good italian casual fine-dining (not a misnomer) in chinatown. this place has been swimming through the foodosphere with its pitch of good food at affordable prices, and that’s true to some extent. it’s rather good cooking, with an array of dishes that veer between rustic and posh dining, and cooking that’s somewhere on the positive side of the average-to-great spectrum.
I had this meal nearly a month ago (oops, but hey, hindsight is something powerful if used right), and while I was pretty stoked about the food coming out at the time – it might have been the company I had, come to think of it – the slight erosion of memory makes this out to have been an enjoyable meal, rather than anything particularly surprising or fantastic.
not that this reflects badly on the restaurant at all, no. and it was good food coming out of the kitchens – well-prepared tuscan food you’d expect at fine-dining – at surprisingly generous portions and prices far more circumspect that you’d see at more swanky establishments (we’re still talking more-than-bistro here though, so don’t get your hopes up too far).
we started out with a basket of bread served with parsley pesto, as well as a platter of cured ham with artichokes and tomatoes. while I couldn’t detect any of truffle honey, those thin slices of pink prosciutto di parma went well with the balsamic-tossed artichokes – but you’d expect fatty ham to be good anyway, no?
the entree menu is the epitome of rustic tuscan cooking – but the frittata con le rane of frogs legs and chives (sounds more scintillating than it actually was) was tasty but disappointingly flat. you say frittata and I say.. that it should be thick and hearty, and sliceable like a pie – this was a mere omelette.
the gran bolito – well. when it was listed on the menu as “traditional mixed boiled [five types of meat]”, I thought that sparse description was meant to be a teaser for a spectacular stew of some sort – but it turned out my romantic notions were just that. this was precisely boiled meat, served in a broth with vegetables and four dips on the side.
to be fair, the meat wasn’t too tough or dry and still tasted meaty, but I would never have thought that a restaurant would serve up soup meat – or that I would be
tricked sold into ordering it. can’t blame them for overselling the dish, though.
p.s. I’m sorry for that piece of tongue up there – it’s fascination of the abomination, really. I have realised once again (as with each time I try it) that there’s something about the bounciness of tongue that really puts me off.
we finished the savories with the day’s special of pork belly and a side of broccolini, which were most impressive. the pork was very fatty, but the skin was well crispy and the flavors deeply porky. loved the garlic on the greens, too.
we finished with a chocolate fondant – not quite flowing though tasty enough – and a classic tiramisu – just about alright – but the standout finish was the cheese plate. we were stuffed by then, but the plate of four cheeses with truffle honey and syruped fruit were delectable.
I sound a little disparaging about this meal – but that’s purely accidental. it’s an effort to stymie any hyping about this place – the prices are lower than I would expect to pay for this amount of food, and the cooking itself is well-executed, but I just feel like something’s rather missing from this meal.
the place is charming in itself, all done up with brick and leather, and the atmosphere is buzzily busy without being rambunctious – but it seems to lack a certain something-something. in a nutshell, I’d recommend this place to friends, but probably wouldn’t return for a second visit.
in ITALY Bar Ristorante
38 Craig Road
tel +65 6423 0918
$$$: uno antipasto + tre secondo + uno contorno + due dolci + uno formaggio = two-hundred-and-twenty
p.s. burlamacco ristorante (which isn’t too far away from this place) is an example of a great italian restaurant with decent prices and the something-something that was missing here.
p.p.s. I’m sorry for bastarding your language, if you’re italian. I take any corrections if you have them!
I love cows tongue but in that photo it looks vey unappealing. It doesn’t look like food, it looks like a slice of tongue. My parents cooked tongue a lot when we were kids. The stew my mum makes is phenomenal. But nowdays, tongue isn’t the economic cut that it used to be so it’s not really worth the time and effort required to cook it.
The pork belly looks like perfection.
the pork belly was an excellent bit of cooking (the best in this meal).
I think my encounters with tongue have so far been star-crossed – the preparations have always been a little too au naturel, which isn’t the best way to segue yourself into eating it. a stew sounds great! does it still become bouncy in the stew, and does it still taste a little like luncheon meat?
The texture is very soft and basically melt in your mouth and the flavour is very much like corned beef. If you didn’t know any better, you might think it was corned beef. Oh and always peel the thick skin off the tongue. No one wants to see tastebuds when they’re eating.
re: the tastebuds, I’m in complete agreement. on the aside, I find it strange that a natural part of the cow tastes so like a highly processed meat product!
first of all, beautiful photos and it was a great meetup with you and Meds. yeah, i kinda agree with you on the soup meat. it kinda tasted normal to me too. nothing spectacular. and for me, the missing something-something is perhaps some carbonara, some bolognese and a lot of mozarella. that robust, hearty italian flavor that we’re familiar with. :) see you in august!
you might have hit the nail on the head! the food here was quite muted – and my cantonese self has drunk much better soup than they brought out here. AUGUST!
Holy moly, you made tongue look (almost) edible. Not my fav food. ;)
it’s not mine either, despite several tries – is it the texture for you as well? because that bounciness is slightly disagreeable to me. genie tells me that tongue can taste pretty good in stew – so maybe both of us should give it a go!