If the pandemic has taught the F&B industry anything, it’s the importance of pivoting.
With local bars still closed due to the COVID19 situation, the industry has scrambled to cope – Art Restaurant & Bar by restaurateur Beppe de Vito is no different. Since mid October, the Italian restaurant has moved a level up to occupy the expansive space of what used to be the now-defunct Aura Sky Lounge. In the former’s 68-seat space sits Gemma, a brand-new restaurant helmed by newly-installed group executive chef Daniele Sperindio.
Pitched as an upscale Italian steakhouse set in what used to be Art’s decidedly elegant space with glitzy brass and bronze accents, Gemma very much exudes an air of old world charm, what with personalized Gueridon steak service doled out from a marble-topped trolley. But make no mistake, Sperindio’s a la carte menu is not one that harks back to nostalgia.
From his curing room, Sperindio offers a taste of cured and smoked cuts such as Tea Smoked Ora King Salmon ($28) and Challans Duck Prosciutto ($28) prepared in-house. You could well have these or commence with the menu of starters like the Krystale Oysters ($54 for half a dozen) with citrus bubbles and 50-year-old Sherry vinegar.
But the star of the show, in my opinion, is the humble caesar salad prepped with not-so-humble ingredients. Named Hail, Caesar! Baby Sucrine, Grilled Pancetta, Organic Egg Yolk ($26) on the menu, the salad is prepared table-side and the salad dressing crafted with atypical ingredients including the Colatura fish sauce, a fermented anchovy sauce, for a dose of umami. Instead of pure olive oil, they use oil from confit of Sicilian garlic and rather than bacon bits, they serve chunky homemade pancetta. Additionally, you will get sucrine lettuce freshly shredded on a wooden mandolin, juice from the Amalfi lemon as well as horseradish, not mustard, for a kick of spice, all prepared a la minute in full view of yourself and your guests. Are you suitably impressed yet?
The raison d’être of Gemma are its large format steaks and prime meats of which six cuts are from wagyu with the rest currently made up of a half lamb rack, a yellow Poussin chicken and a turbot steak on the bone. If it’s your first time, there’s no reason to eat anything other than beef and options are plentiful with A5 Miyazaki wagyu sirloin one of the premium – if most marbled – options. I generally defer to a bone-in meat option, here you get to pick from the 30-day dry-aged T-Bone Florentine Steak, the 45-day dry-aged Bone-in Ribeye Costata or the 45-day Sirloin on the Bone, all priced at $25 per 100g. Whichever cut you prefer, know that you are in good hands with Sperindio’s double-resting cooking technique – the meats are cooked in a Josper oven, rested under a warm lamp for 10 minutes, then tossed into the oven again before it is rested for another 15 minutes. This method, says Sperindio, gives the meat a nice char while keeping the insides moist and evenly pink.
For sides, the Celeriac Carpaccio with Dill Oil and Black Garlic ($18) stands out with its beautiful crunchy texture while the Mugnuli Wild Broccoli with Garlic Salmoriglio (garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, oregano, water) and Pecorino ($16) is lovely too although the garlic’s presence is somewhat muted.
Come dessert time, you’re in for a real treat and thankfully it won’t be the ubiquitous tiramisu that you’re having. The menu offers just three sweets at the moment and they are all excellent, even for someone who does not enjoy desserts, think pistachio marzipan soufflé with grappa custard and moka ganache ($24).
I, for one, can’t get my mind off the Roasted Round Figs with Vin Cotto and Binchotan Fior di Latte Gelato ($20) – roasted figs packed to the seams with juices beautifully matched vincotto (cooked wine made from unfermented grapes) and a scoop of smoked-milk gelato.
1 St. Andrew Road #05-03, National Gallery, Singapore 178 957: +65 87870977; gemmasteakhouse.sg