burnout as a dish reflected in its less than pink centre. The Crispy Barbecued Chicken was sublime but its flavours did not bespeak any inspiration from the east. It could have been Moroccan roast chicken for what its worth.
Desserts are yet again brilliant examples of fun fusion dining. The menu splices the usual suspects like sesame, yuzu and coconut with a few queer meanderings such as Japanese rice pudding spiked with amaretto which seems convinced of its authenticity. We indulged in the lemon yuzu in an attempt to keep a clean bill, billowy lemon mousse is beautifully offset by bitter cocoa crumble, lifted by the tang of yuzu jam. Two thumbs up.
KOMA is a little show-offy. That’s an understatement, people go there to be seen, hence the recessed dining floor where one can spy on the hottie banker shooting sake with his table mates while celebrating their latest high-stakes acquisition. Tiny grumble? The food is way too pricey, but judging by the way that the moneyed universe works, it doesn’t matter that these menus do not sound trumpets. Instead, go with one intention in mind: release thy corporate card.