Lunch at Gattopardo

I’ve had great difficulty penning this review and, if I may be honest, I’ve re-written the opening paragraph more than once. The reason for this is simple; whilst I try to be as positive as I can, I also try to deliver a balanced review by noting my criticisms. However, when a dining experience is as sublime and as perfect as the one I had at Gattopardo Ristorante di Mare, I find myself at an impasse. So I am going to abandon the principles of balance and go all out and say that lunch at Gattopardo was absolutely brilliant. I would need the opportunity to patronise the restaurant a few times more to both sample the restaurant’s other offerings and to confirm the consistency of the excellent service level, but even at this premature juncture, Gattopardo is shaping up to be my favourite Italian restaurant on the island.

I had heard many great things about the restaurant, originally located at Fort Canning Hotel, and was saddened when I discovered that it had closed before I had the opportunity to try it. Prior to closure, Gattopardo was a place whose name constantly trickled down the grapevine and which was constantly associated with words like “amazing” , “delicious” , “best Italian food” so naturally I jumped to try it out when I heard that it had re-opened at 34/36 Tras Street. This was the third and final restaurant which Jo and I went to as part of Restaurant Week, and it was by far and away the best. Onto the food review.

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Both of us went for the set and chose the capellini as our main course. We were informed, however, that for a top up of $20, the starter could be changed from ocean trout to scallop carpaccio. In the interest of trying more dishes, we elected to upgrade one of the sets but kept the other standard.

Scallop Carpaccio with Avruga Caviar

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Apart from the amazing presentation, the dish itself tasted simply divine. Fresh scallops served sashimi style rested atop a bed of perfectly marinated salad whilst the caviar (often added more for aesthetic reasons or to justify a restaurant bumping up the price) did in this case actually enhance and expand the dish’s flavour profile.

Ocean Trout Carpaccio with Leeks & Persimmon

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Though not as visually stunning as scallop in the half-shell, the ocean trout did not disappoint in the slightess. The sweetness and acidity of the persimmon complemented the texture of the trout, which had been perfectly sliced. There was no hint of the fishyness which sometimes plagues dishes like this and the portion was generous enough.

Sea Perch in Tomato Soup
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This was not on the Restaurant Week menu but as Jo felt like some soup, we asked for a recommendation and were suggested the Sea Perch. The perch was very fresh and meaty, complementing the tomato base perfectly. I suspect that this might actually have been a main course because we ordered a single portion to be divided between both Jo and I and we still found it quite filling. Definitely a heavy soup, reminiscent of a thickened minestrone albeit with a sweeter and more varied taste profile.

Main Course – Capellini with Sardinian Grey Mullet “Bottarga” and Sea Urchin
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For mains the both of us had the capellini alla moresca which was basically angel hair pasta served with sea urchin and dried, pressed sardinian grey mullet roe. This was definitely an intensely flavoured dish which was well thought out. In particular, the saltiness of the bottarga complemented the sweetness and texture of the sea urchin. The only minor complaint I had, which might not be a complaint at all, is that I would have preferred a slightly thicker pasta such as spaghetti or spaghettini. The reason for this is that the thinness of the angel hair made the dish just a tad too intense for my taste, though I suspect this is purely subjective. Apart from this minor niggle, I found the dish extremely well put together and would not hesitate to order it a second time (although I might make a special request for the chef to use spaghetti!).

On a side note, it seems fashionable now for restaurants to incorporate fish roe and sea urchin in their pasta dishes. One place which does this particularly well is Enoteca L’Operetta which, if memory serves, has an angel hair pasta served with flying fish roe, sea urchin and baked pine nuts. Lovely.

Dessert – Chef Lino Sauro’s homemade Nougat Parfait

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It’s almost food porn isn’t it? Thankfully, the dessert tasted as good as it looks in these photos (that isn’t always the case when it comes to desserts)! The nougat was soft but with enough bite whilst the grated pistachios and almonds added to the texture. The parfait was served with toasted “noto” almond sauce which was very impressive – almost like seared chocolate in texture and taste. Jo found the dessert slightly sweet (not sure if she meant too sweet) but I found it well balanced, especially by the almond sauce which was almost, but quite, bitter.

Conclusion

Simply an amazing dining experience. The fact that it was Restaurant Week meant that the set lunch was deliberately designed to be affordable (and I suspect that an a la carte dinner there will certainly be on the expensive side) but there was not a hint of compromise in terms of quality, both of the food and service. The service level in particular deserves a mention as we were spoilt by the staff the moment we stepped into the restaurant. In particular, our waiter for the afternoon, Mike, was extremely helpful and professional, rendering the type of service that is impossibly difficult to find except in the most exquisite of Singapore’s fine-dining restaurants.

I’ve already stated at the beginning of the review that Gattopardo is shaping up to be my favourite Italian restaurant on the island, and I will only need a few more visits before I can unequivocally confirm this. Gattopardo is Chef Lino’s tour de force and, insofar as Southern Italian seafood cuisine is concerned, I don’t think there is any close second in Singapore.

All images captured with the Ricoh GXR & GR A12 50mm f/2.5 Macro. All rights reserved. 

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