Arbite strives to be the embodiment of honest food is in terms of quality, warm service and fair prices. Still, while this Serangoon Gardens walk-up ticked all of these boxes, something feels slightly off at this Italian-leaning eatery.
The sentiment starts with the decor: furniture resembling top-of-the-range Ikea populates this stark 36-seater. The pots of greenery and candid snapshots of daily kitchen life contrast well with a quirky element elicited by odd assemblages of Lego blocks. But while a homely vibe is given off in parts, the stark furniture – industrial light fixtures, straight-backed chairs and an awkwardly placed couch that sits in front of a crate-like coffee table covered with magazines leaving no room to eat – throws that feeling off.
Quality is evident in Arbite’s hearty range of general Western soups, breads, home-made pastas, stews and pies. Chef/owner Marc Wee (ex-Michaelangelo) makes his pappardelle and tagliatelle daily. The pappardelle with braised beef was, unfortunately, on the tough side, while the robustly coloured tomato sauce lacked the intensity of flavour that its hue suggested.
The portions were generous, though, not least the seafood pie ($17.90) that concealed giant rings of fresh squid, prawns, succulent mussels and chunks of white fish. Although the mashed-potato topping and mild cream sauce added volume, they did not bring depth – a defect that seemed quickly solved with a sprinkle of black pepper.
If ‘My Wife’s Chocolate Cake’ is any indication, there is plenty of potential yet to be uncovered. Here, a rich chocolate sponge resembling flourless cake made by Wee’s wife was topped with a thin layer of ganache and served with ‘coffee soil’ – salted crumbs flavoured with coffee – and a generous scoop of Mövenpick vanilla ice cream. The ‘soil’ highlights the richness and gentle sweetness of the warm cake and ice cream, resulting in well-rounded bites.
With a few touches and a little living in, we reckon it won’t be long before this worker bee becomes the area’s new arbiter of taste. Celine Asril
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