Monday, August 25, 2008

senza nome

There’s a chain of relatively well regarded seafood restaurants in Singapore named “No Signboard Seafood” – they started out in a hawker centre selling their seafood dishes that mrs proprietor cooked up from the seafood that mr proprietor brought back on his bicycle from the market. They couldn’t afford a signboard for their humble little store then, but the food drew in a loyal clientele, and word of mouth spread round the tiny island of their signature white pepper crab – they became known as the ‘no signboard seafood restaurant’. Rather literal, but it worked – they now have a chain of 4 restaurants all bearing the same name, and cooking the same famous white pepper crab.

I digress. I’m not sure why I thought of the “No Signboard Seafood” restaurant when I mean to write about Senza Nome where me and y had dinner on her last night in town. Senza Nome, means “without a name” – I’m certain it wasn’t because they couldn’t afford a name, but it’s a curious choice nonetheless. They seem, however, to have made a name for themselves, they were fully booked that evening, and have got a Michelin sparkler for their efforts. I was excited. But then again, I’m always excited when pasta is involved.

A brief glance at the menu and I wanted to order everything that contained the word bottega, of which there were a healthy number. It was too hard to choose. y and I decided to take the lazy option and went for the degustation menu – four courses of seasonal offerings.
A bread board of cheese infused foccacia arrived which helped to assuage our hunger, as did an amuse bouche of soft mozzarella, cherry tomatoes and a bread stick, drizzled over with fruity olive oil.

We started off with a first course was seafood and mash. The attempted description in French did sound a lot more delicious – but the waitress gave up when me and y responded with blank stares. Her attempt to describe the dish in English resulted in something along the lines of “seafood and mash”. Scrumptiously plump mussels and shrimp resting precariously atop a mound of creamy mash which itself was nestled in a bath of tomato infused fish broth which tasted pleasantly not unlike boulliabaise. It was absolutely lovely.

The pasta course was simply amazing. And it’s not because I’m partial to pasta. It’s simplicity was not something to be sneered at. Perfectly formed fresh handmade egg pasta rolls, al denté and reveling in the luxury of a straightforward tomato sauce in which the neat cubes of tomatoes had been confit cooked in an abundance of rich velvety olive oil. It was very exciting to eat, yet very comforting.

The fish course came in the form of a fillet of dourade ( which google informs me is gilthead bream) smeared over liberally with a paste of aubergine. It was lightly grilled beneath this eggplant blanket, and came with yet another helping of the delectable mash dressed in the lightest drizzle of fish broth and more of that delectably virgin olive oil.

Having been gazing enviously at the table of five next to us who had also gone for the same menu while they ate their puddings, we had heretically considered asking the waitress to forego the fish course and get us straight to pudding. ours finally arrived – an shot glass with a rich chocolate mascarpone topped with an even richer chocolate sauce, next to it, a little dish containing a quenelle of tiramisu ice-cream, tasting wholesomely of espresso and more mascarpone and chocolate. Despite all its richness, none of it was cloying – the mascarpone had the lightness of mousse, the chocolate sauce adding a bittersweet note.

Like its name, the food at senza nome was simplicity personified – no fancy preparations, lecithin infused foamy chi-chi-ness to confuse and wow the senses. In a town where molecular preparations jostle alongside bistro brusqueness for your dining dollar (or rather your epicurean euros), the quality of the produce and the cooking at senza nome was a refreshing breath of confident sophisticated simplicity.


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