- Rachel Chia
CÉ LA VI’s new menu is fine dining at its coolest
Updated: Jun 20, 2022
Its combo of party vibes and swanky food make for quite the experience.
You’ve heard of CÉ LA VI, the swanky restaurant, bar and lounge perched on the top of Marina Bay Sands, whose calling card is jaw-dropping views of Singapore’s skyline.
While some associate the place with a great cocktail lineup, what fewer people know is that the food’s no slouch either. And now, the kitchen gains a powerful new talent in the form of new executive chef Maksym Chukanov, formerly from one-Michelin-star Cure.
Chef Maksym’s star-studded resume includes stints at world-class Noma and two-star Ikarus Hangar-7 in Austria – and he brings this mastery of fine dining to CÉ LA VI in the form of brand new dishes that punch far above their weight.
For one, the red-hued foie gras and hibiscus lolli ($30 for 5 pieces) is the perfect balance of flavours, featuring smooth, fatty duck liver mousse cleverly countered with the berry-like sweetness of rosella. It’s fun to eat, too – a throwback to childhood.
Other appetisers are equally playful: enormously fat Thai baby corn ($25) features a crispy puffed quinoa coating that contrasts beautifully with the veg’s sweet juicy texture, rounded off with slight heat from the chipotle adobo dip.
Meanwhile, crisp tempura zucchini flower ($35) is fried to perfection, tossed in savoury furikake, and treated to a whisper of spice from pickled wasabi mayo that’s also slightly citrusy. All three picks make excellent bar snacks that won’t disappoint.
Even the heavier appetisers are exciting. Hokkaido scallop ($28) sees the mollusc tango with crisp green apple and spicy yuzu kosho. The creamy meat, crunchy apple bits, and herb oil are light and bright and fun, a rather Noma-like combo.
Those wanting meat can opt for the New Zealand Beef Tenderloin Tartare ($30), which is bursting with umami from smoked wagyu fat emulsion. The beef tastes clean, not lumpy, and boasts a fermented sourness from the addition of white soy.
And don’t skip Genting Highlands cherry tomato ($25), the chef’s twist on a caprese salad. It’s one of the prettiest dishes of the night. Skinless, sweet, perfectly round tomatoes sit atop whipped burrata and a beautifully-executed wakame oil that ties it all together. This goes down easily; don't be surprised if you end up finishing the plate on your own.
With such a stunning lineup of starters, it’s a shame the main dishes aren’t as special - although they too are delicious. The 300g cut of A4 Miyazaki striploin ($268) comes from undeniable pedigree, but is a touch too dry. Nevertheless, it pairs well with a side of watercress dressed in sanbaizu (a vinegar, soy sauce, and rice wine combination) that lends acidity and moisture.
If beef is not your thing, try the New Zealand whole lemon sole ($68), paired with locally farmed lala clams, sea asparagus and yuzu. The fish portion is massive and can easily feed two or three; and the classic sauce of French lemon, cream and dill oil is so good you want to drink it all up. It’s here the chef’s expertise peeks through, for although creamy, the gravy’s not heavy, but herby and tangy.
As for sides, while the yummy and waist-friendly avocado and gem lettuce salad ($15) makes a great pairing to any main – there’s Okinawa spinach and pumpkin seed oil – but the star is undeniably miso mashed potato ($18), made ultra-moreish from the addition of scallion oil, garlic, and a scattering of green onions for texture. It’s a salty, crispy, fragrant beauty.
And if the starters made for an impressive beginning to the meal, then dessert makes for an equally memorable finish: Sinfully Chocolate ($26) is nothing short of amazing, even if it looks less than so.
But in fact it's a complicated masterpiece, with lots of moving parts: a rich, nutty hazelnut brownie, creamy 55% cacao mousse, a crunchy-bottomed chocolate cake laced with the punch of salted caramel, and Ecuadorian chocolate ice cream that’s milky and smooth. Every possible texture is present on one plate.
In sum, if CÉ LA VI has never struck you as the sort of place to go to for a fine dining experience, then the arrival of chef Maksym must change your mind.
The food – particularly the innovative starters and lip-smacking dessert – all sing of technical finesse, flawless execution, fresh produce and a nuanced understanding of flavour balance.
“We let the ingredients take centre stage, and we want our guests to experience contemporary Asian gastronomy,” says the chef. “Our dishes are sure to excite your palates and senses.”
Don't dismiss this as just very good marketing: hand to heart, the food here does fit right in on any fine dining course menu.
But CÉ LA VI restaurant’s unique offering becomes clearer when you consider the space itself. Outside the semi-open dining area is the bar, where the DJ plays beats all evening as the sun goes down and Singapore’s night skyline lights up.
There isn’t the stiffness of fine dining with light piano and starched tablecloths. Instead, it feels like you can relax as part of the drinking crowd, casually sipping tipples while watching the city transition from Friday to weekend.
Even if you forget about a heavy dinner, and spend the night nursing wines and ordering a large selection of the sophisticated but casual starters (as we want to do next time), it’ll leave you as impressed and satisfied as a sit down feast.
Such is CÉ LA VI’s unique and attractive combo, probably replicable in precious few other places: party vibes and swanky food. And to us, that’s fine dining at its coolest.
Level 57, Marina Bay Sands SkyPark, Hotel Tower 3, 1 Bayfront Avenue, 018971
Open daily for dinner: 5:30PM – 11PM (last order 9:30PM)
Open for weekend Brunch: 12PM - 3PM last order (2:30PM)
Wed, Fri, Sat: 6PM – 4AM (last order 9.30PM)
Thu: 6PM – 3AM (last order 9.30PM)
Sun: 6PM – 1AM (last order 9.30PM)
Mon - Sun: 5PM – 1AM (last order 9.30PM)