Post Circuit-Breaker, Zafferano has re-opened with a refreshed five-course tasting menu ($168++) by Milan-born, Naples-trained chef Andrea de Paola. De Paola joined the Ocean Financial Centre restaurant after six years with the il-Lido group of restaurants, the last few years of which was as the opening chef de cuisine of Osteria Art and co-head chef of the one Michelin-starred Braci.
With travel restrictions still in place due to the global pandemic, de Paola says that he has reimagined his “contemporary Italian cuisine” so that diners could travel vicariously through a meal designed by him at Zafferano. The result is an Italian experience with a decidedly international outlook and a whiff of Japanese influence by way of a clutch of ingredients from the Land of the Rising Sun. This armchair travel experience envisioned by de Paola may be a bit of a stretch but that does not detract from how the Italian chef manages to pack-in this much premiun ingredients – amongst them Miyazaki wagyu, Japanese kinmedai and Mazara del Vallo red prawn – in the menu without so much as busting the budget.
To start, de Paola serves a singular coral-red red prawn from Mazara del Vallo, a fishing town on the south-western coast of Sicily. Prized for its sweet flesh as well as mildly creamy texture, the shrimp is cured with fermented orange juice and other seasonings for 15 minutes, then coated with a prawn shell-infused Acquerello Carnaroli rice crumble flavoured with shichimi (a Japanese seven spice blend). The intensely sweet and oceanic rich number is rightly paired with a rich ambrosia of Marsala wine-cured foie gras for a magical contrast of surf and turf flavours.
For his fish course, de Paola charcoal-grills Japanese kinmedai (red-eyed snapper) until it’s medium rare, then serves it in a white miso infused reduced coconut milk perfumed with citrus zest and basil oil. Apart from the sweet and buttery smidgen of blitzed Delica pumpkin from Lombardy that decorates the plate, there are no other ingredients that are uniquely Italian. Still, he manages to ace it, demonstrating an out-of-the-box flavour mastery that is balanced as it is delicious, though completely un-Italian.
For the meat course, de Paola weighs in with marbled little chunks of Miyazaki A5 wagyu tamed with bunches of earthy and nutty-tasting kalettes (a cross between kale and brussel sprouts) and dressed with beef jus spiked with timur berry, a Nepalese peppercorn with the numbing spiciness of Szechuan peppercorn and hints of grapefruit. While I can only wish for a greater kick of spice, there is no denying that the flavours are balanced and well-juggled.
Because of my disdain for chocolates, de Paola fields a Hokkaido milk buffalo “mozzarella” cheesecake infused with olive oil for the dessert course. To cut its richness, he makes a jam with Kyoto strawberries before encasing it in the “mozzarella” sphere. Served on a base of fresh Kyoto strawberries and finished with a drizzle of Cutrera extra virgin olive oil from Sicily, this dessert looks the epitome of the Italian-Japanese influence chef stands for in his brave new tasting menu.
The best thing is, it’s pitched at an approachable price that makes Zafferano quite the sweet spot in the central business district
Ocean Financial Centre Level 43, 10 Collyer Quay | +65 6509 1488 | Zafferano.sg