Vibe: This semi casual neighbourhood modern Italian joint by the Les Amis Group
is a sparse, primarily industrial space in the Bukit Timah ‘hood. There’s al fresco seating (even more sparse), but inside is quite bare, though we’re told that artwork for the wall is “on the way”.
Food: The grilled octopus starter ($22) with hummus and nduja (a spreadable spicy pork salumi) sounded promising. But the nduja was a tad too spicy and overpowering for the gentle taste of the octopus. The Roasted Beetroot Salad ($18) with bufala was a pretty dish of red colours, and it provided a better start. For pasta we had the Cappellacci ($22) with celery root and edamame, with parmesan sauce. I certainly never had a combination like this before, and my taste buds started to awaken. I appreciated the lightness of the pasta and its slight umami flavours. The celery root can be a little pungent for someone who doesn't like celery, but it’s definitely adventurous.
And then we had the Barley Risotto ($26) with wild mushroom and parmesan – the best! This was my favourite dish, and great for those trying to stay off carbs. The barley had a wonderful texture, and worked well with the light creamy sauce without feeling too barle-y. The Buratta Pizza ($28) had a lovely thin dough, with a vibrant layer of slow roasted cherry tomatoes, and a big ball of burrata in the middle. It reminded me of pizzas from Pizzeria Mozza, and we learnt that the chef did indeed come from the now defunct restaurant. We wolfed it down.
Then for dessert we had the Sfera di Cioccolato, which wasn't memorable, but then I don't have a sweet tooth. All in all, this might warrant a return visit. I would like to try the Zucchini Noodles as I'm always looking for good low carb options. And the pizzas will see some repeat action as well.
PS: Lino charges $2 per head for filtered water, sparkling or still. Not sure what to make of this.
7 Binjai Park
2. Bar Cicheti
The Keong Saik dining enclave recently welcomed Bar Cicheti, an extension of sister restaurant Cicheti at Kandahar Street. Bar Cicheti is totally devoted to pasta and wine (can’t argue with that), with small confident dishes to complement its boutique wine selection (small batch producers, independent vineyards).
“There is something incredibly welcoming about popping open a great bottle of wine and indulging in a plate of pasta. Complexity and simplicity all in one sitting,” explains restaurateur and owner Liling Ong.
The quaint Peranakan-tiled shophouse exterior hides a stylish modern interior that would fit right into Milan’s fashionable Via Montenapoleone district. Here the artisanal dishes are given full expression in its sparse presentation: the Salva Fritta is a pure delight – each sage leaf is individually battered and fried, and lovingly picked up with chopsticks. It provided an umami contrast to the prosecco I was drinking. And like potato chips, you can’t stop pecking on it.
That was followed by the Classic Spaghetti Cacio E Pepe, a minimalist take on pasta that is filled with creamy flavours and a fresh soft texture. The portions here are medium, which means you get to experience more dishes. Case in point, the Fusilli Nero, a squid ink pasta with Japanese sea urchin, basil and anchovy crumbs. Another triumph. There were no missteps here, every dish was fantastico. There are also gluten-free and vegetarian options alpenty. (The aforementioned Cicheti specialises in pizzas, if you’re wondering).
Chef Lim Yew Aun and his team make the pastas fresh by the minute, and while you wait, indulge in a kooky wine list that’s seasonal and changes frequently. You will experience new wines each time you visit. Likewise, the two meat and fish dishes are also updated every few months. Which means, it’s practically like visiting a new restaurant each time you go!
10 Jiak Chuan Road
Osteria Art in the CBD has been revamped to just Art, a new contemporary restaurant where ingredients take the lead in the creative process. It’s brought to life by chef-restaurateur Beppe De Vito, a key player in the Italian gastronomy scene here (Aura, Braci), and he’s supported by the young and talented Chef de Cuisine Andrea de Paola.
The dishes here are intricate, and it combines Beppe’s Italian heritage with his worldly view. We started with an amuse bouche of Rice and Parmigiano Puff with Homecured and Smoked Speck, presented quite theatrically, a hint of what’s ahead.That was followed by Truffle and Anchovy Financier, then Uni with Caviar and Fennel Cream, both with just the right notches of flavours and visual appeal. The Red Prawns, Foiegras, Blood Orange and Seaweed ($28) cleverly pairs red prawn tartare, olive oil, paprika, seaweed and black sesame for a fiendishly evocative dish.
The clear winner for me was the Tagliolini, (very pricey) Oscietra Caviar, Clam Velouté and Lemon Garum, representing the acme of modern Italian cuisine. It has a springy texture, which gave way to the salty mouthfeel of the caviar, and a zesty citrusy lift which took the bow. The Turbot, Daikon, Nettle and Spice Emulsion also deserved a shoutout.
The wine list comprises Italian and French heavyweights such as Barolo, Brunello, Super Tuscans and especially Bordeaux. And you can order a no-fuss classic cocktail if you’re here early, or leaving late.
No, I didn’t forget dessert. Definitely spring for the Almond Magnum, Dark Chocolate and Raspberry Heart ($18), a “half-fallen Magnum” held up by an edible ice cream stick made of sable cookies, with layers of almond chocolate, almond sponge and dark chocolate ganache.
Saving, as always, the best for last. The three-course Power Lunch Menu ($38) caters to the busy professional, while dinner (and lunch) is a selection of tasting menus (3 courses at $68, 5 courses at $98, $148 and $198) accompanies the a la carte menu for both lunch and dinner.
55 Market Street
4. The Mast’ of Mozzarella & Co.
The simple concept here combines a delicatessen, Osteria, bar and a cheese production laboratory – the first in Singapore – that makes its prized fresh cheeses on site daily. You can gawk at their mozzarella production once a day, either in the morn when the CBD crowd hustles to work, or in the evening when this new food enclave comes alive (the restaurant is at the end of the revitalised Telok Ayer Street).
Here the no-fuss food has its Roman origins, with loads of flat breads and hearty fare; mozzarrella does command the arena, it’s in the jaunty and fresh starter Tris Di Bufala (burrata, mozzarella, special burrata), and which you can purchase for picnics as well, a steal at $8 for 150g (The Mast’ means ‘cheese master’ when translated from a Southern Italian dialect.)
Starters here are worth the shoutout: The Crostini E Fungi with stracciatella bread is a crusty mushroomy delight, while the Verdure Grigliate goes full umami with its A-Z combo of artichoke and aubergine, tomatoes and zucchini. So far, so healthy.
Don’t let the cow/buffalo picture on the menu fool you into thinking it’s a steak house – it represents the fresh milk imported from their buffalo farm in Italy to make the cheeses here. There is of coure a hefty burger done red and ready, but I’d say fight for the Salmone Schiacciata (salmon, zucchini, basil pesto) instead, though the real gladiator is the righteously salty Napoletana Pinse, a bracing ‘pizza’ with anchovies and capers on hard bread. A good wingman is the Bigoli Pasta, Italian comfort food that’ll sustain you.
You can also get a typically Italian breakfast (pastries start at $2.50++), or end your work day with their happy hour, 5-8pm, where $12 gets you an Aperol spritz and a canape – the starters mentioned are great for sharing as well.
The best for last: Both the desserts Zuccotto Amerena (frozen sponge cake, black cherry and vanilla sauce) and Pistachio Tartufo (pistachio semifreddo topped with crunchy nuts) ought to take the emperor’s seat, it’s a triumph of flavours, balance and technique.
Bravo. Those who are about to dine salute you.
182 Cecil Street #01-05/08 Frasers Tower
5. Pasta Bar
Designed to look like a contemporary Italian kitchen, this new 32-seater offers diners prime-viewing of chef Alessandro Giustetti and his team at work with both tables and counter seats, with rolls of fresh pasta hanging over the kitchen.
Genovese chef Alessandro has worked in one Michelin-starred Garibaldi and two Michelin-starred La Trota, and fun fact: having come to Singapore without knowing English, he has picked up Singlish instead.
But don't let his credentials scare you - Pasta Bar aims to provide quality food and drink at affordable prices.
The menu boasts 12 types of pasta, including Lagane, $28, the world's oldest known pasta dish from the south of Italy - this vegetarian dish sees chickpeas, chilli and spicy garlic mixed with the sheet-like lagane (from which lasagne got its name). The chilli and spicy garlic cuts through the thick texture of the chickpeas, adding a well-received kick to this rustic dish.
The standout dish has to be the Tortelli, $26, filled with piping hot pumpkin and sage. Creamy, comforting and extremely delicious, this is one dish on the menu that the whole table agreed we'd come back for.
Game meats are less common in Singapore, which is why his Pappardelle, $30,with rabbit ragu, olives and pine nuts were a welcome surprise. Pasta Bar doesn't hold back on the rabbit - you will get your fill. The only downside was that it was a little too salty, which meant we preferred the more simple Fettuccini with truffle butter, shaved truffle and parmigiana. Prices for the Fettucini range from $24 - $40 depending on the truffle.
It's worth mentioning the starters; the Burrata for Two with homemade pesto, $38, had us craving more, while the Veal Tongue, $24, was very tender, accompanied by tangy pickled vegetables and piquant homemade salsa verde.
The Sicilian Cannolo, $14, will send you into a food coma: the dough is mixed with red wine, giving it a slightly darker colour;and after being baked, the tube-shaped pastry is stuffed with rich sheep's milk ricotta and sprinkled with chocolate chips and shavings. This is one offer you can't refuse.
55 Keong Saik Road, #01-05.