Hide Yamamoto, Marina Bay Sands

This isn’t a story about Bay Sushi. But life isn’t all predestined – it is a series of cause and effect, a cascade of consequence, every up has a down – it’s inevitable.

The Japanese restaurant, an affiliate of the Korean-owned Japanese buffet chain, Todai, had caught Darren’s eyes. What he saw in Bay Sushi, I wasn’t sure – the website he directed me to inspired the great “bays” of the world, but there was little beyond that, but he seemed excited about the prospect of eating there anyway, so I kept mum.

Our first impressions wasn’t encouraging to say the least. Despite a fairly quiet dinner service, not a very busy day at all for the staff and overall, a manageable evening, not a single one turned towards us, nor the gradually developing queue. At the corner of my mind, I made up excuses for them, because after all, the queue starts at a blind spot, it’s rather dark, and with dinner service pretty sedate, I’m sure neither of the staff were expecting people to be waiting, much less a fairly mature queue. But any notions of that stepped in reality evaporated as there were clearly more than just a handful of glances by the service staff, yet there was no attempt to alert their colleagues to our presence, nor was there any sign that we would be entertained anytime soon. If that was a marathon, the next took a lifetime. We were eventually seated, and despite the woeful variety of the menu complete with a couple of spelling mistakes and low-res images, were fairly hungry and eager to order. Needless to say, they took forever but we ordered nonetheless. However, when every turn we met was a dead end, that was it.

I remember being a lot more sedate about it, while Darren charged like a bulldog.

Bay Sushi, never again.

Our alternatives seemed bleak. Name after name, from Kraze to Pita Pan, were hosts to ever longer and more spectacular queues. Then, I had a eureka moment – I had always wanted to try, but the prices were a little steep, and I wasn’t sure if it’d sit well with Darren, but I led him there anyway.

From the very beginning, we were greeted with utmost politeness. Mostly staffed by Japanese, each step felt like a milestone and time capsule into the intricate world of Japanese culture and cuisine. Individually seated, we were distinguished guests, and no request too big or too small that they couldn’t handle, and always polite and subtle, Japanese style of course.

“We’re here to have ramen”

“Of course, sir.”

The 128-seater boasts several themed areas, including an honest recreation of a traditional sushi bar and a small contemporary stadium-seating surrounding a wood-fired robotayaki grill.

Make no mistake. Hide Yamamoto is a fine-dining restaurant, and prices here are steeper. Degustation sets for robotayaki, sushi and sashimi go into the five hundreds per head, and there are big ticket items like fugu not on the menu. Japanese cuisine is very seasonal, so you’d never quite know what to expect. I was here for the ramen. It’s not a place one would think to visit for a bowl of noodles, and why would you? It’s so shrouded in the mist of luxury and degustation that most ignore it altogether, unaware that the restaurant’s ramen is in fact, one of the most affordable bites you’ll ever get within the Marina Bay Sands resort.

After placing our orders, we were left in peace. There was a hypnotic silence and it didn’t take much for you to realize you were witnessing something great. The feeling’s absolutely magical. I hadn’t felt this way nor this nostalgic since Orchard Road’s Christmas decorations in the mid-nineties. The earnest lady chef worked her tongs with surgical precision, inspecting every single piece on the grill, whipping them side to side and affording it her due attention in a never-ending seductive choreography. Never a moment to reveal fatigue, there is an intensity and dedication that’s admirable, but it’s never a one-man, or in this case, a one-woman show. Her ever trusty dance partner with his dazzling array of instruments, like Santa Claus’ Christmas elf, turns recognizable pieces into a beautiful symphony within seconds. I’ve never gotten high on food, much less, seeing it being prepared, ever, in Singapore, yet I was right here, in the moment, thrilled beyond words. It was beautiful, and I loved every moment of it.

If that was no indication that things were gonna be good, then our first starter was.

A single piece sent me back to Tokyo. The tuna roll was impressive beyond words. It wasn’t the most beautiful thing in the world, but what it lacked on the surface, it compensated in taste. Each one literally, melted in the mouth, and the sensation just kept getting better.

The grilled Kurobuta pork belly was F.U.C.K.I.N.G. brilliant. Each bite, a gastronomic hubris of fireworks, excited the senses with the fascinating array of tastes. The meat, delicate, exquisite, and sooo tender, it was inconceivable to think of it as pork, and yet, it is. I had gone to heaven and back, and I desperately needed more.

By now, I was so pumped up. Everything had been a gradual build up, a tease of brilliance, and sheer understanding of food, that I was now filled with nothing but awe, and humbled by a service that’s so graced with humility and modesty. For us, the ramen was the absolute highlight of the meal. A sip of the soup was like a journey into wonderland – it was like an ecstasy, just one sip, teased of the layering and sophistication of the broth; with every sip painting an ever-clearer image of this magnificent utopia.

When I got up to leave, I bowed at the Japanese lady chef who resonated with a brief but genuine, modest smile and nod.

It was a good meal.

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