For a country where most people are not weaned on a diet of steaks, we're sure big on our meats. There's just about a place for every meat lover palate, preference and budget, ranging from the well-loved classics like Morton's to newbies like CUT -- even the heartland coffeeshops have their loyal following for their value-for-money premium cuts.
However, once in awhile, a game changer like Fat Cow comes along and shakes up the dining scene and makes even the most stubborn of fans question their loyalties to their favourites. And while we cannot say for certain (it's a close one, definitely) that this is the best steakhouse we've ever been to, we are revising our top five steakhouse list to include it.
What's the buzz: A homegrown concept concieved by the people behind Kinki Restaurant and Bar and Marmalade Pantry, Fat Cow is more than just a steakhouse -- it's a meat atelier, Japanese-inspired, and quirky name aside ("fat" here is taken to mean luxury and indulgence, also a play on the word "fatt", which means prosperity in Cantonese), Fat Cow takes its meats very, very seriously.
Only top grade beef -- Japanese grade A3 and A5, Australian wagyu with marbling score of 8+ from Stockyard Ranch and Blackmore Ranch as well as American wagyu -- is offered here at Fat Cow, and diners select their preferred weight and choose from four preparation methods ("shabu shabu", "sukiyaki", "teppan" and char-grilled) for their meats. Nothing fancy or complicated. After all, the meats are the stars here, and everything else is its supporting cast.
The look: Located on the ground level of Camden Medical Centre (the main entrance of the restaurant is a bit of a blink-and-you-miss-it, so keep a look out), Fat Cow's interiors abide by the Japanese "wabi-sabi" concept, which finds beauty in all things modest, simple and humble. Though Japanese, the interiors are still distinctly contemporary, with touches like custom-made menus imprinted on wood. A well-stocked bar by the entrance completes the look.
Diners can choose to be seated in one of the five private dining rooms separated by wooden partitions for a more private experience, but the 17-seat counter anchored by the open kitchen is where all the action really is.
Must-try: While some restaurants tend to overwhelm with an overcomplicated menu, Fat Cow's is a comprehensive one, divided into three sections comprising of entrées, meats and desserts and a selection of seasonal fish and seafood offers for non-meat eaters.
The house-made silken crab kegani tofu (S$25) and wagyu ox tendon with foie gras (S$29++) will start off your meal on a bright note, the former a comforting bowl of smooth-as-silk tofu and generous seafood chunks while the latter presents wagyu ox tendon that's been slow cooked to tender perfection and a jelly-like consistency. Paired with small pieces of seared foie gras and braised daikon (Japanese radish), it's a sweet and savoury starter that whets your palate for the main event of the meal.
The main event of course, being the beef. If you're feeling a little undecisive on how your meats should be prepared, Fat Cow's culinary team is on hand to advise based on the characteristics of the meats available.
We opt for the shabu-shabu, which sees thinly sliced Japanese beef of grade A3 (S$80++/100g) and A5 (S$95++/100g) immersed briefly in a sweet simmering broth. And true to Fat Cow's philosophy of adopting basic and minimalistic Japanese cooking techniques that bring out the best of the meat’s natural flavours, the broth enhances, instead of detracts from the richness and sweetness of the beef. A quick dip in raw egg yolk coats the cooked meat and gives it an added luxuriously creamy texture.
But while Japanese wagyu are often the most highly-prized meats, its Australian counterpart (Blackmore Ranch, S$85++/100g) when charcoal-grilled to a medium-rare, gives the former a run for its money. The meat, seasoned with just a hint of salt and pepper, is unbelievably juicy and full-bodied and melts in your mouth just so. "I'm forever spoiled for other steaks," I tell the PR person forlornly -- not kidding either.
The house-made Warabi Mochi (S$18++) with green tea and roasted soy bean flour and Kabocha (Japanese pumpkin) soy soup (S$18++) are both perfect dessert options after the heavy meal, light and sweet without being cloying on the palate.
Also look out for: Creative cocktails designed specially to complement the cuisine. Currently, there are about 20 signature cocktails, featuring fresh seasonal ingredients, home-prepared liqueur and cordial brews, created by mixologist Matthew Radajl. If you're feeling adventurous, Radajl will whip up a Dealer's Choice (S$26++) for you, in accordance to your preference.
Verdict: Absolutely sublime. Prices are certainly not the most wallet-friendly, but the quality of food and service (executive chef Wing Lam is engaging without being obtrusive and will tell you stories from his days of working for Gordon Ramsay when asked) makes the dining experience at Fat Cow one of the most memorable ones we've had all year round. Make it your one splurge of the year -- your stomach will thank you for it.
Fat Cow, 1 Orchard Boulevard, #01-01 Camden Medical Center, +65 6735 0308, email@example.com, www.fat-cow.com.sg