Waterfall Ristorante Italiano review date: Friday March 6
All prices in Singapore Dollars
Ahhhh Naples. Chaotic, beautiful, bruised and bruising, home to some of the best things to mangiare in all of Italy. When you meet a chef from Naples you pretty much know that brilliant food is in their DNA, that their veins run not with blood but the perfect ragù.
A tasting lunch at Waterfall Ristorante Italiano, the newest dining venue at the Shangri-La’s flagship hotel in Singapore, proved that distance doesn’t dull those tastebuds. On the contrary. In the hands of Neapolitan Chef Marco de Vincentis, quality Italian produce becomes the real deal and he delivers a menu that would make nonna seriously proud.
The dining room is elegantly furnished with deep wicker chairs and plants, displays of vegetables and olive oils. The warm and welcoming waiting staff looking after an international clientele are from France and Italy, so only the tables outside overlooking the pool remind that you’re in humid Singapore.
The first plate is Vitello Tonnato ($25), impossibly thin slices of poached veal acting as the backdrop for that always unlikely but always beguiling sauce of tuna, caper, anchovy and cream. Parmesan crisps provide textual contrast against the rocket salad and drops of balsamico make for very elegant plating:
In common with a number of dishes, Waterfall’s insalata di arance e finocchi salad ($16) riffs on a classic. Marco’s melds sunny Mediterranean citrus alongside pomodorini, fennel, Tropea onions and piadina-style crispbreads. The result is a great textural contrast not unlike a pared-down panzanella:
As you’d expect, pastas are bang on, none more so than an individual dish of aubergine parmigiana ($20) which positively hums with umami, the parmesan and mozzarella liberally applied and comically stringy. Just a brilliant dish to make vegetarians weep with joy:
Unlike the next two, namely a deconstructed lasagna ($24) and a sensational orecchiette pasta with minced pork ($22). The burnt soccarat crisp underneath a paella is the best and most coveted part of the dish and Chef Marco knows better than most that the croccante pasta edges of a lasagna are its Italian cousin. As a result his version cleverly takes this as the platform for the dish, filling it almost like a wonton parcel.
A very special shout is also needed for the orecchiette pugliesi con salsiccia. If there’s a better rendition of pasta in Asia, I’ve yet to encounter it. It’s a sensational combination of pork sausage, broccoli, cream, parmesan and herbs over orecchiette pasta which translates, with great comedy value, as ‘small ears’. Take me at my word when I say that, even in the food Mecca which is Singapore, this is one dish you won’t want to miss.
Seafood is up next in a bouillabaisse style soup for two, stufato di pesce, heady with garlic and deep as the ocean, plump tiger prawns fighting clams, mussels versus squid. Most of all however it’s the enormous lobster which steals the maritime face-off, flecked with fresh herbs and flanked by chunks of bread. ($68)
The last hurrah of an epic lunch comes with the chargrilled tenderloin steak, served under a red pepper and balsamic sauce, parmesan and rocket fighting for space alongside. ($41)
By this stage the white flag of defeat is well and truly flying, but turning down a Neapolitan’s cannoli ($14) is probably a criminal offence within sight of Mount Vesuvius. Cue a million Godfather quotes about leaving the guns this time….
It may be in humid Singapore and not Naples, but all told Waterfall’s new incarnation is the real deal. Big, bold, Italian flavours plated with panache. Nonna would indeed be proud.
Shangri-La Hotel, 22 Orange Grove Road, Singapore 258350 Tel:(+65) 6213 4769 http://www.shangri-la.com/singapore/shangrila/dining/