Steak Review: Bar-roque Grill ðŸ‡¸ðŸ‡¬

Finally back in SG after 1+ year, and reunited with my favorite housemates! One of them (bestie), has excitedly prepared a list of steak places for us to try out.

We agreed to go for something that’s more affordable first, thus bringing us to this little bar & grill that’s situated just outside the Amara Hotel in Tanjong Pagar.

Photo of Bar-roque Grill from TripAdvisor.

We took a look at their menu. Since there were 4 of us, we thought of ordering their signature dry-aged beef tomahawk.

I haven’t had much dry-aged beef since my first experience with it at Vantador 🇲🇾, reason being that I really didn’t like the strong flavor that reminded me of peanuts and their slightly pungent edge.

Also, most steaks that they would dry-age are not wagyu, i.e. less fatty, more chewy.

Tomahawk was the signature item on the menu.

Well since it’s bestie’s recommendation I decided to keep an open mind and give it a try anyway.

Pre-cooked tomahawk!

Ours was 1.3kg so about S$205. I generally feel like tomahawks are a scam because you get charged for the weight of the bone (it’s heavy af). Bestie disagrees though, he feels that the bone adds a lot of flavor to the meat.

Anyway.

Starters

Bread with butter (FOC).

The bread was barely warmer than room temperature, and not nearly warm enough to melt the butter. So we just placed the slabs of solid butter on top of the bread, and so each bite was room temp bread with a chunk of cold butter.

Plus the skin was so tough (not crispy just tough) that I gave up on it after a while.

Grilled Octopus (S$32). Chermoula Sauce, Piperade & Chickpeas, Harissa Dressing.

We were all confused upon first tasting it because both the texture and taste were not what we’d expect from grilled octopus.

The spicy and creamy sauces were nice but a tad overwhelming, reminiscent of thousand island sauce with added herbs & spices. The octopus was breaded, but the breading was soggy unfortunately, and it felt like we were eating chicken rather than octopus – the meat somehow lacked the springy texture.

After a while we concluded that it tasted like mamak tandoori chicken. Mostly because of the sauce.

Tasted really interesting, just not something we expected when we ordered grilled octopus.

Seared Foie Gras (S$32). Blinis (Russian pancakes), Mesclun (Salad), Morel Sauce.

First time having foie gras with pancake which was something new, but the morel sauce that the dish came with somehow made it taste like Chinese cuisine. It tasted like the 卤汁 (marinade) in marinated duck.

And because the pancake is so porous, it soaked up lots of sauce and when you bite into the whole thing at once, the first thing that hits you is the marinated duck taste, then if you really pay attention you may be able to discern a faint hint of foie gras.

So once again, as in the previous dish, I’m really not sure if the sauce is necessary or suitable.

Main Course #1: Wagyu Steak

Hanging Tender Wagyu 200g (S$48), medium rare…?

When it was first served I recall thinking, “Wow, that looks really red. Is it rare? Or is that what dry-aged beef is supposed to look like? We ordered dry-aged?

I honestly thought we ordered regular, non-aged steak, because I already knew from experience that I may not like the dry-aged one, and so this was to be my back-up plan for the night.

But the color just looked so odd and suspect.

We grabbed a piece each and started eating. Then, one by one, we all frowned.

Eh it tastes really weird…

There’s this sour taste to it.

Ugh no I think I’m gonna spit it out…

It just tasted… really off. There was this rancid, sour taste. Two of us immediately spat out the pieces we were chewing.

We asked the server who’s a very nice aunty, to help ask the chef if it’s supposed to taste & smell this way, and to maybe sear it so it’s fully-cooked. Doneness is honestly less of a concern at this point than food safety.

After a while the aunty returned, menu in hand, “The chef said everyone’s taste buds are different, so maybe you cannot accept the taste. He asked you to order another steak instead.

We were puzzled, but politely declined to order a replacement steak as the tomahawk was already served by then and it looks pretty huge.

After the aunty left, we started pondering why the chef didn’t pick the option of cooking the steak fully for us.

And we thought, maybe he also found it problematic but can’t admit outright that they served meat that had gone bad, which was why he asked us to order another one instead.

Because if “everyone’s taste buds are different“, what are the chances that all four of us, with our different tastes & preferences in food, found it unpleasant at the same time?

I asked bestie to describe his experience. He said,

“It smelled as if the meat was rotting, but not in a controlled way.”

At the thought of it, we all scrunched up our faces in disgust.

Main Course #2: Dry-Aged Tomahawk

Tomahawk / Côte de boeuf (S$205), 1.3kg for 3 persons. With Romaine Salad, and two additional sauces at S$5 each.

After the ordeal of the rancid (?) steak, the tomahawk was a saving grace. We were almost in tears.

Omg, THIS is beef!

God I didn’t know beef could taste this good. Amazing.

Drama-aside, the meat’s color was nice. I commented that it was quite unevenly cooked, i.e. almost well-done near the edges, and medium rare in the middle, and bestie commented that tomahawks are usually that way.

Close-up on a middle slice of the tomahawk steak.

The tomahawk was better compared to the other steak but for S$50 per pax it definitely can be better.

Portion-wise there was enough meat for 4, but overall it’s a tad dry. The outer layer was crisp and nicely-charred, but the meat itself was not that tender or juicy.

In fact, it’s rather chewy and there was also a lot of silver skin that was unchewable & can’t be cut through.

Dessert

Eton Mess (S$16). Raspberry & Mango Sorbet, Meringue & Mix Berries.

This one was really popular among my sweet-toothed housemates; I personally only tried a little bit of it and found it sickeningly sweet. But to be honest it’s probably the tastiest dish we’ve had all night.


Food: 3/10

I hoped that this place would be able to change my mind about dry-aged steaks in general, but after this meal my impression of them went from bad to worse.

Throughout my steak-tasting journey, the hanging tender wagyu was the first piece of steak I’ve encountered where I wasn’t able to swallow even a single slice of it.

The tomahawk was just okay and not really worth the price.

I appreciate that they’re trying to be creative with other dishes, but the sauces are simply too overpowering or out of place at times.

Service: 7/10

For a bar & grill-type of establishment, our server tended to several tables in the area, but was very attentive and responsive. She also helped to relay messages between us and the chef about the problematic steak, and asked us to rate or provide feedback for the restaurant online when we were leaving.

Points were deducted due to the chef’s response to our feedback, which barely made sense.

Verdict

It wasn’t a particularly good experience for us, and we won’t return for another meal.

Damage: S$390 for 4, so about S$97 / pax.

Wagyu Omakase Review: Wagyu Dojo ðŸ‡²ðŸ‡¾

In town for a bit before flying off to Singapore, so decided to give this new establishment a try, since I saw in ads that they do wagyu omakase. When booking they specifically mentioned that they’re not a restaurant, but a “wagyu experience hub“. Color me intrigued!

Photo by World Orgs.com.

A small unassuming shop front hidden in a row of old car workshops & hardware stores just off Old Klang Road. The interior was cosy, just enough to fit an L-shaped bar that could host 3 diners on each stretch.

The bar counter.

Hello! You’re Tiffani, right?” I was greeted by name by a friendly, suit-clad server once I entered the shop, and while I sat down in amazement of the fact that they remembered my name from the reservation, I was even more surprised when I caught sight of my name on the place mat.

Spot the “Tiffani Lim” printed in gold atop the menu.

I arrived half an hour ahead of time for the 6:30pm session, and was told that they can only start serving food when two other diners for the session has arrived. Of course I said okay, and while sipping hot genmaicha I was given an introductory course to the basic types of wagyu and cuts, and shown the block of Miyazaki wagyu with its ID and certification.

They mentioned that they’ve been around for a long while as a wagyu supplier, and they’ve decided to branch out into a wagyu experience hub about half a year ago. Initially it’s just to serve their friends, but they recently started opening up for the public to reserve & dine in.

Soon after the other two diners (a couple) arrived, got seated, and after another brief round of introduction to their block of Miyazaki wagyu that’ll be used in the courses today, the server & chef started preparing the first course together. It didn’t take long, because it was sashimi.

1st Course: Wagyu & Tori Sashimi

1st Course: Wagyu & Tori (Chicken) Sashimi. The beef came with kombu salt, and the chicken was topped with special wasabi.

They checked prior to serving the first course if we were alright with raw food. I had no issues with the wagyu, but the chicken was a little iffy to me.

Out of respect towards the chef I took one bite of the raw chicken. It had a fresh springy texture but was relatively tasteless without the wasabi, and that’s when I decided that I won’t be missing much, and requested the chef to sear the rest for me.

While serving the seared chicken to me later they added that it’s common in Japan to eat chicken sashimi, and reassured me that they’ve tried it personally hours before serving it to customers and that they use food-grade sanitizer etc.

I knew that chicken sashimi was a thing in Japan, but I didn’t have the heart to tell them that my apprehension was stemming from the fact that we’re in a country where food safety is not as strictly-regulated, and I’m really not sure if they’re trained in handling sashimi properly. And even if they’ve tried it and survived doesn’t necessarily mean the absence of parasites or bacteria on other pieces that were served to us.

So though I allow myself to be adventurous with food at times, one bite was as far as I’d go this time.

A5 wagyu sashimi with kombu salt.

The raw wagyu tasted good with the kombu salt, though I also questioned if it would taste better lightly-seared. With my limited understanding of wagyu I imagined that a bit of heat would release the juices and melt the fats and make it taste more buttery. But that’s just my own speculation.

There was also a bit of silver skin.

2nd Course: Wagyu Spring Roll

2nd Course: Wagyu spring roll with tartar sauce.

The chef explained that the vegetables were fried using wagyu fats, but overall I didn’t really get much of a wagyu taste from the spring roll itself. Even when biting into the meat it was overshadowed by everything else that was going on in the spring roll.

I’ve never been a fan of spring rolls, so it just felt very… fusion. The homemade tartar sauce had a refreshing lemon tinge to it though.

3rd Course: Wagyu Brisket

3rd Course: Wagyu Brisket with Quail Egg Yolk.

The brisket was tender, but the fact that it was minced (iinm) was quite disappointing to me. It’s not that I wasn’t open to new ways to eat wagyu, but it simply tasted like minced burger patty, just a bit more tender and flavorful than normal beef I suppose.

I’m not sure about the act of mincing up wagyu though, like don’t you lose the original buttery fatty texture that highly-marbled wagyu is prized for? Maybe that’s the right way of processing that cut of meat. But from a diner’s perspective I don’t feel like it’s particularly tasty.

4th Course: US Wagyu Tongue

4th Course: Caviar on American Wagyu Tongue, lightly seasoned with Foie Gras.

It’s tongue. It’s chewy. And it’s not Japanese wagyu.

After the meal I reread the menu and asked the chef about the foie gras, to which they replied that it was lightly shaved onto the dish. I missed it though, was too caught up with chewing the tongue.

Anyway, the reason that I love wagyu so much is because it requires minimal chewing.

So if we’re trying to introduce wagyu to people or get people to fall in love with the texture that wagyu offers, I’m really not sure if serving chewy tongue is the right way to go about it.

5th Course: Wagyu, Enoki & Asparagus Maki

5th Course: Asparagus and Enoki Mushroom wrapped in Wagyu.

This one was really tasty and juicy. The seared wagyu went really well with the crunchy vegetables, and though the asparagus kept threatening to overpower the wagyu, it all melted together in the mouth into a perfect blend of juices. One of the courses I really enjoyed!

6th Course: Wagyu Katsu Sando

6th Course: Wagyu Katsu Sando (Fried Wagyu Sandwich).

This one was a pleasant surprise for me, one of the best wagyu sandos I’ve tried eaten. I think the bread made all the difference, it was coated in a layer of wagyu fat and lightly grilled so it was crispy and not oily at all. The wagyu too was crispy on the outside yet tender and juicy on the inside.

The plate came with some blueberry jam, a sweet juicy tomato and a small salad with strips of pear. It was a great mix of sweet and savory.

This was when we were also served a cup of sweet yuzu sake to be paired with the dish. The sake was so sweet that I didn’t manage to finish it; I suppose it was also meant to balance out the richness and oiliness of the sando.

I took my time to finish up this sando dish, alternating between sweet and savory as was intended by the chef. Everything was amazing, including the creative touch that was the blueberry jam.

7th Course: Wagyu Tendon Soup

7th Course: Kansai-style Wagyu Tendon Soup.

The soup was very rich in umami and flavorful, and the pieces of meat were surprisingly soft, tender and easy to swallow. I don’t particularly like soup, but this to me was acceptably tasty.

When the chef asked me how the soup was I wasn’t sure how to reply though. I figured in hindsight that at that point I was a little disappointed at how little wagyu (in the conventional sense & style of cooking) there have been in this omakase, and this was already the second last dish on the menu. So I went with a pretty bland,

“Uh, it’s soup lor.”

That was when they started asking me about omakases I’ve been to and which one was my favourite. They’re rather attuned to the omakase market locally, and introduced me to a couple of other must-try omakases.

But truth be told, I was unimpressed not because I’ve tried too many other omakases before, but because I love wagyu, I came for the wagyu and we’re at the 7th dish and I feel like I’ve barely had any wagyu.

8th Course: Wagyu Yakiniku Don

8th Course: Wagyu Yakiniku Don with Truffle & Egg Yolk.

This was by far the closest to what I came for, just grilled wagyu on rice, no frills, no fusion. But the sad thing was, by the time I got to this last course, I was already so full that I was hard-pressed to force the dish down so as not to let down the perfectly-cooked wagyu.

They should really have served grilled wagyu as one of the earlier courses.

This. Perfection!

There was also another surprise in the form of crispy beef fats (牛油渣). As a sucker for fried pork lard, I was really excited to try out the beef version. However, some pieces were impossible to chew, some had an unpleasant oily taste, some were just okay. Either the frying wasn’t done well or pork lard is superior.

Dessert: Wagyu Ice Cream

Dessert: Wagyu Ice Cream!

This was yet another surprise, this ice cream tasted like salted caramel with heavy hints of something meaty. According to the chef it was made with wagyu fats. It was rich and salty, with bits and pieces of what feels like beef jerky. Pretty unique as ice cream goes!


Expectations vs Reality

To be honest, when I saw “wagyu omakase“, I was expecting more wagyu and less omakase. Perhaps my expectations were a little misplaced, which is why at some point during the meal, I started to wonder – where is the wagyu?

Also, the price point is set at RM 628 per pax. My initial thought process was along the lines of, based on the market price of raw wagyu steak that I’ve bought from suppliers before, sans the service & presentation, I should at least be expecting 300g+ worth of wagyu.

Truth be told, I was expecting a full educational course on how wagyu should be prepared, with the melty buttery meat served in different cooking styles; perhaps the chance to explore the differences between wagyu from different prefectures/farms.

Some different unconventional cuts and small creative dishes are welcome, but preferably not anything filling.

Comparison with Yakiniku Great’s Wagyu Omakase

I tried another wagyu omakase in KL about 4 months back, at Yakiniku Great. I went for the RM 390 per pax one, and I remember it to be a pretty darn good meal full of buttery wagyu goodness.

My only complaint about Yakiniku Great is the lack of personal touch in terms of service, as they had the servers going from table to table serving and explaining each dish. There were no counter seats where the chef would cook, serve while chatting with you about wagyu, which is different from other omakase experiences. And the wagyu they used was from Kagoshima, which in my limited knowledge is not among the top wagyu brands (cmiiw).

For Wagyu Dojo, they use primarily Miyazaki beef which is presumably superior, but it’s more of the style of cooking which I feel takes away from the experience.

I can understand where Wagyu Dojo is coming from, since they brand themselves as the wagyu experience hub, that perhaps this omakase is meant to be an introductory course to someone who’s had beef before but not Japanese wagyu per se, to be shown the difference between the two.

But personally, the soup, tongue, spring roll & minced brisket were a tad far from what I expected. Not about the type of the dish or cuts, but more of the texture.

The Wagyu Dojo chef cooking the briskets & chatting with us about the types of wagyu.

In terms of the omakase experience itself, Wagyu Dojo did it much better. The ratio of 2 chefs to 3 diners made for an intimate session; the friendly and down-to-earth mannerisms of the chefs, patiently explaining about the wagyu, and politely observing before clearing / serving up each dish making you feel comfortable without being intrusive, also added a lot to the overall experience.

Having a friendly and chatty chef who’d excitedly and proudly chatter away about the food they’re serving, to me has always been a big factor in omakase.


Food: 7/10

I especially liked the katsu sando & truffle don. The rest of the dishes are nice, but not something you’d expect to eat at a wagyu restaurant, especially considering the fact that what most wagyu lovers like about the coveted type of beef is for its high marbling ratio and the resultant melty buttery texture, and there wasn’t much of that in the omakase.

I mean it’s okay to introduce some variety or different flavors to avoid overwhelming diners with the jelak feeling from too much oily wagyu, but they really shouldn’t take the spotlight away from wagyu itself.

Service: 10/10

Personalised place mat and greetings, intimate 2 chefs to 3 diner ratio. The chef & server were really friendly; they patiently explained to us about wagyu, types of cuts, other omakases in different parts of the country, and sincerely asked for feedback at the end of the session.

Verdict

Nice omakase experience, but can really do with more wagyu content, or wagyu-like textures.

Purely based on the amount of wagyu served, I personally feel it’s not really worth the price, at least not the current menu that I’ve tried. But they seem really open to receive feedback, so I might give them another chance later in the future.

Damage: RM 628 / pax (RM200 paid in advance as deposit)

About the Restaurant

Exquisitely curated with novelty, introducing Malaysia’s very first House of Wagyu! In the spirit of gastronomic excellence, Wagyu Dojo pursues the finest state of Wagyu culinary perfection.

If you wish to visit Wagyu Dojo, here’s the address:

Bandar Park, 48 Kompleks Bandar Park Jalan Mega Mendung, off Jln Klang Lama, Old Klang Road, 58200 Kuala Lumpur

Steak Review: Fat Cow ðŸ‡¸ðŸ‡¬

Visited the renowned Japanese-style steakhouse Fat Cow with my housemates; it’s located at Camden Medical in the Orchard area.

Photo by Tatler Singapore.

Two of my housemates have had steaks at Fat Cow before a few years prior, and they gave it rave reviews unanimously so it’s been on my restaurants checklist for a while now.

They offer a great selection of wagyu steaks from different prefectures; the ones shown here include Himeji, Saga, Tochigi, Hida, Ohmi and Miyazaki wagyu.

We have been enjoying home-cooked wagyu steaks for the past 6 months thanks to our resident aspiring steak chef Mark Twein, and even then there were many types of wagyu here at Fat Cow that are new to us.

Excited to try out the steaks! Couldn’t stop grinning.

We were seated in a private corner, probably since we were ordering ala carte rather than omakase. Upon entry we were also given zip-lock bags to hold our masks; a pretty nice touch on the restaurant’s part.

Starter: A sashimi platter.

Kinmedai ($29) and Otoro sashimi ($68) platter.

I didn’t try the kinmedai (splendid alfonsino); apparently it tastes rather fishy.

Otoro, on the other hand…

I absolutely love otoro; almost a must-order for me whenever I see it on the menu. It’s the fattiest part of the blue fin tuna belly, which practically melts in your mouth.

Next: The wagyu sandwich.

The Fat Cow Wagyu Sandwich ($88) – Toasted brioche, toriyama A4 tenderloin

So the story here is that I ordered a similar cutlet sandwich during my Tokyo trip earlier this year, cost around 500 SGD but ended up being really disappointing for me.

Breading and frying a densely-marbled piece of wagyu till it becomes dried up and chewy, then jamming it in between two pieces of oil-soaked fried bread is almost the worst way to prepare wagyu in my book – a waste of perfectly good meat. Texture ruined, no more melty buttery fats; the whole thing just becomes thick, sinewy & chewy.

And because this dish was introduced to me by our resident chef Mark, he wanted to make it up to me for the ill-advised recommendation by ordering the same thing here at Fat Cow.

Though he claims that it’s good, he’s always preferred his steak chewier in general, so to each their own. And I stand by my statement:

Wagyu cutlet sandwich is sacrilegious.

I do enjoy a good katsu or cutlet sandwich; I just don’t think it’s necessary to use (read: waste) highly-marbled wagyu for this purpose.


Main Course: Wagyu steak!

Time for the main course – what we came to Fat Cow for! I am a sucker for fatty steaks, so I picked the hida wagyu as advised by the server.

Hida A5 Wagyu Steak 150g ($188)

The sauce was amazing; the garlic was fried just nice so it’s crispy and not bitter.

The hida steak is almost 90% fats – the fattiest one on the menu indeed.

The outer layer or coating of the steak was crispy and the meat itself was tender and required minimal chewing; it was just so rich in fats that I could feel the meat melt on my tongue and the oil trickle down my throat, so texture-wise it was great, exactly what you’d expect of top-grade wagyu.

Unfortunately, all these were overshadowed by the fact that the entire steak just tastes overwhelmingly like blowtorched mentaiko.

And this wasn’t the only steak that had this problem – between the 4 of us we ordered 3 main courses:

  • A 21 days dry-aged nagasaki A5 wagyu donburi
  • A hida A5 wagyu steak (mine)
  • A saga A5 wagyu steak

And all three of these shared the same issue.

We took turns to try out the different steaks, but sans some minute differences in texture, they all tasted the same. We weren’t even able to taste the supposed nutty note that should be present in the dry-aged steak.

Hyped it up too much beforehand, somewhat disappointed by the steak.

We shared our feedback with the friendly team of servers, who then explained to us that the chefs don’t blowtorch the meat, so the overwhelming blowtorch-like taste was probably caused by the fact that the meat was partially cooked over a gas fire / grill.

My housemates mentioned that it didn’t used to taste this way when they visited a few years back, and the servers explained to us that they used to cook their steaks fully over a charcoal grill back then, but it takes too long to cook and resulted in a long wait-time, so they eventually switched to a half-gas, half-charcoal cooking method, allowing steaks to be served much faster.

It’s probably the gas fire portion of the new cooking method that made the meat taste like it’s been blowtorched.

We also told them that we definitely wouldn’t mind waiting longer for a good 100% charcoal-grilled steak on our next visit.


Dessert…?

And as we were chitchatting over green tea and looking at what to order for dessert, the servers suddenly returned to our table and informed us that the chef would like to offer us another wagyu steak on the house, only cooked slightly differently this time, to see if there’s a difference in taste.

Of course we were all pleasantly surprised by such a nice gesture from the restaurant. They offered us a full steak, but because we were already feeling jelak from the sheer rich oiliness of the prior courses, we asked if we could just have a small tasting portion instead.

A smaller Tochigi A5 steak for the 4 of us to share.

The steak was served after a while, we asked them what was done differently – they replied that this piece was done mostly over the charcoal grill; they turned off the gas part of the grill, but since it’s been on for the entire day there was bound to be a bit of lingering smell.

This one turned out to be great, much to our satisfaction; there was a lot less of the gas or blowtorch taste, just a subtle hint of it in the crispy outer layer. And with that we could fully taste the natural sweetness of the wagyu meat and appreciate the tender, melty and buttery texture.


Food: 8/10

If only the steaks we ordered were cooked over charcoal! Their ingredients were fresh and top-grade; and we had nothing to complain about the sides dishes; everything else from the foie gras to the steak sauce was really tasty.

Not penalizing them for the cutlet sandwich too because it’s the whole concept of it that’s bad, not the execution. It tastes the same everywhere.

Customer Service: 10/10

The gestures from the restaurant and efficiency with which our feedback were handled really speaks a lot about the management of their restaurant, they could’ve easily just ignored the issue but instead, they chose to go the extra mile. And that really made up for our initial disappointment over the steaks.

Total Damage: $800 for 4 pax; so about 200 SGD / pax.

About the Restaurant

Fat Cow is a Japanese-inspired meat atelier where the promise of a bespoke dining experience is carried through from a handpicked selection of the finest Wagyu beef to its luxurious wines, sakes and signature cocktails. Guests may enjoy their choice of beef over a variety of Japanese preparation methods – Shabu-Shabu, Sukiyaki, or the ever-popular Sumibiyaki (charcoal-grill).” – TripAdvisor

If you wish to visit Fat Cow, here’s the address:

1 Orchard Blvd
#01-01/02 Camden Medical Centre
Singapore 248649