Friday, May 20, 2011

A Case Of A New Identity

Fine dining Italian restaurant Forlino has a new chef at the helm, and with him, a new Italian direction.

Chef Mario Caramella’s food is good—and he knows it. “You don’t get to stay in this business for 20, 30 years and not be of a certain standard,” the 51-year-old Italian says with a dry smile. Caramella is the new Chef Patron of Forlino and he brings not just confidence and mettle, but also a welcome jolt of colour to the food.

To wit, his Insalata di Aragosta ($38), a beautiful lobster salad artfully arranged on bright yellow passion fruit sauce (the texture of light ointment), topped with coriander air and crowned with a violet pansy. It is vibrant in both looks and taste, with layers of flavours and textures that make it easy to polish off all too quickly. And yes, we said ‘coriander air’.

Evidently Caramello is no purist. “There are 20 regional cuisines in Italy,” he says, “but Italian chefs working overseas like me, we make up the 21st region. We cook Italian food that is created outside of Italy using the best ingredients produced around the world.”

That means modern techniques like sous vide are also part of his canon, in which Quaglie Arrosto ($58) is a dish he is particularly proud of. In it, he rolls a nugget of goose liver within a quail’s breast, wraps it in pancetta and cooks it in a vacuum bag in an extremely low temperature water bath for a long time. Before the dish is served, the meat is seared in a hot pan to give it a nice crisp and draped with a velvety sauce redolent of mushrooms.

It is a dish Caramella says he spent years reworking and perfecting. And the reward is a plump succulent meat roll with those thoughtful textural layers that make all the difference in the mouth.

Caramella also reinterprets that classic dish of osso bucco deftly in the form of ravioli ($38). The stewed veal shank is stuffed in a lovely homemade saffron and pumpkin ravioli and swathed in the meat’s sauce. For the diner, it is a delightful way of enjoying this otherwise rich meat dish in a lighter form with all the classic flavours faithfully intact.

Now while we’ve ascertained that the food at Forlino under Caramella is good, it would be remiss not to mention the view. It is no secret that Forlino offers one of the best views in town, but now that the new skyline dominated by Marina Bay Sands is complete, it is quite astonishingly spectacular.

The prices here at dinner are pretty decent too, especially compared to other upmarket restaurants in its vicinity. A four-course Classics Menu costs $108 and a six-course Degustation Menu ($158).

If it’s been a long time since you’ve eaten at Forlino, now is the time to revisit. The food is certainly different. It is brighter, more modern and more complex. And that fantastic view is definitely worth the money.

#02-06 One Fullerton
One Fullerton Road
Singapore 049213
T: 68776995

An edited version of this review was published in TODAY newspaper on 29 April 2011
Images here are courtesy of Forlino

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