Saturday, February 12, 2011

Singapore - Casa Tartufo

They are the newish kids on the block.  They aim to be and I quote: "..the reference for truffles in Southeast Asia, trading the finest ingredients from Italy, France and the rest of the world, in order to give our guests the best products at the best prices all year round."  Big ambitions indeed and why not.

Walking in at about 8.30 for dinner last Sunday, we were a little worried at first, since there were only 2 other tables occupied in the entire restaurant.  But we were warmly welcomed by the friendly and professional waiters (only males).  Unlike badly trained waiters who will pack you in only one area of the restaurant, we were lead to a quiet corner away from the other 2 tables.  

The restaurant is very dimly lit (unevenly so since some spots were brighter than others) but decked in dark wood and white table cloths, against lace curtains and sparse photos across a couple of the walls.  Simple but cosy.

Bread Basket
Perhaps our only complaint was the long wait for the bread to arrive since we were quite hungry.  It was a little game of who would blink first, and we lost.  So we had to ask the waiter for the bread, to which he replied with a smile: "We're baking a fresh loaf for you".  Ok, with that comeback, we just had to endure the hunger and smile back with a "ooh, yummy".  And in all honesty, it was worth the wait.  It is exactly the kind of loaf I like.  Aside from being freshly baked, this was just good bread - crusty on the outside, and soft and chewy on the inside.  And 2 plates of flavored butter.  The basil better beat what I think was truffle butter hands down.

Wagyu Beef Carpaccio, Rucola, Parmesan, Truffle
The starter was my favourite of the evening.  No cooking required, this was just simply a testament of their commitment.  Pricing aside, this was an aggregation of very fine produce, put together to deliver probably one of the better beef carpaccio dishes I've had in my "short" life.  Shavings of naturally tasty Wagyu, on a bed of peppery Rucola but without any bitter aftertaste, topped off with fragrant fresh Parmesan, then teased with a little truffle to give the dish an aromatic finish.  Lovely.

Classic Tajarin with Our Truffle sauce
This is not commonly found in Italian restaurants in Asia.  Tajarin is in simple terms, a fettucine that has been halved in width.  For Singaporeans, it is akin to "Mee Pok".  For HongKongers, it is akin to "foot meen" (阔面).  Here, the Tajarin was well coated with a truffle sauce that they call their own.  Although we did not verify, my guess is a blend of the 2 types of black truffles they had on offer - Perigord and Alba.  It was too good to have been a paste from a bottle, which is what I typically use for regular meals at home.  If you like your truffles, this is a simple dish where we can just enjoy the essence of truffle with no distraction.

Veal Chop Milanese in Grissini crust, Tomato and Rucola
Of course, no Italian restaurant is worth its pasta if it cannot execute this dish in perfection.  And it was pretty darn close here.  Well fried to a crispy outside but with no excess oil to be found, the veal on the inside was a nice combination of flattened meat with bone-in on the other side.  Well protected from the cooking process, the meat was still succulent.  Of course, the garnish of very good Rucola and sweet (and I do mean sweet) cherry tomatoes kept each bite fresh.  For the first time, I wish I had a few more tomatoes on my plate.

Banana Crêpe flambé, Madagascar Vanilla Ice-Cream
If I had to pick a nit somewhere, it was with dessert.  Because it was slightly charred from an over-enthusiastic blow torch table-side, there were bitter bits.  I would also have preferred the nuts to have been roasted to take away that raw taste that I dislike.  But properly executed, the banana-chocolate combination generously drenched in Triple Sec is a winning one.  Of course, the ice cream made from Madagascan vanilla beans brought it all home for us despite the flaws.

I like the potential with this place.  But there is a price on top of fine produce, no pun intended.  Aside from the veal chop which can feed 2 not-so-hungry people very comfortably, portions are a tad smaller than most Italian places here, which tend to be hearty.  If you can get past that, what you should enjoy is their commitment to quality.

Forum Shopping Mall, #01-17
583 Orchard Rd

Singapore 23884
Tel: +65 68364647

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