Bistro Soori, Singapore

*please pardon the quality of the pictures. taken on the Samsung Galaxy Tab as the camera was not with me* 

Celebrating new beginnings, having had a new contract signed and an old one terminated, we created an excuse to indulge. You see, we have been on the gym diet for 2 weeks now and these long, full course dinners went out the window the minute we signed with the gym because evenings are the only time we can set foot in there. I do work, you know. So we made a collective decision to sneak in a break, feast and boy was it worth every calorie.

Bistro Soori, as the waitress tells me, is 15 months old and recently saw a change in the head chef and is now helmed by Executive Chef Benjamin McBride. I quote, “Bistro Soori is the symbiosis of an enhanced gastronomic experience within a designed space.” I typically steer away from such marketing speak, as a marketing person myself, because consumers recognise the spiel and may even fail to comprehend it. In layman’s terms, visit Bistro Soori if you’re looking for a restaurant to impress that date or client of yours as it boasts sleek designs, courtesy of the architect owner, Soo Chan [also the principal of SCDA Architects] and the food is belly satisfying, of which I will share more in a jiffy.

Reservations were made at 7pm and we were caught in the jam, as we were fretting over whether the staff had let our table go, my Blackberry started vibrating [i keep my phone silent at all times] and it was the staff calling to check if we were still coming. I loved that they did not threaten to let go of our table but rather, dialed us to ask if we were on our way. I knew that I was going to have a good night there because service goes a long way and I was right.

Arriving half an hour late [fashionably, if you ask me tho I hate being late], we had to valet park as Lim Teck Road and its entire vicinity is a nightmare to get parking after 6.30pm. How do I know? Cos Ember, another one of my favorite restaurants is located just a street down from where Bistro Soori is. Seated, we devoured the menu that was placed before us, decided and ordered in a heartbeat and a half. We hesitated a second with the dessert orders as we had each decided on a starter and main without an inkling on the portions.

No need for introductions, the humble bread. I prefer the foccacia tasting one [bottom slice] instead of the rye-looking one [top slice] but to each their own. Note, bread here is served with butter only. I’m sure you can ask for olive and vinegarette but we didn’t try.

Recalling that we had a movie to catch at 9.25pm, I thought to check with the staff on speed on service only after we placed our orders but were reassured that we’d be out of the joint by 9pm. In his words, “We’re only as fast as you eat,” and with a mutual smile the night was off to a food climax starting with starters [for lack of a better word].

This is one night where I did not suffer from food envy at all, loving both my orders starting with the Foie Gras Duo, Poached Pear, Brioche Crouton, Pink Peppercorn, Gastrique at SGD 21. The serving of foie was generous beyond words and the diner gets to experience it two ways – cold, stuffed and contrasted by the flavors of the sweet poached pear and hot, pan seared and buttery rich with the crisp toast. The crunch of the pink peppercorn was a delightful twist in flavors and also refreshing to the palate. Needless to say, I was impressed from the get go.

Another starter at the table was the Scallop, Pistachio Pesto, Arugula, Pear, Vinegar Gelee, Truffle Vinaigrette at SGD 19. Succulent, sweet, the scallops were plump, moist and well seared combined with the pistachio pesto, the dish was aromatic but lacked something to tie all the different components together. I failed to detect the pear in the dish, the arugula provided a slight crunch and refreshed the palate while the vinegar gelee tasted unlike most vinegar I’ve had in this short life time but every item seems to stand on its on and lacked that unity on the plate.

The slow-cooked short rib was worth every penny given the generous serving. Not the best short rib I’ve had but it got the basics right in being flavorful, moist and tender, breaking upon spear.

Without further ado, we approach the mains.

I was pleased beyond words with my order of shrimp, scallop, uni risotto although I was a tad confused by the dish sitting under mains as risottos usually fall under the starter category, not that I’m complaining. I love how there is an infusion of Japanese flavors with the generous use of uni in flavoring the stock and the overall dish. The seafood that accompanied the risotto were well-seared with the right crunch and texture of fresh and well cooked seafood. The basil leaves provided the perfect accent to break the richness of the dish and kept me wanting more till the last spoonful.

The Cured Roasted Pork Tenderloin, Braised Red Cabbage, Grain Mustard, GoldenRaisin, Pear for SGD 28 was an explosion of flavors in the mouth. It was at once sweet, sour, savory, tangy with a dash of heat in a single bite. I’m not a huge fan of pork but this, I kinda liked.

On the menu is also the Fish Of The Day served with Garlic Nage, Baby Spinach, Red Chili. I’m pretty certain the accompaniments on the dish do not match up to what’s on the menu but the sides were excellent, the touch of tang on the ‘shrooms and broccoli flowers was just beautiful. The cos was not that well cooked with parts of the fish overcooked and tough to the bite.
With two courses polished each, we had little room for dessert and settled on the best representation of fusion for the night – Pandan Soufflé, Strawberry Compote at SGD12. Light, fragrant and heartwarming, the pandan souffle is definitely a dish I would return for although I don’t care much for the strawberry compote that did little to enhance the souffle in any way.

GETTING THERE

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Yellow, Orange, Red, EMBER!

Reliable, a place of consistency, is how I would describe Ember.

Multiple visits later, Ember still leaves me heady with content every time I leave the premise. Housed in Hotel 1929, a boutique hotel establishment, Ember serves up a modern European menu set to win your gut the moment you place your order.

Between my multiple visits, I’m pretty certain I’ve tasted almost everything on the menu. Maybe I exaggerate, but that’s the thing about heading out for a meal with a group – you get to pick from the plates of others you are with. Not the best table manners but definitely a good spread without the overeating. The thing is, Ember’s menu rarely, if ever, changes. That contributes to the consistency in quality of food and the loyal customer base who return time and again for that flavour they crave.

Located in what used to be the notorious red-light district of Keong Saik Road, Ember is a modest outfit with simple furnishings and an interestingly homely vibe afforded by the service staff who is alert and ever ready to stop by your table for a chat.

I judge a place by its bread, and that was the case in the entire week I was dining in Paris. No excuse for the capital of bread to let me down even along the dodgiest of streets but I digress. The point is, good bread revs up your appetite like how good diesel feeds a vehicle. The bread at Ember in one word is – addictive. Just take a look at the appetizingly ripe orange colouring on the bread, that colour evokes warmth and harmony and that is the experience of breaking into this bread. Warmed to perfection with a crusty exterior and a lukewarm, fluffy texture, the bread practically invites you to tear into it. As you chew and savour you get the sweetness from the sun-dried tomatoes and a hit of fresh herbs that is just beautifully addictive. There, that word again, you get my drift. Best part, its complimentary and they top it up every time the plate shows its face. Heed – portion control please.

Back in 2010 when I first visited Ember I remember having a lot of fun with the Oyster Shooters. The thing with food is, always have fun with it. If it can’t put a smile on your face, the calories are just not worth it. Our table of five took an oyster each and had each bite with a different sauce and one ‘genius’ actually had his oyster with a sauce combo and he said it tasted good. So go ahead, try your own mix-n-match till you get the right touch.

If you prefer a somewhat lighter starter, pick the toufu salad. I simply adore it. It’s just simple, unpretentious but if you’ve ever tried recreating a toufu salad at home, you would know what an uphill task it is balancing the flavors to create the symphony that is present in this dish. You can guess at the ingredients and you’re likely to have most of them at home and you may think its as easy as washing up the greens, tossing it in a bowl with that white sesame dressing but let me tell you honey, if you think that’s it, you’re sorely mistaken. Perhaps I lack that culinary finesse in the kitchen but I am pretty certain this toufu salad is not as simple as it looks and tastes.

If you like salads but need a richer flavor to justify the value of your course then my pick would be the pan seared scallops wrapped in parma ham served with a zesty salad. Clearly, the main star for this dish is the scallop but what the chef has cleverly done is develop the richness of the scallop and parma ham combination to accentuate the freshness of the accompanying salad. This is a definite wow factor if you’re out to impress a date and you decide to be an absolute chauvinist and take charge to order for your girl.

Foie gras – that rich butter I can’t seem to stay away from. Ember, to my knowledge, has two options for the foie gras lover in us. One, a deeply rich and mellow flavor that kinda reminds me of a mature man [pictured above] and the other, a refreshingly light version paired with apples. My favorite foie gras dish to date remains in that cafe in Paris, paired with poached pears, a symphony of flavors I will never forget. Back home here in Singapore, Ember does well to  satisfy my infrequent craves.

Introducing what I’ve come to associate with the mature man –  a dish so rich and mellow, the essence of maturity or a deep red wine. This pan seared foie gras topped with truffle and poached egg is a dish I would recommend individuals who are truffle lovers, or rich food lovers. When savoring the dish, please do it justice by breaking the poached egg over and slurp up every morsel and drop in combination. It’s an orgasmic experience if I may say so myself. Some companions of mine have mentioned that the truffle is overwhelming but it works well for me so order and savor at your discretion. Everyone tends to different tastes.

And oh, how can I miss the beautiful parma ham crisp that the dish is served with. Thinly sliced and baked [i’m assuming] to crisp goodness, it provides for a contrast in texture to the dish. It’s the first time I’ve had a parma ham crisp anywhere and I must say, if it came in a bag I wouldn’t be able to stop. Surprising, coming from a non-pork lover.

An alternative to the heavy flavors presented above, a classic pairing of foie gras with fruit is the Pan Seared Foie Gras served with Apple. My personal favorite remains to be the pairing that I savored at La Fontaine in Paris where the Obamas also dined when they were there. That dish remains unforgettable but hand on heart, this pairing served up at Ember will delight most ladies or diners who prefer lighter combinations with that rich butter.

That’s all the starters I’ve tried and they are among the most outstanding. My challenge is refraining from ordering these familiar flavors that I’ve come to love and trust, to venture beyond these and to explore the rest of the menu. Till I do that, the shares will remain as such.

Ah, the section where meals are made or broken – mains. I have tried six different mains at Ember and only one of which is seafood. The conclusion is that the meats are crazy good but I have to give the chef credit for his pan seared sea bass. It does not come as a top recommendation if you were to ask your server but this piece of fish is cooked and seasoned to perfection and is probably one of the best cooked fish I have had. The quality control of the food is excellent as well. We all know how easy it is to overcook a fish but on two separate occasions I have had the sea bass, the same moist consistency and sweetness of a good catch enhanced by a simple and light hand. I really am impressed by the quality of the food served at  Ember based solely on this sea bass dish.

I titled this snapshot ‘You can’t go wrong with beef steak’ but in reality, we all know how many things can go wrong with a beef steak. Satisfying for most men, or women who have a red meat crave. The kitchen gets the done-ness right every time, no matter your request and everything plated works in perfect harmony with the main. Nothing I can pick on, also nothing that I can particularly call out.

Two different groups, two rave reviews of the rack of lamb and both by women. Must be good. I typically shy away from lamb for fear of the gamey flavor that accompanies the meat, and especially so with meat this rare and pink. This seared rack of lamb however did surprise me in the taste department with a palatable richness that I quite enjoyed. In all honesty, I doubt I’d be able to polish this plate of lamb as a course for myself but it is a good bet.

That’s a close up for you to see how rare it actually is when served. You can’t dictate the done-ness for this dish and the server will actually check if you’re squeamish about having meat served so pink. Trust me though, given the done-ness, the dish went down well. Even for this chick who can’t quite stomach gamey flavors. In fact, it is hardly gamey.

The wagyu beef cheek was actually my virgin dish at Ember and also what sealed the deal for me as a restaurant worth a repeat visit. Everything you’d expect in a stewed dish like this – melt in your mouth rich flavors, yet able to still distinct the marbling of the beef cheek as you press into the bite. It was definitely a fine experience for me although admittedly, I have not ordered this dish since my first visit there.

As I build up to my favorite repeat order dish, I’d like to take the time to present to you what I’ve dubbed as the ‘crowd pleaser.’ The crisp pork belly has delighted so many table mates that I’ve lost count. Being a general non-pork lover, this dish is outstanding in how the skin is crisp beyond belief yet is contrasted with meat that is so moist and tender that you can’t help but remark at the chef’s skill and finesse. It’s a must order at every table, even if you don’t want it as your personal main.

The last but definitely NOT the least, the duck leg confit. I’ve not been able to break the spell of ordering a different main since the first time I stabbed my fork into this dish. It is pure amazement and a smile is curling on my lip as I revisit the past encounters where I’ve sunk my teeth into this duck leg. The meat falls off the bone and each bite is accompanied by the crisp skin and tied together beautifully with that rich sauce and sauteed mushroom. A symphony of textures and flavors. I love it. Period.

No meal is complete without dessert and I have a mere three to share, shame on me, I know. Starting with the sticky date, a must order when you dine with me because I’m such a sticky date nut. This one was underwhelming in every sense and I have never ordered it again. Nor thought about it for that matter. I’m just cringing recollecting this particular dessert, which is a very bad sign. 

Moving swiftly on, the tragedy that was the sticky date dessert buried, the apple tartine is absolutely divine. Perfectly caramelized, just the way I like it with that slightly charred perfume housed in a well baked puff pastry, this dessert is a hot pick at the restaurant and I highly recommend it. And oh, it is served with ice cream.

The best for last, presenting the chocolate fondant. There’s no turning away from this. Dark chocolate, fresh vanilla bean ice cream, moist cake, rich & gooey chocolate fondant. As them folks in Hollywood say, it is ‘amazeballz’. No regrets with this order.

So yes, I’ve presented a selection and it may be hard to pick a favorite, as I have experienced. Being the habitual eater I am, I have since settled for this standard order – tofu salad/ scallops with salad to start, duck confit for mains, ending with the chocolate fondant for dessert. Go ahead, make your own selection. Better yet, try something I haven’t.

So what makes Ember a place that has become a staple for me? Quality and consistency. These are the two ingredients that have won Ember a place in my heart. No other restaurant I have visited has been able to churn out the same consistency of flavor time and again no matter the period I’ve been away. Its that sense of reliability where you know you can return for that distinctive flavor or dish that you crave. That is also why, I have been and will be a repeat customer till the chef takes his leave or decides to put aside his discipline and pride.

GETTING THERE

I’ve got an Open Door Policy

At time of visit, 3-week old Open Door Policy was a serious charmer. Laid back wooden interior, shop house exterior charm, it was a perfect marriage of old meets new. Wine cellar-esque display, open kitchen concept, over-friendly [in a good way] service staff, I knew I was won over the moment I took my place at the table ahead of the rest of my table guests.

Nestled in my semi-corner, nursing a Pimm’s Club [cocktail of Pimm’s, citrus, cucumber, ginger beer], I had the luxury of time and space to survey the interior and I must say, I was impressed.

Modern with rustic touches through the use of brick wall effect and cork wood type storage areas, the overall effect of the interior does nothing to overwhelm but the sense of thought and spatial flow is evident in the set-up. I also love how all the table ware is already set-up and that touch of glass on every table just adds to the overall effect of communal dining.

Back to my order of Pimm’s Club, SGD17. Best cocktail I’ve had? Nope, not by a long shot but please my palette it did. Will I order it again? Yes. In all likelihood though, it’d be a bottle of white the next visit. Old habits die hard, so they say.

I’ll start with my favourite of the six starters available, the watercress soup with soft poached hen’s egg, SGD12. Admittedly, I was only drawn to it for the promise of a poached egg and was half expecting the soup to be served a la Chinese style with pork ribs and stalks of water cress boiled to soft perfection but I wasn’t let down. A thick and flavourful concoction that would turn every non-veg eater off, the soup was comfort in a spoon down to the very last mouthful. When served, make sure you break the poached egg in and stir it in well. I’d say it’s a not-to-be-missed when you pay a visit.

Another crowd pleaser, in fact, so good someone at the table ordered a second portion for his ‘dessert’ as he wanted to end the meal on a high is the steak tartare with truffle mayo and potato chip, SGD19. I’ve always been squeamish over steak tartare as I’m highly sensitive to the gamey flavour that comes with red meat but this dish was perfectly seasoned and the tartare carried a pleasantly refreshing citrus zing. The bread that accompanied the dish was well toasted and those accompanying chips, crisp perfection. And can I add, the presentation is superb. Served on a cutting board with bread stacked high on what I’ve come to identify as a receipt spike, it was a feast for the eyes before the belly.

The crispy chicken wings with curry, yoghurt and cucumber salad, SGD15, was underwhelming and we were left puzzled at what we had actually just devoured. I’d say, you can give this a miss unless you want to experience the feeling of being left underwhelmed.

So we had more than half of the available starters on the menu with the halloumi cheese with olives, white anchovies and crusty bread, SGD19, rounding off the list. I was first introduced to halloumi cheese at Artichoke and I loved how the texture had the consistency of toufu with a lightly salted flavour. So when the friend ordered the dish, I was already mentally recalling the flavours I had savoured at Artichoke and I guess expectations were set and it did not measure up to what I’ve had but good, nevertheless.

The famished and in need of satiation despite technically downing a starter each, we swiftly moved on to mains with three meats and one fish for the table. Let’s start with the only seafood on the table, the pan seared sea bass with artichoke, potatoes and rocket salad, SGD27, was well seared but again, I pretty much had an idea of what sea bass perfection was in my head and it did not meet that mark. For seabass perfection, try Ember and until I uncover another gem of a seabass dish, Ember will continue be my go-to.

Next up, the confit duck leg, puy lentils, sage and smoked bacon, SGD26, was satisfying but again, not the best I’ve had. It still is a good option given the narrow menu available.

My order of 48 hour cooked braised beef cheek with mochi potatoes, carrot puree and snow pea tendrils, SGD29, was well worth the penny and I felt a satisfied grin plaster itself on my face as I sliced and savoured each bite. Mochi potatoes, never had it, awesome. Carrot puree, too sweet, under seasoned and stood out like a sore thumb on the plate. Beef cheek, tender perfection.

Best presentation prize for mains has got to go to the pork belly with parsnip puree, braised quinoa and celery, SGD29. This dish ties with the beef cheek for best mains of the night for me. Not the best pork belly I’ve cracked my knife into but the use of quinoa and parsnip puree, brilliant. Honestly, I would give anything to dive into a plateful of quinoa right now. The bite still lingers.

Bringing on the sweets, I knew from first look at the menu that I would be having the chocolate and pistachio souffle, creme anglaise, SGD15. It’s the first time I’ve encountered a combination of its kind and let me down, it did not. Lightly fragrant and easy on the palette, I fell in love from the first dip.

According to the wait staff, the two desserts you can’t leave without were the souffle and the panna cotta and so order that we did, like obedient students in a well-disciplined class. The lime panna cotta with coconut sago, cashew nuts and mint, SGD13, was ok. Tad too complex with too many flavours which didn’t necessarily create a harmony for the palette if you ask me. I say this dish can be better refined and simplified.

Currently four weeks old, Open Door Policy is definitely getting some notice with its simple, well-executed menu. Not surprised if it continues to enjoy a full house turn out night on night. Be sure to make a reservation if you intend to venture out for a nibble.

GETTING THERE

Take a Little Trip Around..

It’s the weekend. Movies, been there. Shopping, done that. What else is there to do on the little red dot? That’s the question that perplexed us one fine weekend and a fine solution we had – we take a boat and head out!

Destination kelong in the midst of the sea, we sped along [ok fine, chugged along] in old school bum boats departing from Changi jetty to the blob in the far off distance. Built predominantly with wood, this floating platform is home to the family that hosted us and it amazes me how people can live in such great content through simple means. Is it the lack of exposure that keeps them content or that one-ness with nature that keeps them whole? Guess I’ll never know eh?

The kelong experience was a change of pace, a different setting for the bunch of us to reconnect to simpler means and enjoy a dinner under the stars. Our dining area bobbled up and down like an unstable buoy in turbulent waters and we enjoyed the sunset as the host family fry up dishes for our dinner.

It was a short, simple but memorable dinner. And I’ll never forget the sunset, nor the ocean. The weekend just past, I tweeted my yearn to pick up fishing just for an excuse to be on a boat, under the vast sky and feeling one with the ocean. Till that happens, kelongs are an interesting experience too.

Patara, Tanglin Mall, Singapore

It’s no secret that I’m a fan of Bangkok, Thailand for all the mundane reasons I share with every other fan of the city – Thai massage, shopping, and food. Yes, food. There are times where I find myself missing the flavors of Thailand and Patara Fine Thai Cuisine provides a good fix in a luxurious setting.

Located in Tanglin Mall, Patara Fine Thai Cuisine offers the perfect balance of privacy in a world class setting and refined humble fare with first class service. Last I was here, we had a private dining suite booked for a cosy and intimate affair.

For starters, we skipped the regular orders of curried fish cakes and the likes to savor a chef’s fine skill on display – La Tieng, a traditional filling of Atlantic crab meat, minced chicken and peanuts wrapped in egg nets. Pretty as a package when served, the flavors were a perfect symphony. The sweetness from the chunks [not slivers] of crabmeat, the fragrance of the nut enhanced by the crisp, airy crunch of the egg net was perfectly balanced with the use of herbs. Simply stunning.

What’s a meal without a salad? Yum Som-O was our choice to bring that balance to our meal and it was beautiful. Starting with a base of pomelo, the balance of tartness and sweetness provided a fresh pop and served as a beautiful counterbalance to the roasted coconut and sweet chilli jam that it was tossed in. The salad was topped with succulent prawns for that hearty bite of a protein. It was heavenly and I wished we had extra servings of this simple yet refined dish.

Tom Kha Gai was the soup of the day for us, a mild coconut galangal soup with chicken, it’s perfect for those with a low threshold for spice. This was especially comforting for me as a warmth spread through me in sharp contrast to the cold blast from the air-conditioning vent.

Moving on to mains, keeping in true Southeast Asian dining style, it was a communal treat with dishes served with rice. There are options for individual meals but what’s a meal without sharing and variety? I’m not a rice kinda person but I absolutely loved the Khao Klong, which is brown rice, that they offer as an alternative option to the usual Khao Suay, the usual fragrant jasmine rice. I first discovered the delight of brown rice at another fine dining Thai restaurant in Bangkok. The nutty flavor of the brown rice provides an additional layer to the dishes you’re savoring, there’s no better way I can describe it but to urge you to try it for yourself. Of course, not every restaurant provides you with that option but no harm asking right?

From the meat and poultry menu, we had the Moo Ob Ma Praw and See Krong Kae Yang. I’ll start with the less preferred of the two, the Moo Ob Ma Praw, which is slow-braised pork belly in coconut juice, coriander and cassia bark, was a touch too sweet for my liking. I’m rigid in that I can’t eat sweet meats, my mind just cannot comprehend nor process the flavors that I’m tasting. Meat is meant to be savory for me and I guess that’s why this dish was an immediate strike off for me. I definitely can’t pick on the cooking as the pork belly was perfectly braised, soft enough to melt in your mouth but with that spring that speaks of perfection in technical execution. The Thais do love their sweets and that’s one area I can’t reconcile with.

The See Krong Kae Yong on the other hand took me to the high heavens and back. The picture does no justice to the dish and I apologize for the bad photography. Each dish comes with 3 pieces only so do bear in mind the serving portions when ordering for the table. We managed to wing an order of 5 pieces as a single serve and that’s what I mean by service excellence as they catered to our table’s needs. Good service aside, this pan seared lemongrass rack of lamb is divine. Cooked to perfection, served medium rare, I was surprised to find myself diving in to the dish with much gusto. Typically steering clear of lamb because of the gaminess of the meat, he chef has somehow masterfully masked the gamey flavor through the clever use of spices like lemongrass. The accompaniments to the dish were more than just artful displays as they enhanced and accentuated the flavors of the main protein. The papaya salad provided a refreshing zing and served as a palette cleanser between bites, while the sweet rice rolls were crisp, savory complements that harmonised the dish. This is a MUST ORDER even if you are not a red meat eater, unless, of course, it’s a dietary restriction.

Having had seafood in our appetizer [crab] and salad [prawn], we decided to explore only one dish from the seafood menu and selected the Hoy Shell Nam Prig Pao. Once again, the presentation of the dish has been distorted and it’s my bad. The scallop was fresh, plump and succulent, as you can tell from the picture above and it was perfectly sauteed in chilli jam sauce with sweet basil.

For a balanced diet, we ordered the Pak Choy Nam Mun Hoy, a simple stir-fry of baby bak choy with oyster sauce.

Beyond stuffed, we hesitated to order dessert as we didn’t feel we would do the dessert justice given the state of our bulging bellies but… we caved, and I’m glad we did. The Kluay Thod Ice Cream Kati was mind-blowing. The coconut battered banana was fried to fragrant and moist perfection. Topped with a generous drizzle of honey that caramelised and adhered to the piping hot fried bananas, the dessert was served with ice cold coconut ice cream that took us all on a sensory journey to pleasure-dom. This is also a definite must order for a perfect wrap to your meal.

GETTING THERE

La Cantina in Venezia, Changi Village Hotel, Singapore

I’ve been here so many times I can’t even count the number of visits on both hands and I was appalled at how I’ve given this place the cold shoulder on this space of mine. So I’m making up for it by sharing all the dishes I’ve tried at this dining delight and I hope you find at least one dish that appeals to your buds, and I mean taste buds at that.

Nestled at the east end of Singapore, La Cantina in Venezia overlooks the lush greenery and shore of our island to provide a tranquil dining environment. I have rotated my dining experience from outdoor to indoor, lower deck to upper deck [pictured above] and I would suggest first time diners to take the alfresco seating overlooking the sea for an unforgettable experience. That lingering kiss of sea breeze, a sip of good white and you’ll feel all the frustrations and tension melt away from your shoulders as you relax into your seat.

I usually arrive famished from the long drive to what I would refer to as the ‘outskirts’ of Singapore and am always thankful for the hospitable greeting in a basket.

No complications, no fancy-schmancy pretentious appetizers, just straightforward well-baked bread. This home baked goodness evokes the image of an Italian mother dedicating her life to the ‘soul [sole]’ duty of feeding her family of 12 [don’t ask me where I got that number from], never wavering in her dedication and always producing the best for the satisfaction of her family. Served warm with olive vinegarette on the side, I always tell myself to go easy on the bread but ‘once you start, you can’t stop.’

Starting with cold antipasti, the Caprese is a staple order for me every visit for that unbeatable freshness of the tomato, the light creaminess of the buffalo mozarella, finished with the fragrant olive pesto drizzle for simple contrasts of textures and harmony of flavors that lingers on your tongue. Be sure to have fresh ground pepper sprinkled on just before you tuck in for that heightened flavor. Another good option is the Proscuitto E Melone if you’re in a large group and can afford more appetizers.

Just because we’re Singaporeans and we all love our fried food, the Calamari features regularly at our table and is a safe option for the hot antipasti. It’s not the best calamari I’ve tasted but somehow we just can’t keep ourselves from ordering it especially since I have calamari lovers for pals.

A sucker for thin crust pizza,  La Cantina delivers crisp goodness in a slice with sufficient bite and weight that distinguishes and prevents it from turning into a cracker. Pictured above is the Parma Porcini, my choice selection, for its hearty satisfaction – the thin crust is topped with a layer of pomodoro [tomato sauce] for that sweetness and tartness as a base, layer in the mozzarella for the gooey creaminess and touch of saltiness, add to that a generous spread of succulent italian mushrooms finished with a fresh and generous layer of parma ham. Is that a winning combination or what? The menu at  La Cantina offers a selection of 20 different pizza toppings to suit your palette and balance your table’s orders of need for options. If you are seeking a vegetarian balance to counter heavy meat orders, go for the Funghi Porcini that is equally heavenly.

Moving on swiftly to pasta and risotto, I do admit that the choice of 22 different dishes can be daunting to power through but those in the know would agree that the Linguine Al Granchio is the reason why every first-timer visits and why every repeat customer returns. This crabmeat linguine comes with generous chunks of crabmeat unlike the pretentious scrapes we get at most other restaurants. Tossed in a creamy tomato sauce, this is the winning factor of the dish as the sauce is perfectly balanced and leaves the diner diving in for more. I usually add a splash of tobasco sauce for that kick in a bite but it tastes perfect as served.

An alternative to crabmeat is the lobster option which is seasonally available only. When I tried this, I found the flavor to be wanting and preferred the regular Linguine Al Granchio to the fancier version.

Another pasta dish that I can’t stay away from is the Linguine Al Nerro Di Seppia which translates simply to squid ink linguine. A personal affection of mine, it is again not the best I’ve had but if given the liberty to order another pasta dish, this is my go-to due to my simple attraction to squid ink.

Main courses are also available and you cannot go wrong with the Filetto Di Manzo Al Gorgonzola. Medium rare tenderloin topped with gorgonzola cheese sauce, paired with the flavorful roquette, this dish goes straight to your heart. Most times, sides are neglected on dishes like this but the potato chunks on this is roasted perfectly that it actually leaves you craving for more.

If you’re a regular patron and are tired of the regular menu offering, La Cantina offers specials so if you’re not informed upon menu presentation, do check in with the staff on the special for the day. Being adventurous on one of my visits, I ordered the Lambshank Risotto just for a change of pace. The lambshank was cooked just right and the tender slices of meat fell of the bone by the forkful. Didn’t quite agree on the direction as the flavors were pretty mediterranean but I can’t deny the skill that went into the execution of this dish.

Despite my repeat visits, it is evident that I’m not an adventurous eater and am not out to taste test the entire menu. As mentioned, repeat visits are the result of the addictive flavor of the Linguine Al Granchio and I’ve clearly fallen victim to it.

GETTING THERE

Opening Hours: 
Tue to Fri
11am to 3pm and 6pm till Late
Weekends
11am till Late

Tel: (65) 6546 9190 Fax: (65) 6546 9153