Lots of Italian, some local spreads, and a touch of Sichuan

Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks? As much as we love the spate of new F&B joints popping up everyday, there’s some respect to be had for a restaurant that’s stood the test of time in tumultuous Singapore, and continued to keep things fresh for its loyal fans. Every month, we scope out some of your best-loved places for the new menus they’re bringing to the table.

 

Birds of a Feather



Sichuan cuisine establishments have been proliferating all around town, but almost two year-old Birds of a Feather is still one of the best for their inventive take on the cuisine. Its newly revitalized menu is packed with yummy recreations of traditional favorites. The standout main dish, surprisingly, is the vegetarian Good Slime Shine ($23/24), where yam noodles and various common vegetables become an amazing palate pleaser after being coated in a super addictive, intense and thick hot and sour sauce. Or get the Sweating Mussels ($29), where western techniques and Sichuan flavors combine for a sweat-inducing treat best eaten with rice. For something non-spicy, yet still distinctively Sichuan, the Oxtail Soup ($24) is a brothy, comforting dish meant for hearty slurps on a cold day. Don’t miss out on the spicy Charcoal Grilled Pork Bits ($15) too, a perfect snack to accompany one of their new cocktails. 115 Amoy St.
 

Botanico



Now almost two years old, The Garage, which houses restaurant Botanico upstairs and casual brunch spot Bee’s Knees on the ground level, has undergone a blossoming and emerged more vibrant than before. There’s a new Head Chef in charge, Chindian Sujatha Asokan, who injects much of her heritage into her cuisine. Up at Botanico, you get dishes like Seabass Ceviche ($17), her elevated take on assam laksa, done so in the most addictive way. Or try the humble Cauliflower ($10), a zesty snack that has the common vegetable shallow-fried and tossed in Canarejal cheese fondue. For mains, have the “Curry” Lamb Neck ($32) for a taste of Vadouvan—the French version of masala—deftly used, or go for the Slipper Lobster Chittara ($32) that has fresh pasta and lobsters cooked using chef’s housemade Chinese XO sauce. 50 Cluny Park Rd.


Food Exchange



Just in time for a patriotic month, Novotel Singapore on Stevens’ all-day dining restaurant Food Exchange has released a refreshed buffet spread ($58, Mon-Thu dinners) featuring good ol’ Singapore classics like sambal stingray, chili crab and laksa. There’ll even be live teh tarik pulling and prata flipping stations where you can see your orders prepared right in front of you. If you’ve always enjoyed their fresh seafood on ice, Japanese sushi and meat carving stations, don’t worry, they’re not going anywhere. As a sweet treat to end your meal, make your own cuppa affogato using the espresso machine and vanilla ice-cream from the freezer. 28 Stevens Rd.
 

Hard Rock Cafe



It may seem like a strange choice for Orchard Road institution Hard Rock Cafe Singapore to conceptualize a local menu—but anything goes for National Day. The patriotic menu (available through Aug 31) is brief but concise, and surprisingly authentic. Have a go at the Beef Rendang ($25.95) made with slow-cooked beef in rich spices, and served with tangy homemade achar; or the Braised Pork Belly “Kong Ba Pau” ($24.95) featuring soft fatty belly in soy and oyster sauce, with a side of chili that hides quite the kick. But we were most surprised by the Laksa ($23.95), a creamy, no-nonsense take on the classic broth with a spoonful of sambal that was deceptively potent. Wash it down with your choice of four locally inspired cocktails—Rosemary Lime Rita ($21.95), Ginger Cooler ($23.95), Kampong Cucumber ($24.95), and the deadly spiked Pandan Old Fashioned ($22.95).


La Strada



The Les Amis Group’s Italian beauty La Strada has revamped with a fresh, modern new interior and a classy set lunch menu to match. For $42 per person, you get a three-course meal of antipasti, a main (secondi/grigliato), dessert (dolci), plus a coffee or tea to finish. For starters, try the seasonal Brown Mediterranean Crab Salad that comes with a petite but hearty bowl of crab soup—a light, refreshing take on crab. For the opposite, the Foie Gras Bruschetta ($24 on the dinner menu) makes for a decadent appetizer of pan-seared foie gras, dates, pineapple, vanilla and ginger compote that is alone worth the price tag. Of the many pasta mains, we wholeheartedly recommend the Chitarra alla Carbonara ($36), topped with a slow-cooked egg, ham crumble, and drenched in truffle butter. If you’d like something from the hickory charcoal grill, the Agnello ($50)—Australian mottainai omega lamb spare ribs—will not disappoint; and goes great with a side order of Purple Kale ($16). And for dessert, if you aren’t indulging in either the Traditional or Limoncello Tiramisu ($16 each), the new Cannoli ($14) with pistachio ricotta and candied orange zest should do the trick.


Nami Restaurant & Bar



Shangri-La Hotel Singapore’s one year-old Japanese concept has unveiled a new nine-course set menu ($180) that shines the spotlight on the quintessential Japanese broth, dashi. Prepared by Head Chef Shigeo Akiba, now flexing his muscles as a dashi master, the new menu offers dishes like uni on yam tofu with bonito jelly to start. It’s followed by a clam and chicken soup dish, before moving onto fresh sashimi, then a steamed savory custard with udon and crab, before the mains—Miyazaki beef and seasonal sakura shrimp rice—are served. End with a fruit cocktail mixed with red bean paste and plum vinegar jelly stock. If you’re keen on knowing dashi more intimately, Nami also offers a Dashi Appreciation Class ($118) held once every month. 22 Orange Grove Rd.
 

Positano Risto



Popular Muslim-owned Italian restaurant Positano Risto in the Arab quarters has refreshed its menu with more than 10 new items they know will be easy crowd pleasers. For nibbles, there’s the Arancini Balls ($11.95) packed with mozzarella and served with homemade sauce, or the sweet and spicy Italian Crab Cakes ($10.95). Definitely try the new pastas like the generously-portioned Soft Shell Crab Linguini ($22.95), or the new take on an old favorite, the Boston Lobster Fettuccine ($58.95) that is truly an indulgent treat. More in the mood for meats? Get the Positano Signature Short Ribs ($36.95) instead, where beef short ribs are braised with a special Italian herb sauce before being served with mashed potatoes, grilled vegetables and mixed salad. 66 Bussorah St.
 

Zafferano



Sky-high Italian restaurant Zafferano has a new head chef onboard and with it comes a new menu that’s starkly different from before. Helming the kitchen now is Emanuele Faggi, who brings with him a finer, more modern, Tuscan touch to the establishment. For antipasti, you’ll get items like raw Hokkaido scallops ($32) topped with dried capers powder, avruga caviar and saffron sauce, or the fresh and succulent gamberi ($32) with warm ricotta, tomato confit, cocktail sauce espuma and basil oil. For primi and mains, standouts include the braised veal ravioli ($38) served with fresh raw oysters, candied lemon and bathed in veal stock, as well as the pigeon ($68) that comes cooked two ways—legs braised till tender and breast roasted then smoked in rosemary. The deconstructed cremino ($16) dessert is a must-try; it looks simple and unassuming, but its parts come together in the most palatable way. 43/F Ocean Financial Centre, 10 Collyer Quay