Michelin-starred Italian restaurant Buona Terra proves once again why it deserves its reputation as one of Singapore’s finest restaurants with its new summer menu
Nestled among the greenery along Scotts Road, a black-and-white colonial mansion stands out as a mini-sanctuary among its neighbouring high-rise condominiums. This is Chateau TCC, which, as most gourmets would know, is home to Italian fine dining restaurant Buona Terra.
Located in the extended wing of the chateau, Buona Terra is cosy, intimate, and unassuming at first glance. However, having a meal there evokes a journey across the entire breadth of Italy, right there on your plate. After all, in these times of Covid-19, our only form of travel is through our taste buds.
I was invited to sample Buona Terra’s new summer menu, and for the next two hours or so, I was transported to Lombardy in northern Italy — which is the hometown of Chef Denis Lucchi — with a truly stunning six-course meal that began with a selection of amuse-bouche that tasted as good as they looked.
We started with a Snail Ragù with Martini Sabayon — a savoury and creamy morsel of French snails and white wine, which are added to a reduced tomato sauce and smothered in a pepper-infused egg sabayon, topped with vermouth.
Next up was a beautifully presented starter of Japanese hairy crab, wrapped in a sheet of green tomato jelly, accompanied by cucumber, pencil asparagus, Trombetta zucchini, avocado purée, green apple, micro salad, nasturtium powder and a quenelle of cucumber sorbet. Bright and refreshing, the tender sweetness of the hairy crab, seasoned with lime and orange zest, pairs perfectly with the citrus of the tomato jelly and cucumber sorbet, and makes for a wonderful palate cleanser.
The nuanced yet crisp Sauvignon Blanc Ronco del Gnemiz 2017, which was paired with this dish, complemented the delicate freshness without overpowering it.
We also tasted the Scampi with Cauliflower and Raisins, and this was my personal favourite dish. Scampi is such a subtle and delicate meat that very often, it is completely overpowered by everything else on the plate. However, in the skilful hands of Chef Lucchi, this dish of New Zealand Scampi is delicious, delicate, and wonderfully textured. The sweet, fresh scampi is complemented by a cauliflower puree and tartare, served with black garlic puree, Sicilian almonds, whisky-soaked golden raisins, saffron sauce and local edible flowers.
The wine pairing for this dish is equally masterful. Chief Sommelier Gabriele Rizzardi offers up a No Name Le Vigne di Zamò 2016. The history of this wine is a fascinating one, and too long to detail here, but in summary, a European court ruling over the exclusivity of the name of the wine grape variety, the Tocai (or Tokay), led to the Vigne di Zamò winery settling on “No Name” for this wine. Regardless of the name — or lack of one — this is a fantastic, robust and juicy wine, with notes of fruit and flowers.
Next, the Oxtail Tortelli with Jerusalem Artichoke Puree and Black Truffle. The oxtail is prepared in the Roman “vaccinara” style, braised with tomatoes, celery, red wine, beef stock and chicken stock for eight to 10 hours. The meat is removed from the bone, chopped till fine and used for the filling in the pasta, before being sautéed with butter, oxtail stock, veal jus and truffle paste.
It is a hearty, meaty and complex dish of which I could happily eat numerous servings — even more so when paired with a Pinot Noir Terlan 2018, a lovely ruby red wine with aromas of blackberry and bilberry, and a hint of cherry brandy and notes of licorice. This wine is then also paired with the Chargrilled Dry Aged Mieral Pigeon with peaches, pumpkin, Amaretto and Moscato sauce.
Pigeon is usually not my favourite, being a bit too gamey for my liking, but this was quite exceptional. Here, the aged pigeon thigh is removed, covered in salt, pepper and rosemary, vacuum-packed and sous vide for a few hours.
Upon order, it is seared in butter and clarified with white wine and pigeon jus to deglaze, then served with a classic pumpkin purée as well as Italian peaches done three ways: compressed in a vacuum pack with moscato and sous vide for a minute; cut into segments, seasoned with salt and pepper, and baked; and a peach vinegar gel. The peaches serve to cut through the meat wonderfully and provide a pleasant sweetness and mild tartness.
Dessert was a beautiful (literally) and classic Pear and Ricotta Cheesecake. An ode to a classic cake typically enjoyed in the south of Italy, this features premium Italian ricotta from Puglia to make a luscious ricotta mousse. Comice pears are added to the ricotta mousse, then sandwiched between hazelnut sponge cake soaked with pear-infused syrup, and served with pear sorbet. Dessert, without a doubt, is my favourite part of any meal, and this is no exception.
The juicy, sweet pears go perfectly with the creamy ricotta mousse. Presented on a plate that calls to mind the Japanese art of kintsugi, it is a feast for both the eyes and the tastebuds.
Buona Terra’s new summer menu can be enjoyed for both lunch and dinner, available in three-, four- or five-course Carta Bianca menus ($88, $108, $128 per pax) and wine pairing options starting at $58. There is also the Buona Terra Experience for dinner, which starts at five-courses from $178 per pax or a four-course Degustation menu at $148.++
Wine pairings start at $138, and there is also a whiskey flyer pairing at $398++ per person. And, if a long dine-in meal isn’t your thing, a la carte takeaway and deliveries are also available. If I were to sum up this meal, I’d simply say that I’d happily eat every single dish again and not change a thing. Definitely wellworth the price tag for a special occasion.
*UPDATE: An earlier version of this story quoted the whiskey flyer pairing at $380. The actual price is $398++ per person.