Being one of the ten restaurants that had made it to Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants of 2016, Wild Rocket sits at the 38th position on the list amongst other restaurants in various parts of Asia.
Wild Rocket is started by Chef Willin Low, who used to practice law before his foray into the F&B industry in 2005. Nestled in the tranquil environment of Hangout Hotel, Wild Rocket is within walking distance from Little India MRT, though it is a steep climb up a hill. In 2014, the space was renovated to what it looks like today, exuding a clean, Japanese-inspired vibe that is classy, comfortable yet without being pretentious or over the top. For lunch hours on weekdays (which was the time we had made our visit), diners can choose from the ala-carte menu, the 3-course set lunch menu or the Omakase menu, while the 3-course set lunch menu would be replaced with a 4-course set dinner menu in the evening.
(Complimentary Bread Service)
First to arrive at the table would be the bread service, where we were served house-made Brioche with an accompanying olive oil to dip in. Baked in-house, the Brioche may seem just a tad dry initially, but it turns out to be fluffy afterwards as the bread simply disintegrates into smaller pieces instead of clumping up so there is pretty much close to zero effort to chew. The consistency of the bread might be done intentionally so that it does not turn too mushy if dipped into the olive oil, which is pretty fragrant and flavourful. For those who prefer their bread to go with butter, they do also offer salted butter on request.
(Giam Chye Mustard Leaf Duck Consommé with Duck Confit Cubes)
For my starter, I have decided to go for the Giam Chye Mustard Leaf Duck Consommé with Duck Confit Cubes, which is Wild Rocket’s take on the Chinese Salted Vegetable Soup that is served with daikon, tomatoes and duck confit cubes. I am one who does not really fancy Chinese soups, but this was one that got me going for more. While seemingly light to drink, the soup was immensely flavourful especially for how clear it was; never a moment too oily. Duck Confit cubes were spectacular; felt pretty smoky and savoury at the same time and definitely gave a good flavour contrast to the soup. Indeed, a great starter to the meal ahead.
My dining partner picked the Barramundi Carpaccio with Orange Shallot Oil. A harmonious marriage of the Chinese Yu Sheng into Carpaccio, the fish was amazingly fresh and drizzled with orange shallot oil for a little tanginess going hand-in-hand with the shallot was fragrant of its roasty flavour; that flavour you would have expected from the same shallots you add into a piping hot bowl of Porridge. It’s really that comforting.
Picking from the selection of mains, my choice was the Iberico Pork Char Siew with Shanghai Kao Cai & Quinoa. The instructions to enjoy this dish was as follows; peel off the rice paper over the bowl, then squeeze the Calamansi to release the juices over the dish. Digging into the Iberico Pork Char Siew first, the tenderness of the slab of pork was mind-blowing; a really soft, tender, juicy slab of pork where you can pull the streaks of flesh effortlessly with a fork. Coated with a layer of sauce that exudes a smoky sweetness, the pork itself really stood to the occasion basking in the limelight for how stellar the execution was, making every bite an ironic moment because it’s just so good to have, but every bite that was taken would mean one bite less afterwards. The Quinoa was decent, but the Kao Cai was umami which helped to lift the flavours of the Quinoa while the lone Shiitake mushroom at the side also deserves a little mention for that subtle sweetness that sets it apart from the usual Chinese dried mushrooms that we are used to having. It is told to us that this dish is their take on the “Tau Yu Bak”, and the rice paper served alongside is intended to be the replacement of the bread that usually comes along as a carb; the wait staff would however advice patrons against eating the rice paper as the texture of a half-steamed rice paper is not something everybody might fancy, but it is known that some patrons still do eat it.
Unlike the Iberico Pork Char Siew, the Baked Halibut with Curry Hollandaise would really hit those who prefer softer flavours. Twice-baked; once just by itself and the second time with the Curry Hollandaise on, the Halibut achieved flakiness without losing moisture within. Since the Curry Hollandaise is baked along with the fish rather than being simply drizzled over the top, the Curry Hollandaise actually “sticks” on the fish instead, which definitely helped to lock in the flavours of the sauce above the fish. The Curry Hollandaise helps add a hint of curry fragrance into the dish, and alongside with the root vegetables did seem like Wild Rocket’s twist on Fish Curry. While the root vegetables on the side seemed to be devoid of excessive seasoning, they were still flavourful from their natural flavours; possibly an intended move to bring out the unadulterated, natural flavours and sweetness of the root vegetables with no distractions.
With four desserts on the menu to choose from, we have decided to go for the Trio of Flowers and Strawberry Cheesecake. Between the two, the Trio of Flowers would fit well for those who prefer lighter desserts; coming with Osmantnus & Chrysanthemum Granita, the flowery flavours work as a good palate cleanser for a flavour-intensive main. Together with the Elderflower Jelly sitting beneath the granita, it adds a tasteful sourness that provides for a flavour contrast with the granita, making the dessert a truly refreshing after-meal treat. For those who crave for something more conventional-sounding, the Strawberry Cheesecake is actually Wild Rocket’s signature dessert. Served deconstructed with layers of cream cheese, digestive biscuits and macerated strawberries, they were bound together with a Maple Walnut ice cream that introduces a mildly sweet, yet nutty flavour to the dessert. Despite how normal it might sound, this is probably one of the best renditions of a cheesecake out there; Wild Rocket had made their own twists to the elements that make up the dish, hence the flavours are really balanced and uplifting that one will never get sick of. Truly living up to the name of signature indeed.
In between the meal, we were also served complimentary portions of the Pomelo Salad with Tiger Prawns and Frozen Coconut Dressing available in Wild Rocket’s ala-carte menu. Cleverly serving the dressing in a form of sorbet/ice-cream, the recommended way of having this dish is to have one to break the ice-cream and mix it evenly within the salad. The greens were fresh, while the prawns retained their moisture, but the dressing was the one that blew us away. Seemingly Thai-inspired, it helps add a creamy, Tom Yum-like flavour into the salad, yet gives a punchy spiciness that goes surprisingly well with the zesty chunks of pomelo with the salad. While I would call the meal gastronomical, this item itself would be a notch or even two above; a definite game-changer for me.
Wild Rocket and Chef Willin Low are known for the “mod-Sin” approach for the cuisine they serve, taking the local flavours we are all familiar with while changing the ingredients and presentation yet retaining the true spirit of the dishes. Given the items we have had at Wild Rocket, I would confidently say that Wild Rocket had delivered what they had promisded; quality ingredients, familiar flavours yet presented in different styles, but a local would be able to tell straightaway on the various dishes they are derived from. A place deserving to be on Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants of 2016, a visit to Wild Rocket is a must once in a lifetime for the experience; the sublime service and the creative approaches on local fare they have to offer. For those who might be uncomfortable to spend a big amount of money at one go, the set lunch option would come pretty affordable at $35++; pretty decently priced or even at a lower price with other fine-dining establishments which also offer set lunch deals. Those who are willing to part with their money should opt for the Omakase menu, where patrons would be served dishes on random without a fixed menu so it would really be a gastronomic adventure; something I would return for in the future. Time to save up again now …
10A Upper Wilkie Road