September 14, 2012 - Pangaea, Marina Bay Sands, Singapore - Dubbed “the most expensive cocktail in Asia,” the 32,000-Singapore dollar beverage debuted at Marina Bay Sands’ Pangaea ultra-lounge. It would be my first time at the much-touted “ultra-lounge” so despite my distaste for similar trappings, I confessed to a smidgen of eager anticipation.
The evening’s comestibles varied lightly in complexity and creativity—from mildly interesting palate cleanser to soporific drab—and because lounges are not supposed to be brightly lit to accommodate food photography, I have nothing but vague recollections.
A spoon of tuna tartare with a mild hit of ginger and acid that was as refreshing as it was predictable.
Salmon sitting atop sour cream on a blini was delicious and mildly interesting—though I confess to some bias due to my sincere love for the fish’s fatty flesh.
Cheese sticks (good lord) accompanied swiftly by an eager disclaimer: “THREE cheeses went into each stick, sir.” I have little love for dishes that brag about the amount of cheeses that go into an ultimately homogenous concoction. If you use a hundred mild cheeses, melt them and stuff them in fried puff pastry, you still render indistinguishable subtle flavour profiles and textures.
Prawns in pastry shells were under-seasoned on tiny “pie crusts” that were neither flaky nor tender.
Oyster shooters escape me conceptually. Presented with a tray of the freshest oysters, they are needlessly succumbed to accoutrements such as the gratuitous squeeze of lemon, and a dollop of watered-down vinegar and shallot mignonette that serve only to mask the briny flavour of a fresh, naked oyster. Why swallow immediately, when mastication is scientifically proven to enhance appreciation? When not under duress, I would chew my shooter to the shock of foodie friends.
The farce began with the entrance of award-winning master mixologist, Ethan Leong, with a metal suitcase containing the components needed to assemble the “Jewel of Pangaea” while Shirley Bassey’s “Diamonds are Forever” played in the background.
For the hamming Sabrina Ault, he combined gold-flecked Hennessey brandy, 1985 vintage Krug champagne, and a hickory smoke-infused sugar cube, before garnishing with a Mouawad Triple X 1-carat diamond necklace that was strategically suspended over the liquid so it threatened to enter a nostril as the glass tipped to waiting lips. When she finally drank from the jewellery-enhanced cocktail, Nicole Kidman’s tortured rendition of “The Show Must Go On” started to play:
Inside my heart is breaking
My makeup may be flaking
But my smile still stays on
The show must go on.
It. Was. Hilarious.
“The Jewel of Pangaea is not just a drink, it’s an experience—the spirit of Pangaea in a glass,” says Sabrina.
In the same way a gratuitous sprig of parsley to decorate a plate of food is passé because it lends nothing to the experience of the dish, expensive jewellery on a drink has little to do with its consumption and subsequent appreciation. But like many of the activities enjoyed by the extremely wealthy in media, an experience need not be subtle or complex, when gaudy is easily an option.