Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > China & Southeast Asia >
Dec 31, 2007 10:54 AM

Oso in Singapore

There don't seem to be a lot of reviews of restaurants in Singapore that aren't located in hawkers' centers or food courts -- or that aren't No Signboard -- so I thought I'd throw one out there.

I had dinner at Oso Ristorante, an Italian restaurant on Tanjong Pagar Rd., on New Year's Eve. Contrary to someone's claim that you can't find bad food in Singapore, Oso delivered up more disappointments than it did hits. As a general criticism, dishes were often broken up into their disparate parts with little to tie it all together, and almost all dishes were undersalted.

My dining companion and I had the caprese style salad and minced crab appetizer to start. The caprese salad came with giant chunks of tomato and a giant slab of mozzarella plopped down in the middle of the plate. Salads, by design, are not supposed to make you work the knife so hard. Also, the dish came with no balsamic vinegar or olive oil or salt, and only dried basil, which made for pretty bland eating. The crab meat, while unobjectionable, was served on a plate with greens on the northwest corner, a wee bit of cherry tomato and two orange slivers on the southwest corner, and a roasted pepper puree to the northeast. Each of these elements was individually tasty, and it was interesting to try all 120 combinations of ingredients to see how everything fit together best, but in the end, the appetizer was completely missing a lietmotif. The sweetness of the vegetable puree overpowered the mild flavor of crab. The tomatoes and oranges didn't go together at all; nor did they go with the roasted red pepper puree or crab. I was left with the distinct feeling of eating five separate ingredients rather than a single, coherent dish.

Entrees fared little better. I had the salt crusted halibut with broccoli and my dining companion had the veal medallions served with apples and, I think, lingonberry. My halibut was, without warning (the menu failed to mention it at all), drowned in an overwhelming butter sauce that completely overpowered the delicate taste of the fish. The broccoli, a single floret, was understeamed to a hard, nearly raw lump, with no added salt. The plate's oversauced, undersalted split personality really reminded me of a first attempt of a fifties housewife learning to cook, though to Oso's credit, the fish was cooked for the proper amount of time. The veal was delicious, but the apples and lingonberry served with it were, to my palate, too sweet and overwhelmed the more mildly flavored meat. It was also served in tiny portions, even for a person of small appetite.

We closed the meal with lemon ricotta cheesecake, which was, to our disappointment, of the floury variety more akin to pound cake than the creamy goodness that I associate with the term. To be fair, Italian style cheesecake has more flour added for a drier, more cakey texture -- but this went beyond the cakiness of Italian cheesecake. It was, literally, sheet cake that included lemon and ricotta as two minor players.

Wines by the glass (we had a chardonnay, shiraz and semillion) were decent, if overpriced. Reds were served at a good temperature, though whites were too cold.

The best part of the meal was the teeny box of chocolate chip something -- cookie dough? dense cake? -- they handed to us in honor of New Year's Eve, as we were leaving the restaurant.

Total for the meal was about S$100 per person. It's possible that I was unlucky, ordering -- but with this many misses, I'm unlikely to try the place, again. I can't wait to have congee first thing tomorrow morning to cleanse my palate.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. The reason most of the reviews here are on local seafood and hawker centers is because this thread is dominated by tourists seeking information on local cuisine. Unfortunately, this is not a spot for local foodies exchanging information on the restaurant scenes and hopefully, that will change soon.

    I am not a big fan of Oso even though it is a very popular Italian restaurant here. A few friends love to dine there so I was invited on a few occasions but the only dish that got me interested is its risotto. Other than that, I find this place mediocre so your disappointment does not surprise me at all. Having said that, it is full all the time. But the unfortunate truth is that I have not found a great Italian restaurant in Singapore. And if I am correct that you are from Manhattan, I will suggest that you save your tummy for Italian food back home.

    If you cannot resist for some fine dining experience, I will recommend Iggies or Gunthers. I enjoyed the dinners there much better than Oso but they are more expensive and be prepared to pay S$200 per person for dinner. Yes, while you hear many stories that Singapore is not expensive for meals, that only apply to the hawker centers, but not the restaurants scene. I figure that the inflation for dining scene has gone up like 40-50% in the last 5 years.

    Just feel free to start a thread on checking out the restaurants scene. Singapore is now a cosmopolitan city so it sure has its share of good international cuisine. It has pretty good Cantonese cuisine which i think is second only to Hong Kong and Guangzhou. A few decent Japanese restaurants. And a few obscure regional cuisines as well, such as Padang, Fuzhou etc. Recently, there is a thread with coverage on Indian cuisine here, so hopefully we will expand beyond hawker and seafood.

    13 Replies
    1. re: FourSeasons

      Hi FourSeasons, I appreciate the suggestions. I wouldn't, under normal circumstances, have sought out an Italian restaurant in Singapore, but my friend and I were looking for an excuse to dress up on New Year's Eve and we didn't want to have to attend the party that was part of the dinner package at Hai Tien Lo. (We're going there, tonight, instead.)

      If you have any suggestions for good, non-European, non-American dress-up places, as well, please do let me know!

      1. re: cimui

        It is tough to reply your question because Singapore is really a very casual place for dress code. Few really dress-up even for European restaurants; smart casual is usually enough for all restaurants unless there is special occasion such as wedding dinners, charity events or business functions.

        Maybe if I have to name a few non-European and non-American places for smart casual (meaning no T shorts, no jeans, no slippers but not necessary suit), I will suggest as follow:

        For Cantonese food, try China Club at Capital Tower . But it is for members only. Sometimes, they do have promotion with some credit card companies, so you may try your luck calling them up first. It has prettiest interior for Chinese restaurant in Singapore and the view there is great too, especially when there is firework like yesterday midnight.

        Another place is Li Bai at Sheraton Tower, a very good Cantonese restaurant that I frequented. Nice interior but I don't think there is dress code. Most go there on smart casual basis but I don't think they will reject guests wearing T shirts and jeans.

        Then there is Song of India for Indian cuisine. Most will agree that the ambience is great. The food review has been mixed. There has been many comments on this thread that you can read :

        Maybe the last one is Aoki near Shaw Center (where department store Isetan is located), a very expensive Japanese sushi place. I seldom go there anymore as I just find it too expensive, but sleek interior and most dress well there.

        On last note, I have never been to Hai Tien Lo. Have not heard much about the place too. Hope you enjoy your dinner tonight.

        1. re: FourSeasons

          I've heard only good things about Oso. I plan on going ..... for I-talian in Slingapore, I really liked Buka Nero but there is a long waiting list :( . There's also this view that eating in hotels is really bad but honestly some of the hotels like chatterbox offer excellent food (i also really like straits kitchen and afternoon tea at the ritz). There's also that French restaurant which is expensive but good ... Les Amis? good reason to dress up. Everyone on here calls Singapore "foodie heaven" and i have no idea why....because Bourdain says so on No Reservations? Personally I think Japan and Bangkok are foodie heavens to me. Tho if i moved to BKK I'd kill myself over the traffic and in Japan i'd be broke in a month.

          1. re: Hot Chocolate

            Have you been to the restaurants in Singapore recently? Certainly one can be broke easily as well. Based on my own observation, if you take away the hawker scene, Singapore dining is now more expensive than Tokyo, especially for high end scene.

            1. re: FourSeasons

              hmmmm ... i went to brown sugar on sunday. I know the tourists from the US like to go to the hawkers but i prefer to only go once in a while as the noodle to meat / vegetable ratio is about 100:1. I've been cooking mostly to be honest with you as the hawker stands are crazy unhealthy and then i can use better quality meats (i.e. when you pay $3 sgd for beef rendang you're not exactly getting well marbled tender beef). but i have noticed the food inflation is a bit crazy. Butter / egg / milk prices seem to be rising a lot.

              1. re: Hot Chocolate

                It is not just food inflation, but rental, wages, currency are all going up due to booming economy. I reckon for high end dining, the price has gone up like 40-50% in last few years, on top of the currency strength. Seem like corporate budget is limitless when it comes to entertaining their clients.

                Yes, I guess it is true the hawker scene is not that health conscious, but so is McDonald an KFC. And I agree it is also difficult for foreigners to adapt to the local taste bud. But for locals who grow up with hawker scene, it is something they cannot miss for a long stretch.

                1. re: FourSeasons

                  and that's why i only go to McDonald's once every few months (on a holiday when nothing is open for bfast...or at 3 am .... after zouk or MOS or Attica) .... i think i've only been to KFC twice in Slingapore. Chicken wings at Ice Cold Beer are fantastic. Went to Chomp Chomp for chix wings but was very disappointed.

                  1. re: Hot Chocolate

                    If you are really after more local meaty stuff or high % of meat to carbo, then after Zouk or MOS go and try Bar Kut Teh at Old Havelock Rd, I believe it is called Ya Hua Bar Kut Teh, right below the office of Isetan. I can't remember what time they closed but it is usually quite late. I am a regular visitor there but have never seen westerner but it is very popular with locals and Japanese expatriates. More likely you will not have the taste bud as well but at least you can expand your horizon on local food. Or another one is beef hor fun at Geylang Lor 9, closed at 2:30am and lots of beef on the hor fun and rather tender as well. The ratio is more like 4 to 1 rather than the high ratio you normally encountered. Or go and try rendang at true authentic Padang place at Garuda in Cairnhill Place. May not be well marbled, but the true great taste of rendeng is the rich flavor of the spice rather than just tenderness that is typical for westerners.

                    1. re: FourSeasons

                      i like the rendang at nasi pedang on zion rd. go to geylang from zouk or CQ at 2 am .... boy you crazy? usually i head to spice or somewhere on boon tat key (sp??). Red Star dim sum is fantastic for the sunday after .... have to go early or you'll wait an hour in line. I've been to the garuda in Taka...not all that impressed.

                      1. re: Hot Chocolate

                        Nasi Padang at Zion is mediocre, not even authentic Padang food. But Padang is an acquired taste. Quite frankly,even most Singaporeans do not know how to appreciate real authentic Padang, but prefer its own Malay style Singapore version one. So I am not surprised for a foreigner you will not be impressed. To appreciate Padang food, you first have to learn to eat with your hands, not spoon/fork, then learn how to mix with the great chilli paste, appreciate free range chicken meat instead of fatty chicken KFC style, and like the spices accompanied on padang food. Garuda at Cairnhill is still not as good as the best ones in Indonesia, but it is closer than the rest avaialble in Singapore. But regretably, it is trying hard to attract Singapore crowd and has been changing its own recipe to fit Singapore style. Which now make me not as impressed as well.

                        I recommend you to go from Zouk to Old Havelock Rd. It is just 5 min drive or 10 min walking. You can go to Geylang on another night.

                        1. re: FourSeasons

                          I agree with FourSeasons that Padang food in Singapore is rather mediocre. "Real" Padang-style rendang, for example, is very dark-brown & has a melt-in-the-mouth texture. It's "dry" in the sense that it doesn't come with gravy (like what you get in Singapore-style rendang), but usually exudes a very flavorsome reddish-colored chili oil instead.

                          I liked the ones I tried in Jakarta a lot! Wish someone would start a thread on best Nasi Padang to be found in Jakarta, e.g. Natrabu, Sari Bundo, etc. Or even good Sundanese restaurants like Sari Kuring, Pondok Laguna, Padzzi, etc. We need more Jakarta Chowhounds to come to the fore!

                          1. re: klyeoh

                            I have not seen a Jakarta thread in the past 4-5 months since I joined Chow. Unfortunately, It has sink really low in the popularity list. Chow is dominated by American users, so it is perhaps due to all the negative publicity generated by the media.

                            1. re: FourSeasons

                              You're right - CH specialised quite a bit on US, specifically SF Bay Area - which is why I joined CH (I travel to SF every 2-3 months & LOVE eating out there - Zuni, Boulevard, Masa, Gary Danko, French Laundry, Aqua, Michael Mina, etc & CH is absolutely invaluable in their tips). Anyway, I go to alternate portals for other countries.For Jakarta, the best one is:


                              It's like an Indon version of CH, if you can read Indonesian (I'm half-Peranakan, so I can).

    2. i too agree that some dishes in oso can be quite a miss... but their burrata cheese is good.. havent tried any of their mains before.. but mainly pastas.. their rabbit, wild boar meat pasta taste too heavy for my liking, the gnocchi too .. too rich for me.. but the other time i had the lobster wif san marzano sauce.. its quite good i must say, the tomato sauce was very clean tasting unlike the other ordinary tomato i think for pastas go for their seafood ones.. i would suppose that their cheesecake is a short crust pie with lemon and marscarpone?? no? italian pastrys are usually short crust i find, they are not ur usual french cakes...

      sidetrack abit, fine dining in australia simply sucks.. no offence but its the truth.. the 1st time i ate at what was regarded the best spanish for melb, i swore nv to go fine dining in aus.. but after a couple of months i decided to give another try at another place. i had a meal at this rather famous italian restaurant.. their dishes average at best, and lets not talk abt the pricing.. the steak came out medium well instead of medium rare! ironic coz u have a large italian population here and good produce as well.. but i guess being the normal italian folks(australia) , instead of chefs(singapore) trained in well establishments in other parts of the world does make a difference.