The Garibaldi Group’s latest venture is housed in the base of the soon-to-be-opened Fort Canning Hotel. Bright, white and cheerful, the walls are decorated with artwork from Sicily. The only drawback to the restaurant’s chic setting is the next-door neighbour Legends: if you’re dining on a Saturday night there is an excellent chance that the popular wedding venue’s soundtrack will drown out Gattopardo’s own, mood-appropriate playlist.
Luckily the food should make you forget about the drunk groomsmen singing karaoke to ‘Time After Time’ outside. The Sicilian-inspired menu focuses on seafood, which is flown in from the Mediterranean and Japan (check their Facebook fan page for their latest offerings, as they often post the week’s catch).
Of course, imported seafood doesn’t come cheap. The fillets are just under $100, while the prices for whole fish float up quickly from there. But with boatloads of beautiful seafood literally staring at me, I was unable to be deterred by the hefty price tag. They grill, bake and steam fish in many delicious-sounding ways, but it was the waiter’s claim that the Sicilian sashimi platter was superior to the Japanese version that reeled me in. The platter’s cool, clean morsels, accented by flavours such as basil and sweet onion – a nice change from soy and wasabi – did not disappoint. I gulped down thick slices of octopus with pesto, delicate blue prawns, thin strips of cuttlefish in a refreshing cucumber salad, slices of tender amberjack, oysters on the half-shell with a tangy onion jam and cubes of tuna belly with caviar.
The price ($120 for two people) was a little harder to swallow. My seafood sampling did not stop there. A rich starter, capesante e porcini (broiled scallops in a velvety sauce) demanded to be sopped up with bread. For the next course, the chitarre ai frutti di mare showcased a nice smattering of clams, mussels, prawns and scallops in a tomato and white-wine sauce, with just a hint of chilli. The tasty ‘guitars’, a cousin of spaghetti with squarish edges, were made in house, as are all pastas on offer.
The crab tonnerelli, a daily special, was the hands-down winner of my two visits. A generous portion of Alaskan king crab legs dappled the squid-ink noodles, tossed with a tomato bisque. The thick chunks of sweet crab were sinfully easy to pluck from the shell, making all of my messy struggles with chilli crab seem so very futile.
The ravioli al granchio e burrata, on the other hand, was a let-down. The envelopes of pasta – stuffed with a cheese that’s made in Sicily exclusively for Gattopardo – are covered with a sauce of crab meat, watercress and asparagus. The watery, bland concoction arrived at the table lukewarm, turning stone cold within a few bites, and the burrata, a lovely but mild cheese, could do nothing to spice the dish up.
Luckily, the pizzas came out piping hot from the wood-fired oven, and the toppings were anything but bland. The Arrotolata (literally ‘rolled up’) combines smoked mozzarella, suckling pig, porcini mushrooms and grapes, all sandwiched between a thin crust on both the top and bottom, and sprinkled with rucola and shaved parmesan. The eponymous pie, made of white-garlic focaccia with smoked mozzarella, Italian sausage, onion and potatoes, is also worth trying.
For dessert, the briciole e crema – chocolate sorbet sprinkled with crumbled vanilla shortbread and citrus cream – was perfectly edible, but forgettable. Conversely, the cannolo siciliano – two crispy, espresso-infused wafers filled with sweet ricotta cheese – played the neat trick of seeming to be both creamily decadent and light as air.
Like most of the dishes that I sampled, I’d happily volunteer for seconds. In fact, if I only had the budget to eat at Gattopardo regularly, I’d be hooked. Laura Dozier
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