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food ecstasy

I didn’t know this when i stumbled upon the restaurant on my way home with steph & ben, but anatra grassa translates directly to “fat duck” – which is interesting, considering the fat duck restaurant by heston blumenthal is a three star michelin restaurant in UK. tough act to follow eh?

names aside, anatra grassa is quite the stylish restaurant located along the quiet via savoia close by to villa borghese. the interior is awash in black minimalistic furnishings with the predominant feature being a wall-to-wall wine shelf that stretches across one side of the restaurant. nice stuff, but let’s talk food eh?

appetizer – four way seafood antipasto: (from left, clockwise) tuna tartare with balsamic vinegar, octopus with cherry tomatoes and julienne of asparagus and salmon carpaccio with aioli

appetizer (continued) – mussels in tomatoes and white wine (42euro for 3 people)

i’d be first to admit that this ain’t cheap, but what with the celebratory mood of a last meal in rome with friends, it was a delicious and wholly satisfying quartet of seafood dishes. with raw seafood, the freshness of the seafood determines almost 75% of the overall taste, to which anatra grassa really excelled, with the tuna and salmon being utterly refreshing and crisp, perfectly accented by the balsamic vinegar and the aioli respectively. steph and I particularly enjoyed the octopus, finding the pieces chewy, tasty and fresh. and last but not least, you really can’t go wrong with mussels in tomatoes and white wine – and with the basket of bread used to soak up the remnants of the delicious sauce, this appetizer was literally a five course start. =)

 main – moulard duck with caramelized apples, 19euro

what with a moniker like “fat duck”, we practically had to order their duck dish. and what a great choice. the duck was well executed, but what really sold it was the harmonious way the caramelized apples complemented the duck, lending the duck meat an extra sweetness, that together with the savory flavor of the duck, made for an awesome combination.

 black truffle spaghetti, 14euro

when this dish came out and was served to steph, the smell was so heavenly that it took all my self control and manners to prevent myself from reaching over to grab some of the noodles and chow them down. the truffle is generously spread across the dish and as i said about truffles before, you really can’t go too wrong with anything cooked with truffles. yet another good dish.

dessert – creme brulee with tahiti creme (see top image, 8euro), chocolate finger (chocolate mousse with white chocolate), drizzled with pistacchio and paired with cinnamon ice cream (9euro).

dessert time came, and this was where the restaurant really won me over and created that food ecstasy experience that I rarely get nowadays – you know, the feeling of happiness just surging from within when you taste something, where an inexplicable smile spreads across your face and you literally develop tunnel vision for your food. yup that’s what happened here.

we initially each ordered one dessert, with intention to share it out – steph got the creme brulee, ben the tiramisu and me, the dessert special which was explained to me as a chocolate finger with pistachio. but when the desserts came out, i lost all intention to try the other desserts, because the chocolate finger was both a visual and gastronomic feast – so beautifully plated as though it came out from the top chef just desserts kitchen and so so good. the three flavors of the chocolate finger, pistachio and cinnamon ice cream were individually really awesome, clean flavors, but together they really melded and created harmony. =) 

and well, the creme brulee was good. (i snuck a taste after i finished my chocolate finger. =))

all in all, a great restaurant for that special meal to end of a wonderful trip in rome. this place ain’t exactly cheap, with the bill amounting to slightly under 50euros a person (complete with awesome wine – a sauvignon blanc from laimburg, sudtrol-alto adige). but methinks its kinda justified, what with a swanky ambience, great food and above that, wonderful service. the service really deserves special mention, because its one of the restaurants where the servers spoke near perfect english and made it a point to explain all the ingredients within the dish, as well as suggest proper wine pairings for the food. it is so far the only restaurant i felt comfortable enough to ask all sorts of questions (in english nonetheless) regarding the dishes, which also elevated the experience.

i’ll be back.

anatra grassa | via savoia, 68 | italian (venetian), desserts, seafood, fine dining | 9.0/10

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desserts from ristorante sibilla, tivoli – pistachio semifreddo (foreground) and ricotta cream cheese with puff bits (background)

so its been two weeks in rome and back, and yes, more food tales to share around.

our last meal was a celebratory event held once again at ristorante sibilla, in tivoli. i’m not kidding you when i say that the food here is really all kinds of awesome – i mean, its ranked #1 on tripadvisor for tivoli eats, so there’s the cred you need. our meals there featured predominantly seafood items, so i’m assuming its their speciality. (probably will do a separate review on it soon)

but to be honest, an italian full course meal can be quite a daunting undertaking. consider: we start with antipastos (appetizers) which consists of 10+ tapas-style seafood dishes. next comes TWO courses of pasta, the primi and the secondi primi, both which are easily full course pasta dishes in other contemporary restaurants. then comes the secondi, usually a meat or fish dish and we usually end with dolce (dessert), our favorite part of the meal. of course, it ain’t truly italian if the meal isn’t completed with a serving of a shot of cappucino – yup, its a habit to have some coffee after every meal, even dinner.

honestly, its like 3 meals rolled into one. scary. the carbs count would have given atkins a heart attack.

anyways, i figured talking about italian good food in the heart of italy is a little insensitive to most Singaporean readers, so here’s a list of pretty decent Italian restaurants found sprawled around Singapore (and yes that’s my intended blog topic).

[1] La Strada | 1 Scotts Road, #02-10/11 Shaw Centre | 8.5/10 | Expensive, $$$ ($40 – $80 per pax)

carbonara, la strada

elegant, classically decorated restaurant located along the les amis stretch on the ground floor of shaw centre. their carbonara is really awsome stuff – an expert blend soft boiled egg, parmesan shards, toasted bacon and spaghetti. to be honest, this beats alot of the casual restaurants in italy serving carbonara. the grilled artichokes, focaccia bread and desserts are also worth a shot.

[2] Dolce Vita | 5 Raffles Avenue, 5/F The Oriental Singapore | 8.0/10 | Pricey, $$$$ ($80 and above)

the location here gives this place an edge over other eateries – sited on the 5th floor of the mandarin oriental singapore right beside the outdoor infiniti pool, the restaurant offers scenic views of the flyer and mbs area all within a private, exclusive environment. wasn’t exactly wowed away by the house-special appetizers (lobster bisque) but this restaurant got top marks for me in terms of their mains – the iberico arrosto (roasted fillet of iberico pork, accompanied by crispy organic pork belly, la ratte potato pearls, braised savoy cabbage and pepper red wine sauce) is a must try for meat lovers. desserts are just ok.

[3] Pietrasanta | 5B Portsdown Road, #01-03 Wessex Estate | not yet reviewed

i heard lots about this restaurant from both friends and even from my italian colleagues, who say this place is pretty legit. apparently they even import their famous dessert, torta pistocchi right from florence.

[4] La Braceria Pizza and Grill | 5 Greendale Avenue | not yet reviewed

is it more suited to the tastes of actual italians? somehow my italian colleagues rave about this place and make frequent trips here, but my friends and hungrygowhere patrons don’t seem to hold this place in much high regard.

[5] Pizzeria Mozza |  2 Bayfront Ave, #B1-42/46 The Shoppes @ Marina Bay Sands | not yet reviewed

the offering of mario batali to mbs. celebrity chef aside, this place is touted to served the best pizzas in singapore.

[6] Forlino1 Fullerton Road, #02-06 One Fullerton | not yet reviewed

zzz.. wanted to try this for restaurant week but it was snapped up real quick.

taste of italy

so restaurant week came and went, and i managed to cough out enough quid to go for two tastings, capricci and le saint julien (thanks to Mr WiseGuy =) but that’s another post). to be honest, for all the misgivings towards irritating booking-hoarders, restaurant week is actually a really good event that can allow for much restaurant promotion and also benefit the hordes of food lovers who want good food at an acceptable price. i mean, its only at this time that you get 3 – 4 course meals at prices like 30 -55, that would normally fetch an asking price of easily 70 – 100+ and above. so yeah, go for the next edition of restaurant week if you have the chance. but DON’T be an ugly Singaporean and book-hoard all the restaurants. *grumbles*

ok back to Capricci.. so its this restaurant thats along the main street of tanjong pagar leading to maxwell market, sharing the street with bridal studios and facing many a korean BBQ restaurants. you can’t see it from the exterior, but its actually decorated in quite a homely and italian eatery kinda manner that’s quite inviting. the restaurant is decorated simply, with requisite posters of italian locales like trevi fountain and the bridge of sighs. there’s quite a well-stocked glassed-in wine cellar, typical of italian restaurants, and also a warm, homely baked bread smell wafting in from the ‘external’ kitchen where the head chef (i suppose) was smilingly preparing some delicious toasted focaccia in between serving and mingling with patrons. smart guy…  i wonder if it was a conscious decision to move the bread oven closer to patrons to whet their appetites. let’s get to the food.

complimentary bread

tasted delicious, especially the focaccia with the assorted spices. pity that this became a negative point for our experience at the restaurant because we want more, but were informed that we would be charged for another basket of bread. i mean, i guess it’s understandable from the restaurant’s standpoint, but it in no way leaves a good impression to the patrons and neither does it really make much sense — most high end restaurants have quite exquisite selection of breads and they actively approach their patrons to refill their bread. seriously how expensive can bread get to be that calculative? i recall a similar experience in db bistro moderne when we were sampling a special menu created specially by daniel boulud himself — we really enjoyed the lavash bread and asked for more, to which the waiter explained apologetically that the bread was limited to one table a basket, but that he would convey the request to the chef to see if anything could be done. and voila, more bread was served. and that’s what i call good restaurant service — sometimes you need to lose a little to gain much more.

appetizer: 36 months cured parma ham with rock melon sorbet

best dish of the night – what with the really ingenious take of a traditional classic of parma ham and rock melon slice. by choosing a sorbet instead of a simple slice of rock melon, the chef managed to amplify the sweetness of the rock melon to that which was comparable to the intense savory flavor of the Parma ham. simply put, this dish was perfectly balanced and delicious, with the innovative use of sorbet being a great pleasing factor.

appetizer: orange perfurmed Maguro tuna tartare with avocado puree

hmm not too impressed. decently put together but lacked the oomph, largely due to the fact that the tatare didn’t feel fresh enough. think such a dish works only if the raw ingredient is served refreshingly cold and fresh, with the crisp vegetables to enhance the natural goodness. this didn’t really accomplish that.

mains: homemade paccheri with homemade Italian sausage

the waiter explained paccheri to be some sort of a folded pasta, to which my sis didn’t particularly enjoy, citing that it was too thick and starchy. i thought it was decent, because the cream-based pasta sauce mixed with tons of savory sausage was really flavorful and balanced out the starchiness of the pasta. to be honest, as an aside, why would you order pasta in a set menu, knowing fully that pasta dishes typically cost 10 bucks less than other mains?  i mean, my sis was attracted to the “homemade” paccheri which seemed unique, but to be honest, in my opinion, “homemade” is a tortured, overused word to hype up a dish and subsequently double the price. its like “artisanal”. -_-

mains: oven baked suckling pig Sardinia style with mirto liqueur on a hat of portobello mushroom

really liked this dish. the suckling pig skin was fried to a crisp (not like the typically chinese peking duck style), and the combination of portobello mushroom/suckling pig meat on top of the crisp skin as a base made for a really delicious main dish. my parents commented that the meat was kinda similar to typical chinese peking duck but i disagree – think the mirto liqueur added a really good flavor to the meat.

mains: lemon zest perfumed risotto with pan seared fresh scallop and sweet spanish cherry wine reduction

did not like. i like my risotto savory so this rendition was wierd with the lemon zest and to be honest, the scallops were kind of paltry. maybe it’s an acquired taste.

desserts: panna cotta drizzled with strawberry coulis

didn’t try this, but this doesnt seem particularly innovative.

desserts: lava cake with vanilla ice cream

not very impressed as well, despite this being a signature from the restaurant. the lava cake was pretty good, with the chocolate oozing out amply when bitten into, but i couldn’t really understand the placement of the dish – shouldn’t the ice cream be on top of the cake so the flavors would combine? the dessert was pleasant but not particularly inspired.

overall, a generally pleasant dining experience with mostly hits and some misses. i liked the suckling pig and parma ham+ rock melon sorbet especially, felt the service was generally good but marred by some very off comments by the waiter who came off as slightly too pompous. 6.5/10

capricci | 27 tanjong pagar road | italian, fine-dining ($55 for restaurant week menu)

an acquired taste.

oh dear, i think my one month stint at italy has certainly spoilt me in terms of italian cuisine. i’ll never judge a singaporean pizzeria fairly again, not especially when i’m comparing them to cheap good joints in italy that sell whole delicious, piping hot pizzas at 7euro each. ahh well, lets get on to reviewing sole pomodoro, tucked away in a small corner near little india mrt.

i suspect sole pomodoro took over some old kopitiam space last time, as it’s location is one more suited for it — right by the roadside amidst those old-fashion shophouses, with the indian cinema diagonally across the street. its a pretty chill ambience, no air-conditioning but sufficiently ‘insulated’ from the outside world to give a sense of otherworldiness. the decor is of a hearty simple italian restaurant that reminded me of those in italy, complete with the big wood fired oven and the large wooden pizza ladles.

foodwise, mind you, it’s not exactly a value experience, with parma ham and melon (the classic combination) going at $18.90 and fried calamari at $14.90. slightly more expensive then normal joints giving the portions, and i honestly do think that italians dont exactly do their appetizers well (or at least, not as well as the french). so it was kinda unmemorable.

the pizzas were the highlight i guess. our group of 10+ people shared 4 pizzas — for the first two, we chose bufala (tomato sauce and buffalo mozarella, $24.90) to satisfy cheese lovers (mind you, try buffalo mozarella if you have not done so before.. it’s really delicious and goes superbly well in pizza) and crudo e rucola (tomato sauce, mozarella, parma ham, rocket salad, $24.90) for those wanting some veg. they’re delicious i must admit, reminding me of the great italian pizzas i had – the rocket and ham pairing went surprisingly well, with the semi-bitterness of the rocket leaves going very well with the saltiness of the parma ham and the sweetness of the tomato sauce. all in all a well balanced, delicious pizza.

and as you can see above, we ordered some pizza with artichoke, which i promptly avoided. i dun see how artichokes go well in pizza, and if i were to eat a slice, i usually pluck out the artichokes. to me, there are some ingredients in traditional pizzas that i scratch my head at — one is artichokes, and the other is anchovies. ewwww. the intense saltiness and fishiness of anchovies really turns me off. pair it with capers, and it reaches inedible-ville for me.

sole pomodoro (mozarella, sun dried tomatoes, cream, potato, sausage, onion, $24.90)

delicious pizza that warrants another visit if not for the price (which somehow to me, just tips over the overpriced range.) i don’t get the name though. i know pomodoro is italian for tomato, and i google translated sole to be sun.. so i suppose the pizza is centered aroung the sun dried tomatoes? however, the predominant taste that makes this pizza a hit is the cream/potato base paired with sausages. its like those waraku pizzas but with more intense and complex flavors, supposedly from the sun dried tomatoes and mozarella. but its really good.

all in all, a decent italian restaurant (the chef is italian i think, but i think he kinda bullies on the hapless philipino servers) that is tad overpriced to me, but worth a visit if you’re up for some good authentic italian pizza. yummy. 7/10

sole pomodoro | 19/21 Mackenzie Road #01-01 s228678| italian, authentic, comfort food

[back view of house at tiong bahru, shot during CNY]

something about this shot creates the nostalgic, semi-neglect mood that intrigues me. haha. (or maybe it’s just me) such scenes are fast becoming a thing of the past in singapore, and unsurprisingly, it is only during chinese new year where one reflects on his/her roots and familial ties that one somewhat takes stock of the past and wonders whether his/her future will be a mere retread of some ancestor’s footsteps.

im quickly realizing my blog is getting dominated by food posts, instead of having a balanced mix but honestly, it kinda reflects what Singaporeans in general prefer to do  and well, it really is much easier to write about. =) anyways, went to Peperoni Pizzeria @ Greenview today for lunch with old frens since the recommendations on hungrygowhere gave it a resounding 95% thumbs up based on 62 reviews. its kinda a bitch to get to since it is tucked away behind NJC but i guess the hassle provides for a quieter, more classy ambience.

[aglio olio pasta, $18.90?]

as per the recommendations, we grabbed the aglio olio pasta (erm kinda slightly overpriced imo). my first impressions went something like “hmm.. decent, but probably not fantastic for people to be decrying this as the second coming of.. i dunno.. french laundry or smth. but well, i think the pasta (which was already good) grew on me and just.. well was every bit the tasty and delicious and well.. i guess encapsulated the notion of hearty, wholesome delicious italian food, which is what i pretty much felt about the food here. it’s food that makes you go.. “mm pretty good..” initially, then upon the next few bites, makes you exclaim “actually, this is really pretty darn good”.

[large pizza, frutti di mare (seafood) & ham and mushrooms, $23]

the pizza elicited similar reactions, where the base flavoring and ingredients created a harmonious and delicious dish leaving us craving for more (crust and all). i had a certain issue with the ham & mushroom selection because there was an overpowering taste of mushrooms (which my other frens agreed), but the frutti di mare was a winner, with the base tasting like a delicious seafood/tomato concoction.

[pizza #2, pancetta & parma ham with rocket, $23]

i was skeptical about the parma ham/rocket combo but wow-whee.. the mixture of ham/rocket (the veggie) and cheese was yet another winning combination. i still haven’t figured out what pancetta is actually, besides the fact there is a sunny side up embedded within the pizza which doesn’t exactly make for easy sharing but was nice nevertheless.

[panna cotta dessert, $9]

for dessert, i went for the panna cotta, which was refreshing and light, but methinks the one served at chalk still is the best.

overall, if you want hearty, wholesome and delicious italian food, this place is an outright winner. the price point was decent (a lil’ overpriced perhaps) – came down to around $32 bucks that really made everyone happy with pizza/pasta/a drink/dessert. only issue is getting there and getting a carpark lot. 8.5/10

mmm.. i just burped some delicious italian goodness. =)

so my family decided to head down to domus @ sheraton towers to celebrate new year’s first lunch. (and well, it was my first meal of the year). i kinda think my sis chose that place cos she got married there a few years ago (sheraton, not domus).

anyways, in terms of photography, i never really could figure out how to take food photography. there’s been this talk of style of photography —  some like people/interaction shots, others like it minimalist and simple (found this blog McAllisterium.. hmm photos in scotland.. reminds me of a photography fren i made in london in spring break 2008 who bunked in the same hostel as me). i think my style is more emotive, with more emphasis on the overall feel, using angles and composition to conjure a certain emotion. and hence i can’t seem to grasp food photography because pieces of grub that excite the palate so wonderfully can’t seem to achieve that similar visual effect. sue me. someone teach me food photography man.

lets head to the food shall we?

ginger marinated swordfish carpaccio served with fried green zucchini “allo Scapece” and white balsamic vinaigrette — the swordfish was slightly fishy initially but the combination of textures and flavors made this an instant winner. ironically, best dish of the meal.

lentil soup with cotechino sausage – decent, flavorful soup. nice.

tagliatelle with scampi: i’ve learnt from past experience that artichokes are an acquired taste, and apparently i still have not acquired it. it made for a decent errm garnish i guess. the slipper lobster was delicious, albeit slightly small and pasta was good. roasted rack of lamb with cocoa sauce, roasted shallot in marsala wine and shave white truffle: hmm, maybe its just me but i like my meats slightly more tender and this wasn’t that impressive. the mixture of flavors was just ok. my sis loved it though.

struffolis cake with custard cream and amarena cherry: did not like. cherry tasted like cough syrup and the entire confection reminder me of some artificially sweetened pastry like the semi-famous cannoli i had in NYC that i disliked instantly as well. its something abt the cloying-ness of the sweet-ness that killed the flavor.

overall? 7/10 mainly for the delicious carpaccio but gets points off for a not too impressive main course and uninspiring dessert.

on a side note, i think i figured what my rankings translate to already:

1-4: straight to the ban list. never again.

5-7: can-try-if-in-the-mood-and-nearby. iffy, but willing to give a second chance if the price is right

8-10: always will try to make it a point to return.

cheers to a happy new year guys. may it be better than the last in all ways.