Oh, beautiful mansion, I blame my declining memory for having no recollection of this venerable quarter, where my parents brought me to when I was little.
Mum, please do ravage through the clutters at home and recover the photographs we took 20 years ago.
Today, a fine Italian restaurant occupies this historical mansion.
The restaurant is huge, considering the entire 2-storey mansion including the courtyard is dedicated to patrons, whether for a lavish meal or just a tipple on high cushioned stools.
Expect roomy, ample seats that cater to romantic dates, business meals and family gatherings – it is elegant, romantic, composed and homely at the same time – with a mixture of tables – round and rectangular – that will provide the appropriate seating for a lovey-dovey couple, or an entire family of ten.
There are private dining rooms on the second storey that are available for reservations without any extra cost.
In authority of the kitchen is Chef Gabriele Piegaia, who was born and raised in Tuscany, Italy –if this doesn’t assure you the authenticity of Tuscan Italian cuisine offered here, I don’t know what does.
Complimentary free-flow of bread is always nice to stave off the hunger pangs, but if it isn’t nice and warm, don’t bother filling up your tummy space with the carbohydrates.
Here, I particularly fancied the Tomato Foccacia, so much so that the kitchen ran out of it towards the end of our meal.
Fish and Seafood Soup in saffron and fennel seed broth Sardinian Lifeguard style ($18)
To start things off, the Fish and Seafood Soup comes in an unadulterated light broth awash with fresh and succulent seafood, nicely proportioned. A touch of the extravagant saffron – the most expensive spice in the world – adds colour and fragrance to the soup, with a price to match.
Smoked Sturgeon with avocado and crab served with citrus fruit emulsion ($30)
Brilliant and vibrant colours arrive on a plate, with an epicentre of crab meat chunks topped with diced avocado, moulded neatly in a squarish form, that steals the show –the understated smoked sturgeon surrounding it is given a refreshing lift with the citrus fruit emulsion, in complete absence of fishy stench.
A marvel of contrasting tastes and textures that is light on the palate, tasting as beguiling as its alluring visual qualities, this dish sets the tone for the impending dishes to come.
Pan-fried Mozzarella with Parma ham and marinated artichokes ($24)
The Pan-fried Mozzarella with Parma ham is a chef’s recommendation. It was a great pity that we didn’t get to experience the initial intention of the dish that showcases the contrasting temperatures between the cold gooey interior of mozzarella and the seared exterior of Parma ham –because we were busy taking photographs. The contrasting temperatures diminished, and it was lukewarm all over. But guess what, it was still an undeniable crowd pleaser.
I love the lightly crisped Parma ham that bursts with a creamy cheesy centre upon my first bite. A tad oily on the surface though, but the accompanying artichoke salad dressed with a tangy balsamic vinaigrette cuts the richness just right.
Crispy duck Foie Gras with caramelised onion and beer and cherry relish ($28)
The polenta-breaded foie gras provides a crispy crust that encompasses a tender interior, served atop a crisp toast with caramelised onion in between the layers. The foie gras is spruced up with mild spices akin to the aroma of curry –a rather unconventional flavour combination that only the adventurous diners will consent to.
Veal Ravioli with porcini mushrooms cream sauce and white truffle ($26)
From the pasta menu, the Veal Ravioli is a personal favourite. Coated in a velvety creamy sauce redolent of the aromatic white truffle, the ravioli is soft while retaining its bite-wise integrity, boasting a tender filling that I am smitten with.
Pappardelle with wild boar ragout marinated for 7 days in red wine alla Volterrana ($26)
The Pappardelle is a chef’s recommendation, and I nod my assent. The dish is adorned with gold flakes, and RERG could not contain his excitement, for his favourite colour is gold. The sauce is wonderfully flavourful with tender shreds of meat that almost melts in the mouth –well, of course it’s tender, the wild boar is marinated for 7 days in red wine.
Oven baked Red Snapper served with potato, zucchini and black olives ($34)
The Oven baked Red Snapper turns out to be rather underwhelming for me, especially after the outstanding precedents. Generally, I prefer fatty fish such as cod and salmon.
The pristinely fresh red snapper embraces a firm flesh – a tad too firm for my liking – beneath a skin seared to a crisp. I find the flesh lacking of flavours and moisture. The delicious sauce, that I would like a little bit more of, salvages the disappointment.
On a side note, the simple element of thinly sliced and nicely cooked zucchini lifted my mood. I like!
Beef Short Ribs in Porto Wine Sauce
Before I even begin to describe the dish, I have to commend that the cutlery provided is awesome. With such a razor-sharp knife, I can cut anything with ease, even the toughest of meats, excluding my own finger that is (although I’m quite sure my fingers are very tender).
However, the reason why we didn’t need to exert much force while cutting the meats is because the meats are tender.
The beef is cooked for two days in soya sauce and apple juice, in a 60 degrees oven; it is paired with an assertive Porto wine sauce, and rests snugly on a bed of luscious mashed potato that I was so addicted to.
Grilled Beef Tenderloin served with fine Kenya beans in black truffle sauce ($38)
I will always have my steak done Medium Rare, and thank goodness most of my dining partners share the same sentiment.
The nicely marbled beef is grilled just enough to seal the juices within; it is pink without being bloody in the centre.
They need to be a little bit more generous with the delightful sauce!
Alkaff Signature Tiramisu ($14)
Tiramisu is one of the all-time Italian favourites, and if an Italian restaurant does it well, you know you’re at the right place. I’m satisfied with Alkaff’s rendition, and it is worth trying, though I can’t say it’s the best I’ve ever had!
Lavender Crème Brulée served with Poached Pear garnised with Anice Tuile ($12)
The Lavender Crème Brulée comes in a tiny ramekin and was devoured within minutes.
Home made caramelised almond Semifreddo served with coffee sauce
This dessert almost won my vote, as I loved the sweetness and flavour combinations, but I was slightly disappointed with the ice crystals found in the “ice cream” layer.
Eggless custard “Panna cotta” with fresh raspberry compote ($12)
The Eggless custard “Panna cotta” is a denser version of any other panna cottas I’ve had, which is surprising to me because I had imagined an eggless custard to be lighter compared to one consisting of eggs.
This creamy custard wobbles while maintaining its shape without tumbling as we shifted the plate around for photo taking.
The dining experience is memorable.
Service is attentive and scores high marks with me.
Like the ambience, the cuisine is sophisticated with immaculate presentation.
If you have more time to spare, linger over coffee and take a break from the frenetic bustle in this charming mansion.
Mon – Fri: 10am - 10pm
Sat – Sun: 8.30am - 8:30pm