March 26, 2015

Over at the bar, a couple share deep loving looks at each other. A tinge of self-consciousness hits; I feel like my voyeurism is intruding on their intimacy. But it appears that they are too caught up with the “L” word. A split second later, I hear a rapturous applause. “Congratulations!” by surrounding diners – some are clueless but still muster claps. In such a brief moment, so much has happened. How could I have missed the part where he gets down on one knee? Oh, my salmon donburi is here.

Wild Rocket happens to be Willin Low’s pride and joy – it’s his very first establishment into the restaurant scene after switching out his corporate attire as a lawyer for a more standardised one – a chef’s uniform that occasionally gets subjected to food stains and splatters. His gumption has paid off. He has turned into a celebrity, even appearing on TV shows like Top Chef and Wok Stars. Media giants like New York Times and Financial Times have also sung praises about his culinary skills and have acknowledged him as one of Singapore’s best new chefs.

Tucked in a secluded corner along Mount Emily, Wild Rocket isn’t quite capacious but it’s clean, sophisticated, modern, and evokes a cosy ease of a high-end IKEA vibe with beige wood accents. All you need are some Kinfolk magazines and it’s picture perfect. Some of you might probably know this already, but Willin’s specialty is all about giving local food a twist – essentially, combining bold flavours from the East and the West. If you think that’s codespeak for atas hawker food, you might be onto something.

I suggest not looking at the a la carte menu and go straight for the four-course menu priced at $72 – most patrons followed suit. It makes more sense economically and you will get to sample more of his creations. In true tasting portion fashion, dishes are pretty small and can adequately satiate your stomach before you return home and hear a rumbling noise.

The salmon donburi is a lovely creation with intricate salmon roe bits dressed nicely on top. Although you can’t quite figure out what is underneath the blanket of warm gravy goodness at first glance, once you take a scoop, you began to realise how delicious the combination of salmon carpaccio, red rice and baby octopus can be. The Hokkaido scallop carpaccio stroked with truffle oil and chai poh, is very delicate in texture with telltale winks of sweetness.

The onsen egg in the crab rigatoni is perhaps the only palatable ingredient in the dish. The sauce was simply too overpowering, numbing all my taste buds. While the laksa pesto linguini with king prawns & quail egg might not be a new concept (you can get a similar version at PS Café too), it definitely tasted more refined and the quail egg added a nice decadence touch.

Beef short rib was judiciously seared to perfection and the smoked oyster provided a layer of complexity. The velvety potato mash did soften the overall texture of the meat (when eaten together), making the dish an unforgettable one. The ginger and spring onion soon hock did put up a lacklustre fight as it couldn’t quite compare with the beef.

Sometimes, less can be more, and in the case of the pandan infused panna cotta with salted gula Melaka, there was a bitter aftertaste, which I couldn’t quite put my finger on. The exotic sounding description also heightened my expectations and that added to my disappointment. The wild rocket strawberry cheesecake was very deconstructed: a sloppier version that was tossed around a bit. More creativity and imagination in the desserts were needed for a stronger finish.

Suffice to say, Willin has provided an edge to local cuisine. But whether that edge is good enough to distinguish himself from other culinary masters maybe a highly debatable topic. There were a few hits and misses, but the service staff are attentive and poised, and it certainly helps to elevate the overall Wild Rocket experience.

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