The general rule to anything is this: don’t mess with anything that’s already perfect. In the case of Italian lounge Aura, the marbled-clad and crimson interiors have well withstood the sands of time. When it comes to cuisine, chef-owner Beppe de Vito has decided that some work is needed.
Thus the slightly confusing switcheroo: Aura has now been replaced by Art Restaurant, a fine-dining establishment once located in the heart of the CBD. Art is not short of changes as well. Formerly Osteria Art, the concept went from hearty Italian to fine-dining. Perhaps it won’t sit as well with the bankers in the area.
Now, it continues to live on at the National Gallery Singapore, home to some outstanding names like Odette, Yan and Smoke & Mirrors. Art’s latest incarnation fits right in the art museum, but it is more than just cheesy coincidence.
De Vito has now taken over all reins at Art, orchestrating a richly textured symphony of fine Italian flavours. The entrance of the restaurant is met with a parade of seasonal ingredients on platters: the heavy aroma of white truffle on a bed of hazelnuts, spindly chestnuts, yellow Amalfi lemons and a pile of Autumn squash — a lovely precursor to the dinner ahead.
Here’s how to make an introduction: a whole platter of amuse bouches that could really be an entire dinner’s worth of courses. De Vito pulls off a colourful display of Italy’s bounty through several different bites. There’s a light bite of baby zucchini topped with pesto, which moves on to another bite of Parmigiano Reggiano shavings over an airy rice tuile. The crisp, bitter leaves from the heart of radicchio cabbages stand in as scoops for locally-farmed honey and Asiago cheese crumble. Then comes little moss-covered logs, which are really sunchoke skins, layered on with a dollop of De Vito’s own burrata along with heaps of Sicilian pistachios. But nothing beats the 24-month aged Parma ham, its unctuous goodness coating the unmistakable nutty flavour from candied chestnut.
Tuna Belly Carpaccio
De Vito’s twist on the classic carpaccio is decadent take with thick, fleshy slices of chutoro. Each seductive coil of fatty fish, simply dressed in olive oil and truffle vinaigrette, is crowned with onion cream and sliced truffle. With all this going on, it is the Piemonte hazelnuts which are the unexpected highlights of the dish. The hazelnuts are prepared three ways, roasted and crushed for a nutty aroma, creamed and also made into a pesto.
Spaghetti ‘Monograno Felicetti’
This deceptively-simple pasta dish is one packed with flavour. The pasta, made from Puglian wheat and water from the Dolomites, is simply cooked in a think sauce made from scampi shells. A whole scampi shrimp is given its own plate, served roasted till tender with olive oil. In place of its head is an intensely flavoursome dollop of red sauce, rendered from slow cooking scampi heads and a touch of ginger for heat.
Seabass, Turnips, Colatura and Green Apple Sauce
With mains, De Vito takes the chance to showcase more of Italy’s artisanal foods. The sauce for a grilled seabass is made with colatura di Cetara, an amber-hued dressing made from fermented anchovies. The funkiness gets balanced out with apple juice, apple vinegar and De Vito’s own olive oil. The result is a buttery concoction, dressed over bits of Chinese artichoke and radish slices.
Gianduja Chocolate, Hazelnut Gelato, Espresso and Marsala
For dessert, De Vito plays with different textures and familiar flavours. Underneath gold-speckled chocolate feuille is an addictive kernel of bacio gelato (read: ice cream of gianduja chocolate and hazelnut) with coffee mascarpone and a layer of chocolate cookie — a tiramisu-inspired dessert that’s just as satisfying.
With De Vito in the kitchen and on the restaurant floor, it would seem that Art has finally come into being as a fine-dining restaurant. Each dish is a skilful construction of flavours and ingredients, with stories and personal narratives to match. This could be the one version of Art that’s going to go far.
12:00-14:00, 18:30 – 22:00
Tuna Belly, Seabass and Turnips, Gianduja Chocolate and Hazelnut Gelato
S$138++ per person
Quiet initially, but it gets busier in the night