Wednesday, January 4, 2012

An Italian Feast fit for a King (or Queen)!

There's nothing like a good old Italian feast up, and so when I was invited by the folks at Da Paolo Ristorante in Holland Village for a lunchtime tasting, there was only going to be one answer and if I'm writing this I guess you know what that answer was.

Some of you may know the original Club Street premises but on this occasion, I was invited into the world of the laid back resort chic feel of it's Holland Village sister.  

This is a good place to come if you want to treat yourself to a fantastic Italian feast. The Russsian-Italian chef (yes you heard that combination right), Gleb Snegin was plucked from Italy having spent ten years working in restaurants in Milan, Lombardy and Tuscany. Fast forward to when we met him after our feasting, and he was a little uneasy sitting at the table.  That's because his place is truly in the kitchen to creating dishes to please the palate.      

So let us commence. With the antipasti....

Now I am a big fan of scallops, so when we had to chose there was no doubt in my mind that I would put my stick in the sand with the Capessante Arosttiti con Purea di Cavolfiori. Big, fresh, juicey and delicious and served on a bed of cauliflower puree and res sweet-sour onions.

The Caprese, with it's fantastic yet simple combination of mozzarella, tomatoes and basil, is always a favourite of mine, and this one did not disappoint. The mozzarella was super creamy yet firm - a perfect combination - served with basil leaves and sweet Belgian cherry tomatoes.

An all-time favourite is the Portabello a Sorpresa, Portobello Mushroom served in a burger style with my favourite Taleggio cheese (oh it's been a long time!), salad and a stack of fried potatoes. N.B best to view the fries as decoration if you want to continue feasting on other delights!

Next on to Primi Piatti - otherwise known as (homemade) pasta and risotto. I'm sure those of you who have dined in Italy will know that this course is usually the prelude to the main course, not THE main course like so many of us consume it as. But of course it's up to you to pick and choose. I was glad I was wearing something lose fitting as I geared up for the next epicurean stage.

Anything with lots of juicy crab meat and a dash of vodka combined together gets my vote, as did the Tagliatelle al Granchio.  Creamy and delicate with fresh egg tagliatelle this is my idea of perfect comfort food.

Now I am a HUGE fan of Risotto. It's hard to get right, and there are different styles but risotto is usually make or break for me. The chef here counts risottos among his most accomplished dishes, and it shows. The Risotto di Spinaci con Aragostine - a fantastic combination of baby spinach an slipper lobster is true testimony to that.

Losing up that belt it's time to move on the Secondi. I have a thing for Celeriac - it's not all that often you come across it in Singapore and so when I saw (and of course tasted) the seabass was teamed with celeriac cream and chips in the Branzino all Magnaia con Crema di Sedano it was a joyous occasion.

And for me no Italian feast would be complete without veal. Well it was a mystery that after all that had gone before that the lovely tender lamb shank that was the centerpiece of the Ossubuco all Milanese con Purea di Patate did not send me over the edge. But when it's good food at stake, the only thing to do is to....well....keep eating of course!

Now before we move on to Dolci, a word about wine. The restaurant employs a dedicated wine scout who scours Italy and it's 19 wine growing regions and thousands of vineyards to ferret out the best choices. The restaurant boasts over 76 labels of Italian wine and many are exclusively available only there. Many restaurants fall down on their "house pour", but not Da Paolo Ristorante. They take their house pours as seriously as the rest of it's collection.  Something I was very thankful for.

Right then, Dolci time!

I promise you that whatever you do it and when you eat here, you need to leave room for dessert. In any case there's always a little corner somewhere in your stomach which is holding out just for that sweet finish so it's be rude not to.

Now I have a strange relationship with Tiramisu. I always want to eat it, but then when I do I usually regret it. It's so often to creamy, or too sweet. Finally a Tiramisu I do not regret! The perfect balance of coffee, mascarpone, marsala and cacao.

Follow that with Crespelle Agli Agrui,  perfectly executed crepes, with the warm citron sauce colliding with the blood orange sorbet equals one thing. Taste sensation!

I have not turned into a pig by now, I promise but there's one final thing, and that's the Bonet Piemontese  e Gelato. If you are a secret amaretto and chocolate lover, like I am, then this could very well be the dessert to  lead you astray.

Da Paolo Ristorante (Holland Village) is at 44 Jalan Merah Saga, 01-56, tel: 6476 1332. Open daily from 11.30 to 14.30 for lunch and 18.30 to 22.30 for dinner. Prices range from $17 - 26 for Antipasti, $24-28 for Primi Piatti, $30 - 38 for Secondi and $8-14 for Dolci.

For more information see their website here

I had a camera malfunction so all images courtesy of Da Paolo Ristorante. 

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