Previously from The Big Idea Group (TBI) which includes restaurants like Kinki, Fat Cow, Bedrock Bar & Grill – Dan Segall has had a stellar list of hip, cool and extremely gastronomically competent restaurants on his belt. Zaku, his latest creation, sits within the newly renovated Capitol Piazza which has transformed itself from an ageing theatre into a whitewashed luxurious multiplex of colonial past. With a host of trendy and uptown retail brands, and the famous French patisserrie, Angelica – the Capitol Piazza has exquisitely picked a renowned list of tenants to lead its revival.
Zaku, adorned with Japanese-influenced, clean, minimalist wood-clad furnishing, and a gentle industrial touch with wide, granite walls was welcoming to the eye as it dominated a decent spot within the Galleria of the complex. The menu was straightforward, with a disclaimer that it’s the opening week so be warned (or gentle with your feedback). Quite unfortunately, about 50% of the menu items had an orange sticker which meant it wasn’t available. Although if they had intended for a smaller menu, they should have kept it small – instead of hyping a long list to have only 50% available. Wouldn’t the intention be to wow the patrons at opening week?
So we assembled our own tasting menu…
I really liked the cocktails here. For only S$16 bucks, I really thought the Shibui (pictured above) packed a Hibiki (my all time-fave Jap whisky) punch! The rest of the cocktails were priced at S$14, and that’s really encouraging for repeat drinks, especially at a yakitori bar where foods would be expectedly saltier.
Anything with the restaurant name usually warrants attention and we made not mistake with this one. The Zaku Zaku salad (S$11) was really tasty and refreshing. Crunchy daikon and cucumber slivers, with earthy, chewy, marinated burdock root strips – this is a must-order! The roasted black and white sesame gave little bursts of nutty flavours as well.
Seared salmon sashimi (S$12) wasn’t anything to rave about although the seasoning felt distinctively like Tom Yam salt with strong hints of kaffir lime – strangely we couldn’t taste the smokiness of the searing, perhaps overpowered by the spices.
One of our favourite dishes, the clams were chock full of flavour. Green-lipped NZ clams cooked perfectly in its own broth with lemongrass and dusted with chives and chilli flakes, the chef has clearly confidence in it as he presented it himself, and with two small dishes for us to savour the broth. One thing though – it was a tad too salty. I don’t take to overly salted food well but the flavours were amazing and once that’s sorted, this will be great. Am picturing a delicious Spaghetti Vongole made from this already…
The grilled Hokkaido scallop (S$8) was great, cooked just right and totally fresh with a distinct shiso flavour. It was considerately cut into two for sharing as well, with each bamboo pick for each half – a mark of attentiveness, plus a nice garnishing.
The wagyu ‘flatiron’ (S$$5), kurobuta pork belly (S$6) and the Toh Thye San farm chicken thigh (S$5) were all very competently done, the belly being the more outstanding skewer. The chicken was actually named so within the menu, a clear representation of the chef’s dedication to good quality meats. It’s a free range farm that breeds antibiotic residue free poultry that was undoubtedly tastier and juicier. A bit heavy on the yuzu/shiso paste though, I thought – but that’s easy to move aside.
I thought it’d be rather hard to get this dish wrong but it was proven wrong. The Izakaya-style macaroni (S$7) was overly salted, and undercooked (no, it wasn’t al dente) – and it didn’t help that the carbo menu was ‘closed’.
The slow-roasted eringi mushrooms (S$10) was done to perfection but it came oh-too-salty again. With the sodium from the bacon, I thought the glaze would be adjusted accordingly. We finished the mushrooms anyway, leaving most of the bacon in its place. I’d order this again in a heartbeat, but probably insist on less bacon, or to go easy on the salt.
The one that got (turned) away – the sweet potato (S$7) with white miso was too salty. The dressing was unique with mustard, miso, BBQ sauce of sorts, and some mayo I’d think but again – go easy with the salt, fellas.
Will I come back again?
Well, you guys must be thinking we ordered all the cheap stuff and don’t deserve to be that forthright with the comments. We were there just for drinks mainly, and wanted bar grub actually so ordering mains would be a bit of a stretch. There were only a few available anyway – so no hurry there. That said, I’m keen to revisit the place once they get the salt content regulated well. We did give our feedback (as requested on the menu :P) to the floor manager, and she kindly took away two items from the bill – and dished up the feedback to Dan.
New restaurants in Singapore continuously try to innovate themselves in the competitive F&B scene and honestly for the price we paid, I’d say this is a great pre-theatre spot. I liked that the concept was casual, yet cosy with the seating arrangements. It really exuded quite a character of its own, compared to the other F&B in the Galleria area.
Yes, I’ll be back – especially with the wider menu ready hopefully by then. The boldness of combining western and asian condiments is worthy of applause as not many can deliver it with finesse. Let us know whether you enjoyed the other items we didn’t manage to, so we can order those when we are back!
Quality of food: 6.5/10
Value for money: 8/10
Zaku (Map) [CLOSED]
11 Stamford Road
#01-84, Capitol Piazza
Hours: Mon to Thu and Sun 11am to 1am | Fri to Sat 11am to 2am
Nearest station: City Hall
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