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May 7, 2008 11:56 AM

Michelangelo's Restaurant Singapore

Has anyone tried it?

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  1. Oh yes, it was one of the first independent Italian restaurants in Singapore to offer truly authentic fare (the other one was Da Paolo) when it first opened more than 10 years ago. The name actually was a playful consolidation of the first names of 2 original partners: Michael Hadley and Angelo Sanelli - though they did have a recreation of Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel God-creating-Adam masterpiece as the centrepiece of their decor.

    Angelo Sanelli (Aussie-Italian) now helms the restaurant, and standards there are still very high. They used to have a squid's ink pasta dish which was terrific, but I don;t know if it's still on the menu.

    On the same stretch as Michelangelo (on Jalan Merah Saga) are its sister restaurants, Original Sin (vegetarian-Mediterranean) and Sistina (pizzeria). Both are good. Rival Da Paolo also has a couple of outlets a few doors away: La Terrazza (bistro) & Da Paolo Pizza Bar. Paolo & Judie Scarpa always maintained high standards of cooking, and their risottos are fabulous.

    My favorite Italian spot at the moment is Ristorante da Valentino, 11 Jalan Bingka (off Rifle Range Road). Call ahead (Tel: 64620555) as getting a table there can be quite a challenge.

    20 Replies
    1. re: klyeoh

      I actually have never been to Michelangelo.

      I was a frequent visitor of Da Paolo years ago. I have tried the branch at Holland Village, the Club Street, and the Cluny Court. 3-4 years ago, I started to go more often to the Cluny Court since it is easier to get a parking spot there (and also closer to my home). But notice the quality deteriorated until I stopped going there completely.

      I went to Valentino twice for lunch. I think the standard is ok but nothing there really wow me.

      1. re: FourSeasons

        i had a tough fiorentina steak at valentino the 2nd time i went. Dont think i will be goin back again.. the desserts are too boring..the pastas average.

        1. re: Lucil

          It's sad if Valentino's can't ensure consistency (having packed dinner crowds is no excuse) - I actually liked them for their pastas, especially the rich, cream/cheese-laden ones. That said, my favorite dish there was costine di agnello stufate agli aromi (stewed lamb-ribs). I've followed Chef Valentino Valtulina since he was in Cantina (and Cafe Roma before that).

          BTW, have you tried Cafe Borgo in Bukit Timah Rd/nearSixth Ave? The very talented Chef Mimmo was at La Braceria (Ban Guan Park) before he struck off on his own.

          1. re: klyeoh

            I have tried Cafe Borgo once a few months ago. I recall the pizza was good. I think it is about the same standard as Valentino, every dish is ok but not spectacular.

            1. re: klyeoh

              tried borgo before.. the grilled seafood salad i had was lacking in taste.. did not taste any olive oil, the lamb chop was executed quite well, but also didnt have much seasoning.. needed to salt it as well... the proscuitto pizza ... it really isnt good... for me i tink la strada is quite good... but i will prefer their pasta to be eggless..

              1. re: Lucil

                I prefer La Strada too. My first visit there was good but the second one just did not match up to the standard set by the first visit. Maybe inconsistent, will have to try there again soon.

                1. re: FourSeasons

                  One of the great "tragedies" of the Singapore dining scene, and perhaps a good reason why we're not ready for a Michelin eating guide, is that we're dominated by chain restaurants. La Strada is great, but it's only made possible by the deep pockets of the Les Amis Group. Ditto Crystal Jade Group, which dominates the Chinese restaurant scene in Singapore.

                  Skyrocketing rents, dearth of good chefs & service staff (at the salaries we're paying, can we blame them?), and a fickle dining crowd who'd rather eat at hawker centres or fast food joints 95% of the time have all resulted in a harsh, ever-changing only-the-fittest-survive restaurant (especially fine-dining) scene. Restaurants come-and-go in Singapore at an incredulous rate. Even good ones can't last: Le Papillon, Bistro 793, Reif + James. Others go thru a desperate cycle of re-branding to make diners come back: Fuenti to Il Gladiatore to Bonta.

                  The 1990s saw the demise of a whole slew of French/fine-dining restaurants in Singapore within a couple of years: Palm Grill, Hubertus Grill, Truffles, Le Restaurant de France, Baron's Table, Nutmegs, Maxim's de Paris, Le Duc, Le Brasserie, Fourchette (and its successor, Liana's Bistro), Latour, Compass Rose, Pinnacles, to name a few. A whole generation of talented young line chefs - those who would have grown to own & run their own restaurants, were made jobless overnight. Many joined the corporations: churning out mass-produced food in big industrial kitchens, e.g. SATS Catering, Prima Group.

                  Is Singapore ready for the Michelin Guide? Not when chain restaurants dominate the dining scene, and we continue rely so much on frozen imported goods. Unlike (similarly land-scarce) Tokyo which takes pride in its local produce & using the freshest possible ingredients from the nearest, sustainable & preferably organic food sources, Singapore restaurateurs take pride in flying in their ducks from Canada, pork/beef from Australia, vegetables from everywhere but here.

                  1. re: klyeoh

                    I don't think Singapore dining scene should be defined by Michelin. After all, it is questionable if the French would understand local taste bud and review the local food as the way it is judged by the locals. I seriously doubt if that is possible. There is some rumors that Michelin may pick Singapore as the next city but personally, I would prefer that NOT to happen.

                    I think your issue is the fine dining or the French cuisine scene here. This market caters more to the expatriates,corporates and well traveled higher income group Singaporeans. And when a recession comes (like 98 or 01), this is the group that cuts down hard on spending, so unfortunately this niche tends to be the victim in the downturn. It is just market force at work.

                    But Singapore has no choice but to import food. There is no agriculture industry here. Mom and pop farmers would not be able to survive here. And there is no seasonal factor here. Singapore food does not rely what is available on that particular season. Tokyo may be land scarce but it is well supported by the fishing, poultry and agriculture surrounding it. So I think that is a difficult comparison to be made.

                    1. re: FourSeasons

                      it would be the shortest michelin guide ever produced....

                      1. re: Hot Chocolate

                        It will be short because the Michelin French and westerners like you will not know how to appreciate local food...

                        1. re: FourSeasons


                          That's the accusation levelled against Michelin in Tokyo, but it's a bit unfair as the guide used Japanese Michelin inspectors as well to judge Japanese food. I would trust Michelin to be experienced enough to know that they need to hire local experts as inspectors to have any credibility.

                          That said, would it not be fair to say that in terms of genuine fine dining - local or French - the choices are a bit limited? I am asking not because that is my opinion, but because I don't know and am genuinely curious. I have only been to Singapore a few times, so I don't really know the fine dining scene. Of course, it didn't even occur to me to try anything that wasn't local food, so no idea what the French or Italian food might be like. In terms of the local equivalent of haute cuisine, again, my experience is extremely limited. I have loved all food we had there, but given the few times I have been, I tended to go for the crowd pleasers like Chili crab with beer. That may be boring and painfully unoriginal, but sitting outside in the heat and enjoying the chili with very cold beer, it is unbelievably satisfying.

                          In other Chinese-dominated places, like Hong Kong, which I know much, much better, I have found that genuine local fine dining (i.e, Chinese haute cuisine) was actually really limited. A Hong Kong freind who does not like Chinese food in Japan said to me that while most of the Chinese food in Tokyo and Yokohama is a bland bastardisation of the real thing, in terms of the high end restaurants, he has found there are probably more top Chinese restaurants in Tokyo than there are in Hong Kong. Is it similar in Singapore or not at all? (I am obviously aware of the difference in cuisines, the Malay influences etc etc, I just mean conceptually in terms of local cuisine, as opposed to French or Italian, fine dining).

                          1. re: Asomaniac

                            Hi Asomaniac :

                            I wrote in spontaneous reaction to defend the home turf against what I thought was a rather sarcastic remark. But maybe I should clarify further what I meant.

                            But in all honesty, yes, I do agree with Hot Chocolate that the Michelin guide, if ever there is one in Singapore, would be rather short. For French, maybe Gunther's and Iggy's can hope for 1 star. Nothing for Italian or Japanese. For Cantonese, a few good ones here but Michelin has never set the standard for Chinese food, so I am not sure how they rate this area.

                            But let's face it, what Singapore does best is its own Singapore local food, not French, not Italian, not Japanese, not Cantonese. And the best local food are mostly very simply stalls that focus on just one dish. No ambience, no service, relatively cheap prices. There is no seasonal food here; the tropic weather would ensure that freshness is not the primary factor. I would think all those factors would rule out local food out of Michelin standard.

                            You have used Tokyo as the reference point. Yes, I think Michelin has done indeed a good job there, I had some of the best meals ever through that guide book. But at the same time, Michelin has ruled out most of the comfort food that Japanese love to eat. There is no ramen shop, no oden, no nabe; all these are considered rather cheap and not suitable for Michelin standard.

                            The local food in Singapore will be just like the comfort food in Tokyo; they are loved by the locals but will never be considered "outstanding" by foreigners (actually, I meant westerners). There is just a different level of taste bud and appreciation.

                            Let me just use a local food as an example, Bar Kut Teh.
                            A well known local dish, my friends from Indonesia, Thailand, Hong Kong would often ask me to bring them to my favorite hole in the wall place. I have seen a few Japanese and Mainland Chinese dine there too but yet till today, I have not seen a western expatriate or tourist there. It is just not the type of food that will be appreciated by westerners but hugely popular with Asians. This is just one dish as an example, there are many others in the same position.

                            Tourists and expatriate alike, if they want to try the local food, the favorite would be the seafood option that are located by the sea (such as Seafood Centre in East Coast or the Marina bay area in Esplanade and Fullerton area). Or the Newton hawker center. Or food courts in shopping malls. But most would say these places are commercialized to the extent that the local flavor is gradually losing out. On another thread, I lament the decline of the standard of chilli crab in the pat 5-10 years due to the over expansion of the local seafood chains at the expense of their quality.

                            Back to your question of fine dining scene here, there are a few good ones but since I know you are based in Tokyo, there is really nothing that can be compared to Argento ASO that you recommended me a while back. Even my favorites Gunther's and Iggy's are not in the same class yet. So if that is the benchmark, the option is rather limited. But I would think the option is limited in many other cities as well if the benchmark is set at that very high level.

                            I think I would disagree on the Cantonese and Chiu Chow cuisine in Hong Kong though I can't compare it to Tokyo as I have never tried Chinese food in Tokyo (except Nanxiang Xialong bao at Roppongi Hill). I think the standard is very good in Hong Kong; I traveled there quite frequently, after all Hong Kong is my second favorite culinary city after Tokyo. In the past, most Chinese do not pay much attention to ambience and service but that is changing in the last one decade. Let me know on your next visit to Hong Kong, perhaps I can return the favor to introduce a few excellent ones to you. There are a few pretty good Cantonese restaurants here in town, but though not in the same standard as in Hong Kong, I still think it is a good choice for foodies.

                            1. re: FourSeasons


                              My wife and I are visiting a very good friend in Hong Kong for 4 days in June, so any tips would be gratefully appreciated. He is someone I have known since we were 10, over 20 years ago. We are both as bad as each other, food fanaticism-wise, and have travelled to over 20 countries together purely for the food. He knows a lot of unbelievable restaurants in HK, so I am very curious to see if he knows or doesn't know those you will recommend. In any event, all three of us will be very grateful for good tips.

                              I wasn't being very clear when I said that my HK friend (actually someone different from the friend I am about to visit) said that Chinese food at the very top end was better in Tokyo than in HK. He was referring to the level of Chinese cuisine in general, not just Cantonese. He ate his way through the Michelin starred Chinese places here and concluded that they are more innovative than back home, and no worse in terms of the very best ingredients they use. There was always the caveat that the regional differences in Chinese food are vast, but when I asked that if he just had to evaluate purely the standard, the level, he said he rated the top Chinese restaurants here more highly. We are only talking about the very top end of course, otherwise Chinese food in Japan is not very authentic, and often not great.

                              In Singapore, I must say I always absolutely loved every meal I had. A great Singaporean foodie friend of mine took us to what he thought were the best little places, which he said were a good reflection of local food not compromised to suit international tastes. (The poor guy now works in Amsterdam, which for a gourmet is a real culinary desert - even my Dutch wife agrees with that sentiment.) As for dishes like Bar Kut Teh, please don't generalise about Westerners - OK, I am maybe more "Eastern" as I am originally from Prague, Czech Republic, but I LOVE those types of dishes. There are very few things more immediately satisfying than a deep broth involving animal bones. I love broths based on chicken or cow bones, but pork is my favourite. In Japan, it makes or breaks certain ramen dishes. As for the ingredients of Bar Kut Teh, I use a lot of them for broths I make: cloves, cinnamon, garlic, star anise. I add soy sauce, fish sauce, dried shiitake, coriander, pepper, chili, lime juice and pork bones and bits of pork and pork fat to create a delicious base.

                              As to the seasonal thing, I love the heat and often feel very jealous when it is cold here of people who get to live in warm climates where it never really gets cold. I also really enjoy the tropical humidity. But I am glad we have seasons from a culinary perspective, it completely revolutionises the menu four times a year, especially in Japan. I know of no other country, certainly none in Europe, that is, from a food perspective, so very sensitive to seasonal variation. You get your abalone, for example, from very different regions in Japan depending on the season, and people here seem to always know exaclty what fish / vegetable / meat from what region to look for in what season.

                              1. re: Asomaniac

                                Asomaniac, did your HK friend also happened to think that food in Tokyo's 3-Michelin-starred China Blue (Conrad Hotel) is better than HK's best? China Blue's chef de cuisine, Albert Tse, happens to be Singaporean - he used to helm the kitchens at Jiang Nan Chun, Four Seasons Hotel Singapore.

                                If you look at the current sample lunch menu for China Blue, it includes Pork-rib Singapore style. That's Bah Kut Teh. Are we to believe that a Singaporean chef served bah kut teh soup to Michelin inspectors in Tokyo & won 3 Michelin stars?!

                                1. re: klyeoh


                                  China Blue only has one star, as do all other Chinese restaurants with Michelin stars in Tokyo. The only one which has two is Reikasai, which also is the only Chinese restaurant in the world to have more than one star. None has 3 stars - yet.

                                  He didn't talk a lot about China Blue other than to say that he found it innovative and exciting. I don't know what he had to eat there, we did not go together. When I was at China Blue, I was told by the waiter that when they first opened, it was more 'classical', but then the Chef altered many recipes to cater for local tastes. That is what many Chinese restaurants do in Japan, which usually results in boring and bland food. In China Blue, the tempering has resulted in some very tasty and original dishes. There is also a fusion element (foie gras and peking duck, for example, or fish with a parmesan cheese sauce, if they still do that).

                                  I have actually had better in Hong Kong though, I didn't think China Blue approached the impressive level of Reikasai. What Chinese people would make of China Blue would depend on their flexibility I guess. The food is top notch, but purists may put their noses up. However, other people, including my friend, recognise that cuisines constantly evolve and things would be very boring indeed without innovation, so being Hong Kong Chinese, he still loved it.

                                  1. re: Asomaniac

                                    Oops, you're right - I was gleaning the on-line Michelin Guide too quickly just now & mixed up the stars with the comfort category rating (should have remembered only 8 restaurants got the max 3-stars):


                                    The point I was trying to get across was: did you know how hard it is to get a HongKonger to admit that a Singaporean can actually cook better?

                                    BTW, many Chinese chefs from Singapore & Malaysia have been revolutionizing staid old recipes with fusion touches. Much of this new sense of adventurism & innovation was actually started by Susur Lee (formerly Toronto-based, but heard that he's moving to New York) when he was at Club Chinois in Singapore back in the early-90s. You can find his trademark dishes (e.g. foie gras paired with Peking duck skin, crisp prawns in wasabi-mayo) in My Humble House, Ginza.

                                    1. re: klyeoh

                                      Thanks for the tip, I will try My Humble House soon!

                                      Good point about the Hong Konger admitting this - I have certainly come across such culinary chauvinism in HK! My mate is so much into worshipping at the altar of good food, he'd gladly acknowlege superior cooking skills even if the cook was the devil himself.

                                      Very pleased about all those chefs you mention shaking things up. You should always maintain traditions, and it would be tragic if everything was altered in the name of change and for change's sake. But equally, it would be terrible if there was no innovation, tradition and innovation should exist in parallel. Applies to all cuisines; for example, I love some of the traditional Italian restaurants here, but some of the modern Italian cuisine available in Tokyo (especially Ristorante Aso, plus Aroma Fresca for modern Italian - Japanese fusion) is just divine.

                                      Do you think that Singaporean and Malay chefs might be mroe willing to experiment because they always see Chinese, Malay and Indian food cultures in close proximity - therefore always see external stimuli - while the regions of China are far more homogeous, food-wise?

                                    2. re: Asomaniac

                                      boy! how we digressed from the original topic of Michaelangelo's...

                                      Am not a big fan of the place, it's really just a casual dining venue. Same with Da Paolo. My friends were spending SGD 60-70 and complaining that it was expensive. Meanwhile I feel that the food was only average.

                                      If Michelin ever came out with a guide for Singapore I would laugh my head off...

                                  2. re: Asomaniac

                                    Hi Asomaniac:

                                    I will start a new thread on the Hong Kong Board, maybe tomorrow as a bit busy today, on the very top end Chinese food in Hong Kong when price is not an issue. Am sure will have some good responses on this topic, HKTraveller (whom you correspond on Japan thread), Peech (another wine lover like you), both of them native Honkies, and klyeoh and Charles Yu (both frequent visitors) will sure have good contributions.

                                    Yes, I should not generalize the taste bud of "westerners". But since joining Chowhound (this is American-centric, I guess), I notice broth or soup-based food is not something that is popular with Americans. If you go to above search function and type "sushi" in Japan board, "Beijing Duck", "Dim Sum" in China Board, "Chilli Crab", "Chicken Rice" in Singapore Board, there will be overwhelming responses. Go and type "nabe" in Japan thread, "hot pot" in China Board, "Jigae" in Korea Board, "steam boat" in Singapore Board, most likely you get close to 0 responses. But arguably, more Asians eat more broth based food than those that are seek by westerners as the "must go" popular ones. So I do think there is a different level of appreciation of certain food.

                                    Unfortunately, I have never been a fan of Jiang Nan Chun at Four Seasons Hotel Singapore or My Humble House in Singapore. Club Chinois used to be good but has deteriorated in last few visits.

                                    In Singapore, there is what we called Peranakan food, which is the earliest local fusion when the Chinese immigrants in early century (20, not 21) arrived to include Malay species to incorporate to their Southern Chinese dishes. There is a good restaurant called House of Peranakan at Meritus Negara Hotel here. There have not been much mixture in recent years though my favorite Curry Fish Head shop is cooked by a Chinese family even though it was originally a Southern Indian food.

                                    1. re: FourSeasons

                                      FYI HK is my adopted home but I am Taiwanese by birth...and count Singapore as my third home!

                                      Soup is something I have at home and I generally prefer it to be simple, so I actually don't like to order it when I dine out, since it takes up precious space that can be used to consume other dishes. However I do occasionally enjoy a nabe in Japan or hot pot in HK/Taiwan.

                                      Peranakan food is awesome. House of Peranakan, Peranakan Inn and Chili Padi are all favorites of mine.

                                      Let us not digress any further...we shud start a new thread