Il Cielo at Hilton Singapore, a cozy and classy restaurant, means “the sky” in Italian because it is beside a rooftop pool which opens out to the sky. 2-course lunch goes for $25++, and 3-course at $35++. Set dinner starts from $59++. Quite a good deal.
Chef Riccardo Catarsi presents seasonal menus, influenced by flavors of his hometown region of Tuscany. His experience includes Michelin-starred restaurants and &Sons.
I reviewed &Sons favorably, unbeknownst to me that he was the chef. Fate has brought us together again, and this second time has sealed my opinion of his style. He uses traditional ingredients to produce new, modern, and innovative plates, so that at the back of your mind, you feel like you’ve eaten the food before yet at the same time, it’s always a new, refreshing, delicious sensation, never boring.
Because he uses seasonal ingredients, some ingredients may repeat themselves. For instance, black truffles appears everywhere—but who can complain that?—and pumpkin shows up in both the charcoal ravioli ($24) and the toothfish ($45).
Although pumpkin pops up twice, they are used very differently, proffering different tastes. Pumpkin is stuffed in the ravioli, paired with an earthly chickpea cream, with a vinegary, not pungent, red onion that is soaked in balsamico.
In the toothfish, the pumpkin cream is splattered like a Jackson Pollock painting on the plate, probably a tribute to his fellow Italian Massimo Bottura, a 3 Michelin-starred chef’s famous creation “Oops I dropped the lemon tart.” (Actually, I think it’s a Japanese chef who worked in Bottura’s kitchen who accidentally dropped the tart for the last customer and they couldn’t bake another tart because the kitchen was closed, and Bottura said, heck it, this looks nice. Let’s serve it.)
Toothfish is actually also known as… Chilean seabass, reminding me of the quote by Herzog: “Psycholinguists argue about whether language reflects our perception of reality or helps create them. I am in the latter camp. Take the names we give the animals we eat. The Patagonian toothfish is a prehistoric-looking creature with teeth like needles and bulging yellowish eyes that lives in deep waters off the coast of South America. It did not catch on with sophisticated foodies until an enterprising Los Angeles importer renamed it the considerably more palatable Chilean sea bass.”
The Chilean seabass, which is taken from a certified sustainable source, is luscious and milky, but not fat, and pairs gently with the pumpkin cream.
For appetizers, the burrata ($25), paired with pesto, is amazingly delicate; made me feel rich eating it. The sustainable-sourced Hokkaido scallop ($28) is a dream, one of the most innovative and delicious dishes I ate this year. It’s grilled to give it a smokiness; and cubed and tossed in bottarga fish roe mayo, roasted mushroom, pine nuts, red radish, and black truffles. The abundant ingredients do not make it obfuscating, but it is complex and umami.
What can be improved: Firstly, the pastas, made in-house, are slightly hard for me, especially the ravioli, but the maine lobster spaghettoni ($39) has the sweetest lobster; secondly, I thought the fish dishes could be better with more salt; and lastly…
And lastly, the gelato-es in both desserts outshine the dessert. Tiramisu mille foglie ($14) is a clever deconstructed version of tiramisu, in between layers of puff pastry, with the coffee flavor coming in the form of cappucino gelato, which is gloriously rich. The strawberry ($14) comes in different offerings of strawberries; and like the tiramisu, the showstopper is the gelato when it ought to be the macaron. The gelato is delightfully sour, balanced well.
On the whole, this meal is nothing short of spectacular. It’s innovative, but not smart alecky and not pretentious; it’s tasteful, delicate, and delicious. Il Cielo is a befitting name for the restaurant, and I won’t be surprised if, in its sky, there appears a (Michelin) star.
Il Cielo Singapore
581 Orchard Road, Level 24 Hilton Singapore, Singapore 238883
T: +65 6730 3395
12pm-2.30pm, 7pm-10.30pm daily
Overall rating: 3.719/5
Written by A. Nathanael Ho.