This Italian restaurant a little out of the way in Bukit Timah is ranked #1 on Trip Advisor. Now I tend to take Trip Advisor rankings and reviews with a pinch of salt, but at #1 out of the incredible 8845 restaurants listed in Singapore, EVEN when located out of Central town…no smoke without fire right? And so it was that we made a well in advance reservation (an absolute must) for when my mother in law and her best friend were visiting.
As soon as we walked in the door I had a good feeling about this place – a great warm, Italian welcome from head chef & host Gabriel Fratini made us feel immediately relaxed and at home, and from there ensued light-hearted banter for the rest of the evening (probably helped by the fact that I think my mother in law may have been flirting).
The USP of this restaurant is that it has no menu. And not in a michelin star ‘tasting menu’ type way where, whilst there is little choice, you at least see a menu of courses. This LITERALLY has no menu. Your meal is in the chefs’ hands and aside from letting them know if you have any allergies, you just let the courses come. And they keep coming!
First up was 2 boards of appetizers; 4 of each type (one each), small bites of delicious fresh flavours.
Tuna and avocado tartare with little bursts of salty caviar. Little pieces of swordfish on pumpkin puree. Juicy tiger prawns with passion fruit (weird combination but it worked!). And my favourite; a big soft scallop on tangy ratatouille with a dollop of creamy burrata (someone once told me not to mix fish and cheese, but my god this was good).
Next came more rounds of little tasters, all served tapas-style but with Italian flavours, each as tasty as the last. Melt-in-the-mouth stewed beef cheek with little chunks of soft potato, and seared sea bass with cannelini beans, cherry tomatoes and pesto. There were more dishes than this, but I lost track.
By this point, mother-in-law’s best friend was full. I, on the other hand, have a bottomless appetite and was gearing up for the main event, the pasta course.
This was brought to the table quite spectacularly in a huge metal skillet for the 4 of us to share. A big tangle of tagliatelle, asparagus, squid, mussels, prawns and salmon, with tomatoes and a light buttery sauce. Chris thought it lacked a bit of flavour punch, but I disagree. It wasn’t a reduced, thick, full-on-flavour pasta sauce, but it tasted of the seafood that was in it, the fresh asparagus with just a little bite, and the slippery pasta was perfectly al dente. A twist of black pepper and a few chilli flakes and I was very happy.
Despite the protestations of fullness, we not only managed to devour most of the skillet-full, but we decided that we also PROBABLY had a little room for dessert. Make sure you do. Served again on sharing wooden boards, they came out tapas-style, 3 desserts, one small portion each.
There was a little pot of creamy pannacotta (maybe slightly over-set, but tasty), a crème brulee with a perfect crunchy top, and the highlight by far was a spoon of creamy, coffee, boozy tiramisu. Perhaps all in all a little ‘creamy overload’, we could have done with something fresh in there to lighten it up, but the sweetness at the end of the meal was a lovely way to round it all off, if a little indulgent.
We rolled out of there full of Italian food and wine, still chatting away to the charming Gabriel. On the food front there were a couple of misses, but overall it was very good, and there were some stand-out tasty little dishes. But the fun experience of the unexpected, not knowing what will come next, plus the friendly hosting and ambience makes this a great little place, I can see why it ranks highly. I’m not sure I agree that it’s the best restaurant in Singapore, but there’s certainly some fire behind that smoke. Check it out with a group of good company, a couple of bottles of wine, and you’ll have a really great evening.
FRATINI La Trattoria, 10 Greenwood Avenue Hillcrest Park, Singapore. 289201