“Bistecca” means “steak” in Italian. Tuscany is a region in Italy, and its regional capital is Florence. Therefore from the restaurant’s name alone, “Bistecca Tuscan Steakhouse,” (that’s steak² in the name), the steak-squared means you’d except extra large Florentine styled steaks, the first of its kind in Singapore.
The outside of the restaurant is rather nondescript. If you don’t look out for it, you won’t see it. The only distinguishing aspect is its terracotta floor.
There are several areas you can sit including the al fresco area at the entrance but wait.. push the door and enter the restaurant.
The decor is absolutely charming and medieval. A long corridor, lit with antler-chandeliers, leads you past the bar to a dining area in front of an open kitchen. I suppose the bar is for people who are waiting for their seats when the restaurant gets crowded. Dark wood all over, a (faux?) bear skin rug on the floor, dark wooden tables with tree rings (no tablecloth), leather plush chairs, a skylight allowing natural light all contribute to a medieval, primeval and raw ambience. The decor complements the food very much, as I shall explain later.
At this area, between the bar and the open kitchen, there are only about 12 seats but if you walk deeper into the cavern past the open kitchen, there is a larger dinning area.
And even further into the grotto, you come to an outdoor terrace with three tiers, overlooking the rooftops of other shophouses. You may practice your ninja over roof or qigong here. Potential Jackie Chan movie in the making. The area isn’t furnished yet and will only be opened to public at a later date but I can imagine how fun it would be just to hang out here. It’s quaint and lovely.
Antipasti (or appetizers).
Our food tasting started with Tartar di tonno condita con cipolle, capperi e agrumi e salsa di mandorle ($24) or in English, tuna tartare with red onion, capers, rocket zest and almond dressing. It had a Mediterrean favor to it: just a hint of peppery spice, with many herbs and it wasn’t too oily, quite unlike other tune tartare. The tuna was fresh enough so that there wasn’t the fishy stench. A pleasant dish.
Bruschetta al pomodoro con burrata e olio al basilico ($18) is crushed tomato and burrata (cheese) on toasted homemade country bread, which is brushed with garlic. Basil oil and pinch of sea salt to finish. This is my favorite appetizer because the cheese was very consistent, buttery, and creamy, tasted almost like scrambled egg-white, except the cheese was much smoother. The tomato was amazingly fresh. It tasted like it was the last day of summer, the heatwave was almost gone, the tomato was heavy on the bough and had absorbed the sun all through summer and a hint of autumn had already crept into it. The poetic soft tomato contrasted texturally with the crisp homemade bread. But be forewarned, no kissing after eating this. The pungent garlic lingered in the mouth, a stench I quite enjoyed.
Polenta ripiena di formaggio blu, cipolle stuffate e pomodori secchi ($20) or translated to English: pan-fried polenta wedges acting as sandwich, with blue cheese, stewed onion and sundried organic heirloom tomato. My Italian is so good yah? *Wink* Polenta is finely grounded yellow cornmeal (or grounded maize) and in this case, they acted like two slices of corn bread, tasting quite similar to the delicious corn muffin at Kenny Roger’s. The two slices of pan-fried polenta were slightly too greasy for me: when you bite into it, olive oil oozes out. Recipe for heart attack. There was a slight hint of vinegar (I think) and the blue cheese was smelly but light and delectable, making this appetizer a be-all and end-all with all the different flavors of sweetness, sourness, saltiness, earthiness.
Tortelli con ossobuo e salsa gremolata ($25) or homemade tortelli filled with veal ossobucco in gremolata sauce. It’s a wanton with shredded braised beef, braised with white wine, vegetable and broth. The wantons are topped with gremolata sauce which is made of herbs, lemon zest, garlic and parsley. The beef had a strong beef taste, and those who dislike beef may not like this. The sauce tasted alike a hint of curry. Made mostly from herbs, I’d like it to have a little bit of salt.
Tortellini ripieni di mortadella con crema di piselli e pancetta ($25) or homemade tortellini filled with minced aged premium beef and mortadella (grounded sausage) in a light cream of pea and housemade pancetta (Italian bacon) sauce. (I’d like to thank Google. If not I can never write about food with difficult names.) The difference between tortellini and tortelli is tortellini is tortelli mini. Get it get it? You join the words “tortelli mini,” you’ll get tortellimini but the word is too hard to pronounce so it gets shortened further to tortellini! But don’t quote me on this.
This was my favorite pasta. Sometimes minced beef can have an unpleasant powdery texture but no such nonsense here: the meat tasted clean and savory. The dish was altogether sweet, creamy with a strong herby fragrance.
If you’re on the Atkins no-carbs diet, this is for you: Gnudi di spinaci e ricotta con fonduta di asiago ($22) or the Nudie, nude without pasta. It’s spinach and ricotta ball in an asiago cheese sauce, topped with fried sage. It tasted like what the description said; not much of a surprise here. The ingredients went well together but that was to be expected. What was surprising, however, was the fried sage leaf. It tasted like the leaves that are found in Indian murukku snack.
Bistecca spent a year to search for the perfect meat and finally, they imported beef of a cross-breed of organic Wagyu-Holstein cows from Australia. The beef has a marble score of 6. Instead of being fed corn–which is not a natural food–for cows in enclosure, the cows here are given space to roam and eat grass. The beef is also dry-aged, which means it is left to dry for some time. The evaporation of water within the beef gives it a more concentrated beefy taste while the muscles break down to make the beef more tender.
The manager suggested I pair the steak with Castello tercerchi brunello di montaicino (2005), made from large sangiovese grapes, from the region of Tuscany (the same region as the cuisine we were eating) at $19/glass. Brunello is roughly translated as “little dark one” and is one of the more prestigious Italian wine. It tasted very clean, elegant, spicy, full-bodied with much depth. I thoroughly enjoyed it. This wine, I’d recommend, for wine connoisseurs. For beginners, this may not be the best choice.
The steaks are done in a Florentine style, simply salted and peppered, grilled over a wood-fire. There are two cuts of Signature Sharing Steaks (marble score 6, serving 2-3). Both cuts–the ribeye and T-bone–are 1 to 1.2kg and cost $178. Of the two, we decidedly liked the T-bone better. The ribeye was fatter and rich but the t-bone won for its fantastic flavors, juiciness and lesser fat.
The steaks come with 2 sauces but since this was a food tasting, we tasted all four. Salsa verde tasted like garlic; garlic mayonnaise was strangely bland; porcini mushroom was normal; and my favorite was red pepper tomato compote, similar to ketchup, except it was smoother and sweeter. However, as veteran beefeaters will tell you, good steaks shouldn’t need sauce. And the steaks here, you can go nudie without sauce.
We sampled all seven sides: patate novelle fritte in grasso di anatra e erbe ($10, hand-cut spring potatoes, double fried in duck fat with herbs); pure di patate ($10, mashed potato); funghi misti saltati con aglio e timo ($12, mixed country mushroom sauteed with garlic and thyme); broccoli saltati con acciuga aglio e prezzemolo ($12, broccoli sauteed with anchovies, garlic and parsley); Cavoli di Bruxelles saltati pancetta e salvia ($13, brussel sprouts with cured pork belly and sage); Asparagi grigliati con olio al limon ($14, chargrilled asparagus with touch of lemon oil); Crema di spinaci ($14 creamed spinach).
The hot favorite seemed to be the mashed potato. It has a special ingredient, sambuca, an Italian anise-based liqueur. But I never like the taste of anise (similar tasting to licorice). The other potato, handcut and double-fried in duck fats, was savory, crispy but a tad dry. The cream spinach tasted like strong jasmine with a hint of anise. The mushroom was treated in such a way that it was dehydrated, crispy, salty and slightly bitter. Brussel sprouts are supposed to be buttery but they were bitter. The broccoli was a little raw but it was light and refreshing and provided a nice contrast to the steak. My favorite had to be the chargrilled asparagus because it was sprightly and you can taste the charred parts and the fragrance of the wood (I suppose they use the same wood-fire to cook the steak and asparagus).
The differences between gelato and ice cream are
1. Fat content: Gelato has 3 to 8% fat while ice cream has more than 10% fat;
2. Air content: Gelato has 25% air trapped in it during the churning process while ice cream has 50% air
3. Temperature: Ice cream is served frozen while gelato isn’t.
Which means ice cream is richer but gelato is more flavorful, denser, softer but melts easier.
We tried the two flavors of homemade gelato ($6): hazelnut and pistachio. Hazelnut was the more popular one. You should see the speed the foodies attacked it; I only had one small spoonful, such a loser. It tasted like ferrero rocher but–I’m going to insert a “Shit Foodies Say” here–I love ice cream/gelato and eat a lot of them and honestly, I’d had better hazelnut. Nobody seemed to like the pistachio but if you’re going for different, this pistachio is distinctive. It wasn’t sweet at all and had a flavor very close to the real pistachio nut. If you were to taste a group of pistachio gelato, you’d definitely know Bistecca’s version from the rest of the gelato.
Tiramisu with coffee custard ($12). This was my favorite dessert out of the lot. The tiramisu was so smooth. Because it was not at all sweet, adding the sweet coffee custard–more custard than coffee–added dimensions to the dessert.
Martini of strawberry coulis (jam) below; ricotta-and-banana cream on top, with bitter 70% chocolate shavings ($12). Like the pistachio gelato, nobody in our food tasting liked this dessert. To be fair, it was novel and new things take some getting used to. But it was a flat kind of creaminess that wasn’t pleasing.
Returning to the point about how the decor complement the food, you can understand why the mediaeval and primeval ambience, evoked by the decor, is matching with the huge, kickass, stone-age portions of the angrily red (but not scarily bloody) steak. This is the philosophy of the restaurant, unabashedly Florentine with all the rough edges: it’s a “accept me for who I am” philosophy. For instance, I could suggest that the pasta skin could be a little thinner to suit the locals’ taste but that wouldn’t be Florentine anymore. And creating a space for its own culture is quite an awesome concept. Bistecca is resolutely authentic Tuscan. (But may I suggest a set lunch menu? It would make it more economical for people working around the area.)
Bistecca Tuscan Steakhouse
25 Mohamed Sultan Road
Singapore 238 969
T: 6735 6739
Rating: 3.201/5 stars
PS: We thank Alex, Ananya and Bistecca for hosting us.