Singapore: Bonta Italian at UE Square
Some recent discussion on Italian cuisine in Singapore Board recently so I thought I would just give a quick review of Bonta at UE Square that I visited over the last weekend.
Owner chef Luca came to our table to recommend a few dishes, so I accepted his recommendation to start off with the seasonal asparagus imported from Italy. My foodie friend claimed they have the best linguini pasta with squid ink in Singapore, so I ordered this as my second dish and happily agreed with his opinion. Then ordered a Veal chop as the main dish, and at the same time, took a slice of the Veal Milanese style from my wife and a slice of Fiorentina steak from my friend. They were all very good.
This is probably my favorite Italian restaurant in town right now.
BONTA AT UE SQUARE – MY REVIEW
Our birthday dinner may not have happened at Bonta since the first person who answered my call refused to accept my reservation for the UOB 1 for 1 set dinner since I had not made it a full 24 hours prior.
When I asked her whether the restaurant was full, she claimed that it was UOB policy. However, other than stating that a prior reservation was required, the 24 hours notice was not mentioned anywhere in the UOB booklet.
Anyway, her supervisor relented and I was pressed for time. I read a couple of reviews on Chef Pezzera;s culinary capabilities and thought that we should give it a try.
The dinner started reasonably – we were given a table near the entrance but when we asked for another table, we were led to a corner table which given the regular layout of the restaurant and bright lighting , was not particularly exciting , but a little less open. Although there was a large family group next to us, other than the intermittent shrill protests of the children, they were largely subdued.
When the waitress handed the menus, another more senior staff stopped her, Although the restaurant was well staffed , we had to request for the wine list and the a la carte menus and waited a little while for the set menu cards – a waiter came to ask us if we wanted still or sparkling , but when we asked for plain water , the requested was accepted with a smile , and ice cold water which was refilled regularly.
The bread puffed up beautifully, served in a white porcelain tumbler, studded with walnuts and the surprising crumble of cheese – was it feta? Fluffily soft but not gummy – and the waitress offered more.
There was no sommelier in attendance but my husband’s choice of wine was perfect – a gentle verdicchio with a bouquet subtly reminiscent of summery fruits.
Trout mousse wrapped with salmon came next – creamy and the fresh fish taste was not masked by over spicing – the cherry tomatoes with a splash of superior balsamic popped refreshingly.
However, until dessert arrived, there was a distinctive slide in quality from then on. It was hard to distinguish that the papardelle was freshly made- it did not have the soft yielding bite of fresh pasta – and instead of wild mushrooms as stated in the menu – there were only slices of button – probably white button – coated in a rich but bland cream sauce – without any garnish of parsley – and we had to ask for ground black pepper.
The mains were the biggest disappointment – our waygu beef cheeks must have been steeped in marinade for a long while – they did not melt , but rather disintegrated even while on the plate – I had even mistaken a piece for a carrot – coated in the thick brown sauce which tasted like it was made from a powdered base. The smidgen of tart balsamic was too insignificant to balance the murky taste. At this juncture there was a strong whiff of cigarette – the friendly waiter who replenished our water glasses confirmed that he had just gone for his cigarette break.
Dessert however saved the day – pureed mango gelato crusted with pistachio. The birthday girl had a tiramisu generously decorated with chocolate pieces but it would have been a thoughtful touch if the smoker lit her candle.
The portions were definitely downsized because of the 1 for 1 deal – we were not overly concerned since the bread was quite a filler to begin with.
All in all, I would say that it was a pleasant experience .However, although I have just read that the owners would be opening a bistro at an interesting location a stone’s throw from me , I am ambivalent about going there , and definite that I would not return to Bonta in UE square. The reason is that there are many more Italian and continental restaurants where I can spend my money.
Although the wait staff were pleasant and obviously trained, there was no special touch – we have been perhaps been too spoilt since in most fine dining restaurants here, it is de rigeur in most fine dining places for the proprietor who is often the chef or a personable manager come round for a short chat which invariably results in useful feedback.
We noticed that there were hardly any expatriates about and definitely no Italians in sight – which is quite unusual as you always see a loyal few in many other Italian restaurants in town. Perhaps it was Sunday night.
The food was not outstanding – one would have thought that the set dining menu intended to reach out to a new audience should make such an impression for spenders to want to repeat the experience – not make them feel ever so slightly shortchanged.
Good to know that Luca Iannone has donned his chef's whites again. His brother Fabio used to be owner-chef of Fuenti in the same spot where Bonta is now (whence Luca was still running La Braceria in Ban Guan Park, near Sixth Ave). Both are very talented cooks & fare at their restaurants tend to be very good - if they don't spend too much time hobnobbing with guests in front.