As Fatlittleboy nears its 10,000th page view and as my time in Singapore draws to a close, I shall piece together a grand finale of sorts. Lined up over the next few weeks is a selection of Singapore’s definitive fine-dining establishments. These are the big players found in the Miele Guide and on the S. Pellegrino list, offering up ultimate decadence at – some might say – ultimate prices.
The scrimping and saving of military pittance wouldn’t have funded me through the door so a huge “thank you” must be given to my parents for an extremely generous and undeserved allowance as well as dining companions/financiers upon whose appetite and benevolence this was all possible.
Garibaldi – 36 Purvis Street #01-02, Singapore 188613
This 7-year-old eatery is one of the most decorated around, ranking 7th in the Miele Guide of Asia’s Finest Restaurants 2008/2009, bagging both Restaurant AND Restauranteur (Chef Roberto Galetti) of the Year at the 2009 World Gourmet Summit as well as making it to both Singapore Tatler’s and Wine & Dine Magazine’s lists of top restaurants for 6 consecutive years. That’s just an excerpt from the lengthy list, mind you.
From my perspective, I found the food every bit as sensational as one could possibly expect and huddling in a comfy chair amidst diffused lighting on a drizzly day certainly scored for cozy ambience; but it was the spectacular service that really transported things. My agnolotti bordered on gastronomic nirvana yet it is the warm conversation and cheery smile of my waitress that would make me remember Garibaldi the next time I’m in town. An extravagant lunch with a full-blown seasonal degustation* for two and a 6-course a la carte selection for one amounted to $514.35.
The Sundried Tomato Foccacia amuse bouche was served hot enough to make you feel pleasantly warmed yet cool enough to be comfortably handled. What I remember the most was the mouth feel of remarkable crustiness and moist fluffiness in each bite without a gradient in between, this more so than the safe, classical flavour profile.
Pio Tosini Parma Ham Prosciutto with Traditional Romagna Fried Dough ($25) wowed with the subtle pungency and robust porcine character of aged, dry-cured, spiced Italian ham sourced from an artisanal curing company with a 105 year history.
On top of that, one wraps the ham around crisp, buttery hollow dough puffs that were warm and sweet to juxtapose the meat’s cool saltiness.
It is not humanly possible to turn down Wagyu Beef Carpaccio with Parmigiano Cheese and Rocket Salad ($28), no offence to vegetarians. I daresay Carpaccio is the ultimate way to enjoy quality beef – flavours are most potent when enjoyed in the raw – especially wrapped around a shaving of sweet-salty Parmigiano and a forkful of astringent rocket.
Course one of the Menu Stagionale ($138) was a single Coffin Bay Oyster with Caviar and I appreciated how the incredibly creamy yet subtly-flavoured Australian Pacific variety formed the perfect decadent yet subdued platform for the marine salinity of black gold to take the spotlight.
The Pan Seared Hokkaido Scallop with Caponata & Liquorice that followed was another treat. I have yet to get over the magic of Hokkaido scallops since my brush with Absinthe’s Carpaccio of them that I savoured in July and this dish served to ignite rather than diminish my fascination. Firm and meaty with a crisp outer sear and a sweet, yieldingly chewy interior, I sliced off tiny fractions to make the shellfish last as long as possible; which still was a flash. The thick, stew-like vegetable caponata accompanying the scallops was brilliantly refreshing with its vibrant, sweet-sour mixture of tomato and aubergine too.
The Pumpkin soup with Truffle Mascarpone Cheese intrigued me as you sort of assemble your own truffled cream of pumpkin by stirring together the globules of aromatic truffle oil and creamy mascarpone suspended in the smooth pumpkin puree. The end result was sweet, smooth and brimming with that wonderful pungent earthiness I love about truffles.
As a comparison, the a la carte Soup of the Day ($16) was a lovely carrot soup with crab. Suffused with sweet crustacean flavour, it was incredibly aromatic and the tender crab provided a hint of bite to the smooth puree.
Course number four of the seasonal menu was perhaps my favourite of the lot, Ox-Tail Beef Agnolotti with Celery Root Purea & Pistachio. I have always liked stuffed pasta but while more common raviolis are filled with a paste of ricotta or a puree of pumpkin, Agnolotti takes things a step further with a fully solid filling; slivers of tender ox-tail in this case. The bold flavour of the meat was matched with a gorgeous herby, classical browned butter with sage. One particular agnolotti crowned with a sage leaf (visible below) was a veritable explosion of flavour on my tongue that left my taste buds in delicious shell shock.
After the splendour of the agnolotti, the dramatically presented Pan Fried Jumbo Prawns with San Marzano Tomatoes and Orange did not shine quite so brightly. The famed sauce tomatoes did make for a spectacular, rich sweetness in the gravy but I found the enormous, meaty shrimp a tad overdone. Still it was good, very good.
The Roasted Australian Lamb Rack with Caramelized Pearl Onion & Mustard Sauce was truly a work of carnivorous art; I paused for a long moment to revel in that wonderful aroma and breathtaking sight before tucking in with gusto. Pink, juicy and packing meaty, ovine punch; medium rare is lamb enjoyed at its prime state to me. The side of caramelized shallots was downright dreamy with a sugary sweetness worthy of dessert status.
The a la carte selection made at the table was for First Grade Angus Beef Tenderloin with Potato Gratin and Red Wine Sauce ($48). My dining companion ordered his tenderloin done medium well but it still managed to be superbly tender and moist, I was in awe. The halo of sweet carrot balls and crunchy zucchini lumps around the glorious hunk of beast certainly made for a pretty picture. Would I be wrong to think that Chef Roberto Galetti serves up authentic Italian fare with the aesthetic finesse normally found in the French?
My dessert was a Rhubarb Tart Amaretti and Chocolate Coulis that was certainly pleasing if not groundbreaking. I loved the tangy chunk of rhubarb I unearthed within that soft almond cookie as much as the wonderfully tart sorbet crowning it. The chocolate coulis was good on its own but seemed at odds with the other components to me.
The dessert my companion chose a la carte was a Lava Cake that was certainly good as he’s quite a connoisseur of this confection and it’s his standard order here.
* A second degustation menu's also available for $98++ but it was much more tame.