Marina Bay Sands (MBS) houses one of only two casinos in the whole of Singapore. Developed by Las Vegas Sands, the casino/hotel/mall complex cost $8 billion to complete. Having no luck in gambling whatsoever, we had no interest in the casino but were drawn by the “celebrity chef” restaurants within the MBS complex and were all too happy to oblige when an invitation from family came for a dinner meal at Santi.
Santi is named after Santi Santamaria, its chef/owner who is perhaps more famous in Singapore for having passed away from a heart attack in his own kitchen in Santi in February 2011. Hailing from Catalan (the region of Spain that Barcelona is capital of), chef Santi Santamaria had a 3* restaurant in Catalan and a total of 7* in his four restaurants in Spain. Santi Singapore meanwhile is starless, but did win Best New Restaurant in the Singapore Tatler Best Restaurants Guide 2011.
Needless to say, I was expecting a fine dining experience.
Our party was seated in a private dining room so I can’t comment about the experience of others in the main dining room. However, the seats in the room were pretty comfortable with plenty of elbow room. Some vegetable chips were provided with romesco sauce which was a great light nibble. The supplied bread was mediocre at best, especially as it wasn’t warm when serving. The olive oil however was incredibly fragrant.
The restaurant was quite flexible and allowed some people to have the degustation menu while others could have the ala carte instead. Since we both ordered the degustation set, the rest of the review will focus on those dishes. However, all of us were given an amuse-bouche of cold gazpacho and a grilled (a la plancha) baby squid. The gazpacho was very refreshing, slightly tart while the grilled squid had a little squid ink, was very tasty. A very promising beginning.
“SCALLOP “A LA PLANCHA”; cold potato, lime salad and piquillo all i oli”. The scallop itself was very sweet and perfectly cooked, with just enough seasoning and herbs to dress it. As always, a little vegetable on the side provide a little distraction for the tongue to enjoy the main player on the plate.
“ORGANIC EGG CONFIT; white onion puree and white truffles”. This was an extra course for $50. I have to admit I was very curious why an egg dish was $50 but this was literally covered with white truffles (apparently the first batch of the season and newly arrived). The white onion puree was quite muted but the egg itself was very aromatic and tasty. Admittedly, this is not as impressive as Ducasse’s egg dish, but still a pretty decent plate in a whole.
“KUROBUTA PORK TORTELLINI; chanterelle mushrooms, basil and radishes”. Another extra course, this cost $20 and seemed a steal compared to the egg confit. The tortellini was served without any sauce, just some foam on the side, something slightly different from past experiences. The pork filling was pretty good, meat was extremely tender and tasty.
“CRUSTACEANS “CALDERETA”; chorizo, pine nuts and smoked paprika”. I can’t recall any chorizo in this dish, so perhaps it’s within the deep rich sauce, which is supposed to be a tomato and pepper-based sauce. The crustaceans were prawn and langoustine, both naturally sweet and didn’t need anything too complex to complicate matters.
“MARKET FISH; lentil, ginger and poivrade sauce”. The poivrade sauce (a sort of pepper sauce) was a little unusual to go with fish as it’s traditionally for fairly heavy meat (e.g. venison). The fish (I think it's seabass) was perfectly grilled, and the lentils were a nice foil to it.
“SUCKLING PIG or VENISON; celeriac confit, baby turnips and girolle mushrooms”. I’ve always felt that the Chinese are the best at making suckling pig but the Spanish are also pretty damn good at doing it. This is one of Santi's signature dish, the piglet was deliciously succulent and the skin was wafer thin and crunchingly pleasant.
The venison meanwhile was quite tender and juicy, but I am not a huge fan of the chocolate sauce (the PigPig loved it though).
We requested to switch to the cheese course to another dessert. The replacement was a lime-based dessert with bits of pineapples, it was almost like a palette cleanser, light and refreshing.
“LEMONGRASS SAVARIN; yoghurt, lime and basil soup”. I absolutely loved the fragrance of lemongrass from the savarin (a French cake leavened with yeast), but the savarin had a strange cheesy aftertaste. The soup and yoghurt were very light and the mixture of the lemongrass, mint and basil melded together very well for a fairly light dessert.
“PETIT FOURS”. Quite possibly my favourite course, all five of the petits fours were equally amazing, from the sesame oreo to the lemon macaron, chocolate crispies, truffle filled with cream and tiramisu cake.
Altogether, the bill came up to $400 a head including some champagne and two bottles of wine and the bottles of still water. Service throughout was very good and attentive, and the waiters paid especial attention to the one year old baby at the table, making sure he was comfortable and cared for. I have to admit though, at one point the waiters mixed up the PigPig’s plate with mine when we ordered the extra courses, so they are slightly imperfect after all.
In general, the food was of a very high standard, easily equal to most of the 1* restaurants in London we’ve tried but not quite approaching the 2* standards of Ledbury, Gavroche and The Square for example. However, the plates seem to be missing a little extra “Wow!! factor” and doesn’t catch the attention quite as much. The style is Spanish in origin, so it is less rich and creamy than the traditionally French cuisine and didn’t leave me feeling so full and bloated at the end.
Best bit: the petit fours, followed closely by the gazpacho.
Worst bit: the price tag; $400 a head is eye-wateringly expensive but seeming de rigueur for the more upscale fine dining in Singapore.
10 Bayfront Avenue,
#L2-03, Casino Level 2,
Marina Bay Sands,
Tel: +65 6688 8501