It feels slightly macabre to be sitting by an oceanarium and dining on seafood. The manta ray looks like it's giving you reproachful looks, and the hammerhead sharks seems to be shaking its flat head at you.
Welcome to Ocean Restaurant by Cat Cora, one of the latest F&B offerings at Resorts World Sentosa (RWS) and truly a sight to behold. Buried deep within the labyrinth that is the carpark of the complex, the 63-seat fine dining establishment looks directly into an oceanarium. Behind the 16m glass panel that runs its length is 18 million litres of water — home for more than 100,000 marine animals.
Six tables have front row seats to the sea life but the ones with the most unobstructed views are numbers two and five. From there, you can appreciate the full height of the oceanarium that measures more than 8m and try to spot the 800 different species that inhabit it.
Dubbed Open Ocean, the oceanarium is part of RWS's latest attraction that is the Marine Life Park, aimed at inspiring visitors to do their bit to save the seas. To put things into perspective: The eatery merely forms the breadth of the oceanarium. A separate entrance to the side of the restaurant leads to the viewing gallery with its panoramic 36m long panel that lends a window into the marine world.
Back at the restaurant, try to tear your gaze away from the schools of fish that dip and dive in harmony as they go about their daily business. You are, after all, here to satisfy your inner predator instincts and eat your fill.
Throwing her weight behind Ocean is celebrity chef Cat Cora. If you're a fan of Food Network's Iron Chef series, you'll recognise her as the first and only female to be entered into that hall of fame. More recently, she was seen in Bravo's Around the World in 80 Plates television programme, co-hosting it with Curtis Stone. The pair hit the road for 44 days with 12 competing chefs in a culinary race that spanned 10 countries.
Introduced to RWS's executive chef Alan Orreal through the Singapore campus of the Culinary Institute of America, Cora was invited to come onboard since her style was in sync with what the F&B team had in mind for Ocean. “We shared a common vision for the restaurant and a dedication to making sure that the food remains fresh, simple, light and, most importantly, provide a great experience for all our guests,” he says.
One of its other highlights includes using sustainably sourced seafood and the freshest produce, in line with Cora's farm-to-table philosophy. “We endeavour to procure 70 percent of its ingredients from an immediate radius of 400km from Singapore. This also helps to reduce the carbon footprint of the restaurant,” explains Orreal.
Unfortunately, for all it promises, the food is a combination of hits and misses. We opt for the Cat Cora Experience five-course set menu, which is a line-up of her signatures. Things are off to a good start with the tender king salmon from New Zealand, sous vide at 48 deg C, and served with a generous portion of sustainable caviar, a Prosecco pear coated with crushed almonds, daubs of vine tomato jelly and sprigs of garden cress.
The next two courses are a real disappointment. The best way to describe the soup is “salty”, and we don't mean it in a tasty way — this despite the myriad of ingredients that could have lent flavour to it, including a vongole of manila clams and a (skinny) slice of spicy fennel sausage.
The risotto has the consistency of teochew porridge, which means it is too watery and the rice, too hard. Together with the crunchy sakura shrimp, it makes chewing too much of an effort. Its only saving grace is the single black truffle-butter-seared Hokkaido scallop topped with ikura that is well-prepared with a firm bounce.
For the mains, it is prudent to opt for the Australian wagyu striploin over the Arctic char fish (overcooked and dry!). Grilled to a perfect medium-rare, it is tender and has just the right amount of fat left to make it juicy. A leek-bread pudding sits on the side, the crunchy vegetable adding texture to what is traditionally a soft dessert doused with butter.
Outside of the Cat Cora Experience, the dinner menu offers a rather decadent spin on a comfort food dish — sautéed Boston lobster with mac and cheese. Generous chunks of the crustacean are found at regular intervals within the tangle of cheese that has melted over the macaroni.
Dessert is a lovely slice of chocolate mousse made from After Eight mints, presented with a cocoa powder-coated marshmallow on the side. We are politely told that it isn't a concoction by Cora but it's worth a mention nonetheless.
We're pretty sure that none of the dishes we had that evening were actually prepared under the personal supervision of Cora herself. By the time we did the tasting, she was long gone from our shores. But perhaps she should visit soon to make sure that her standards are upheld.
At the very least, it'll make that manta ray feel better about us chomping on its cousins.
Ocean Restaurant by Cat Cora
22 Sentosa Gateway, Marine Life Park, S.E.A Aquarium; Tel: 6577 8888