Last time we checked, it was fashionable to house hip restaurant and bar concepts on the roofs of Singapore’s CBD skyscrapers – a fad that began with Swissôtel the Stamford’s Equinox complex and was then popularised by Marina Bay Sands’ Ku Dé Ta. And it remains so. The latest to cash in on this spectacle is modern Italian bar, eatery and lounge Zafferano, perched on the 43rd floor of the newly built Ocean Financial Centre.
We visited Zafferano twice on the week it opened. Is it a sleek bar where singles can mingle? Not really, though there's a selection of 40 bottles of wine available by the glass and a head bartender who tailors drinks to your taste. The sprawling, circular space houses a rotunda-like bar that is not quite big enough for a centrepiece, yet small enough to feel awkwardly positioned. Stark bright lights cast reflections on windows that mar nighttime views of the Marina Bay. It’s not the best venue for intimate dates or client lunches, either – the echo verges on grating.
It isn’t particularly strong on food, either. Shanghai’s Isola alum Roberto De Franco knows a thing or two about assembling beautiful plates that may not be entirely new. So let’s focus instead on his simpler dishes – he coins them ‘Mum’s Kitchen’ – a selection of eight classic dishes. The bruschetta ($9) is perfectly executed: warm toasted bread, diced Roma tomatoes that taste as bright as they are red, and just the right amount of torn basil thrown in the mix. Other dishes, however, could focus more on flavour. A gorgeous bowl of minestrone ($12) looks faultless, but its blandness tells you it clearly hasn’t simmered long enough. Mamma would be sorely disappointed.
His other appetisers aren't compelling either. Little justice is done to his Burrata ($19), supposedly a richer, more buttery mozzarella, even when it’s played off a gazpacho-like concoction of cherry tomato purée. Refreshing, yes, but nothing works: the cheese tastes watered-down and the purée is weak. Could it be the sourcing of ingredients? Perhaps.
While the Oxtail Ravioli ($19) is silken and al dente, the filling is reminiscent of processed meat, while the black truffle and celeriac cream barely come across. We couldn’t even taste the over-frothed parmesan foam. We can taste, however, the chianti sauce that accompanies the Guancia, or slow-cooked Wagyu beef cheek ($28). The delicate cut is lusciously tender, the sauce sweet and not over-reduced. If only the spinach that came with it weren’t so bitter.
If desserts are an absolute must, order selectively. An unassuming dessert platter ($24) brings together six mini-bites. A mini tiramisu is blighted by the coffee liqueur, rendering it bitter, while a raspberry panna cotta carries a medicinal aftertaste. The best thing on the plate? A deceptively simple mango sorbet – almost creamy like gelato, yet intensely flavoured by its fruit.
Missteps aside, Zafferano may be worth a visit if you happen to work in the area, and fancy a late-night snack and a cocktail. Jon Cheng
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