Saturday, February 25, 2012
Otto Ristorante's Seasonal Menu
I've heard many good things about Otto Ristorante, so I was quite pleased when the opportunity surfaced to meet owner-chef Michele Pavanello. The burly good-humoured chef is currently offering a seasonal menu inspired by the chilly winter in Italy. The menu with hearty dishes will run til end April. Note that these are all tasting portions.
A small appetiser to tease the palate. Very savoury pop of mushrooms (morel, I presume).
Cicala di Mare Cotta in Bassa Temperatura con Passatina di Porri e Morchelle
Slow cooked slipper lobster with leek veloute and morel mushroom (S$28).
I love the leek veloute, so fine and light! The slipper lobster is nicely done, not overcooked, and so conveniently deshelled. And those precious savoury mushrooms give the dish savoury oomph. I personally prefer morel mushrooms to truffles, any day.
Fegato grasso in Crosta di Cacao Grezzo e Riduzione al Porto
Cocoa bean crusted foie gras with port wine reduction (S$28).
Cocoa with foie gras? Well, it is quite inspired, as cocoa nibs when roasted acquire a nutty flavour that simply sets off the rich flavours of the goose liver. Nice.
This is a dish they have had to bring back to the menu, due to popular demand. Chef Pavanello joked that even though his is an Italian restaurant, he has to put this on the menu, or else the diners will have a "revolution"!
Pasta e Fagioli alla Venetta con Gambero al Pepe e Ciciole
Veneto style borlotti bean and pasta soup with pepper prawn (S$15)
Chef Pavanello has given a twist to this classic Northern Italian winter soup. Normally it is beans with various pig parts, and indeed the soup has lots of pork stock, bacon flavour and even toppings of pork crackling for texture, but the addition of peppery prawns adds more dimension than pork alone can. But while interesting, the flavours can come across as somewhat intense.
Taglioni al Nero di Seppia con Gamberi Marinati al Limone e Peperoncino
Homemade squid ink tagliolini with lemon and chilli marinated prawn (S$28)
This is one of Chef Pavanello's specialties reinvented. He first prepared this in 2002 when he first arrived in Singapore (oh, so it's been ten years already). It seems locals can't get enough of the juicy local live prawns in the tangy sauce of lemon and chili. But it's not very spicy, so don't worry.
Filetto di Branzino in Padella con Funghi e Patate alla Genovese
European sea bass fillet with sautéed mushrooms and potato (S$42)
This one was not as impressive. Perhaps the sea bass was a little too thin, because it seemed a tad overcooked and had lost its more delicate flavours. The regular portion may fare better.
But clearly, Chef has saved the best for last.
Maialino da Latte Croccante Laccato al Miele d'Acacia e Balsamico Stravecchio
Crispy “suckling pig” lacquered with acacia honey and balsamic vinegar (S$42)
Pavanello says he's tried Chinese-style suckling pig, but finds that too much emphasis is placed on the crispy skin, and the meat often ends up fibrous and dry. I really want to know where he's been eating, so I will never discover that.
His technique of slow-cooking the meat (sous-vide style) does yield tender meat. And the skin, while it looks almost lacquer-hard, cracks easily under your fork. Along with fatty layers underneath, it's a juicy treat laced with sweet and tangy accents. All of us loved this.
Otto's decor is elegantly chic without being stifling. It's serious enough for business, and yet cosy enough for romantic dinners. The food while approximating fine dining, still maintains a certain homemade charm about it. Knowledgeable staff and unobtrusive service round up what should be a pleasant dining experience.
28 Maxwell Road
#01-02 Red Dot Traffic Building
Tel: +65 6227 6819
Mon-Fri: noon to 2.30pm (lunch)
Mon-Sat: 6.30pm to 10.30pm (dinner)
Thanks to Touch Communications for hosting the media lunch, and Otto for the invitation.
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