Fratini’s, Bukit Timah
You can tell you are approaching Bukit Timah, that small expat enclave in central Singapore, by the amount of air kissing that takes place in public, particularly in restaurants. This strange evolution of the southern European art of kissing ones fellow man, or indeed woman, on both cheeks, has morphed into an art form of severe false sincerity; pursing ones lips and mustering up a suitably audible “muwahh” as the head darts from one ear to the other, usually twice (one for each side) or if the occasion warrants it or the person (s) carrying out this bizarre ritual deem themselves to be of a specific social standing (think uber hipster, Instagram social influencer or just French) four times.
So, it was that we found ourselves, after a somewhat traumatic taxi ride with one of Singapore’s infamous Taxi uncles stood very unsteadily outside Fratini’s restaurant in Bukit Timah. I first visited this establishment late last year as a birthday treat from my girlfriend, we enjoyed it greatly, so as a bit of a treat my girlfriend kindly decided to treat me to it again.
Fratini’s is an Italian restaurant that operates a policy, theme or gimmick of having (officially at least) no menu. And here is my first problem with this place; how can you have no menu? By implication having no menu essentially means you have no idea what on earth you are going to cook on any particular given evening, your chefs have no idea what they will be cooking when they turn up for their shift and the waiting staff will not have a single clue what they are serving to their paying clientele. No, what this concept essentially is, is a restaurant choosing not to tell me what they are going to serve me. They can dress it up however they chose: “please let us know if there is anything you don’t like to eat or are allergic to” and yes, I do believe there is a certain amount of flexibility within the chef’s ability and the ingredients they have on site to allow them to vary their output to a certain extent, but please do not tell me that there is no menu. I guess these days with the economy how it is and the F&B industry as competitive as it is, there has to be that edge, or that USP that will draw in the punters.
‘Did you hear about the Italian in Bukit Timah? Darling it has no menu (cue first round of air kissing)”
“What on earth did you eat Darling?” (cue second round of air kissing.)
“Well, it was fabulous, they just make it up on the spot, how marvellous!” (More air kissing.) Obviously, the characters enacting this in my mind are straight out of English central casting for some terrible sequel to one of those god-awful films like ‘Love Actually.”
Putting my somewhat pedantic gripe to one side, the place is an inviting and cosy restaurant served by a warm and genial team, who DO KNOW what they are going to serve you. The lovely front of house lady patiently explained that we would be sampling 14 different items throughout the evening, inspired by several different regions across Italy (Chef must be a bloody genius to have planned all that out straight after starting his shift.)
The first course was a sharing platter served on a long wooden board consisting of: Rock Melon with Parma ham and pomegranate seeds, Salmon mousse, Raw Swordfish with a delicious pumpkin puree and a Scallop in a cheese sauce served with wild rice. All rather pleasant and tasty if a tad under seasoned for me. To follow we were served Deep fried octopus, carrots and beans and a Yuzu mayonnaise.
I am not a fan of Octopus. In recent years, I have become better at dealing with food that looks like it has come from somewhere outside of our own universe, but I have not yet overcome my fear of this tentacled mollusc. Nevertheless, if it’s deep fried, how bad can it be?
Far from being put off by the look of it, I was actually disappointed in the taste; I found it slightly charred and the vegetables had no taste and as for the Yuzu mayonnaise, well all I could taste was Wasabi.
Following this was the guilt-ridden pleasure that is Foie Gras. The lovely front of house lady kindly asked us if we had a problem with Foie gras? I actually thought this was a nice touch, however I think she was somewhat taken aback by our enthusiastic response to her question: “No issue at all, send it over!” The foie gras was served with a blueberry sauce and fig chutney, not bad but not amazing.
We were then treated to 3 courses that really made the night: Veal Shank Ossobuco with Parmesan Risotto, Slipper Lobster with Pesto sauce and an exquisite Aglo olio. These three dishes lifted the meal to another level and showed just what a chef can do when he has no menu and therefore no idea what he is going to cook at the start of every service. Probably the standout course for me was the Beef cheeks: succulent melting beef with a rich flavourful jus served on top of the most perfectly cooked risotto.
The meal was rounded off with a selection of desserts, served on the now ubiquitous long wooden board: Tiramisu, a small chocolate brownie, crème Brule and a lavender panecotta. All acceptable and non-offensive, except for the lavender panecotta. Why on earth anyone would put lavender in a desert is beyond me.
All in all, a very enjoyable meal, served by attentive, warm and friendly staff who obviously take great pride in what they are doing, and, definitely know what they are going to be serving that evening.
Cost for 2 people was $331, the meal was a bit more expensive than planned due to the amount of alcohol consumed. Set meal is $95++ per person and even though they have absolutely no idea what they are going to serve you, it is well worth a visit.