High-end Japanese restaurants are often associated with spaces that are minimalist almost to a fault; gastronomic temples with a Zen-like calm, where conversations are hushed, and words of appreciation are translated to sighs and nods. Koma, which opened its doors in August, tears up the formulaic recipe altogether. The new concept is the brainchild of Marina Bay Sands and Tao Group Hospitality, and it is a stage designed for an indulgence of the senses.
There is the dramatic interior design: the walkway that takes its inspiration from the seemingly infinite row of torii gates of Kyoto’s Fushimi Inari Shrine; the imposing 2.5m-tall bronze bell at the entrance; and the voluptuous, oversized lanterns. Yet, there are also the subtle: perched on a vermillion lattice of wooden beams high above the bar are snow-white figurines of owls—a symbol of good fortune in Japanese culture; behind the wooden panelling on the walls, clever illumination creates the contours of mountains afar.
The aim is clear. Every detail of this lofty double‑volume space is designed for maximum visual impact. Indeed, the work of American design firm Rockwell Group can be perceived to be more exotic than authentic, but there is something very appealing about its unabashed seductiveness. The flattering, atmospheric lighting, the beautiful crowd (that includes the likes of speed king Lewis Hamilton and singer-songwriter Shawn Mendes), and the pulsating house music all add to the allure of this cavernous space converted from a part of the Sands Theatre, now deliberately laid-out as a stage for hedonistic gastronomic pleasures.
Here, you will drink lustily from its extensive sake collection, and eat heartily from a menu spanning humble snacks of expertly grilled chicken livers to big-ticket items such as the A5 snow-aged Niigata Wagyu rib-eye. You can laugh, chat and be convivial. There is no need to keep your volume down—the servers even sound a cowbell at your table if you order one of the prized Wagyu items.