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A Passion For Italian

A Passion For Italian

Italy is number one in my heart amongst the European cuisines. However, Spain and France put up a hard fight for that position sometimes.
Veronica Phua
Veronica Phua

H O S T E D

Kicking off a meal here are a wonderful selection of small bites - an auspicious number of them to be sure, and what I had that day were astonishing indeed.

Four were gems from the garden:

- a crisp radish heart with bottarga, amalfi lemon gel and shiso blossom.

- a pickled carrot with aged balsamic vinegar.

- a mint-infused baby zucchini with Giardiniera pesto made from pickled vegetable trimmings.

- a dramatic curl of Radicchio Tardivo with organic local honey and grilled Asiago cheese crumble.

The others were:

- a crisp rice tuille with a flurry of shaved 36-months Parmigiano Reggiano and burnt cream.

- a Sicilian Datterini tomato confit on black olive crostini.

- sunchoke skin with locally-made burrata using fresh milk from the Dolomites and crumbled pistachio.

- a carrot ring holding 24-months-aged Prosciutto di Parma with cantaloupe gel.

All were exquisite.

H O S T E D

Chef-owner Beppe De Vito only serves seabass if it tips the scales at 2.5kg and above. The flesh is suppose to be firmer and more flavourful then. Appearance-wise, there is nothing fancy - just the seabass surrounded by some pretty vegetables and with a sauce poured over once it’s served, but good golly, does this taste splendid! The magic is in that emulsified liquid as it is made using Colatura di Cetara (a fish sauce of anchovies fermented with herbs and salt), fresh apple juice, apple vinegar and extra virgin olive oil from Chef Beppe's own olive grove in Italy.

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H O S T E D

The Tuna Belly Carpaccio with Autumn truffle and the famous hazelnuts of Piemonte floored me. Never would I imagine the oily richness of Japanese tuna to couple so well with toasted crunchy nuts but it does. That combination alone was so radically tasty I hardly paid attention to the truffle.

There is, quite literally, new “Art” at the National Gallery of Singapore.

How apt that Chef-owner Beppe De Vito has relocated and relaunched his @artrestaurant.sg in one of the most iconic heritage buildings in our country, and home to over 8,000 works of art. His medium of choice is one I happen to appreciate very much and thus, was most excited to attend a showing thanks to the invitation of Janet, P.R. Director of the Il Lido Group.

The man is a maestro. Drawing from memories and using choicest ingredients from Italy, he drew gasps from both Denyse Yeo of @oishiisg magazine and myself with his style of delectability. Across canvasses of various sizes, he demonstrated a flair for colour and elegant form, pulled together by his exquisite taste. Different produce, all beautiful by nature, were rendered, several with oil (olive, from Chef Beppe’s own farm, to be specific), into interpretations that left a deep impression. Below are those from the meal which resonated most strongly with me:

1. The complimentary potato focaccia - so fluffy and fragrant with pesto, pink garlic and Chef Beppe’s own olive oil.

2. The entire collection of snacks - thoughtful and incredibly detailed small bites bursting with deliciousness.

3. The tuna belly carpaccio with Piemonte hazelnuts and truffle - I was swooning over this course.

4. The Italian seabass - only those 2.5kg and above make the cut because the flesh is firmer and has more flavour. It’s served with an emulsion of Colatura di Cetara sauce, fresh apple juice, apple vinegar and his own olive oil.

6. The tiramisu - a finely wrought, decadent sculpture concocted from gianduja chocolate, hazelnut gelato, espresso and marsala.

In case you are curious, the Degustation Menu at “Art” comes in different sizes of 3, 4 and 5 course options priced respectively at $78, $108 and $138 (before taxes).

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Visited Bar Cicheti with relatives from overseas recently. And because I have always trusted Chef Jason’s judgement, it was a no-brainer to leave it to him to decide what to feed our group of eight.

The four pastas cooked by the team and him were excellent, each a star in the taste department. Two were from the existing menu: the chockfull-of-seafood “Tagliolini Nero” with its blow-your-socks-off “wok hei”, and the “Taglierini” in housemade tomato sauce pimped up with chilli padi and creamy stracciatella. The other two were brand new creations to be launched to the public in the coming weeks. One I’ve named the “Uni Pasta” because its sea urchin sauce commandeered attention from the first slurp. Upping the enjoyment factor were shallot crumbs and savoury bottarga. The fourth, a “Duck Ragout Garganelli” entranced us with very tender duck meat and a sauce bright with orange notes in which the tubular pasta was simmered.

Needless to add, our meal was bookended by various delicious appetisers and desserts. Making up the former were a ball of burratina cheese on onion marmalade, fabulous melt-in-the-mouth meatballs in a tangy tomato sauce, that day’s special of batter-and-fried zucchini flowers and Chef Jason’s version of foccacia (it’s paper-thin!) with cheese.

For dessert, not only did we plunge headlong into a decadent tiramisu but were also given a sneak preview of Chef Danny’s fig tart. Accompanied by vanilla gelato, it was a hit, lasting all of maybe five seconds after I took photos of it.

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M E D I A T A S T I N G

I must admit, because of @casanostrasg private dining, I am completely spoiled when it comes to pizzas. But in terms of restaurant offerings, Pizza Logic’s are decent and comparable to Japanese Chef-run establishments like “Trattoria L‘Operetta” and “Luka Italian” that have been championing Neapolitan-style pizzas in Singapore for years.
Churning them out at the first local outlet of “Pizza Logic” (they have 18 outlets in Japan) is Chef Jun Takeguchi, a protege of Chef Junichi Shoji who was the 2012 Winner of the Napoli World Pizza Championship and the man behind all the pizza recipes for this brand. The eight years of training Chef Jun had under Chef Junichi has equipped him to be a more-than-capable one-man-band in pizza-making. Customers get a choice of either tomato or white sauce as the base before the toppings go on. Our pick of “Bismarck Rosso” ($22++) had the former as well as mozzarella, prosciutto, an egg and fresh basil. After being baked for 90 seconds in the 500-degree-celsius heat of the wood-fired oven, the crust was nice and chewy. It was also properly salted which I think is important. Overall, the pizza was satisfying to us.
A dish I highly recommend is the Beef Tongue and Tomato Ajillo ($28++). Served sizzling hot with toast on the side, the tender and tasty meat was delicious. This appetiser, along with everything else besides pizzas, fall under the responsibility of Grand Chef Atsushi Terashima. Which means he also cooks the pasta dishes, such as the Spaghetti “Pescatore” ($21++) we had. There was quite a lot of octopus, squid, small prawns, clams plus a scallop mixed in with the thick strands of pasta. His version of the tomato with fresh cream sauce incorporates an octopus-heavy seafood stock, so the result is more “seafood-y” than “tomato-y” if you know what I mean.
Grand Chef Atsushi Terashima happens to specialise in desserts and the two we tucked into, the Almond and Ricotta Cake ($12++) and the Tiramisu ($10++) were proof of his expertise. Definitely leave tummy space for a few of them is my suggestion.

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Here’s a brand new creation by Chef de Cuisine Mirko, and it is an absolute winner in my book. Named “Autumn Harvest”, it showcases the vegetables of the season depending on what’s available on the day. The aromatic, luscious cream, composed of almond, quince and essentials oils, pairs very well with the inherent sweetness of the uber fresh produce.

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For my belated birthday treat from a friend, I chose One MICHELIN Starred Braci because the contemporary Italian restaurant has been on my list for ages.
We loved the housemade bread that was the first thing to arrive on our table. Named “Pane di Altamura”, it’s made using remilled durum wheat from Altamura in Italy’s Alpura region. It even has to pass the strict criteria of having a 3mm crust.
Following that, every one of the courses in the lunch set we had, was impeccable in presentation, freshness and flavours.
Both our appetisers, the raw Scallops dressed in rhubarb and fermented cherries, and the Baby Gem with white sesame and apple chutney, were superb. So too the mains of Veal Cappelletti (handmade pasta stuffed with truffle taleggio cooked in a sauce of 5 peppers jus) and the crisp-of-skin Italian Seabass (plated with pumpkin, radish and chard). Enormously gratifying in their own way they were.
Although the lunch set had only one dessert, it triggered wide-eyed wonder with its masterful combination of white chocolate, blood orange, pineapple and Yamazaki whisky.
Our wonderful meal came to a close with petit fours that were the embodiment of refinement and delectability.

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I’ve never met a bowl of Buah Keluak noodles I didn’t like.
One of the earliest, if not the earliest, was the “Buah Keluak Mee Pok” by @chefshentan at the now-defunct Revolution Coffee cafe. I remember trying to chew while gaping in wonderment at its deliciousness, on top of being a bit flustered at finally meeting Chef herself properly (#fangurling).
Shown above is the most recent, which took place here where it appears as the seventh of nine courses in Chef Ming Kiat’s September menu. Naturally, each person has their own take and his featured an oxtail buah keluak ragu and egg noodles made fresh from scratch in-house. I loved how the meat and Indonesian black nut were cooked till they basically became one, a black melt-in-mouth beauty that after some tossing, clung tenaciously to the fine strands of springy noodles. So sublime a Peranakan-Chinese match they made. Chef Ming Kiat urged us to squeeze the lime and mix in the housemade sambal belachan to give the earthiness from the buah keluak a note of brightness and savoury heat. Doing that really did transform the dish in ways I didn’t expect, to heightened tastiness of course.

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I’ve never met a bowl of Buah Keluak noodles I didn’t like.
One of the earliest, if not the earliest, was the “Buah Keluak Mee Pok” by @chefshentan at the now-defunct Revolution Coffee cafe. I remember trying to chew while gaping in wonderment at its deliciousness, on top of being a bit flustered at finally meeting Chef herself properly (#fangurling).
Shown above is the most recent, which took place here where it appears as the seventh of nine courses in Chef Ming Kiat’s September menu. Naturally, each person has their own take and his featured an oxtail buah keluak ragu and egg noodles made fresh from scratch in-house. I loved how the meat and Indonesian black nut were cooked till they basically became one, a black melt-in-mouth beauty that after some tossing, clung tenaciously to the fine strands of springy noodles. So sublime a Peranakan-Chinese match they made. Chef Ming Kiat urged us to squeeze the lime and mix in the housemade sambal belachan to give the earthiness from the buah keluak a note of brightness and savoury heat. Doing that really did transform the dish in ways I didn’t expect, to heightened tastiness of course.

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The final course of pasta in our spontaneous “omakase” dinner was an umami celebr-ocean of fine strands of fresh squid ink tagliolini crowned with creamy uni, plump grilled Hokkaido scallops and Indonesian baby squid. Both @blueskiescottonclouds and I were groaning by then but we still managed to clean up everything on the plate.

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Burpple Tastemaker @blueskiescottonclouds and I found this pasta very much to our liking. Embellished with mascarpone and chopped pistachio, the chewy shell-shaped pasta which was made from scratch in-house, was simmered in a tasty red pesto made from sundried tomatoes and piquillo peppers. The blend of flavours and textures led to lip-smacking results.

Can't cook to save my life but boy, can I eat! 😄 (I pay for all my meals unless otherwise stated)

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