Have you wondered why Japanese are into French and Italian cultures but not English? Like Caffe B and L’operetta, Nuvo (meaning “new”, I guess) serves Italo-Japanese cuisine. A mild-mannered blogger gave a harsh review and I almost wanted to cancel the tasting– but I was glad I went.
Wagyu sliders (3 for $18)
The mild blogger complained about two things: the location and the fusion. He said it wasn’t easy to find the restaurant, obscure at a corner, but I took MRT to Esplanade station and the restaurant was near to the escalator beside Bangkok Jam. I had no difficulty finding it but I’ve a good sense of direction.
The blogger also said the food wasn’t strictly Italo-Japanese. The thing is both Caffe B and L’operetta have Japanese chefs but the cuisine is Italian. Japanese like to do things the “authentic” way. So it is no surprise that the Japanese executive chef Hiroshi-san at Nuvo also sticks to Italian cuisine with few Japanese ingredients.
One of the few dishes with Japanese influence was the delightful slow cooked salmon ($25). The surface was slightly seared, providing a textural contrast to the tenderest flesh that even a toothless toddler or granny could eat. Cooked so excellently that the milkiness of salmon invaded throughout the mouth. The salmon came with a sautéed gobou (tasting and textured like bamboo shoot), in a shiitake clear broth. Great pairing.
Almost all the food we had was delicious. The award-winning pumpkin soup ($15) with Parmesan cheese, poached egg and Parma ham, was elusive: sweet yet not so sweet, earthly yet creamy, a must order. The grilled lamb ($30/$38, pictured above) was supremely tender without the lamb stench– one of the better lamb I had. The grilled corn on the lamb was deliciously sweet like first love.
There were also pastas and pizzas on menu, which we didn’t try, among which the crispy risotto with hokkigai ($20) looked interesting.
The only dish that I didn’t understand was the homemade pork sausages ($15). It lacked a delicateness and balance other dishes had. It was brusque, fatty, and rustic–not bad descriptions but descriptions that didn’t fit the menu. It also had fennel, which tasted like licorice, which I didn’t like.
If I’ve to critique the place, it would be that the portions were tiny for the price. The price tag would have been justified if this were a fine-dining restaurant. But the open concept decor with al fresco bar tables gave this bar-and-restaurant a casual afterwork vibe. The eatery is trying to be a catch-all, both a casual hangout bar and an upscale restaurant, creating a schizophrenic identity. (By the way, Ethan Leslie Leong from Maison Ikkoku created 5 cocktails on the bar menu.)
Earl Gray Creme Brulee ($12)
But the food should be the focus. The food reminded me of a ballerina doing pirouette: light, elegant, delicate, balanced, seemingly effortless yet takes years of training. This was food approaching art at a place you’d least expect it.
6 Raffles Boulevard, Marina Square Shopping Mall #02-100 Singapore 039594
T: 6822 2098
Sun-Th: 11am-11pm; F & Sat: 11am-1am
Rating: 3.281/5 stars
ps: Thanks, Danielle and Alicia, for the invite.
Written by A. Nathanael Ho.