If the marvellous view of Marina Bay from the 43rd floor of Ocean Financial Centre, where Zafferano resides, does not take your breath away, then the food certainly will. In the hands of young Head Chef Andrea De Paola, familiar ingredients are given a new spin, yet rooted in traditions from his hometown of Naples in Italy.
If I were to choose one type of cuisine I’d like to eat forever, it would probably be Italian. There is something about Italian cuisine that revels in deep flavours and fine ingredients; it is varied and complex, traditional yet versatile. So, when I was given the opportunity to dine at one of Singapore’s more wellknown Italian restaurants, Zafferano, I was delighted.
Usually packed to the brim with corporate clients — it is located at the heart of the city, after all — Zafferano is a firm favourite for leisurely business lunches, with its 43rd-floor view of the Marina Waterfront and masterful Italian cooking.
After the tough “circuit breaker” period, business is beginning to pick up again, and there is perhaps no better time for Head Chef Andrea De Paola, who joined Zafferano last July, to introduce stunning new menu items to showcase his vision and talent.
First up was the charcoal-grilled langoustine ($32++), served with romanesco, sesame, and white miso combined with Bagna Cauda (a dish of anchovies and pink garlic). The langoustine is grilled with extra virgin olive oil in a charcoal oven till medium-rare and coated in a housemade langoustine emulsion. The emulsion is made of the langoustine shell, blended with sparkling water and extra virgin olive oil, simmered till reduced, sieved and emulsified with extra virgin olive oil and Japanese egg yolk. This results in a fantastic palate opener; the deeply savoury emulsion pairs perfectly with the hint of sweetness coming from the langoustine.
Next up was the outstanding fegato d’oca ($28++) — an orange-cured foie gras, served with pickled beetroot and golden beetroot, with a raspberry vincotto. Foie gras is, undoubtedly, indulgent, rich and (arguably) sinful, and here, a whole piece of foie gras is cured, for at least three days, with salt, fresh orange peel, sugar, and white vermouth before being cooked sous vide, quenelled and coated in a beetroot gel. The curing lends just a touch of citrus to the fatty foie gras, while the beetroot gel adds earthiness and tartness. Eaten with a crostini, this definitely is a winner for me.
Then, I sampled the spaghetti with razor clams and Oscietra caviar (obtained from the Osetra sturgeon, considered one of the best caviars in the world and eclipsed only by Beluga caviar). The dish ($$30++ as a starter, $42++ as a main) features razor clams done two ways: as a velouté with extra virgin olive oil, butter, and bergamot zest to emulsify; and on its own, finished in the charcoal oven dressed in herb oil consisting of tarragon, basil, and dill.
This was followed by the branzino ($48++), which is a roasted Italian seabass, served with young zucchini, spring herbs salad and zucchini cream. The simplicity and subtlety of this dish is much welcomed after the indulgence of the caviar and foie gras, and this perfectly cooked, firm and sweet sea bass (sourced from an open farm in the Mediterranean Sea off the Sardinian coast) is a delight to eat.
I also had a taste of the superb New Zealand lamb rack, with Sicillian pistachio, Borrettane onions, and heirloom beets ($52++). The lamb (done medium) is roasted in the charcoal oven and then coated with mustard, followed by blended Bronte pistachio powder, before it is roasted again. Nothing quite beats a beautiful serving of tender and juicy lamb, and this is no different.
Finally, my favourite part of every meal: dessert. A fellow food journalist once told me that he does not usually like dessert because too many chefs treat dessert as an afterthought. However, Chef Andrea certainly does not. On the menu is a fantastic buffalo mozzarella soft cheesecake ($16++) with Japanese strawberries and finished tableside with Cutrera Extra Virgin Olive Oil PDO Monti Iblei, an award-winning extra virgin olive oil from Sicily. The olive oil is fresh and fruity, with a hint of green tomatoes and aromatic scent, creating a unique combination of flavours against the sweet-sour strawberries (which is encased in, and also surrounds, the cheesecake) and creamy cheesecake.
I cannot rave enough about this dessert, truly, as it was creamy, luscious and not overpoweringly sweet. My only complaint is that there wasn’t enough of it — although I suspect I could never have enough of this exceptional and unique dessert.
Overall, if you’re looking for a place to celebrate something or someone special, and are willing to splurge, I would highly recommend Zafferano for the amazing view and superb food.