Last Updated: June 16, 2019
You probably have heard of the word omakase. But I bet it’s a stretch for you to have heard an Italian place serve an omakase-style menu. That’s exactly what you would find at Solo Ristorante opened by Chef Gabriel Fratini, located at Amoy Street.
Having given up the space he used to lease in Sheraton Towers for his previous business, Domvs, Chef Gabriel is now back with an establishment that is cosier and more intimate.
There’s a bar counter for guests to watch how the dishes are made, while being immersed in the bustle of the kitchen’s workings.
There are also regular dining tables — although not too many — flushed against the walls that are adorned with artworks painted by his truly. Yes, Chef Gabriel is also an artist who has sold numerous paintings, and it’s evident in his plating style that his artistic flair is very much alive.
There’s a very lean a la carte menu here, serving common dishes such as risotto, pasta, meat and seafood. However, you’ll only truly get a sense of how amazing the food is if you go with the degustation menu.
Lunch is a three-course set at S$38 (alternatively, for S$58, you may choose to add a main of fish or meat as an extra main), while dinner is a felicitous eight courses priced at S$98.
How does Chef Gabriel think of recipes for the degustation menu? “Well, after 40 years of cooking, I’ve tried so many combinations.”
I also asked if the dishes are ever repeated, to which he replied, “Very rarely. Sure, the protein is the same, but you won’t eat the prawns or the chicken the same way twice. I use different sauces, different combinations and I use the plate as if I’m painting one of my pieces.”
Indeed, the first course looked like a painting that comprised of only three ingredients: scallop, crab meat and peas. He stated that Italians eat a lot of peas, but it can get very boring eating it the same way repeatedly. So here, he made it into a puree, and scattered dehydrated olives around the plate to serve as the backdrop for the solo scallop.
The most surprising element of the dish was the dehydrated olive crumbles; pepper them on every delicate forkful of scallop and you’ll be greeted with a blissful marriage of sweet seafood flesh and smoky, earthy cookie-like dust. It threw me off for a second, and then I was won over.
Our second plate resembled a watercolour painting, with a single grilled prawn as the focal point. Hues of orange and red merged to create beautiful waves reminiscent of a sunset. They were, in fact, orange sauce and purple carrot reduction.
It’s the first time I’ve had the pleasure of enjoying a prawn with orange sauce, and to my delight, it worked marvellously. The purple carrot reduction was made with a small amount of sugar, so it didn’t taste of much, but nevertheless, the tangy bite of the orange and sweetness of the prawn was sufficiently memorable.
First impressions of the third dish made me believe that it was a pasta dish, when in fact it was a chicken meatball with tomato sauce and burrata, sitting precariously atop a bed of potato mash. A spiral of balsamic vinegar was splashed around the rim of the plate for both visual and palatial purposes.
The chicken meatball itself wasn’t phenomenal, but then again, I haven’t eaten many chicken meatballs to know what makes an outstanding one. What caught my attention was the fusion of the balsamic vinegar, tomato sauce and burrata — there were elements of acid, sour, sweet, and creamy. Definitely a profile I’m unfamiliar with.
This fourth plate was my favourite of all, although the use of black truffle sauce highly likely swayed my vote. These three circular ravioli were stuffed with veal and burrata, covered in black truffle sauce and encircled in flecks of parmesan crumbs.
The flavours, when combined, were outrageously rich and ravished my entire palate with woody accents as well as apt gameyness. To say this was decadent would be to imply this was a sin. On the flip side, it represented everything saintly about Italian cooking: the use of simple ingredients to create a smorgasbord of flavours that almost anyone can fall in love with.
No Italian meal is complete without tiramisu. That’s my honest opinion. I enquired with Chef Gabriel if his version uses alcohol, to which he simply gave me an intimidatingly blank stare. “If you know the original recipe, you’ll know tiramisu has never had alcohol in it. In fact, it’s never had raw eggs in it. Today, people change recipes and it becomes the new norm, but tiramisu is more than a 100-year-old recipe, and it’s never had alcohol in it,” he ranted.
I took a bite of humble pie, as I took a generous bite out of the tiramisu and I was so happy in that fleeting moment. Tiramisu is my favourite Italian dessert of all time, but I find it challenging to find excellent and authentic versions being sold in Singapore.
This one was the right ratio of sponge, mascarpone, and coffee-soaked savoiardi biscuits. I was extra grateful that Chef Gabriel was generous enough to scoop a slighter larger serving for me. I made sure to scrape off as much coffee-snow off the plate as possible, to not only show my gratitude, but also because I wanted to relish in this pleasurable sweet ending.
I’m sure you, just like me, have had countless Italian dining experiences, but I implore you to head down to Solo Ristorante to see and taste Italian fare with a new perspective. The ingredients used are elementary and few, but witnessing Chef Gabriel execute plating is like watching a culinary symphony.
The crescendo hits right on that first bite, and its effects don’t dampen till you’ve eaten every last morsel off your plate. It was quite the honour to have a front-row seat to gaze upon an artist’s artwork unfold from start to finish.
Expected Damage: S$45 – S$120 per pax
Price: $ $
Our Rating: 5 / 5
45 Amoy Street, Singapore 069871
45 Amoy Street, Singapore 069871