We’ve been to the iconic Peter Luger’s in New York’s Brooklyn and we’ve peered into its rival restaurant Wolfgang’s Steakhouse in Manhattan countless times. So we’ve formed certain expectations of the newly opened branch of Wolfgang’s Steakhouse at the Intercontinental Singapore Robertson Quay. We’re thinking magnificently aged and marbled steaks and if we’re lucky, warm service from knowledgeable staff.
But first, a bit about Wolfgang’s backstory. The steakhouse was founded by 78-year-old Wolfgang Zwiener, who worked his way up to head waiter over 40 years at Peter Luger, New York’s most celebrated steakhouse. When he began thinking about retiring, his son Peter and two other waiters from Peter Luger persuaded him to open his own steakhouse.
In 2004, they opened the first Wolfgang’s Steakhouse along Park Avenue, a more upscale answer to the expensive but grittier Peter Luger, with a larger menu that includes dishes like crab cakes. It was an instant hit, and the restaurant has spawned 18 branches worldwide, including Tokyo, Seoul, and now Singapore.
While the prices are on par with other posh steakhouses in Singapore like Morton’s and Cut by Wolfgang Puck, Wolfgang’s has a distinctly old-school New York feel to it: the portions are hearty, the garnish on plates limited to a couple of mesclun leaves.
It’s main selling point is that it boasts its own dry-ageing room, which holds up to 8,000 kilos of beef, all USDA Prime Black Angus, aged for 28 days. Dry-ageing allows the beef to develop deeper flavours and become extremely tender as the meat loses moisture and its fibre and protein strands break down during the process.
The look and vibe: Quintessential New York steakhouse, with polished wood-panelled floors and leather-trimmed chairs. Glass walls give the 150-seat dining room a contemporary lightness, while the smart, efficient servers work the floor in classic steakhouse uniforms finished with bowties and apron skirts.
The food: There are just two of us, so our server recommends the restaurant’s signature Porterhouse Steak For Two ($185; about 700g bone-in). From the list of sides, we order the Creamed Spinach ($15). Our steak comes sizzling on a heated plate and spits oil all over as our server spoons the hot grease over the meat at the table (tip: if wearing white, stand clear of the meat at this stage). The platter is set down at an angle so the grease pools at the lower end.
The USDA Prime Black Angus is lovely. Cooked to a blushing medium-rare, it buckles easily to the knife, is seasoned boldly, and has a warm, minerally flavour. It could do with a thicker char on the only lightly browned surface, though.
The upside of ordering a Porterhouse is you get two cuts of meat at once: the tenderloin and striploin on either side of a T-shaped bone. The sweet tenderloin is smooth, lean and buttery-soft, while the strip has a more textured grain and deeper beef flavour. As the meat cools, the gaminess from its 28 days of dry ageing becomes more pronounced. We like the slight funk; our dining companion… not so much.
We unanimously dislike that the meat starts to taste increasingly greasy as it cools. By the time we’ve eaten three-quarters of it, we feel overwhelmed by the fat and swear our arteries are closing in. If only they served hot Chinese tea to wash down all that fat. Still, it is better than the steak we’ve had at Peter Luger.
As for the creamed spinach, it wasn’t so much creamy as it was strangely starchy. Our server also recommends the German Potatoes ($22). We tell him we want crisp, crunchy spuds. He says he’ll tell the kitchen to make the German potatoes extra crispy. The thickly sliced spuds and onions fried in butter are anything but crisp when they arrive. But they are tasty enough and soft to the bite.
Turns out the best thing at dinner is Wolfgang’s Crab Cake ($38), an umami mound of fresh jumbo lump crabmeat, well-seasoned and with a light sear around its surface. The $38 price tag for this pleasure however, is steep for a 7cm-diameter disc.
VERDICT: ***1/2 The food here is a little rougher around the edges than the plates at a typical sleek steak joint in Singapore. But it’s tasty enough and the closest you’ll get to what’s offered at a traditional old-school New York steakhouse. Just be prepared to blow some serious cash here. $$$$
#02-01 Intercontinental Singapore Robertson Quay, 1 Nanson Rd, S238909. Tel: 6887-5885. Open daily 11.30am-11.30pm. Last orders at 11.30pm. www.wolfgangsteakhouse.sg