We’ve not stepped foot in Restaurant Art (“Art”) since its move to the National Gallery. To cut a long story short, it’s now occupying the former glass-wrapped space of the now-defunct Aura lounge perched on the roof-top of what used to be Singapore’s Supreme Court and City Hall.
Equal parts airy, stately and luxurious, Art’s new roost is every bit as elegant as some of the finest dining institutions in the city but view-wise, it’s one-up to the rest, thanks to its unblocked panorama of the Marina Bay skyline. As tempting as it may be, do not let the stunning setting detract from the neo-Italian cuisine by Daniele Sperindio, the newly installed Group Executive Chef of the Il Lido group of restaurants. While Sperindio oversees the kitchen operations for the group, Art is where he resides and where he has been making his presence felt by way of his An Italian Tale tasting menu (7 courses for S$208++ for lunch and dinner) since March.
Hailing from Liguria, Italy, Sperindio was one-time Group Head Chef of the Tippling Club group of restaurants and Executive Chef of Atlas Bar, but in between these positions, he has also spent time in the kitchens of Alinea (Chicago) and Narisawa (Tokyo). His multifaceted experiences with different cuisines come to the fore in his not-so-Italian interpretations of the classic dishes of his growing-up years in Italy.
Paying tribute to the summery BBQ parties he partook in his childhood, Sperindio serves up Grigliata Estiva for his opening course. Housemade vegan garum-glazed Sicilian watermelon chunks (from Siracusa) are grilled on the coals, arriving at the table looking like a carpaccio of beef, and served blanketing a medley of San Marzano tomatoes, shaved green almonds, pink garlic and oregano pearls dressed in an ethereal tomato jus. While deliriously refreshing, this course also delights with an element of surprise.
Segueing into something richer, Sperindio proffers From Paris with Love. Building on past memories of his time as a stagiaire in Paris, where foie gras royale was abundantly available, the chef serves a riff on it. Instead of using foie gras, Sperindio make a velvety parfait with Australian beef liver, layers it with sea urchin custard and tops it with smidgens of tarragon cream, horseradish puree and Vincotto (unfermented wine grape reduction) and, last but not least, a glorious quenelle of Oscietra caviar. The full panoply of sweet, savoury, salty, creamy flavours, augmented with spikes of tartness, mingle together effortlessly to create an unfamiliar party in the palate.an outstanding dish in my opinion.
But it’s with the Christmas Dinner course that Sperindio wields the full potential of his might. Pillowy parcels of culugiones, a stuffed pasta from Sardinia, usually served for family dinners during Christmas, are filled with a pristine-white puree of braised leeks and matched with a light sweet corn broth, the latter the chef’s homage to his time in Chicago where corn is popularly eaten. Flanked by plump wedges of girolle mushrooms, this Italian pasta served in a not-so-Italian preparation is light, rustic and heart-warming – by far the most memorable pasta dish I’ve had in recent times.
Rare pigeons are not for everyone. I will not pick it if I have a choice but if a chef offers the dish as part of a tasting menu, I will not decline it. In the case of Sperindio’s Piccione Viaggiatore, I wiped the plate clean. Pigeon breast arrives decidedly rare, and most certainly moist, with a savoury sauce of heirloom carrots infused with pigeon liver, perfectly matched with a chunk of candied cedro lemon to cleanse the palate and a parcel of trombetta zucchini topped with fennel mimosa salad for a neutral counterpoint.
I could go on and on with other hits, including chef’s ingenious opening snacks aptly named Aperitivoa (pre-meal appetizers) but I shouldn’t spoil the surprise. I’ve tried Sperindio’s food several times and can say with confidence that he sure is hitting a home run this time.
1 St. Andrew Road #06-02, National Gallery, Singapore 178 957: +65 6866 1977; artrestaurant.sg
© Evelyn Chen 2020
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.