Most people would agree that there is much room for improvement in restaurant service standards in Singapore. But when you dine at a luxury hotel, you would expect it to be better than average.
My experience at 665°F, the month-old steakhouse at Andaz Singapore, proved that is not necessarily the case. This was totally unexpected as Andaz is a luxury boutique hotel under the Hyatt Group, pitched just below its premium Park Hyatt brand.
It was not like the restaurant was understaffed. There were five servers working the floor in a dining room no bigger than the living room of a five-room Housing Board flat.
Yet, no one took my order - for both mains and dessert - or cleared the plates after the mains without prompting.
Each time, my dining companion and I waited 10 minutes before we gave up and called someone over.
While we waited, servers walked past us, glanced at our table, even smiled at us - and walked on. They were looking, but not seeing. Or perhaps they did not know that cutlery placed side by side on an empty plate meant the diner had finished eating.
Level 38, Andaz Singapore, 5 Fraser Street, tel: 6408-1255
Open: Tuesdays to Saturdays, 6 to 10pm. Closed on Sundays and Mondays
Price: Budget about $150 a person
I don't fault them, though. The problem obviously lay with the management for not providing them with the right training.
Hopefully, the kitchen did not suffer the same negligence because both steaks I ordered turned out well-done after I had asked for them to be cooked medium rare. A case of miscommunication on the part of the person who took my order? I shudder if the cooks could not get it right.
But at an earlier invited tasting, the Wagyu Tomahawk from Margaret River ($160 for 1.2kg) I ate was perfectly grilled. The bone-in hunk of meat was excellent - flavourful, tender, juicy - so I'd give the kitchen staff the benefit of the doubt.
Even overcooked, the grain-fed USDA Prime Sirloin ($69 for 340g) I had on my return visit tasted good enough for me to finish it. But the grass-fed, dry-aged Ribeye from Ireland ($49 for 350g) was bland on top of being dry.
The rest of the meal ranged from competent to good.
Starters worth checking out included the Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes ($29). A golden coat of crispy crumbs enveloped the moist crabmeat inside. It was tasty on its own, but, if you wish, it could be pepped up further with an accompanying spiced pepper dip.
Hokkaido Scallop Ceviche ($35) was another good starter and the generous amount of scallops justified the price. Cured in a lemon vinaigrette with the milky consistency of leche de tigre (tiger's milk), the shellfish was sweet and went well with the salmon roe in the dish.
Among the non-meat main courses, the Boston Lobster ($80) was a standout. Baked Thermidor style, the gratinated creamy sauce on the shellfish had a rich, intense flavour that reminded me of mentaiko (spicy cod roe) - and the lobster was cooked just right.
Desserts were huge and plated interestingly, though they looked better than they tasted.
The Ivory And Bitter Chocolate Mousse ($28), which came as a huge, bright-red globe on a pool of cream sauce, was a head-turner.
You had to break the shell, made of white chocolate, to reveal the mousse inside. But the shell was too thick and hard while the mousse was too wet, so though it tasted good, the balance of textures was off.
Would I go back? The food and the reasonable prices are tempting. As for the service, hopefully, the hotel can fix it fast.
Otherwise, it should do the right thing and waive the service charge until it does.
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• The Sunday Times paid for its meals at the eateries reviewed here.