We’ve been meaning to try Gattopardo at the new and chic Hotel Fort Canning for the past year, but never quite got round to it for some reason. Finally, entirely on a whim, we decided to try Gattopardo a couple of nights back after picking our brains for a new place to try. It was an incredible meal which floored us and left us very hungry for more of Chef Lino’s brilliance. How it has been possible for us to not have had a meal here much earlier is clearly beyond us, but better late than never…no?
The kitchen is helmed by Chef Lino Sauro, a self-taught chef who hails from Sicily, South of Italy. Prior to Gattopardo, he was the Resident Chef of DOMVS in Sheraton Towers and has an impressive resume which boasts some of the top restaurants in Italy and around the world.
The menu is extensive and features Mediterranean cuisine with a strong Sicilian influence. There is also a glass display at the bar counter where a variety of fresh fish and live lobsters are the stars of the show. The danger of having such an attractive menu where everything sounds out of this world, is that greedy people like the both of us want a bite out of everything and end up being very indecisive. As if on cue, Chef Lino very appropriately asked if we were having difficulty with our orders and offered to prepare a Chef’s selection for us to put an end to our two-minded misery. Awesome, don’t we love a chef in control?
For antipasti, we were served the house specialty – Amberjack with Sea Urchin Vinaigrette. The kanpachi, as it is termed in Japanese, was cubed and tossed with sea urchin and blood orange sacs, adding a refreshing and delightful variation in texture and taste. A wonderful start to the meal which certainly helped whet our appetites!
Our pasta dish was one which we had been eyeing and thinking about ever since we viewed their online menu and we are pleased to report that scored a touch down! In fact, the Angel Hair Pasta with Grey Mullet “Bottarga” Roe and Sea Urchin was such a stunner that the very first words that came out of our mouths were ‘o.h m.y g.o.s.h’ – we had fallen in love with Chef Lino that very moment. The pasta was tossed very generously with bottarga and heaped atop with a plump serving of uni. The saltier and nuttier flavoured bottarga complemented the sweet and creamy uni with a precision that warranted no additional condiments. Immediately, we sent back our adoration and multitude of compliments to the Chef.
Our main course was Turbot, from the flatfish family, dressed in squid ink and cognac sauce on a bed of gorgeously sauteed baby spinach. The turbot was sublime – its flesh was incredibly tender and delicate and its high natural content of gelatine imbued a pleasant and interesting gooiness. The squid ink cognac sauce worked really well with the delicate flavours of the turbot to give it a more pronounced flavour and dramatized the dish with its striking colour. Even though fish is seldom on the cards when we eat out, we were very pleased with this dish, being both quirky and tasty, it was a winner.
We were really full by this time and had to decline the additional pizza dish that Chef Lino was dying to surprise us with (he very candidly joked, ‘no carbs after 9, no?’). We decided we would end the already spectacular meal with their Crispy Espresso-infused Wafer Filled with Sweet Ricotta Cheese (II Cannolo Siciliano). The wafer was indeed very thick and crispy and piped with a light ricotta cheese and chopped pistachios. While seemingly heavy, this dessert, including the pistachio ice-cream and pleasantly tart raspberry sauce, was surprisingly light and very delicious. Had we been seated at a more private corner (we had asked for counter seats for better lighting), we would have eschewed all table manners and shamelessly licked the plate clean.
What we loved about Gattopardo, apart from the gorgeous food, was the overall dining experience. The restaurant was bustling with happy diners, mostly made out of the young and trendy 30 somethings and a few tables of businessmen, creating a vibrant and convivial atmosphere (at 9:30pm, the restaurant was still 3/4 full, and on a Thursday evening too!). Staff also had superbly high service standards and were attentive without being intrusive, and were knowledgeable and accommodating to all our questions and requests. We also loved how Chef Lino constantly made his rounds to his guests throughout the evening, playing the part of a perfect host. His fine display of hospitality and interaction with us made all the difference to the dining experience and we especially loved that he asked us very playfully whether we trusted him enough to let him surprise us. That, together with fine execution of tantalizing Sicilian cuisine, has won our hearts, many times over. We shall return for that surprise pizza and more! (Tip: Corkage is free for BYOs on Tuesday.)Gattopardo Italian Grill & Pizzabar
Hotel Fort Canning, 11 Canning Walk | 6338 5498 http://www.gattopardo.com.sg/