A Staycation in Singapore (1st in a series)

Part 2 here
Part 3 here

Kicking back at Marina Bay Sands and coming face to face – finally with that dessert.

*Note: All prices are in Singapore $.

All the daunting statistics about Marina Bay Sands (MBS) is true. It’s the world’s most expensive building, reportedly costing over US$5.5 billion dollars (prime worth + construction cost); it has over 2,500 rooms, and a staff of over 10,000. The three 55-storey towers balance a 340-meter boat-shaped SkyPark garden that houses 900 plant and tree species, and a 150-meter long rooftop infinity pool.

MBS is breathtaking and magnificent and has one of Asia’s most extensive collections of celebrity chef restaurants, but I’ll get to that later.

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A view of the Hotel Lobby Tower 1 and RISE Restaurant.

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We stay in a Premier room

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…and are immediately mesmerized by the view from our bedroom window.

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Up high on the 57th floor, precisely 257 meters in the air, is the Infinity Pool, the world’s largest and highest. I have to wake up very early to take this shot as there are always hordes of swimmers, even on this cloudy day. I don’t blame them. Who wouldn’t want to swim with a 360° view of Singapore?

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The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands, retail and restaurant therapy amidst glitz.

Pizzeria Mozza: Inspiration Realized

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The American powerhouse trio of chefs Nancy Silverton, Mario Batali, and Joe Bastianich elevate the Italian dining experience at Pizzeria Mozza. Carrying a diner from aperitivo to dolci, a meal here is – dare I say it? – as authentic as eating in Italy while flirting with the unconventional.

One look at the menu and I want to order everything, but reality reigns (as well as stomach space).

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Mozza Caprese ($19), is an absolute revelation, one of those “Oh god, Oh. God.” moments that changes me as an eater forever. Fresh burrata dribbled with basil pesto and crowned with cherry tomatoes still on the vine. I’ve never, ever tasted tomatoes like this, though they come close to the celestial ones I eat in Switzerland. The tomatoes are slow roasted, their inherent sweetness distilled by heat. Eaten with a fork, the little globes burst, red juices staining white plate. But popped whole into the mouth, they burst and fill me with wonder.

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Clusters of those vine-ripened cherry tomatoes sitting on the counter.

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The Fett’unta ($8) is perfection paired with the Caprese. Its name comes from fetta, to slice; and ’unta, oily; thus, bread slices grilled and then drenched in olive oil. Just the thought can make one squeamish perhaps, but one bite and I feel my spine slump. A crunch into the rustic bread thickly sliced, summons a wave of fruity-peppery olive oil. It seeps onto my tongue then quickly, is sopped up before the next crunch then flood. My Bin so loves this bread that he’s silent as he eats, the soundtrack of his bites a fitting exclamation point. Behind, is an order of Lardo (cured pig’s rump-fat; $15) that my Bin drapes over the fett’unta, doubling the fawn-and-faint factor.

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Bone Marrow ($18) is one of those things that I make at home but still insist on ordering every time I see it on the menu. Lush and lavish and inciting obscene thoughts on first lick, this one at Mozza is as divine as any I’ve ever had.

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The workhorse in the Mozza kitchen, the wood-fired oven. Magic materializes from its fiery depths.

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Since this is a pizzeria, we would be remiss to not order one. But because my Bin and I end up arguing over which one to order, we wind up with one that neither of us is happy with, the Guanciale Pizza ($25). Strips of guanciale (cured pig’s cheek) frolic in a garden of bitter greens lubricated with bagna cauda (anchovies and olive oil), and a softly-cooked egg. The combination stuns sufficiently but the combination is just not to our liking.

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THE Mozza Butterscotch Budino.

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My Filipino Budino, as seen in my book.

I knew about Mozza’s famous dessert, the Butterscotch Budino, long before I get to try it today. So inspired am I by it in fact, that without even tasting it, I create my own interpretation (see photo above) and include it in my book. When the server places THE Budino in front of me, I actually have the chills. Softly sweet, the custard laps on the tongue before dissolving, leaving trails of brown sugar and vanilla. As I eat and contemplate every spoonful, emotions are stirred and memories are recalled of the time I was trying to re-interpret this in my own kitchen. “It’s as good as yours, you know,” my Bin says softly, noting my faraway expression. I am grateful, and overjoyed to finally be trying this Budino.

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In Italian, copetta ($16) is an undressed dish of gelato. But Mozza flies fast and free with their definition of it, and god, it’s good! A scoop of caramel gelato props up a languid layer of white marshmallow sauce that’s almost taffy-like. Then a sticky-salty caramel sauce is poured over all, trapping a trail of salted Spanish peanuts in its wake. Captivating to behold, and a feeling of sweet conquest when consumed.

Make your own laksa
When I’m traveling, there’s no such thing as restraint. Restraint? What’s that? It’s testament to my bottomless stomach that barely an hour after the manna that was Mozza, my Bin and I are rummaging through Rasapura Masters, the 24-hour food court at The Shoppes.

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We’re entranced by a stall serving laksa, and the best part is being able to choose (a minimum of six pieces) of fish and squid balls, tofu, veg, and all manner of indeterminate add-ins. It’s a trip and we share a bowl, giggling like a high school couple and guarding the respective add-ins each has chosen.

A cocktail way up on the rooftop
KU DÉ TA is one of Singapore’s notable rooftop bars. Just a jump away from the Infinity Pool, being up here is challenging to my scared-of-heights self. But the fabulous view certainly sucks all the air out of my lungs and reality seems suspended, as do I whilst peering gingerly over the glass railing.

After some shopping, my Bin and I hie up for a drink. The sun only sets at 7.30’ish and it’s still early now so the sun is blazing.

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Sipping a cocktail and gushing over this glorious view from KU DÉ TA’s roof deck. I can see the Gardens By The Bay and the shadows of the three towers of Marina Bay Sands.

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At this height and with this knockout view, any cocktail would taste terrific. But these truly are. Here are two we enjoy from the “Tart” drinks menu. At left is a Passion Mojo: Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva rum, vanilla liqueur, fresh mint, lime, and passion fruit. At right is an Urban Breeze: Grey Goose vodka, passion fruit, pink grapefruit, cranberry juice, and club soda.

Time, as told by the setting sun

A transcript of a Singapore sunset as witnessed from our room on the 38th floor of Marina Bay Sands:

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7.34pm I breathe in deeply at the beauty before me.

Eating one of the world’s most expensive burgers
It’s early in the week and already, db Bistro Moderne is a full house. An outpost of the New York-based establishment, the restaurant synthesizes the energy of that city together with the classics of a French bistro. May I say this is fine dining, where waiters are attentive and efficient to unspoken needs, where the patrons are smartly attired, and every table has one or four of the fabled db Burger.

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Breads to start. From left to right: baguette slices, pretzels, focaccia. Frankly, these are alright but not representative of a restaurant of this caliber.

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Gougères as hors d’oeuvres. Warm and leaving fragrant traces of cheese on fingers.

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I want a Duck Pâté en Croûte or even a French onion soup, but since we were just in France for my birthday, my Bin gently suggests we try something else. So we begin with the Boston Lobster Salad ($36). This is disappointing, with the rare nugget of lobster meat playing hide-and-find-me amongst leaves of lettuce, sliced radish, and celery. But I appreciate the spicy tang of the French dressing coupled with horseradish.

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The legendary dbBurger costs $42 or roughly P1,300, definitely worthy of its much-vaunted status as one of the world’s priciest burgers. The craft that goes into this can’t be denied however. The patty uses seven different cuts of meat with specific percentages of fat, and the short ribs in there are braised in red wine for 6-8 hours. In the middle of it all, is the star – a lobe of foie gras. The patty is almost as tall as it is wide to accommodate its storied contents. The bread chosen as the vessel to carry such precious cargo is a potato bun sprinkled with cheddar and onion.

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The bottom bun is glazed with Dijon mustard and tomato compote and layered with chicory for its peppery bite. On goes the burger patty followed by a seeded and blanched tomato half, slices of red onion, and garnishes of grated horseradish. Now I know why this commands such a price … and a captivated market.

While I admire such a creation and the skill that goes into it, I find it truly underwhelming. The flavors are disparate instead of seamless and the whole thing is generally bland. I’m not even sure this can be called a burger as it’s too hefty to hold in one hand, let alone two. The fries, and this sounds sacrilegious, but they taste store-bought. Still, I’m glad to have finally tried this burger, as I’ve heard so much about it. I’m surprised however, to find out that others have been equally baffled by this dish.

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My Bin and I are more enchanted with his Duck Confit ($38). Crisp and fatty, the meat is moist, a good foil for the bitter greens underneath.

The dining room sparks with laughter and easy conversation lubricated with alcohol. Having downed my own glass of Burgundy, I’m feeling that glee that comes with being on vacation. My Bin and I talk easily, watching the other guests and marveling at the servers. They move briskly, eyes sharp on their respective tables.

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Dessert is a Chocolate Tart ($18), an overly simplistic term for something so elaborate and multi-layered. A hazelnut crumble is a royal mat for a chocolate band containing a thick vanilla foam. Its texture mimics the cooler ice cream layer beneath it. Adjacent and astride the hazelnut mat is something that looks like a chocolate cigar. Close by, brittle dark chocolate encases a dark chocolate and coffee crémeux. Its silkiness echoes the tart and evokes sighs from me.

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The Crème Brulee is just as lovely, with a crackle-perfect cover and custardy center.


Establishment addresses:

Pizzeria Mozza
The Shoppes, Galleria Level
Daily: Noon – 11pm

Rasapura Masters
The Shoppes, Canal Level, B2-B50
Open 24/7

Marina Bay Sands
Sands SkyPark, Tower 3, Level 57
Daily: 11am – Late

db Bistro Moderne
The Shoppes, Galleria Level, B1-48

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