Last Updated: February 21, 2020
There is no denying how much we love Japanese food—turn a corner and a new sushi chain has landed on our shores. Likewise, it’s always pasta and pizza for the win whenever dinner rolls around. What can I say, Italian and Japanese cuisine has clearly won our hearts, so it’s kismet when you find a restaurant serves both Italian and Japanese cuisine. Monte Risaia situated along the trendy streets of Duxton aims to do just that.
Helmed by Chef Tazio Yamada, Monte Risaia serves Japanese-inspired Italian cuisine that is meticulously prepared with premium and seasonal Japanese ingredients.
Just like its sleek black exterior, the inside of Monte Risaia features a modern yet cosy 12-seater counter where you can watch Chef Yamada and team deftly execute each dish.
Chef Yamada is not your typical Japanese chef. His affection for all things started Italian started early on as a kitchen helper at an Italian restaurant in Tokyo Shibuya town. After a four-year stint, Chef Yamada joined Aponte Italian restaurant in Ebisu town as a junior cook. Slowly but surely, he worked his way up to Head Chef and on to the next challenge: opening a restaurant in Singapore.
Besides specialising in Japanese inspired Italian cuisine, another feature of Monte Risaia is their affordably-priced omakase sets that start from S$68++ for a three-course meal. I don’t know about you, but omakase sets rarely dip before the S$100 mark and even so it might not be as satisfying as you’d want it to be.
That being said, I was pretty eager to see how Monte Risaia’s omakase menu fared against other omakase meals I had. For your starter, you can choose between the Signature Uni Pudding or the Mozerella Al Forno. As luck would have it, I was served both so you’ll know what you’re getting into.
Ever the Japanese fiend, I couldn’t really resist the Signature Uni Pudding. With generous slivers of tangerine-coloured uni from Hokkaido, I was pretty impressed by the calibre of the starter.
The pudding was smooth, creamy and chockful of that briny, oceanic uni mixed into the concoction. Topped off with those chubby, buttery uni pieces—it was utter bliss.
That being said, uni can be somewhat of an acquired taste. If you aren’t feeling up to it, though I urge you to try this delicacy. The Mozarella Al Forno should whet your appetite all the same.
This luxurious starter features an ambrosial combination of a marbled rectangle of Ageing Akagi Wagyu, a blanket of oozy mozzarella, eggplant and finished with a dollop of gleaming black avruga caviar pearls.
The wagyu had a great char and was unbelievably silky, paired with the melty, thick mozzarella and it sure made for an indulgent mouthful already. However, what really did it for me were those briny caviar spheres that delivered little bursts of saltiness in each bite.
An unconventional pairing of ingredients for sure, but one that works.
Next, we were served another round of appetisers, the beautifully plated Antipasto Misto (assorted appetisers). There was quite a number of items on the plate and I was told there was a specific order to enjoying these goodies.
For my plate, I had a spoonful of Sakoshi Bay Oysters, a Scallop Tartare with Homemade Mayo Topped With Ikura, Tiger Prawn Arrabiatta, Japanese Tai with Shimonita Leek and Bottarga and Prosciutto San Daniele Ham with Fig. Quite the feast for the eyes, if I do say so myself.
I began with the oysters and if you know your oysters, then you’ll know that Sakochi Bay Oysters are known for being thick and fleshy with a wonderfully creamy texture. Chef Yamada has also cleverly added a single pink peppercorn to slurp down with the oyster.
Pink peppercorns are not as pungent as black peppercorns and even have a slight berry-like flavour. Which in turn, helped to balance and cut through some of the richness from the oyster. A minute detail but one that certainly elevates the flavour.
An item that caught my interest had to be the Japanese Tai with Shimonita Leek and Bottarga. Japanese tai has always been one of my favourite cuts of sashimi due to its sweet and delicate flavour.
Not to mention, this was sprinkled with bottarga, a salty umami-laden cured fish roe that is commonly used in the Mediterranean. Chef Yamada also tells me the Shimonita Leek was seasonal and prized for its sweetness. While I appreciated that fact, to me, the leek muddled the clean flavours from the tai.
For the main dish, it was everyone favourite carbohydrate—pasta. This was Monte Risaia’s Signature ‘Shiso and Omaru Dashi’. This was a simple enough dish with a robust tomato sauce, crab and a generous spoonful of chopped perilla leaf.
The perilla leaf is commonly used in Japanese cooking and tastes like a combination of mint and basil. The addition definitely brightened up the pasta and was a nice homage to Chef Yamada’s Japanese roots. Additionally, the pasta was served al dente—mushy pasta is a huge pet peeve of mine, so this plate earned some brownie points.
Even though the sauce was simple, it checked all the boxes for me in terms of taste and balance. My only other gripe is the scarcity of crab—I would have liked just a little more crab to truly make this a great dish.
Ever the spice fiend, Chef Yamada even offered some of his homemade chilli oil for just a little kick. Trust me, it makes all the difference.
If you opted for the three-course omakase set then your meal would end right here. Which if you are not feeling particularly peckish, you’d be perfectly satisfied. But if that inner carnivore is calling out to you, the four-course omakase (S$98) would be your best bet.
You’ll get to choose between the Maple Leaf Duck, Lamb Chop, Iberico Pork and Ageing Akagi Wagyu Ichibo (Japan) (extra top-up of S$20++).
Well, wagyu rarely disappoints. The ruby-red slab was done to a gorgeous medium-rare with quality marbling as well. Keep in mind that I was given a tasting portion—you’ll be served a much more substantial serving if you opt for the beef.
Tender and seasoned simply with salt and pepper, this wagyu is worth the extra S$20++.
I’ve always been quite fond of duck and it’s hard for me to say no when I see it on the menu.
Not to mention, given its tendency to dry out, this protein served as a good test of the Chef’s prowess. Drizzled with a little olive oil and sprinkled with freshly-cracked black pepper, Monte Risaia kept it pretty straightforward to allow the duck to shine through.
The duck was prepared to my preferred doneness, with the slightest blush to the meat with barely any resistance to my knife. Accompanied by a dash of syrupy balsamic vinegar, it was a perfect mouthful indeed.
While the food at Monte Risaia is not especially mind-blowing, each item is prepared with heart and top-notch ingredients. It’s sure to promise a satisfactory time for both your tummy and wallet.
Expected Damage: S$68++ – S$168++ per pax
Price: $ $
Our Rating: 3 / 5
59 Duxton Road, Singapore 089523
59 Duxton Road, Singapore 089523