We were surprised that on a Tuesday night, the month-old restaurant was packed with executives (who look rather powerful, like big-boss figures). But then again, why should we be surprised? The kitchen is helmed by the former executive chef of Alkaff Mansion, Gabriele Piegala, and the restaurant is efficiently run by a group of experienced waiters–I know these waiters, I’ve seen them before in other atas Italian restaurants–and managed by Paolo Colzani, Robert Downey Jr-lookalike, former manager-sommelier of Iggy’s, Les Amis and Garibaldi, who used to work in 3-star Michelin restaurants. Teething problems? Not for Burlamacco Ristorante.
“Burlamacco” means fun and conviviality and you can tell from the customers’ laughter that the restaurant is well-named. The decor of the restaurant is such that it is suitable for both dates and big groups of friends and family. An Italian restaurant, run by Italians, their philosophy is to serve traditional wholesome Italian food (What? were you expecting I say Spanish food?). While the menu is rather similar to Alkaff Mansion’s, the food was much better. When I asked Chef Piegala for recommendation, he said, “Order anything.” Seems like every dish is a specialty and so we ordered everything. Well, almost everything.
We started the meal with two antipasti from Chef Piegala’s hometown, Lucca in Tuscany: beef tripe stew ($18, pictured above) and Borlotti bean soup ($14, pictured below). They were equally fantastic. The beef tripe that was stewed in fresh tomato sauce had an intense sweetness from carrot (but none of its earthliness) and was very peppery, reminiscent of Chinese pork tripe soup. The beef tripe had just the right amount of chewiness and tenderness, without that rubbery texture of tripe.
Barley and mussels were first sauteed with white wine before the Borlotti bean soup was added. Served with a smidgeon of olive oil, the soup was thick and viscous, tasting like a seafood bisque. The chewy mussels had the texture of squid and added a contrast to the liquid.
Since Chiobu likes foie gras a lot, we had an additional appetizer: duck foie gras ($28, above) coated in polenta flour, sitting on a bed of caramelized onions, drizzled with aged balsamic sauce with scatters of pomegranate. While the combination worked very well and the foie gras was admirably cooked crispy on the outside, buttery within, we did think the polenta flour could be omitted. We understand that the flour added a textural dimension to the foie gras but it marred the taste of foie gras. Sometimes simplicity is best.
For the pastas, we tried black pig ragout tagliatelle ($22, pictured above), scampi with gnocchi ($28), and black squid ink risotto ($26). We couldn’t decide which the best was because they were all great. The black pig ragout, for example, was marinated in red wine for 7 days and the fruity sweetness of the wine was teased out with juniper berries and carrots.
The seafood sweetness and roe of scampi, a tiny lobster, went extremely well with the pink sauce of the gnocchi, which consisted brandy, tomato sauce, basil and cream. But the gnocchi was the star, very bouncy and smooth and didn’t have a denseness, unlike gnocchi in other restaurants. I don’t like potato in general but yet I was enchanted by the gnocchi. Chiobu said, “Stop eating the gnocchi. It’s carbs and we have other dishes.” But… but… The secret of the awesome gnocchi? Only potato and flour, no eggs.
5 kilograms of leeks were reduced to provide the base for the squid ink risotto, acting as a counterpoise to the earthy taste of squid ink. The risotto, very generous with the squid, was very buttery and tomatoy, with only a hint of squid ink. This could be good or not: it is good because the stench of the squid ink was eradicated, leaving its essence but it dulled the distinctive taste of squid ink.
Ever since I had the slow cooked beef short ribs at Alkaff Mansion, I had been craving for it and luckily, it’s on the menu for $30. Slow cooked for two days at 60 degrees with apple juice and soya sauce, the short ribs are then drizzled with sweet port wine sauce. However, we thought the meat could be tenderer.
For desserts, the creme brulee ($12) came wobbly like jelly, very smooth and not cloyingly sweet. The desserts were definitely decent but after such a fantastic meal, it seemed like the food ranged between a 7 to 9 while the desserts, a notch lower.
Photos show tasting portions.
M-F: 11.30am-2.30pm; 6-10.30pm
Closed on Sun
Rating: 3.407/5 stars
PS: Thank you Gabriele and Paolo for the tasting.