Update: in late 2018, Robuchon’s flagship restaurant in Singapore closed. There are currently no three-star restaurants in Singapore as of the 2019 book, sadly.
Below average by Joël Robuchon's global standards, this underwhelming and ludicrously overpriced restaurant delivers on classic dishes and desserts but falls short in many important categories, like service, just to pick one element at random.
Situated in a massive gigaplex of a mall/hotel/theme park called Resorts World Sentosa, Joël Robuchon can be excused for getting a bit lost in the noise of this massive structure. Resorts World Sentosa is, to put it mildly, a bizarre place: built on an island neighboring Singapore's Downtown Core, the facility includes two separate theme parks, two casinos, dozens of restaurants, and hundreds of stores. It is the third most expensive structure ever built, and employs more than 10,000 people. Throngs of shoppers and tourists clamber through the halls looking at everything from $300,00 Richard Mille watches to $4 Hard Rock Cafe t-shirts. An odd fate for what used to be a military base, and an even odder place to find one of the world's ~120 3-star restaurants.
PRICE PAID: $250PP (INCL. WATER, GLASS OF RIESLING, TAX, TIP)
FINAL RATING: 6.0/10
Prior to entering, we walk past this massive and beautifully lit wine cellar stuffed full of La Tache, DRC, Dom Perignon...
A quick statement on value, as far as 3-star dining goes. As of my visit, the restaurant offers four dinner menus:
2-course for S$248 ($175 US)
4-course for S$298 ($210 US)
5-course for S$348 ($246 US)
6-course "grand" menu for S$498 ($352 US, a Paris-level price)
These prices, by themselves, aren't terribly offensive, and I appreciate that Robuchon offers an "entry-level" 2-course menu that includes an amuse-bouche, appetizer, entree, and dessert. But, when we get to their wine list, things truly got off the rails at every end of the price spectrum. On the "low end," S$220 for a bottle of Veuve Clicquot yellow label non-vintage champagne, normally a $38 bottle in the states. 2005 DRC for S$62,800, which (though not easy to get), is usually sub $7K in the US. Looking through their Burgundy whites, the multiples were less offensive (perhaps 4x retail instead of 6-8x) but this place gives you the sense that you're just supposed to spend money here. I'm sure a seasoned wine veteran could probably point out a few examples of value here, but I went with one of their few by-the-glass options.
A few quick and unfortunate notes about service. Singapore has a large culture of fine dining restaurants, so I was utterly stunned to see staff walking around laughing with each other, making loud jokes, and generally ignoring patrons. Rather than wait for tables to order, they would pre-position the many food carts near people who were about to finish with their menus so they wouldn't be bothered to move the carts twice. The room is mostly empty when we arrive so I guess it doesn't matter, but c'mon.
The room is flooded with a stale, unhealthy smell, since we are sitting towards the beginning of service (they likely had just finished cleaning out and weren't too careful about venting). But, at least it's quite pretty to look at. Robuchon truly is the Trump of Europe/Asia; gold-everything; shiny-everything, and fancy looking.
From the pre-staged bread cart which was half-heartedly wheeled over we are offered a large selection of fresh-looking loaves. Once we had made our selections, oddly, the cart is simply wheeled back and the waiter went to the kitchen to retrieve our selections rather than disturb the even ranks of bread on the cart. It makes the cart feel like an even-more-unnecessary set piece, or that perhaps service just doesn't care to have to restock the bread cart between each patron. In other words, it doesn't contribute to the experience, service implicitly acknowledges that it's just for show, and the cart really isn't fooling anyone. Maybe park the cart.
The rich and fresh butter is unsalted; a pile of large sea salt crystals sits just to the side for those who are extra-confident in their cardiovascular health. After they are hauled out from the kitchen, the breads look quite delicious. From left to right: baguette, ham and cheese, cranberry, chestnut, an "escargot" swirl, and milk bread. 8/10.
And now, onto the first bites: some langoustine waffle, served on crisply-folded napkins. The flavor is basically a deliciously rich grilled cheese; it's warm and melty and reminds me of eating my favorite grilled snack on a rainy day in Ohio. So, it's close to perfect; served just a touch colder than I'd like. 9/10.
This is the fourth Robuchon 3-star I've been to, and all of them have offered some version of this sweet corn velouté soup. Sometimes with duck, sometimes with lobster (as in this case) but always with popcorn. They are ALWAYS DELICIOUS. Popcorn breaks up the texture, it's not too rich, and it's basically amazing. 9/10.
Next, some seafood bouillabaisse with bonito broth pour-over. Small slices of avocado throughout, and almost sausage-like flavors somehow. The shellfish are well cooked and fresh, and the whole shebang has strong ginger notes. Lots of varieties of mushrooms. The dumpling has that incredible micro-bubble-popping texture that you only get from really good seafood soup. Small purple broccoli florets, undercooked to make them raw and crunchy. 9/10.
Before carving, they wheeled the Chateaubriand Cart over to our table to present the gorgeously-cooked dish in a bed of rosemary and herbs. I have to say, this was a pretty pro-level presentation.
Sous vide chateaubriand with half foie gras, half beef. The pepper crust is totally and absurdly delicious, but kind of hides in the background flavor-wise. I'm not a huge fan of the greasy smear of mashed potatoes: it needs salt and has the consistency of pancake batter. 7/10 overall.
Another in a long line of carts wheeled in our direction, this time laden with brightly-colored sorbets and ice creams.
I chose two sorbet flavors: black currant and passion fruit. A light palate cleanser; delightful but rather plain. 7/10.
We begin to feel like we are just a stop in a long, disconnected train of food carts that traipse the restaurant in an endless and random pattern. A dessert cart, stacked to the gunwales with almost every imaginable tart, macaron, cake, and pastry, makes its looming way in our direction. We are offered the chance to partake to our hearts' desire, and given that we chose one of the shorter menus, I took them up on the offer.
A pile of delightful, sugary fresh fruit is accompanied by slices of apple and chocolate tart. 8/10 overall.
And, because there was no one willing to stop me, I got an entire second helping of desserts that included a fresh berry tart an a delightful tiny macaron wearing another macaron as a hat.
Yes, I got a third thing also: perfectly crispy on top and thick as molten butter underneath, this crème brûlée was kind of perfect. 9/10.
Coffee service was brought over before what turned out to be the absolutely final cart of petit fours:
Somewhere, someone is doing crisp business in developing food trolleys for the Robuchon empire. Either that or they employ the world's most interesting workshop to build these vehicles.
Not as thrilling as the previous desserts, and I don't choose to go for broke they way I did previously. Petit fours- chocolate macaroon, dark chocolate truffle, apple tart, and a passion fruit marshmallow. Delicious and way too much emphasis on the pastry kitchen. 7/10.