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Archive for the ‘Italian’ Category

I’ve no idea where is K gonna take me for dinner on New Year’s Eve but I hope it will be as good a choice as Trattoria Nonna Lina! Available till 31st December and in the spirit of year-end camaraderie, this authentic Italian restaurant with a homey ambiance and friendly service is offering a specially crafted sharing menu of 5 appetizers, 3 mains and 2 desserts ($168++ per pax). Yippee, that’s a lot of food!

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The New Year Menu starts off with a refreshing octopus salad, seasonal Canadian oysters with lemon dressing, classic smoked salmon crostini, homemade seafood ragu on toasted homemade bread and a lobster bisque, which is a traditional Tuscan seafood recipe popular with New Year’s celebrations.

Insalata di Polpo
a tuscan seaside recipe featuring tender morsels of slow-cooked octopus

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Have you noticed that there’s no meat so far? According to owner-chef Simone, a native of Porto Santo Stefano in Tuscany, people over there feast on meat during Christmas (carnivores rejoice!) and then it’s an all seafood diet when New Year comes around (pescetarians rejoice!) so basically, Xmas = meat, New Year = seafood, haha.

Crostini al Salmone
premium norwegian ocean-caught salmon on toasted homemade bread

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I was initially worried that ordering another octopus starter off the a la carte menu would be an overkill since we already had the octopus salad. Luckily we didn’t cancel! The tender baby octopus absorbed the earthy flavour of the porcini mushrooms and it was an explosion of umami! I’ve been convinced that no chewy and rubbery octopus will come out of Chef’s kitchen!

Polpetti e Porcini ($25++)
baby octopus and porcini mushrooms in prosecco reduction

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K can’t live without his meat so the fresh beef carpaccio perfumed with truffle oil was all his to savour. This is an ideal dish to share as the generous portion can easily feed 3-4 pax.

Carpaccio di Manzo con Porcini ($24++)
fine slices of raw beef with truffle oil and porcini mushroom dressing

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Back to the New Year Menu (hope I’m not confusing you lol). Mains include gnocchi (made with minimal flour) cooked with clams, Italian “snowball” and cacciucco, Nonna Lina’s popular Tuscan style seafood stew featuring assorted seafood slow-cooked in thick broth and served with homemade bread.

Gnochetti Vongole e Chardonnay
traditional homemade potato dumplings with clams in a chardonnay reduction

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What stole my heart was the plate of “snowball” – so-called because Chef formed a unique medley of seafood, herbs, and ricotta cheese into the shape of a “snowball”. Texture was crumbly soft and the taste was surprisingly not too cheesy. Amazing stuff, I’ve never had anything quite like it before!

Palle di Neve
an exclusive secret family recipe and drizzled with fish ragu

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The pan fried cod fish from the a la carte menu sounded something I’d like and bingo! Although the sauce smothering the fish was very creamy and heavy, it was a wonderful pairing with the naturally oily and silky cod.

Merluzzo della Nonna ($40++)
pan fried cod with pine nuts in lemon sauce reduction

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While I had my cod to make me happy, K had his dream dish – a mix grill of beef, lamb and sausages with baked potatoes. Good quality meat and expert cooking by Chef left K with nothing but praises.

Grigliata di Terra ($48++)
tenderloin, lamb rack, Italian sausages marinated in barolo wine over 36 hours

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After a taste of the homemade chocolate and rum pudding, I totally understand why is this a house favourite! We were floored. Stunned. Speechless. It was too good, very smooth, insanely rich, potently alcoholic, and words are inadequate. K said this is one of the top 3 desserts of 2014 (I haven’t decide what’s the other two heh) and I have to agree. Of course it has to be a part of the New Year Menu!

Bonet Argentarino ($16++)
traditional italian chocolate and rum pudding with homemade caramel sauce (contains alcohol)

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Can’t end an Italian meal without tiramisu! Nice but nothing as memorable as the chocolate and rum pudding… Which I’m craving for now!

Homemade Tiramisu ($12++)

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My thanks to Valerie and Chef Simone for hosting dinner!

Trattoria Nonna Lina
61 Cantonment Road
6222 0930

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With the festive season around the corner, December is definitely a month for pigging out! I’ve already made plans for Christmas but if you have not, do check out the Jamie’s Italian Christmas Feast at Jamie’s Italian. Available all day everyday till December 25, the 3-course menu ($68++ per person) even includes a glass of pink bubblies (or mocktail) and festive minced pies thrown in the mix! I think it’s pretty perfect for anything from office parties to family gatherings.

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Although I’ve been to Jamie’s quite a few times, somehow I’ve never tried their famous antipasti planks before! The planks on the a la carte menu are broken down into “meat”, “fish” and “vegetables” but for the Christmas menu, you get a mixture of each. I was initially worried that the cold cuts and cure meat would get too salty but K finished all of them single-handedly, well done!

Our Famous Antipasti Plank
pistachio mortadella, bresaola, hot soppressata, buffalo mozzarella, pecorino cheese, snappy cracker bread, olives, pickles, grilled & marinated vegetables, grissini, homemade focaccia, beetroot-cured salmon on ice with pickled cucumber & crème fraîche

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Foodie being foodie, I couldn’t help but order something new from the regular menu. The crispy soft shell crab was an absolute winner! Okie, I do have a bias towards anything soft shell crab but this was honestly delicious and far from greasy. The bed of salad was spicy from the chilli, creamy from the smashed avocado, and tangy from the yuzu lime dressing. Love this!

Crispy Soft Shell Crab ($12.50++)
crab with chilli, fennel, sea lettuce & smashed avocado with yuzu lime

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The Christmas menu offers four different choices for the main course and I reckon the sirloin steak will be the most popular item. A generous slab of medium rare (to me, that’s bloody enough) beef with shaved truffles and chicken pate crostini, this is bound to satisfy any carnivorous craving. The other meat item is the slow-cooked duck leg marinated with juniper and bay, served with smashed celeriac, spiced Asian plums and pomegranate molasses. We didn’t try that but it sure sounds good too, eh?

35-Day-Aged Angus Sirloin
served medium rare with chicken liver crostini, shaved black truffle & crispy sage

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My seafood main course was the yellowfin tuna, served chilled and tasted very light, healthy and not too exciting. If not for the chilli flakes, this would have been a rather bland dish.

Sustainable Yellowfin Tuna
served rare with rocket, green beans, chilli, mint, lemon & creamy mustard dressing

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I learn something new about pasta on every visit to Jamie’s. The baked rotolo (which is the only vegetarian main course for the Christmas menu) is definitely not commonly seen elsewhere – it is akin to a cannelloni or maybe a round lasagne? Stuffed with potato, pumpkin, ricotta and spinach, this was very hearty and filling. And may I add, a carbo-loader too haha.

Baked Rotolo
filled with truffled potato, pumpkin, creamy ricotta & spinach, baked with a Sicilian-style tomato sauce & Bella Lodi cheese

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All the main courses will be served with terra cotta-roasted root vegetables and the signature polenta chips. I found myself fishing for the roasted pumpkin, so sweet and soft!

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The menu starts and ends with a plank – my favourite epic brownie and tiramisu (both are still so delightfully delectable!), panna cotta (not a fan but K loves it as the texture reminded him of “tau huey” haha), and a towering slice of lemon meringue cheesecake, a new addition to the normal dessert menu. Coffee or tea is part of the set menu, as well as dried fruit pies!

Dessert Plank
epic brownie (amaretti ice cream & caramel popcorn), lemon meringue cheesecake (with lemon curd & blackcurrants), creamy panna cotta (with fruit compote), gennaro’s tiramisu (with orange-flavoured mascarpone)

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And because it’s Christmas, there is a Vespa lucky draw going on now. Guests get a chance to win a handsome Montebianco White LX150 complete with COE, worth more than $11,000, just by spending $50 nett at Jamie’s Italian. I spotted a lot (really a lot!) of receipts in the box by the front door so good luck to you!

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Thank you Stef for arranging dinner!

Jamie’s Italian
#01-165/167, VivoCity
1 HarbourFront Walk
6733 5500

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Pontini, the long-standing Italian restaurant at Grand Copthorne Waterfront Hotel, has unveiled a brand new Italian buffet featuring a plethora of antipasti, breads, soup, main courses and desserts from various regions in Italy. Priced at $48++ for adult and $24++ for child on Saturdays and public holidays from noon to 3pm, I thought that it was very value for money, especially for the quality (rather than quantity, which is rare for buffets).

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I found myself heading back to the antipasti corner again and again – wholesome baked butternut squash, crab meat and black truffle tapenade; juicy grilled Portobello mushrooms with sweet chilli and arugula salad; Tuscany-style marinated octopus, chickpeas and green asparagus salad; assorted Italian cold cuts served with candied fruit mustard, sweet onion chutney and grain mustard (I made the rounds for K too!); and the crisp, leafy radicchio, pear, Gorgonzola cheese salad tossed with aged balsamic vinegar etc.

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Pastas are whipped up a la minute at the live station by the team of chefs. You can DIY your pasta – choice of pasta (tagliolini, penne, tagliatelle) and preparation methods (aglio oliotomato basil fondue, “Roman” style carbonara, wild mushroom with pancetta and pine nuts, “Genovese” style basil pesto sauce). Mine was given a luxurious touch because I was really lucky to “bump” into both black and white whole truffles! Freshly shaved truffles onto our plates of carbonara and mushroom tagliatelle upped the delicious scale by several notches!

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Main courses were kept to a minimal – Piedmont-style braised beef brisket and potato fondant in herb gravy; sauteed live mussels in crustacean saffron broth and broccoli floret; chicken thigh “Diavola” paired with spicy capsicum tomato sauce and dried oregano. My favourite was no doubt the oven-baked Norwegian salmon mignon in pistachio crust. I love that it was not overcooked despite sitting in the warming tray and the delicately nutty and crunchy crust provided a delightful contrast to the tender flesh!

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A finale for an Italian meal cannot be without desserts right?! The ensemble of mini tiramisu, zesty lemon tart, vanilla panna cotta, pistachio almond biscotti and stracciatella ricotta cannoli prepared deftly at the live station left us completely satiated. I usually left buffets feeling overstuffed but not this time! Everything was just right :)

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Our thanks to Jennifer and Shawn for the kind invitation!

Pontini Italian Buffet
Level 2, Grand Copthorne Waterfront Hotel
392 Havelock Road
Singapore 169663
6233 1100

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I was happy to be back at il Cielo for an exclusive one-night-only Etruscan Dinner Affair last month as part of the Gusto Italiano promotion. The six-course menu featured quintessential Tuscan dishes crafted by new chef at helm, Riccardo Catarsi, with handpicked wines paired by the in-house sommelier, Stephanie Rigourd. Interesting fact of the day: Etruscans are the first major civilization in Tuscany!

Highlights of the menu for me include the 47°C salmon served in a herb-infused glass (very smokey! I love smokey stuff!); deconstructed classic Tuscan fish stew Cacciucco (commonly known as the native dish of Tuscany) with a briny concentrated sauce and skewer of tender sustainable seafood; and the chocolate dessert symphony which I’ve already raved about on Instagram!

In retrospect, il Cielo scores points for 1. being daring and bold (pigeon was on the menu!) and more importantly 2. taking pride in the food they serve. There were two meat courses on the original menu which I don’t take so chef had to change them. I was pleasantly surprised when I realized that the seafood dishes he prepared were not from the ala carte menu (no one told me, I just checked the online menu when drafting this post), which is usually not the case with other tastings. I can only guess that chef wanted to showcase something different from the same old same old and it worked – the burnt prawn with basil sorbet turned out to be my favourite so thank you for being creative, chef!

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47°C Cooked Salmon
sherry vinegar jelly, saffron dust

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Burnt Prawn
basil sorbet, bean puree
paired with Isole e Olena Chardonnay 2011

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Cacciucco
chef riccado’s interpretation of classic tuscan fish & tomato stew
paired with Isole e Olena Chardonnay 2011

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Stuffed Ravioli
squacquerone cheese & galbanti’s ricotta, beef cheek cream, morels
paired with Isole e Olena Chianti Classico 2011/Isole e Olena Cepparello 2009

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Chitarra Spaghetti
assorted seafood (mussels, prawns)

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3-way Pigeon Opera
piccione e frutti rossi, fennel red berries
paired with Isole e Olena Syrah 2006/Isole e Olena Cabernet Sauvignon 2007

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Tuscan-style Dessert Symphony
amedei cioccolate composition
paired with Isole e Olena Vin Santo 2004

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Cheers to TGIF tomorrow, everyone! :)

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Many thanks to Cindy and Stephanie for the kind invitation!

il Cielo Restaurant & Bar
Level 24, Hilton Singapore
581 Orchard Road
6730 3395

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&SONS Bacaro

Impromptu lunch at &Sons Bacaro yesterday was the perfect antidote to cure the Monday blues! I wish I had my camera with me but since it was a spontaneous date, the phone came in handy!

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Lunch deals start from $8++ for hearty plates of pasta, salads and ‘land or sea’ main courses. K had the grilled chicken supreme with roasted potatoes ($8++) while I chose red snapper with radicchio ($10++) over the salmon escalopes which I’m definitely gonna try next! Both dishes were well worth the price, in terms of quality and quantity. We also shared the baccala cod cakes with sea urchin sabayon ($15++) from the ala carte menu and those delightfully crisp savoury black balls easily convinced me that return is a must!

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&SONS Bacaro
20 Cross Street
China Square Central #01-19
6221 3937

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Serving Italian styled western cuisine, Sapori D Italia (previously known as Vintage Chef) stuck out like a sore thumb in the Bishan neighbourhood coffee shop. Go ahead and give it a try though! Price tags are affordable for the quality and quantity, plus plating and presentation are not overlooked.

Mushroom soup was blah (read: diluted and watery), salad greens had unsightly holes (obviously not the freshest) but we were suitably impressed with the mains. My double slabs of grilled seabass were as crispy as K’s battered pork loins were tender. We like!

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Mushroom Soup ($3.90)
blended sauteed mushrooms, butter, vegetable stock

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Pork Piccata ($7.90)
pork loin battered with parmesan and egg, black pepper sauce

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Grilled Wild Seabass ($8.90/1 piece or $12.90/2 pieces)
diced sauteed potatoes, balsamic reduction, grapefruit, mixed salad

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Sapori D Italia
Blk 112 Bishan Street 12
8101 3134

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Singapore Restaurant Week is back! From 25 Oct to 2 Nov, top restaurants in Singapore will be offering a 3-course lunch and dinner at $25++ and $35++ respectively (additional supplement applies for certain restaurants) and the theme is “chocolate” yay! Priority bookings will be offered to American Express Card Members from 22 Sep and booking for the public will open from 27 Sep.

Although it’s already in its 9th edition, I’ve never participated in one before (don’t ask me why, I was just never inclined to do so)! But this year is gonna be different because I’ve already decided to support one of my favourite chefs for both lunch and dinner during Restaurant week! Check back tomorrow if you wanna know who/where/what~

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I was lucky to go on a media trail for a sneak peek (and taste) of what the upcoming Restaurant Week will bring! The idea is that three mystery restaurants will be featured, each serving one course (starter, main course and dessert). This is the second time I’ve attended the mystery restaurant trail and I think it’s better-organized than the first! Last year we started at AMK and it was such a long ride to our 2nd destination in the city zzz. And this year we were chauffeured in style in Audi cars to our next venue/course (last year was disco van; fun but Audi is way cooler haha).

Cauliflower Gratin
deep fried cauliflower florets, white truffle & cheese foam, gremolata

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Our first stop was *drumroll* Bacchanalia! When our starter arrived, my heart sank a little because it didn’t look appetizing. Not photogenic at all, for sure. But wow, I really should learn not to judge a dish by its looks haha. The plain jane cauliflower gratin was my favourite that night. Love the bold flavour (spices used somehow remind me of Indian cuisine) and the cauliflower florets were surprisingly not soggy despite being buried under a blanket of foam and cream.

Next stop was Amarone at Capital Tower where we had a nicely grilled sea bass. Nothing amazing, but I felt healthy after polishing it off!

Branzino alla Siciliana
grilled sea bass with sicilian dressing, cherry tomatoes, capers and olives

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We were guessing where we’d end up for dessert but Hilton Hotel certainly didn’t cross my mind! High up on level 24 is il Cielo, a contemporary Italian restaurant which I’ve heard good things about. Although it was strangely served at room temperature, our dessert was lovely – three different layers of intense coffee froth, tantalizing dark chocolate and rum mousse with sugarcane crumbles dominating the bottom layer for a crispy and sweet aftertaste. This put il Cielo on my ever-growing to-go list!

Dolce Ponce
coffee froth, chocolate and rum mousse with sugarcane crumbles

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To make bookings or find out more information, check out the official Restaurant Week website: http://www.restaurantweek.sg

My thanks to DiningCity, Debbie and Natasha for the invitation!

Bacchanalia
23A Coleman Street
6509 1453

Ristorante Amarone
168 Robinson Rd, Capital Tower
6423 0464

il Cielo Restaurant & Bar
581 Orchard Road
6730 3395

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