Garibaldi Italian Restaurant & Bar – Very Meh

14 12 2011

Now that holidays are here, I have been trying my best to spend more time with my non-SMU friends whom I might have neglected through the school term. This term has been a trying one for me, but which term hasn’t? One thing’s for sure though, I had definitely spent more time in the library and less time with the nom noms this time around. So now, it was time to go on an eating spree to make up for lost time… 

I arrived ahead of C, excited to be dining at what was considered to be one of Singapore’s leading Italian fine dining restaurants. The service was impeccable, and the maitre’d saw to it that I wasn’t too bored, coming over to chat a while I waited for C.

When C arrived, we were served with complimentary freshly toasted Dried Tomato Focaccia Bread. First impressions count and Garibaldi nailed it as this was the 2nd best complimentary bread I have had so far (the best being from Private Affairs which has recently shifted out of its Joo Chiat premises). C even got himself a third slice!

Their 3-Course Set Lunch is priced at $38++, a huge discount from the ala carte prices which would probably set you back by about $100ish.

For appetizer, C chose the Cocktail Di Gamberetti or Poached Shrimps with Romaine Lettuce in Cocktail Sauce. They are quite generous with the shrimps, and the shrimps were fresh and springy so no complaints here. It does remind me of the cold dish prawns you get at wedding dinners.

For myself, I opted for the Soup of the Day which happened to be Asparagus & Crab Soup. It’s quite starchy, so I think they might have blended in some potatoes to thicken the soup a bit. Overall, it was meh.

For Main, I had the Spaghettini with Calamari, Black Olives and Fresh Tomatoes, thinking that a fancy Italian restaurant would definitely get their pastas right. Yet again, I was left disappointed as this was forgettable.

C’s Stewed Red Snapper served with Grilled Polenta and Green Peas fared slightly better, though severely lacking a wow factor. Polenta is made from cornmeal and supposedly looks a bit like mash potatoes which I don’t see any of. Perhaps it is the toast lookalike behind the fish.

For desserts, diners get a choice of what they want from a cart of homemade cakes by Sweets Garibaldi.

Diners can also choose if they would like a sauce (Chocolate, Vanilla and one more I can’t recall) to accompany the cake.

C got a Chocolate one which I didn’t try.

For myself, I had a Hazelnut Flavoured one which on first bite tasted like Kinder Bueno with the soft hazelnut cream and crisp praline base. I thought it could have been better if the sponge was lighter and more airy.

The set lunch comes with a choice of coffee or tea. The coffee was fragrant and robust despite being quite bitter (typical of french and italian coffees perhaps?)

Overall, I wasn’t impressed with the food but felt the service made up for it.

Bon Appetit!

Garibaldi Italian Restaurant & Bar

36 Purvis Street

Tel: +65 6837 1468





Pasta Brava – Hearty Italian at Mass Market Prices

13 12 2011

Sherwin’s, Sophie’s and Annie’s birthdays were long overdue and due to the 101 reasons that kept everyone busy over the past month, we didn’t get a chance to celebrate during the school term. And since school’s finally out, I had tasked myself with finding an appropriate place for a casual birthday lunch.

You know for large group gatherings, an appropriate lunch venue requires affordability, accessibility and of course, a minimum standard of quality, and finding such an ideal lunch spot is indeed a tall task. Faced with such a situation, I humbly suggested Pasta Brava, a restaurant on my to-go list which I had yet to try.

Located within walking distance from Tanjong Pagar Mrt, Pasta Brava serves hearty authentic Italian fare at very very reasonable prices about $25ish to $35ish a person for a generously portioned main. It has cemented its position and credibility in the Singapore food scene after garnering numerous accolades and awards over the past decade which are conspicuously framed up on the wall of the reception area.

The pastas here are pretty heavy so while I’m an advocate of having a complete meal consisting appetizer, main and dessert, you you might want to consider skipping the appetizers unless you are planning on sharing the mains. And instead of having desserts here, you can also consider strolling around the Ann Siang or Duxton area to try the various highly acclaimed patisseries such as k ki, Bonheur Patisserie and Flor Patisserie.

In descending order starting from my favourite pasta, I enjoyed the Spaghetti Della Pescatrice, “Spaghetti with Seafood in Squid Ink Sauce” ($23++) the most. Some of my friends found the briny squid ink sauce a little too salty but I thought it was awesome with the subtle bittersweet clam juices infused into the pasta.

One of the better risottos I have had, the Risotto Al Funghi Porcini, “Arborio Rice cooked with Porcini Mushrooms, White Wine & Parmesan Cheese” ($23++) is something I would recommend ordering here. Don’t attempt to finish this alone though as the cheesiness gets to you after awhile. The Porcini Mushrooms adds a texture akin to smooth fresh scallops to the dish which I find extra inviting,

I have a particular fondness of clams. I think it’s because of the fond memories I have about my trip to Gold Coast when I was younger where I picked up live clams off the beach and boiled them back in the hotel to eat. Subjectivity aside, there was consensus that the Spaghetti Alle Vongole In Bianco, “Spaghetti with Fresh Clams, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, White Wine and Parsley” ($19++) was one of the favourites of the meal.

Spaghetti Anacapri Al Cartoccio, “Spaghetti with Crayfish, Garlic, Herbs & Tomato Sauce served in Parchment Paper” ($23++). I’m not sure if it’s because of the effect of sealing it in parchment paper that stops the white wine from vapourizing but I detected a stronger than usual wine taste which I quite enjoyed (then again, no description of wine is mentioned for this dish so I might just have imagined things).

Agnolotti Farciti Al Salmone, “Round-shaped Pasta filled with Fresh Salmon, served with Tomato and Cream Sauce” ($22.50++). Agnolotti is a type of ravioli, and the difference in naming convention arises mainly from the initial place of origin, with Agnolotti originating from Northern Italy and Ravioli from the Coastal South. The difference in locale also results in a difference in terms of stuffing used, where fish, vegetables and cheese was commonly used for Ravioli while meat was used as a stuffing for Agnolotti.

The Fettuccine Alla Carbonara, “Fettuccine with Bacon, Onion, Egg Yolk, White Wine & Cream Sauce” ($20++) is decent but too heavy for my liking. The pasta was also a little on the soft side.

While the Linguini Regina Del Mare, “Linguini with Clams, Prawns, Scallops, Squid, Crayfish, Garlic & Tomato Sauce” ($23++) looks like the Spaghetti Cartoccio (above), the tomato sauce comes across as less flavourful.

There’s no end to good food around the Tanjong Pagar and Outram area but Pasta Brava has left a deep enough impression to warrant future revisits.

Bon Appetit!

Pasta Brava

11 Craig Road

Tel: +65 6227 7550





Pepperoni Pizzeria (Frankel Avenue Outlet) – Possibly the Best Pizza!

7 11 2011

Go to any online forum with a discussion thread on “Where to find the best pizza in Singapore?” and I’m absolutely positive the name Pepperoni Pizzeria will pop up. Operated by the Les Amis Group, Pepperoni Pizzeria‘s Frankel Avenue outlet is the newest of their 3 outlets, the other 2 being located at Binjai Park and Greenwood Avenue, both around the Bukit Timah area. Given the popularity of the place, reservations are highly recommended.

If there’s one appetizer worth ordering here, it’s got to be the Fried Potobello Mushroom with Chicken & Red Wine ($18++). With a portobello the size of both my palms combined, the fried batter manages to remain crisp despite the excessive local humidity. The  red wine sauce is spectacular, rich, fatty and robust and comes with diced bacon, just my kind of gravy.

The Aglio Olio & Peperoncino ($18) or Spaghetti tossed with Garlic and Red Chili in Olive Oil is awesome as well, though priced rather steeply for something so simple. The garlic isn’t that intense despite it’s chunky look and the spiciness is well tuned. Feedback from friends HH and JH is that the other pasta dishes available here pale in comparison, so I’d suggest sticking to the Aglio Olio if you are a first timer here.

The Pizzas here are thin-crusted and come in 3 main sizes, Medium (9 inches), Large (12 inches) and Family Size (21 inches). Personally, apart from the novelty factor of having a crazily huge pizza,there really isn’t any perks in ordering a family size since it will typically be less evenly cooked. Hence, we ordered a large Salmon (Fresh Salmon, Caramelized Onions & Capers) and Frutti Di Mare (Prawns, Clams, Scallops, Squid Rings & Fish) Pizza ($23++). Yes you can have your pizza half and half here 🙂 My favourite pizza at Pepperoni’s is the salmon, whose flavour has somehow been infused within the pizza. Not sure how they do it but it’s devilishly good.

If you prefer your pizzas on the salty side, go for the Pancetta (Pancetta, Diced Tomato & Soft Egg), Prosciutto Crudo di Parma (Parma Ham & Rocket Salad) ($23++). 

So is Pepperoni the best Pizzeria in Singapore? Very possibly, I’d say.

Bon Appetit!

Pepperoni Pizzeria

 95 Frankel Avenue

Tel: +65 6445 5661





[Vancouver] Caminetto di Umberto – Tuscan Cuisine in Whistler

1 07 2011

I was really quite excited about the weekend trip to Whistler, which had been consistently voted best ski resort in North America and for some polls, the world. My previous visit here was more than 10 years ago, during which bad weather meant that the mountain was closed and I had to contend with simply gazing longingly upwards towards the mountain range. There’s so much to do here as a visiting tourist. For the right price, you could participate in an extensive range of activities such as skiing, snowboarding, ziplining, dirt biking, whitewater rafting, and explore the mountain on an ATV.

The entire village is dotted with F&B outlets and shopping boutiques. Not to mistake the two sister restaurants located just opposite each other, Il Caminetto di Umberto (which we dined at) is the fancier of the 2, serving authentic Tuscan cuisine while Trattoria di Umberto features rustic Tuscan cuisine amidst a more casual setting. Tuscany is a region in central Italy so Tuscan cuisine is pretty much synonymous for Italian.

With just shreds of salty duck meat, the Duck Confit Salad was slightly disappointing with the absence of the crispy duck skin.

Duck Leg Confit with Green Beans, Walnuts & Maple Vinaigrette (C$18.95)

The waiter suggested the Veal Piccata, saying it was one of their signatures here. It was pretty good though it’s a bit expensive for just a veal cutlet spaghetti.

Veal Piccata alla Parmigiana (C$30.95)

Though I love cheese, this mild version fared just as well, exceeding my expectations throughly. Scallops were fresh and seared evenly, and the risotto somehow had a hint of kelp, adding to its coastal flavour.

Green Asparagus Risotto & Sear Scallops (C$26.95)

What was special about this osso buco was the fatty bone marrow lodged within the bone, in which a small thin fork was provided for us to dig out this treasure. Most of the time, the marrow dries up and hardens from overcooking, but not so for the osso buco here. The saffron risotto took a while to get used to but grew on me as the meal progressed. Anyway, did you know Saffron is the most expensive spice in the world (by weight)? It’s even more expensive than Truffles!

Slow Oven-braised Osso Buco alla Milanese with Saffron Risotto (C$38.95)

Ricotta Cheese Cannelloni alla Florentina (C$19.95)

Linguine Pesto with Basil and Toasted Pine Nuts (C$19.95)

The chocolate cake wasn’t as good as it looked. The layer of sponge was too thick while the chocolate wasn’t rich enough to blow me away.

Dark Valrhona Chocolate Ganache Cake with Creme Anglaise (C$11.95)

I think the secret to Caminetto di Umberto isn’t its flare to whip up orgasmic dishes with excessive flavouring but rather, to use simple natural flavours that requires slow and quiet contemplation to appreciate.

Bon Appetit!

 

Caminetto di Umberto

4242 Village Stroll, Whistler, British Columbia

Tel: 604 932 4442





[Portugal] Cafeina – That’s What I Call A Wine List

5 06 2011

I’m not exactly sure how the name Porto came about but I think there are 2 highly likely possibilities. Firstly, being a coastal town, it might have gotten its name due to its function as a port. In the past, the Portuguese (like the Dutch and Spanish) have also been engaged in lots of sea trade and establishing Portuguese colonies in countries like the Philippines. And in Singapore, we see the descendents of these seafarers with surnames such as De Cruz, De Souza and Pereira.

On the other hand, Porto could have been named as such due to its heavy reliance on the wine and port industry in sustaining its economy. Ok so this leads us to the question of what’s the difference between Port and Wine? For 1, true Port wine is exclusively produced in the region of Douro, Portugal and is a sweet fortified wine, with higher alcohol content than the standard red wine. While we might sometimes spot Madeira (another fortified wine) on the wine list, it is NOT exactly the same as Port as it is only produced on the island of Madeira, Portugal.

source: gofigueira.com

Well, I found out there’s much to learn about Port appreciation and its seemingly never-ending list of classifications (red, white, tawny, vintage, ruby, and just when you thought you knew them all, they suddenly mess you up with a “single-vintage tawny” etc). Hopefully I can cover it another day, maybe in a easy to read tabular form or the like but for now, I guess it’s suffice to know that Port is simply a sweet dessert wine.

Instead of planning a food itinerary beforehand as I did for London and Spain, I decided to be lazy and just go with the flow for this one, relying on hotel reception’s recommendations instead. This is what brought me and my family to Cafeina.  A quick check with tripadvisor and goporto.com confirmed that it was a place worth visiting and so off we went.

Like the Spanish, the Portuguese have their meals pretty late too, with dinners starting typically between 8pm – 9pm. So we were one of the first customers for the night.

Cafeina is a fine-dining establishment with an extensive wine menu which can be assessed using an application on the Ipad provided and it’s really the longest wine list I have ever seen, my estimate is probably at least 400 wines, probably more.

The seafood in Porto is really fresh. I was at the beach near Cafeina and it was low tide. And there were these 3 China ladies picking shellfish at the seashore. And I jest you not, abalone is in ample abundance here and it seems that Caucasians don’t eat it. What a waste! So these 3 ladies managed to fill up 1 large bag with abalones (probably around 7kg worth), 3 or 4 other bags of other clams and shellfish and seaweed within a couple of hours. Along the water’s edge, I could even spot shrimps with my naked eyes that’s how clean the water is. So it goes without saying that the scallops served here would definitely be fresh too!

Scallop & Shrimp Carpaccio

I didn’t get to try the Seafood Bisque in Puff Pastry because my dad dug into it already and was having a sore throat and didn’t want passing his germs to me. Looks good though 😦

I had the Foie Gras Terrine wrapped with Smoked Duck atop some Caramelized Apples. Nothing too impressive about this dish which I felt was too salty with the superfluous duck.

My dad felt his main was a little too tough. I thought it was so so.

Smoked Duck with Potato Rosti

My brother felt his pasta tasted much like Mee Kia. We did enjoy his Tiger Prawns though which were large, fresh and crunchy.

Tiger Prawn Cappelini

My favourite main of the night was the Squid Ink Pasta with Squid and Prawns. Tossed in a light tomato base, the spaghetti was slightly overcooked and soft for my liking but the fresh squids and prawns saved the day.

A run of the mill Pear Tartine.

Highly raved about by the hotel receptionist, we couldn’t leave without trying the Buttery Chocolate Cake. Likely to please those with a major sweet tooth but personally it was much too cloying for me.

Cafeina exhibits some class but fails to deliver the ko blow that would make me want to take a 12 hour flight just for a revisit.

Bon Appetit!

Cafeina

Rua do Padrão 100, 4150 Oporto, Portugal

Tel: 226 108 059





The Lighthouse at Fullerton – Tira(I Miss U)

2 01 2011

I find that there’s one common misconception among Singaporeans, in that most Singaporeans think that Fine Dining must be expensive, with meals costing unfathomable amounts. Today, I would like to point out that this is not necessarily so.

First, let’s identify what fine dining really is. Fine dining is made up of 3 elements; a fine dining menu featuring foods of high quality, a fine dining customer service where staff are trained to answer any queries about food and make your dining experience a pleasant one, and lastly a fine dining ambience where attention is paid to details in the furnishings and restaurant layout. While all these elements inevitably add up to higher operating costs, it should be made known that exorbitant pricing of the menu is not a necessary element in fine dining.

Take for example my recent visit to The Lighthouse @ Fullerton Hotel. It fulfils all the aspects that make up a fine dining restaurant, amassing some food and service awards in the process. Yet, with the UOB Chef Creations Menu available for the 3-Course Lunch and 4-Course Dinner at $68++ and $128++ for 2 Pax respectively, it would be erroneous to suggest that this price range (especially the lunch which comes up to $40 a pax after the ++) is too far off our once-in-a-while-pampering-ourselves-with-a-fine-dining-meal budgets.

Of course, if your pockets aren’t too shallow and a wider variety of appetizers, mains and desserts is preferred, you might want to opt for the Daily Set Lunch here available at $38 for 2 Course and $56++ for 3-Course. Not wanting to bust my post-Xmas and New Year spending too much more than I already did, little J and myself opted for the UOB Chef Creations Menu.

In navigating the way to The Lighthouse, although it is addressed on the 8th Floor, upon reaching the 8th Floor, you have to take another lift there that specially brings you to the restaurant. I’m just wondering what would happen should that lift break down since it seems to be the only way to access The Lighthouse.

With a breathtaking panoramic view of Marina Bay Sands and the Singapore Flyer, I’d imagine this would be a great place for celebrating special occasions for loved ones.

The sitting capacity isn’t large, probably able to house 30-35 people at most but this just adds to the exclusiveness and allure that is The Lighthouse.

Amuse Bouche was an overly concentrated shot glass of Tomato Soup with Squid.

The meal officially started off with the Tuna Carpaccio, Fine Herbs Salad, Mullut Bottarga (also known as Mullet Roe). Taste-wise, nothing really outstanding but I really loved the garden-concept plating.

The Main was a Homemade Garganelli Pasta, Wild Boar & Porcini Mushroom Ragout with Black Norcia Truffle. Little J loved this dish from start to finish. On the other hand, I found the cheesiness to be slightly overpowering at the start but soon grew attuned to it and rather enjoyed the cheesy sauce at the end. I felt my pasta was slightly undercooked as I could still spot uncooked flour at the core of my pasta.

For Dessert, the Classic Venetian Style Tiramisu was served and boy was it the most incredible Tiramisu I have ever laid my taste buds on! This one had an utterly thick and consistently smooth creamy texture which would never fail to enthrall.

With lots of love, peace and joy, here’s wishing all A Happy New Year!

Bon Appetit!

THE LIGHTHOUSE

1 FULLERTON SQUARE, LEVEL 8 FULLERTON HOTEL

TEL: +65 6877 8933





Cacio e Pepe – Authentic Italian Fare

26 12 2010

This is what food blogs should be about, reviewing and unearthing restaurants with potential that are tucked inconspicuously away at uhloo places. When I first read about Cacio e Pepe roughly a year ago, I decided to KIV it first and get back to it when I had the time. Since then, I have had 2 separate friends randomly coming up to me raving about it so I knew it was finally time to check it out personally.

Lunch Sets are available here at an affordable $12.80++ and comprises of a Soup of the Day, Pasta of the Day and a Drink (Coffee, Tea or Soft Drink).

Today’s Soup of the Day was the Potato and Leek Soup.

Pasta of the Day was a Choice between the Chicken Penne and Mushroom Fusilli.

The Chicken Penne came in a Tomato Base and I really loved the flavourful tang that hits you only after some mastication.

Out of the 2 Pasta Choices, I preferred the Mushroom Fusilli which had the perfect kick-ass cream sauce. Just the right amount of thickness and richness.

Feedback from my friends was that they found the pasta slightly too chewy and the portions too minute. In Cacio e Pepe’s defence, personally I prefer my pasta with more bite so the chewy pasta was fine for me, and when you pay $12.80 for a set lunch, I guess we can’t complain much about portion size.

On the other hand, if you order ala carte as I did, the portions are slightly larger.

My order of the Spaghetti Vongole($18) was well-executed. The spaghetti was uber smooth and very palatable. The only downside was the bitterness from the clam juice which I found slightly overbearing.

For Dessert, I had the Chocolate Lava Cake($13) which comes in both an alcoholic and non-alcoholic version. I chose the later. I didn’t find very impressive as the exterior of the cake wasn’t crisp, having the texture of a butter cake instead, not to mention it’s slightly overpriced. You’d be better off having one from Bakerzin.

Overall, I felt Cacio e Pepe did a decent job for their pastas, especially the pasta sauces and given the extensive array of choices on the menu, I will definitely be back for a better assessment.

Bon Appetit!

CACIO E PEPE

4 ROCHDALE ROAD

TEL: +65 6281 1905








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