This past weekend, Marina Bay Sands in Singapore hosted its first Epicurean Market. I have to admit, although I have mixed feelings on the success of the festival as a whole (which I will elaborate on later), I had a wonderful time when my wife S and I visited–mostly because of the generosity of the participating chefs and the sheer deliciousness of their food.
Epicurean Market ran for 3 days, from 25-27 January. Aside from the participating “celebrity chefs” that were advertised on billboards and banners throughout the city, I had no idea what to expect. And I certainly didn’t expect what Epicurean Market actually was. Held in one of MBS’ convention halls, most of this “festival” looked and felt like a poorly executed and cheaply produced trade show. A sparse number of not very exciting booths were strewn about a vast hall, with far too much empty space between exhibitor areas. As Epicurean Market was targeted at consumers, I felt that using a trade show model just didn’t work. There was no excitement, no buzz, no real foodie vibe throughout most of this show (and I’ll use the word “show” from now on because, well, really, that’s what this was — it definitely wasn’t a festival).
What was well executed, though, was the “celebrity chefs” area. In fact, this area, towards the back of the hall, had a whole different look and feel from the rather sad show that surrounded it. This area was sleek and posh and exciting. Large billboards of the celebrities behind the participating restaurants loomed high above the crowd. Sleek counters and show kitchens manned by teams of white-jacketed, aproned professionals spoke of gustatory delights to come. Just beyond these gleaming mini-restaurants, participating chefs showed off their skills in a well-designed theatre, complete with a fully-kitted out and brand new Miele kitchen.
And the food… oh, the food was awesome. We sampled so many delicious things that it’s hard to pick favourites… but of course, I will! S and I adored everything we ate at Tetsuya Wakuda‘s booth, especially the raw, marinated scallop; the botan ebi with sea urchin, topped with Oscietra caviar; and the grilled rolls of Japanese beef. We washed these and other delicacies down with a lovely aged, unpasteurized sake.
At Justin Quek‘s booth, we slurped down a yummy bowl of beef noodles but went gaga over his prawn salad, dressed in a ginger flower dressing that immediately made me think of rojak. It was an ingenious, instantly memorable, and tasty dish from Singapore’s original masterchef.
At Daniel Boulud‘s booth, we absolutely loved his Thai sausage and fried rice dish, as well as his braised short ribs. Both were unctuous, umami dishes that made us smile. Also amazing was Daniel’s iconic scallop dish that he demonstrated and that I was lucky enough to taste. This is Daniel’s famous New Year’s Eve dish, a scallop, sliced thinly and layered with black truffle, wrapped in steamed spinach and then baked in puff pastry, and served with a truffle jus sauce. Outstanding. One bite and I knew that every accolade that Daniel has earned throughout his career was clearly justified.
And last but not least, we ate like kings (and queens) at Cut‘s booth, thanks to the always energetic and unflappable Adam Crocini (Cut’s GM) and the uber-humble, ultra-talented Chef Joshua Brown. Steak, Sliders, Crab Louie, and a plate of freshly baked cookies! I mean, could you ask for a better meal?
S and I are so grateful for the generosity shown by all the chefs we got to speak with and whose food we happily scarfed down.
At the end of the day, Epicurean Market was very much worth visiting if you spent 99% of your time at the celebrity chefs area. That part of this show was fabulously arranged and, as said, the food was brilliant. The rest of this show, however, needs a lot of work. And I sincerely hope that the organizers move away from the trade show format. They desperately need to start attending some of the better international food festivals out there so they can see how a great, fun, enticing and inspiring consumer food market can be run.
(Or, hey, hire me and my company. We could definitely show’m how it’s done.)
P.S. Mouse-over any photo for captions.