Trattoria L’Operetta

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You know, it’s said they have the best pizza in Singapore.

I recollected my memories of Peperoni, that one red-walled, kid-friendly placed we used to frequent every couple of weeks for the paper tables and crusty, cheesy goodness of fresh pizza. How would this compare? My memories were insufficient, and in the end, i didn’t even order pizza. What’s wrong with you Alex. Prithee, reader, hear me out. There was a man at the front, tossing the crusts from board to plate, wafts of steam rising from the pockets between bounteous toppings. And yet, I noticed there was something a little off.

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Atop, we have the classic Margherita. Below, their version of an oyster omelette, coupled with thousand island dressing.

‘Soggy’, remarked my mother. Soggy! Lord! And so my friends, that is how I ended up not bothering with the slicing and biting. I just couldn’t. The omelette was decent, but I noticed that they repeated dish components without a healthy conscience. The same dressing was used for the fried calamari, which you should be grateful isn’t pictured, as it was a disastrous mess of separating, soggy batter and putrid little rubber rings approximately a millimetre wide. The poor squids, without their decent spa treatment. The flavours hung like stale fog in my mouth.

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Top to bottom: scallop starter, squid ink spaghettini starter, penne arrabbiata.

The first two are part of a menu degustation which my father predictably ordered, given his larger-than-life appetite. The starter was underwhelming in flavour, but I sing praise for the squid ink follow-up. The clumpy cheese choked the minuscule bites of scallop to death, whilst the pasta was delicate and aromatic.

Now for that penne, some of which I stole from my sister. In my opinion, it beat everything else. Without a doubt. Up there. The al dente pasta boasted homemade earthiness, ridges catching all that rich, sweet and sharp sauce, imbued with a calmly spice, simmering with chunks of reduced tomato and herb. That penne was perfect, though if anything, they should reduce the amount of sauce to perfectly complement the penne’s loveliness.

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Their fresh ‘fish of the day’, which was the sort of portion you would look at and go ‘hmph, alright, $25 it is then. But never again.’ Why? I could cry trying to recount this painful experience once more. Because. This beautiful fish arrived almost an entire hour after everything else was served. My mood was sunken, my eyes watery, my hands ready to rise in exasperation to the Gods. Not even those rustic grill marks could compensate for the cardinal sin. The grilled vegetables were sweet and caramelised, but doused in too much olive oil. The fish was flavourful, though humbug plain if it weren’t served with two types of salt and tomato paste, which was also too oily.

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You can tell the first is a steak, but I should like you to zoom in on the second shot. Behold the duck breast with fruit reduction sauce and caramelised root vegetables, alongside the same (you see the repetition?) clump of al dente meditarranean-style mixed black rice. May I say this was twice as good as my fish. Flushed and tender, good sear along the side, with the sprightly, slightly gummy sauce basking in the bonhomous nature of the burgundy bed it inhabited. This and the penne were the star dishes that night.

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Sea salt caramel and almond ice cream from the Ice Cream Gallery afterwards, starring my sister’s lovely pins. I think it beats the earl grey and fig flavour, which possessed no roundness or depth. This.

This.

Rating: 2.9/5

Trattoria L’Operetta

224 Tanjong Katong Road

House at Dempsey

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May I be pleased to declare that I am no longer a House virgin. May I also be pleased to declare that I actually needed help finding the stairs which led down to the restaurant. I need serious help in the directions department.

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truffle taro fries

Skinny, hard, prickly things, but aromatic nonetheless. These sans truffle oil would have been paltry little shoestrings.

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pork ribs with caramelised pineapple and crispy shallot rings

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After flipping through the fragile newspaper-style menu, I decided on the caramelised pork ribs. When they came, I thought they might have swallowed me. Since I was at a birthday celebration, there were at least 4 other people who ordered something different, and the hulking pork salsas looked fit to take on any one in hands-on combat. The couple of enormous brown hammers were fastened into an incongruously elegant position, like elephants in tutus. But it wasn’t in the least bit awkward. This was mine, and my mouth was growing with more sticky heat and sweetness by the minute. I needed to neutralise the wonderful acidity by stealing one of my friend’s fondant carrots, which had a slight give and yielded a softly sweet crunch. The rib meat was not butter tender (and the middle was quite dry), but my knife enjoyed lolling around in the syrupy, sappy sauce, poking around at all the caramelised strips. I always believed the best parts are the stringy, almost rubbery, paper-thin layers you peel way from the surface of the bone, as compared to the meat itself. I’m not odd at all.

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roast chicken with mash and fondant carrots

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turmeric-roasted barramundi with sweet date sauce and chorizo

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I would comment on the other two, but it would have been quite rude to poke around at everyone’s food. Have I mentioned I’m no longer a House virgin?

Rating: 3.9/5

House at Dempsey

8D Dempsey

Rare

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Here’s an introduction not by me, but by one of my favourite people in the world. In other words, the dashing guy you see right above (: :

Nothing will ever beat meals cooked at home. There’s just something about food cooked by individuals for others in the comfort of their own home that gives it an edge over the most exquisite fare in top restaurants. It’s the warmth that breathes through a messy but lovingly made dish, the loud laughter echoing across the table and the comforting presence of close friends. Maybe it’s love.

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I’m actually not sure what compelled me to ask for rare cuts. I would’ve gone straight for the bleu stage, but my parents were there and they would’ve sliced my fingers off. Living on the edge calls for some necessary sacrifice. Sometimes. The goo of that red meaty interior, the pairing of a rustic baguette, the cool crunch of beans bathed and massaged with a tender vinaigrette. Stick your knife in the wobbly belly of a slice, poke a few greens, layer it all on a bite of boule. Tossed together on the honesty of a white plate, made perfect over hours of talking and drunken merriment. That was easily the best part. An easy flow of musical conversation, booming voices and laughter to weigh down the aimless night air. It was all too spectacular, and all too comforting.

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Last course: fromage platter. I put some blue on baguette (fanciful alliteration made all too appropriate here), and allowed the rich velvet to combine harmoniously with the fresh bread in my mouth. Crunch and cream. A galaxy of flavour. I could carry on talking about the humble and dazzling dishes, but I’m sure the pictures speak for themselves, and I’m not inclined to treat it all as a normal cafe or restaurant review. Needless to say, the experience of it all, with the company and ambience, overwhelms a breakdown of dish by dish statistics. They are no longer necessary in the golden entirety of such nights.

And it’s during nights like these when you can lay back with full satisfaction, heavy, blushing, dizzy with happiness. Because the best company on Earth is absolutely irreplaceable.

DB Bistro Moderne

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Clearly, one may observe that a squid clad in converse and a cropped tank with shorts would look right out of place here.

Today, I was that squid.

My mum, two sisters and I originally headed to Osteria Mozza for some impromptu Italian fare, however we were slammed in the face with the heaving sigh of a monstrous crowd, all elegantly dressed up for, yes, pizza and spaghetti. And so we headed north. To the bright amber lights and wooden decor of DB Bistro Moderne. Apparently the name comes from Daniel Boulud (is it just me or are the names Daniel and David just the easiest to mix up?), which reminds me of the word boule, or bread, and makes for pleasing mental imagery. Below, ignore the distracting slice of paper stealing light from the divinity of those mushrooms. Chanterelles, stems, butter, everything. Almost provocative, but humble and warm all the same. Delightful.

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side of mushrooms- buttery, fragrant, musky

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They even had a charming little kids menu, which I thought was rather considerate in such a flamboyant, mature space. Orders of tomato and butter parmesan ear pasta were minuscule but thankfully not to waste; the al dente textures supported hearty flavour, each bite abound with sharp parmesan sprinklings. Only for the rich kids, I caught myself thinking.

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french onion soup- onion and beef consommé, gruyère, croutons
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The Yankee Burger- beef patty, iceberg lettuce, tomato, onion and gherkin on sesame seed bun

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May I just say that that french onion soup was marvellous. Stringy, soft, caramelised onions clung to the tips of my fork, drenched in the dark honeyed pool of rich wine-like soup. Piping hot, with a healthy serving of gruyère and soggy croutons. I don’t mind soggy, no I don’t. If possible, I would have preferred less chunky matter and more broth, the purity of onion flavour paraded in the modern affection of a white cup.

As for the burger, I was, shock behold, quite let down. Disappointed, to say straightforwardly. I asked for medium rare, and yes medium rare it was, but flavour-wise, it was not. I looked wistfully at the menu by the side, wishing I ordered the signature foie gras and sirloin burger (I didn’t because there were too many reviews on this one burger, not all were up to expectations and this seemed like a standard option to judge). The middle was a little too moist, but not in the complementary sense. Meaty flavour was nowhere to be found and not even the tomato, onions, solo gherkin or elegant platter of three side sauces sufficed. Tolerable, but bland. On the other hand, the mini bun was toasted and buttered to absolute perfection. Picking at the crisp brown sides was childish play and pleasure. The fries were crisp and simple. Without a doubt, the stodge beat the protein. There was not an ounce of struggle in this battle of chaw.

Rating: 3/5

DB Bistro Moderne

10 Bayfront Avenue

#B1-48, The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands