4 March 2014

The most expensive foods in Singapore

Just before Valentine's Day, the news broke about the world's most expensive Valentine's Day dinner, which cost about US$100,000 and included eight courses cooked by Michelin-starred chef Adam Simmonds, as well as a live harpist, a “romantic poet”, and white doves. 

Presented by luxury experience provider Very First To and Great British Chefs, the meal itself included the best of the best foods, including oysters, white truffles, gold leaf, silver leaf, foie gras, and wagyu beef. While a large part of the cost undoubtedly went to Simmonds, the harpist and the poet, the food itself would have been the best of the best.

Gold leaf
Different sites online list different sets of food as being the 'most expensive'. Singapore's own TWG tea's Yellow Gold tea buds are mentioned (no prices provided online), but generally the foods come from Europe or Japan. 

The Richest lists the Italian white alba truffle, Almas caviar from Iran, Sevruga caviar, Japanese Yubari King hami melons and Densuke black watermelons from Hokkaido, and the mattake, or matsutake, mushroom (also from Japan) as some of the most expensive foods ever. Woman's Day adds chocolate from Knipschildt Chocolatier, moose milk cheese, and Sargol grade red Iranian saffron to the list, while Expensive Foods is putting their money on the La Bonnotte potato from France and Indonesia's kopi luwak coffee as well.  

What would a meal in Singapore look like if it drew on some of the most expensive ingredients available? Here's a selection of luxury items available for order online that you might want to order as part of business entertainment:

Wagyu slices, S$40 for a portion of 250g at Meat Lovers ($0.16/g), and S$84 at Meidi-ya for about 200g ($0.42/g). Or go for the Australian wagyu tenderloin from Delicia, preordered a week ahead, $711 for 3kg ($0.24/g).

Honmaguro Ootoro, premium tuna belly at Meidi-ya, goes for S$72 for 100g ($0.72/g).

Top quality sturgeon caviar from Delicia, Caviar Oscietre Selection Kaspia from Italy, costs S$202 for a 50g tin ($4/g; this has to be pre-ordered three weeks ahead). 

Scottish salmon, S$132 for about 4.5kg per gutted fish ($0.03/g), to be ordered a week ahead from Delicia. Alternatively, go for the smoked version, also from Scotland, at S$85 for 500g ($0.17/g).
The most expensive canned abalone from Eu Yan Sang is at S$118 for two pieces. 

Laobanniang.com has Japanese Kanto sea cucumber in a box of 11 for S$280, working out to about S$25 per cucumber.

Flash-frozen raw duck foie-gras labelled 'Grande Cuisine' at Delicia, is S$60 for a whole liver, estimated at roughly 400 to 550g apiece ($0.11/g to $0.16/g).  

Vegetables & fungi
Frozen French cepes mushrooms are available from Delicia at S$54 a kg ($0.05/g).

Euraco sells Chuao Block Valhrona chocolate (68% cocoa content) for S$78 a kg ($0.08/g). The village of Chuao has been called 'mythical' as it is so remote, and the combination of soil and climate give the chocolate a unique flavour.

Madirofolo cocoa coins from Madagascar cost S$71 for 2kg (S$0.04/g) from Delicia.

Canned candied chestnuts from France are 1kg for S$66 ($0.07/g) from Delicia.

Delicia sells frozen Willamette raspberries at S$47 for 2.5 kg (S$0.02/g).  

Oils, condiments & spices
Two Madagascan vanilla pods cost S$6.50 from Kitchen Capers.

Black truffle oil from Italy, 250ml, is priced at S$44 at Delicia ($0.18/g), while the white truffle version from the same brand, at 250ml, is priced at S$51 ($0.20/g). 

Look out for Delicia's white truffle sea salt, a blend of Italian white truffle and famous sea salt from Guerande on the French Atlantic, S$27 for 100g ($0.27/g).
If plainer salt is preferred, season with fleur de sel, direct from Brittany in France from Delicia, 1kg for S$38 ($0.04/g).

Delicia's most expensive vinegar is balsamic vinegar from Modena, S$232 for 25 cl (250 ml; $0.93/ml)

In the extra virgin olive oil department, Delicia features two rare Spanish olive oils pressed from the first milling of the crop, for S$38 per 500ml (S$0.08/ml). 'Arbequina' has an initial fragrance "of green apples, lemon peel and herbs and this gives way to tastes of ripe banana and bitter almonds, finished with gentle notes of spice", while 'Picual' from the same company has a fragrance of "artichokes, mint, basil and rosemary. Its bold taste coats the palate with flavours that continue the herb theme plus hints of citrus fruit and green tomatoes with a peppery finish". 

Multiple sheets of 23-carat edible gold leaf is available for slightly under A$70 at Australian site Baking Pleasures, while Bake It Yourself sells single sheets of edible gold or silver leaf at S$12.50 and S$11.90 respectively. Kitchen Capers sells a sheet of edible gold leaf for S$7.50. No sizes were provided, so an apples-to-apples comparison wasn't possible.

Bamboo charcoal powder from Japan retails at S$9.50 for 40g ($0.24/g) at Kitchen Capers. 

Bear in mind that a lot of the food is relatively expensive as it has to be air-freighted in frozen or chilled conditions, and stored accordingly. Using fresh ingredients sourced closer to home could also provide a great meal, even if it doesn't have the same cachet.

The chef's skill would also count for more than where an ingredient comes from or what it costs. A talented chef can make the simplest of ingredients taste sublime, and an incompetent cook can ruin anything. 

If you are going to treat your customers or partners to a really good meal, make sure first and foremost that you can rely on the chef, and then on the availability of rare foods if you wish to order them. Last but not least, it all depends on what your guests prefer. After all, it's all about customer satisfaction.

*Prices current as at time of writing, and may exclude taxes, shipping and delivery costs, and minimum order requirements. Prices may vary if ordered from other suppliers. All prices per gram rounded up.