The food scene has changed so much in the past century – from classic one-pot dishes to gorgeous plating techniques. But that’s not all, the dining experience is something that people look forward to as well. While it’s subjective, the experience can range from greenery to hippy and completely absurd! Well, for Singaporeans who are interested in experiencing an absurd dinner can look to Restaurant ABSURDITIES. Where everything from its interior to dishes are on the unconventional side. On this week’s Glitz Spotlight, we speak to Stuart Wee of Restaurant ABSURDITIES to know more about this unique spot that Singaporeans can visit!
Who is Stuart Wee and Restaurant ABSURDITIES
- Who is Stuart Wee and Restaurant ABSURDITIES
- 1. Can you tell us a bit about yourself and the restaurant?
- 2. What inspired you to establish Restaurant ABSURDITIES?
- 3. What does “absurd” mean to you?
- 4. We see that there are various thematic rooms at Restaurant ABSURDITIES, can you share more on that with us and why did you choose the various themes?
- All about the food
- Highs, Lows, Future
1. Can you tell us a bit about yourself and the restaurant?
I’m Stuart Wee, Co-Founder of Restaurant ABSURDITIES and Co-Founding Director of ANDSOFORTH. Over the last 8 years, we’ve worked on establishing an immersive culture in Singapore through our various concepts and in those 8 years, I have directed, scripted, food and drink, consulted, designed and adapted over 60 concepts and experiences. I love pushing the boundaries of the immersive dining genre.
As the co-founder of ANDSOFORTH, my wife, Emily, and I, built the company from pop-up events into running the world’s first multi-sensory, restaurant, ABSURDITIES. In 2021, we grew tired of the pandemic and started the anti-fine dining, fun dining, first in the world, Restaurant ABSURDITIES. Serving up an Omakase sensory six-course dinner. The restaurant reached popularity status within a month from opening and currently has a month-long wait-list.
Absurdities is a multisensory omakase dining experience. Simply put, it is an anti-fine, fun dining experience. Diners are taken on a literal gastronomic journey, as they physically travel through six unique rooms over the course of their meal.
Each room is intricately designed to enhance and highlight the respective course served, where every little detail from the tableware to the menu is carefully tailored to create an immersive experience that brings out the sheer absurdity of the sensorial dining experience.
In a nutshell, it is fun, immersive, interactive and just absolutely absurd!
2. What inspired you to establish Restaurant ABSURDITIES?
On a trip to London nine years ago, we discovered immersive theatre (punchdrunk, darling and edge, gingerline, secret cinema etc.) and were completely blown away by these experiences.
When we returned to Singapore, we quickly realised that there weren’t any companies offering anything close to what we experienced in London.
The best way to quell our thirst for immersive experiences, we discovered, was to set up our own. And this was how AndSoForth came to life in 2014.
With Absurdities, we took this a step further. We wanted to offer guests an experience that takes them out of their comfort zone, to redefine the dining experience and the concept of fine dining.
3. What does “absurd” mean to you?
There are two sides to the absurd – jaw-dropping and pants-dropping. We are definitely going for jaw-dropping. Every dish is crafted to be a surprise in flavor, texture, and presentation. Every drink made has to be something delicious and familiar yet totally unique. 6 courses are served but each course is served in a different room, with each room dedicated and designed to facilitate the story and creation of each dish. In short, we have created continuous jaw-dropping moments throughout the entire 130min Absurdities journey.
With Absurdities, we really wanted to redefine the dining experience; unlike a sit-down, 8-course, 2-hour long dinner, Absurdities – like its name suggests – is an absurdly fun dining experience.
Each course takes place in a different room. Everything about the room, from its decor to the tableware and even the servers is related to the course.
With the experience, we want our guests to let their guards down, expect the unexpected and roll with it. The goal is to keep them guessing what could be in the next room and what will be served in the next course!
The omakase menu we have at Absurdities is created by our wonderful Chef Jason, who has been with us since 2016. We’re constantly pushing boundaries with the food to create an immersive dining experience where the food is the central part of the story and every ingredient is there, not just for show, but to really enhance the taste and experience.
This year, guests get to experience Volume 1 of our story and we’re looking forward to opening with Volume 2 sometime next year. Stay tuned!
All about the food
Our Chef, Jason Ang, and I work closely together to conceptualise each dish at Restaurant ABSURDITIES. The Omakase menu was intentional to facilitate trust. Omakase means trusting in the expert in Japanese and can be used on anything from getting a haircut to getting a house renovated.
Being our chef since 2016, Chef Jason has proven to be versatile and proficient in an array of cuisines, especially French. His willingness to work with me in designing a culinary experience that is both exciting and delicious has been nothing but exhilarating. For example, I wanted our guests to have a dish that is not quite what it seems in the sorcerer’s apprentice’s room. We made squid ink risotto with no rice and no squid ink but turned the dish purplish black, then we paired it with edible glass. It is a play on textures and things you wouldn’t think would pair well together but it surprisingly does!
The smoked tabbouleh and stuffed quail served in our handmade ceramic tagine is probably my absolute favourite. I have had quail before, and did not have a very good impression of the bird. Maybe it was the method/s used to cook it. But we definitely discovered how to make quail delicious. We spent 3 months researching and developing the menu at Absurdities and I think it paid off.
The umami bomb was a drink that was insanely hard to nail. We worked on its proportions and ingredient combinations for over 8 months. When we nailed it, it was euphoria. The perfect combination of savoury and sweet with just the right hint of weirdness. It has beetroot, mushrooms, black garlic, pressed grapes and sake.
7. How would you categorize the cuisine that you serve here at Restaurant ABSURDITIES?
ABSURDITIES is a multi-sensory dinner which involves all your senses. It is an amalgamation of disciplines using french, british, middle-eastern and gastronomical techniques to bring together a cohesive 6 course omakase dinner.
Highs, Lows, Future
8. Can you tell us the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far?
The first three years were the hardest, as most of Singapore have never heard or been to an immersive experience. It was educational for us and the customers. Dietary preferences were also on the rise as veganism and gluten-free diets became trends, the kitchen team had to adapt. Most actors had to learn a new skill with us as the dynamics vary with each wave of guests. We held workshops and training to facilitate interactions and improvisation to keep the experience entertaining to follow a good pace.
In many ways, we had to craft a genre unique to Asia and our demographic. It was not as simple as buying an intellectual property from overseas to plug and play here.
There was a time where we almost threw in the towel. We gave everything we had, all our savings were gone and it seemed that no one was interested in something they did not truly understand. But our boredom, and frustration with what experiences were out there drove us to press on.
We started ANDSOFORTH with the mission to make Singapore fun again. We were tired of what was being offered for unique date ideas and fun nights out. This is what drove us to create over 60 unique concepts to cater to the ever growing hungry and chase for novelty, limited editions, and endless queuing.
We only made profit till about six years into AndSoForth where we managed to create and market experiences that hit the sweet spot of mass understanding and novelty.
9. How about the rewards of establishing Restaurant ABSURDITIES?
We’ve been creating experiences for the past 8 years. It has been a roller coaster with us almost giving up in our 4 year mark. But our fans, the brand and the vision and mission to make dining in Singapore fun, exciting and novel pushed us to continue.
Right now, ANDSOFORTH is a brand and name synonymous with immersive dining. When we were recognised by the immersive community internationally and invited to be on a panel held in Area15 Las Vegas early this year, that was the validation that we are on the right track and the 20 billion dollar immersive industry is growing. It was definitely rewarding and we’re glad to be the pioneers here in Asia.
10. Where do you see Restaurant ABSURDITIES in the future? Do you already have some plans in mind?
If you’ve been to Asylum, you’d notice that there are 6 different doors behind the coffee counter. Each door represents a volume of worlds existing within. This year, guests will enter Volume 1 and sometime next year, we’ll open Volume 2.
Think of each volume of absurdities like NFTs. A series of artworks that you would want to collect. Volume 2 will feature a different set of absurd rooms each telling its own story featuring its own unique absurd dinner menu.