Our team goes undercover to suss out the latest and most talked about restaurants in town
Seasoned restaurateur Beppe De Vito knows what makes a restaurant tick. His &SONS bacaro, which opened in December 2013, continues to pack in the crowds even now. And it looks like the same feat is repeating itself at Osteria Art, his newest restaurant, located right smack in the CBD.
Next to our table are two suited up businessmen, who after exchanging niceties on their wife and kids, settle into a comfortable groove while discussing work. The private gentleman’s club vibe might have been fashioned for these power-lunching types with its Italian marble and cherry wood bar, but the women in our dining party fall hard for the dining room’s fire engine red leather seats and brass sconces too.
Osteria Art is pegged as a “silver service restaurant” and we’re offered outstanding bread service right off the bat. After a round of light-as-air Parmagiano bombilini comes a hearty loaf that you break open with your hands. The resounding crunch gives you an inclination on the stellar crust. Nobody intends to fill up on carbs this early on in a meal, but with the quality of breads here, it’s almost hard not to.
Syrupy 25-year-old balsamic vinegar drizzled over burrata and grilled diced vegetables soon follows ($23). The fresh cheese comes from the same suppliers as Latteria, De Vito’s mozzarella bar at Duxton Hill, but I don’t remember having a burrata there that was half as rich as the one here. The solid mozzarella shell barely manages to hold the mound of creamy goodness within. The crab and tarragon frittata ($23) is not the best choice of starters seeing how it’s equally lush with tomatoes and cream. After a few bites, we’re close to throwing in the towel. But then, the pastas arrive.
Federico Fellini said “life is a combination of magic and pastas”. That just about sums up our lunch. We can’t decide which plate we want to hold on to more: bouncy gnocchi stuffed with pumpkin and tossed with gorgonzola and hazelnuts ($25), white asparagus tagliatelle with a deluge of black truffle shavings ($32), or the tagliolini with crab and Pachino tomatoes ($28). IGP-certified Pachino tomatoes command the highest hierarchy in Sicily, where Italians deem it fit to throw food events in honour of this ‘red gold’. Here, they’re tossed with freshly picked crab, and the way the pomodoro sauce clings to every strand of handmade pasta is almost as if it’s hanging on for dear life.
Tradition dictates that cotoletta alla Milanese must include the bone to which the meat is attached – like a flag to its mast. Our veal chop ($48) abides by this unwritten rule but lets down slightly with its dry coat and slightly leathery meat. The same Pachino tomatoes that breathed life to the crab pasta fortunately add fresh bursts of welcome acidity. The black cod trumps the scampi in the caciucco ($32). While the fish is flaky and sweet, the scampi is powdery.
Perhaps De Vito and his team are attuned to how their customers will relish the heartier mains and pastas because desserts are, thankfully, rather light. Aside from a richer coffee and chocolate profiterole ($15), the other sweets consist of olive oil cakes with Amalfi lemon sorbet ($12), moscato jelly shreds with the consistency of bird’s best ($12), and Sicilian almond jasmine granita with saffron brioche ($12).
Our meal ends as beautifully as it starts – with a paper tray of sugar-dusted Marcona almonds that you can take to go. It’s a little reminder of how the little things, when done right, add up in a big, big way. 55 Market Street. Tel: 6877 6933
Average dinner bill for two, with drinks: $200
Must-tries: Burrata with grilled vegetables and 25-year-old balsamic, tagliolini with crab and Pachino tomatoes.
Book a table at Osteria Art with Chope.