Tag: Italian

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Seafood voodoo – Set lunch at Gattopardo

My family’s been going to Gattopardo for two years now, and I still can’t figure out why the place is never crowded. It surely can’t be the quality – chef Lino Sauro, in my opinion, serves some of the most balls-to-the-wall Italian food in the city, with achingly fresh seafood and a technique that I can only describe as Sicilian voodoo. Some diners might be scared away, I guess, by the restaurant’s hermit-esque location in the Hotel Fort Canning, or by the prices, which are a slight notch above those at other Italian heavyweights such as Pasta Brava. I’d like to persuade these people to make the journey up Fort Canning Park to try Gattopardo’s set lunch, the perfect gateway into the restaurant’s gut-busting cuisine.

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Cashew Nut Pesto

Pesto at its best is fresh, piquant, zingy, creamy, and surprisingly luxurious. It’s comforting for me to know I always have a jar of it in the fridge because it’s not only incredibly tasty and versatile, it also helps me put meals together instantly. To fuel my pesto obsession, I currently have fifteen basil plants growing in my garden. Yet I still use them up too quickly! Pesto effortlessly jazzes up roasted new potatoes, steamed broccoli/french beans/asparagus and it’s utterly delicious paired with mozzarella or avocado in a toastie.

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Carpaccio from Harry's Bar in Venice

Friday Food Porn: The original carpaccio, from Harry’s Bar, Venice

Carpaccio from Harry's Bar in Venice

I love carpaccio, the raw beef “salad” that has become one of the must-have dishes on all Italian restaurant menus today. It’s actually hard to believe that the dish is only 62 years old; which makes it a baby compared to most of Italy’s equally famous dishes, most of whose recipes have been passed down from grandmother to daughter to granddaughter for generations. Carpaccio, unlike most of Italy’s most famous dishes, was invented in a restaurant. In one of my favourite restaurants in the world in fact — Harry’s Bar in Venice.

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Sweltering days: a Pinot Grigio and a Rosé to cool off with

Up and coming white wine, Pinot Grigio.

Ah, Summer. The season of dressing light, ditching the covered shoes and bringing out the flip-flops. Hit the beach and bake the skin to a crisp brown. This may sound great for most people in the world but when you’re actually here in the midst of drowning humidity between 80 to 90 per cent and combined with average temperatures above 30 degrees Celsius, it’s almost as if Singapore is a giant dim sum steamer.

Risotto with Treviso radicchio

I don’t know about you, but after I come back from a place in which I’ve eaten really well, I’m often still craving the foods from that city or country for the following few weeks (if not longer). It doesn’t matter that I most likely overindulged (and that’s putting it mildly) while travelling. I just want to keep enjoying all the yummy local, seasonal dishes from those great places for as long as I can.

I know, on the flipside, some travellers experience food fatigue when overseas for too long. I remember, as a child, being dragged into Chinese restaurants in Europe by my own mother. “Enough!” She’d exclaim after going without Asian flavours for too long. A proper meal, in her mind, meant a meal centered around steamed white rice and a variety of savoury dishes. Cream sauces and big plates of one kind of meat just didn’t make sense to her.

My darling wife S and I, however, have the opposite problem. Inevitably, whenever we come back from a trip to Japan, we’ll spend the next 2-3 weeks recreating dishes and flavours, using both ingredients we’ve carted back as well as sourcing stuff locally. Similarly, since coming home from our pre-Christmas trip to Venice, we’ve been dipping into our various regional Italian cookbooks and been whipping up an endless parade of Venetian dishes, for ourselves and for friends.

One of the dishes we’ve really been enjoying is a simple risotto made with Treviso radicchio.

Venice December 2009

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I don’t care how cliched it may be, or how overrun with tourists it can get, Venice is still (and probably always will be) one of my favourite cities in the world. Maybe it’s the lack of cars, the addictively delicious tramezzini that stare out at you from countless cafe windows, the couples smooching openly everywhere, the stunning Byzantine-influenced buildings and palazzos, the bellinis, or the simple silliness of walking around and getting lost in the city’s labyrinth-like streets… I don’t know. I love being in Venice. Love being there for the craziness of the Biennale, with the hot sun pounding down and the glitterati of the art world fussing over themselves at exhibitions during the day and madcap parties come dark. Love being there at winter when, for once, the locals outnumber the tourists and cold winds batter at you ceaselessly. It’s a city of romance and splendor, and if you look hard enough, gastronomy.

My vicacious wife S and I, and several friends, spent a good part of last week in La Serenissima. We were there to attend the wedding of some very close friends. Of course, I also made sure that we planned a long enough break so that we could visit some of my favourite eating haunts and shops. I had a good reason for this. While I’ve been to Venice probably a half dozen times in the last decade or so, S has only been once, way back in 2000. I had brought her there in December 2000 in order to propose to her. We arrived on 26 December, got engaged just outside of Saint Mark’s Square, and saw in the new year there. But we didn’t eat well. In fact, except for a meal at Harry’s Bar, all of our other meals were less than memorable. Back then, I didn’t know Venice well. And my previous trips to the city were as a backpacker, when eating at good restaurants wasn’t really a priority. Since then, despite my insistence that there is great food to be found in Venice, and my postings on this blog, S has always been a tad skeptical. With this recent trip, I was determined to convince her that Venice has great food.