When Braci at Boat Quay received a Michelin star, I scratched my head, Huh? The chef-owner of Il Lido Group Beppe De Vito has, including Braci, seven Italian restaurants under his belt. I visited three: liked &Sons but found Aura and Osteria Art deeply flawed. Furthermore, Vito does not have any prior kitchen experience; he’s an autodidact. And my deep-seated prejudice that culinary skills require years of training, years of going through fire, prevents me from exploring his other restaurants.
But Braci has changed my mind, and I now think Vito is brilliant.
Braci doesn’t have the ostentation of Aura or Osteria Art. Rather, it’s a very small space with 20 seats as if sitting in someone’s kitchen. In fact, the open kitchen takes up half the restaurant, and is contiguous with the dining area, so your clothes may smell of smoke because of their wood-fired oven.
There are 5 cooks, outnumbering the 2 servers. It is an absolute delight and privilege to watch them cook and plate the food, as if they are dancing, a little tap here and a little salsa dancing there, a pirouette to avoid someone else’s hot pan.
When we were there, Tetsuya Wakuda, renowned chef of Waku Ghin, sauntered in. Then I told my dining companions, “Wah, must be stressful to cook for Tetsuya.” haha.
Ok, now the food. Set lunch starts from $48++ for 3 courses. Or you can order the degustation (lunch and dinner) at $100 (4 courses), $150 (5 courses), and $200 (5 courses). There is also a la carte. The three of us ordered 2 set lunches and two a la carte dishes. The set lunch is already excellent, so don’t feel oblige to order a la carte or degustation.
Right at the beginning, we were served pane toscano, an Italian bread protected by EU law (Protected Designation of Origin); only when it comes from the designated region can it be called pane toscano. It’s a recipe dated from 8 A.D. It is paired with olive oil from Vito’s own farm. Whether you like the bitter, crusty, airy bread or not–I did–it is still impressive.
The foie gras semifreddo ($28) is interesting and comes with brioche. Semifreddo is not ice cream, as Vito corrected me; ice cream is churned, but the cream here is whipped before frozen. It doesn’t melt much and the log of semifreddo has 4 holes of increasing size, filled with fig vincotto, a sweet thick paste made by hours of slow-cooking reduction. It’s original and good.
But even better is their tuna tartare tossed with truffle oil and topped with thin strips of truffle mingled with herbs. The tartare has a clean, light, refreshing bite, not slimy and heavy. The tagliolini (below) perked me up! It’s topped with minced red prawn but the magic occurs in the pasta. It looks plain but it tastes as if coated with lobster bisque.
Unfortunately, this tagliolini is repeated in the a la carte we ordered, Japanese sea urchin tagliolini ($58, below) with sea trout caviar. The pasta tastes exactly the same, and as a result, it seemed like we ate a similar dish.
Both mains are excellent in their own ways. The Sardinian seabass is pan-seared simply and perfectly with a crispy skin while the flesh is still moist and firm. It comes with a trobetta zucchini sauce, which is rather tasteless, but I like it that it doesn’t distract us away from the sweetness of the fish. The sweetness is counterpoised by the earthliness of the yellow beetroot. A very nice balance.
The Australian tenderloin is fantastically grilled, so that inside, it’s still medium-rare pink but outside, it’s charred boldly to a bitter degree (which I like). The ingredient itself isn’t the best and rarest but the culinary skill is top-notched.
When I wrote “Why Chefs Should Stop Sous Vide-ing Their Food,” many chefs who used the method retaliated. But Braci is the perfect example of what I mean. Eating Braci’s food, I can truly see how skilled the chef is. No fancy method, just proper, sincere, amazing cooking. Braci represents the type of restaurants we should support.
The meal ended with fireworks in our mouth. The deconstructed, delicate strawberry cheese cake is indubitably one of the best desserts I’ve eaten this year. The cheese mousse surrounds a strawberry jam, giving the most ethereal sensation.
Braci is an excellent restaurant. They treat the ingredients respectfully and demonstrate high culinary prowess. Worthy of its Michelin star. We paid $215 for three persons.
52 Boat Quay, Level 5, Singapore 048941
Tel: +65 6866 1933
Lunch T-F 12pm-2pm, Dinner M-Sat 6pm-10.30pm
You may also be interested in…
–Garibaldi, Purvis St: One Michelin Star, Italian Restaurant
–FOO’D by Davide Oldani, Victoria Concert Hall: Michelin-Starred Italian Restaurant Comes to Singapore
–Ristorante Luka, Tanjong Pagar: Excellent Italian Food by Japanese Chef Takashi Okuno
–Il Cielo, Hilton: Reach for the Stars
Written by A. Nathanael Ho.