Amidst the deluge of Italian eateries in our tiny red dot, Cicheti is somewhat of an anomaly.
Not only is it not Italian owned, the chef at the helm is a Singaporean Chinese and, of all places, the osteria is situated smack bang in the heart of Kampong Glam, the nucleus of Muslim/Malay life and an area prolific with Arabic trades.
|Upper floor dining room @ Cicheti|
But this Kandahar Street newbie, which opened in November 2013, appears to have many things going for it – not least a hipster interior set in a double storey conservation shop house bedecked with weathered oak dining tables, exposed brick walls bearing quirky art works and a feature ‘cloud’ chandelier crafted with more than 2,000 recycled bulbs.
The setting is undoubtedly cool although all these come to nought if the food is anything but appealing.
Thanks to chef-patron, Yew Aun Lim, an alum of L’Operetta who co-owns the eatery with his cousin, Ong Li Ling, Cicheti trumps many of the city’s bona fide Italian eateries with a menu of disarmingly simple but well-executed small plates, pastas and pizzas.
The 10” Neapolitan pizzas baked in a Naples-imported wood-fired oven are its biggest stars. Crafted from imported Italian flour (Caputo 00 flour, no less), each pizza is topped with fior de latte mozzarella cheese and a tangy tomato sauce from Italy. Upon baking, the dough yields a subtly soft, slightly chewy feel with the scent of the wood fire enveloping the palate. Even pizza purists will be delighted with simplest margherita pizza (S$17), which arrives with nothing more than sauce, basil leaves, mozzarella and Parmesan cheese. But if you like your pie loaded with goodies, Yew prescribes the bismark (S$19) that offers added ham, bacon, mushrooms and a soft runny egg yolk.
|Burratina, prosciutto, rocket leaves, focaccia|
|Gambas in herbed butter sauce|
You can’t visit Cicheti without so much as try the snacks or small plates that it’s named for. Apparently, beef meatballs (S$11) sautéed in a slow cooked tomato sauce with grana cheese shavings is a must-try. But if, like us, you’re not a fan of meatballs, the day’s special –available on most days unless they are stocked out – of burratina (S$29) comes to the fore with a generous parcel of balsamic-glazed silky-creamy cow’s milk cheese beautifully paired with the umami of prosciutto, spicy – almost bitter – rocket leaves, subtly sweet grilled nectarine and toasted focaccia. Want more? Market-fresh prawns (S$11) sautéed with parsley, served in herbed butter sauce, is also a dependable – if predictable – option.
There are no surprises with mains, just the usual suspects of pastas (all priced at S$23), cioppino (S$27), char-grilled beef (S$32) and a whole baked seabass (S$35). But with Yew in command, even formulaic dishes get a glorious sheen.
|Pappardelle with slow-braised lamb shoulder simmered with porcini mushrooms|
Sheets of velvety house-made pappardelle pasta (S$23) are cooked until al dente and served with cubes of slow-braised lamb shoulder simmered with generous servings of umami-packed porcini mushrooms.
Cichetti’s cioppino (S$27) is also first rate. The seafood stew arrives with market-fresh pan-seared seafood basking in a robust – almost intoxicating – prawn and fish broth decorated with cherry tomatoes. Finished with a dash of cream, this hearty broth can be ordered as a starter for two or mains for one.
Restaurants rarely get them all right but at Cicheti, even the desserts are worth a mention. Molton lava chocolate cake gets a new lease of life as salted chocolate (S$12.50) while affogato (S$12.50) weighs in with a gigantic scoop of vanilla ice cream served in a glass jar alongside a single shot of espresso.
With Yew’s accomplished cooking, his careful selection of imported and local produce and affordable price points, what’s not to like about Cicheti?
Well, perhaps just the close-to-impossible parking situation at Kandahar Street.
52 Kandahar Street, Singapore 198 901 | +65- 6292 5012 | cicheti.com
© Evelyn Chen 2013
Please note that the reviews published on this blog are sometimes hosted. I am under no obligation to review every restaurant I’ve visited. If I do, the reviews are 100% my own.