‘Hey girls, guess what. You get a treat from me. Your mother. And you know what, we’re going to go have a lovely dinner tonight. Preferably without breaking the bank, yes?’
My mother’s honest words. We were considering all the decent, cheap options around town, when she herself suggested Basilico. Isn’t that quite expensive, I murmured. Not like I’ve ever been there, but ‘Basilico’ was clearly a more-posh-than-average Italian name with slight snake-related connotations. Or serpent or amphibian. Oh hell, it was an excuse to wear my Calvin Klein leather-topped sleeveless mini dress anyway. And so we headed for the Regent Hotel, aka the golden-knobbed house my country can show off to tourists. I was excited. We all were (I think).
On a Saturday night, we were offered the choice of an antipasti and dessert buffet plus the choice of one main course from their a la carte menu. I couldn’t complain. Good God, it’s expensive, I thought, when the waiter said the buffet alone was a pocket-burner ($65, to be exact). Still. The rose-tinted, rustic yet sophisticated aura and scents made me dizzy with glee. I had to take it in slowly. Buffet and course choice it was. Saturday nights make me more adventurous and willing, I should think. I remained quite politic as I walked around the spread, eyeing the fresh fruit, cheese and wine. I must’ve stumbled on something from the dazzling aesthetics alone. I ended up with a plate of cold and crunchy asparagus salad, smoked salmon and caviar, eggplant, provocative vine tomatoes, a little mozzarella and mussel salad. Most things were pleasantly chilled, and the flavours of creamy mozzarella and exploding tomatoes savagely invaded my palate, in the best way possible. The eggplant could have done with a touch more salt, and some empty mussel shells were sandy.
Behold the kids pizza funghi.
Yes you heard that right. Kids. I was frightened by the monstrous slab which lay in front of my 6-year old sister. It was the fastest to come, and the most gargantuan. It was an animal, bigger than the slight consumer herself. ‘We’ll help’ , the rest of us announced, to compensate for the silent shock. The edges were thick, flour-crusted and fluffy, the body laden with a great deal of stringy cheese and clumps of nice and innocent Champignon slivers. The marinara base was appropriate in both taste and amount in proportion to the rest of the pizza, though the Champignons could have used more seasoning. That aside, I enjoyed the texture of the whole thing, the entirety of a single bite, even if I was just picking at bits on her plate. I’m a disgraceful, disgraceful picker.
Scallops for my main course. Six mini ones, at that. Branded with a beautiful sear on both sides, squished together with some brilliant, sweet mushy peas and a heavy drizzle of olive oil. The peas put me in heaven, and I could have had those alone. I willingly smashed them into the charred sides of scallop and warm burst of tomato juice, alongside the fruity, forest-flavoured chanterelles. What a great melding of juxtaposed flavours. The scallops, albeit juicy little things, weren’t sweet enough for my taste. Good, just not great.
I appreciate the textural effort put into all the dishes served. My other sister had the spaghetti with marinara sauce, which was perfectly al dente, and my mother had the sea bass. The knife cuts were smooth, the delicacy enticing. The fish itself I did not find sufficiently flavourful, but the aroma and presentation almost fully made up for that.
I’m re-unearthing the wonders of honest Italian food. But if you wish to come here, be prepared for a wait. Especially if you’re ordering anything other than pizza on the menu. Just. Small warnings.
Basilico Italian Restaurant
1 Cuscaden Road
Tel: +65 6725 3232