Chef-owner John Chan has no formal training but lots of heart and passion. At 40, the former events management manager hit a “midlife crisis” (his words) and realized that it was now or never to do something he was passionate in. He started a kopitiam stall at Moonstone Lane, sold his handmade food at Loewen Gardens’ Farmers’ Market, and, four years later, opened this restaurant.
The food cannot be classified as Italian because they are Chan’s own recipes, some as old as 15 years old. Except for pasta, crackers, and peach, everything is handmade from scratch from natural, fresh ingredients. For instance, the mushroom soup alone takes 6 hours. He first fries and reduces the mushrooms for 1.5 hours, adds pork bones and stock to reduce for another 2 hours, and finally puts in a white sauce as thickener, not the cheaper alternative starch.
The piece de resistance is indubitably the pesto sauce, that comes either with crackers served in-house ($6.50), or in bottles ($19/ 200ml). I strongly suggest buying the bottles, we bought two for our pasta sauce and dip. The sauce is made from 15 ingredients, including farm fresh aeroponic basil (no stem, no stalk, just pure leaf), and fresh Cang San Old garlic. The moment I ate it, I started out of my sleepy stupor. Invigorating and so refreshing.
Clammy Addiction ($17.90), a fresh (not canned or frozen) clam and prawn spaghetti in aglio olio, was created by Chan 15 years ago. His relatives “traveled from afar to eat this.” Huccalyly asked, “Take ferry from Batam?” The interaction of streaky bacon with other ingredients created a savory cai por-like flavor. A little chilli padi brightened the dish. When I was eating, I thought Chan made an overstatement, but as I am typing this, I crave for it. I can almost taste the aroma at tip of my tongue. Yes, I’d travel from Bedok for this, but maybe not from Batam.
If you fancy sweet mains, as Huccalyly did, try either mac & cheese ($15.90) with pork sausage patty at the base, or the caramel carnivore ($16.90, below), a pork meatball spaghetti with caramelized onions. They both tasted similarly sweet as they have the same 2-hour caramelized onions, so I’d advise you to pick one. The meatball is made from pork shoulder, with a bit of tendon, to give it a bite. No binder or filler (ie no eggs or starch) is added: it’s pure pork rolled entirely by hand. They can only make 150 meatballs in 2.5 hours, that is about 25 plates of pasta. The two dishes were too sweet for me, but Huccalyly polished them off.
The meats were pretty decent. The striploin ($29.90, below) was rather fat, which Huccalyly found too jerlat but I loved it, bursting with flavors. The pork chops ($16.90) are slow-cooked with low heat, drizzled in cream, and were tender and scrumptious.
Even the desserts were excellent. Balanced with tart and dark cherry sauce, the warm brulee ($5.30) tasted like pineapple tart. The homemade ice creams and sorbets are not churned, so they are dense, and you won’t be paying for air. No stabilizers, au naturel. The sorbet on peach (it was blackcurrent flavor, but Chan alternates with blackberries) was sour, full of antioxidants, healthy for people avoiding sugar.
Pasta J has also recently added gluten-free pasta, and is now pets approved in its al fresco area. If you have time, chat with the friendly Chan about the food. Huccalyly said, “After talking to him, I appreciate his food and effort so much more. I feel like I am robbing him by his affordable prices.” With a small outfit like this, the amount of effort he puts in is prodigious. If, like Ally McBeal, everyone has a theme song in their lives, this is my song for Chan: Aretha Franklin’s R-E-S-P-E-C-T.
205 Upper Thomson Rd, Singapore 574345
closed ad hoc, check facebook
Rating: 3.883/5 stars
Written by A. Nathanael Ho.
Thanks, John, for the invite.