Alkaff Mansion Ristorante – Singapore
The famed Yemeni house on the hill in Telok Blangah, the Alkaff Mansion is given new life with an Italian twist. Once known for its lavish parties in the 1930s thrown by its spice-trader owners, the house was vacant for many years after its last restaurant closed in 2003. The current Italian joint of the same name, resides in the mansion now, after much restoration.
But enough of the history lesson and on the the food. Alkaff Mansion Ristorante serves hearty Italian fine-dining which is decided inspired by Sardinia, courtesy of its Sardinian head-chef.
The meal was off to a lovely start with the Insalata di Polpo alla Carlofortina, Sardinian octopus with yellow frisée salad. The octopus was sliced thinly and it was fresh and chewy. The accompanying vinaigrette and garnishings of orange segments, black olives and cherry tomatoes added a tart and refreshing flavour to the salad as well.
Typical of Italian restaurants, Alkaff Mansion’s primo plates also known as entrees/starters are pastas. And we had the Risotto ai Funghi Porcini e Timo, a creamy porcini mushroom risotto to share. The dish was fragrant and very comforting, “This dish would be perfect on a rainy day.” I thought as I savoured each bite. The risotto was perfectly al dente as well.
My dining companion and I also shared the Sardianian “couscous”, the Fregola ai Frutti di Mare, a Sardinian barley-like pasta in a mildly spicy tomato sauce with fresh assorted seafood. The little balls of fregola were very springy almost like mini-gnocchis. This was something new that I’ve never tried, and I was pleasantly surprised. Mmm!
However, the piece de resistance of the meal was the Branzino al Sale con Flamma – an oven baked sea bass encrusted in salt. The fish is encased within the salt shell and a small amount of brandy is poured on the crust before being served en flambé. Excellent for food photos and an excellent dish as well.
This dish comes with all the fan-fare of gueridon service with the server wheeling the fish to the table, setting it on fire and subsequently breaking the tender sea bass out of its shell. The server also debones it and serves it with a dash of olive oil and cherry tomatoes. The fish can weigh from 600g to 800g depending on the amount of people at your table.
I was surprised that the fish was not salty at all despite being salt encrusted. The simple olive oil dressing and the fresh tomatoes completed this clean dish. But I must say, the tableside service and attention to detail elevated this simple fisherman’s dish to one befitting of a fine dining establishment.
Now for the dessert, I only had one as I was way too full from all the carbs. And I believe I chose well. The Panna Cotta alla Vaniglia, Frutti di Bosco e Salsa al Lamponi – vanilla panna cotta with mixed berries and raspberry coulis – came in a surprising shade of green. Why? The boring and safe vanilla panna cotta was given knew life by the chef with a touch of mint.
The mint in the panna cotta cuts through the creaminess and helps one round off the meal nicely. It’s feels like Christmas on a plate with the hints of mint, figs and berries. Yummy and satisfying, indeed.