November 7, 2019

Long a high-rise city, Singapore’s skyline has always been perforated by blocks of buildings with only recent skyscraper additions around the Marina Bay area to fill in the gaps. With only that amount of real estate to scramble over, restauranteurs are seizing the opportunity to pay top dollar for rooftop establishments in order to capitalise on the magnificent views. But here’s the predicament: from experience, you’re normally charged princely sums for food that is no great shakes. We put the newest venue VUE to the test: is the food worth clamouring for, or is it just one of those dazzling spots that’s a one-trick pony?

The spritz bar can be a destination based on its al-fresco settings alone—a gorgeous verandah that overlooks the Bay, which by sunset breaks out into a riot of tangerine and peach colours. Soak up some rays on the terrace as you sip on one of the many refreshing spritz cocktails. For those who prefer time-honoured classics, the Basil Spritz with gin, basil and lemon will suffice whereas the VUE Royale is one that we would revisit to wrap up a very effective workday. It’s a combination of champagne and umeshu crowned with an exclamation of bourbon that makes it so irresistible. The bar celebrates Italian aperitivo with gusto; a fridge storing charcuterie and cheeses perched just below the back bar taunts peckish imbibers. To give credit where credit is due, the selection puts many wine bars to shame. If you dive straight for the chef’s choice, you’ll be rewarded with glorious country pâté, soft folds of Basque-style Bayonne ham from the Aldudes Valley, Le Barriquet Goat’s cheese or deeply satisfying shards of 24-month aged VSOP gouda. What a glorious option for guests looking to keep it casual on a weekday night.

Traversing past glass doors, you arrive at the cavernous penthouse arena. It’s a stunning venue with tall arched ceilings marked by warm ambient lighting that pronounce its recesses. It gives off a bit of a gentlemen’s club vibe; the chairs and fabric smell expensive, a clichéd definition of fancy-pants dining with a view. Do not panic. They do a 4-course tasting menu for just $108, which is decent-ish, if you’re not adding on extras—though the 1000 bottle-strong wine list curated by award-winning sommelier Joel Lim has the charms of Delilah.

Seasonal and pedigree are the buzzwords here, represented by Spéciale Geay oyster from Nouvelle Aquitaine, round and humming with nutty notes. The Ceviche that follows feels way ahead of itself; the fistful of citrus in the tiger’s milk—that’s the citrus-based marinade that cures the seafood in the ceviche—quashing the subtlety of flavours in the Japanese halibut and hand-dived scallops. I clean out my plate but envision others struggling with the caustic tartness of the sauce.

VUE doesn’t call itself a steakhouse, but the binchotan-smoked Kokuou wagyu beef is quite a treat. Hailing from Kyushu island, the wagyu has gathered quite the reputation as the pinnacle of Japanese beef and made all the more compelling with just a light touch of rice flour sea salt. The tenderloin grilled to perfection over the binchotan is a naughty carnivore’s dream, perhaps better than some of the more renowned steakhouses around the island. Sides are generous and you might want to get a head start on at least three to satisfy a party of two. The onion tempura is groundbreaking and glorious creamed spinach clothed in parmigiana cheese sauce pushes all the right buttons.

Desserts continue in the same lineage of embracing the seasons. I tuck into chestnut mousse and raspberries aloft a delicate cocoa nib tuile. The truffle and marron ice cream eclipsed by shavings of white Alba truffles doled out at the table. It makes sense, and the rubble of earthy flavours is quick to vanish.

VUE may come across as another sky-high venue looking to entertain the business crowd (you’ll likely see deals being brokered at nearby tables), but before you dismiss it, give it a try. The basic menu has the competency to satisfy both epicureans and tourists lusting after that Marina Bay experience. Balanced by pleasant service from the enthusiastic wait staff, I can see this becoming one of my go-to spots. At least for the Spritz Bar.