Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Restaurant review: Caruso Italian Restaurant and Bar, Singapore

Invited Review
Last week, the good folks at Caruso Italian Restaurant and Bar extended a kind invitation to sample their lunch menu. Italian cuisine is my most favourite International cuisine (aside from my own native cuisine) so it didn't take much persuasion to say yes. And nowadays, any opportunity to get out of the house is welcomed with keen enthusiasm! Since I knew I couldn't do full justice to the menu considering my dietary restrictions, I took along a trusty local friend and fellow foodie (who conveniently lives across the street from me) to evaluate the meat-based dishes.

Bukit Timah offers some of the best dining options in Singapore and being fortunate to live around the area, it has been a familiar haunt for me over the years. Joining the row of shophouses along Bukit Timah road near the junction of sixth avenue, Caruso Restaurant and Bar is an authentic Italian restaurant showcasing the strong flavor of southern Italian cuisine. The chefs at Caruso use the finest ingredients imported from Italy and classic cooking techniques focussing on authenticity and perfection in their culinary creations. Caruso marked its foray into the local Italian dining scene in August 2013 so is still a relatively new restaurant.

The name of the restaurant is inspired by the first legendary Italian opera singer Enrico Caruso, originally from Naples.





The interiors reflects the rich Italian heritage that the restaurant draws inspiration from. It has a rustic elegance yet lends a homely and cozy vibe. The crisp white stone arches amidst tangerine orange hued walls make the space look eye-catching and inviting. The walls are adorned with photographs proudly depicting the food culture in the Puglia region.

I love going to restaurants that have a culinary history. The hallmark of a good restaurant is the pride they take in their culture and food and Caruso scores major points in this area.



The owner, Leonardo Palmisano hails from Locorotondo, a picturesque little town surrounded by the ancient Trulli in the region of Puglia in Southern Italy. Puglia is famous for its healthy & tasty cuisine, focussing on hand-made pasta such as the orecchiette.


I
Locorotondo is known for its wine, which is found in restaurants throughout the Puglia region. The principal wine produced locally is white and lightly sparkling. To reflect their winemaking heritage, wine bottles have been incorporated into several aspects of the decor.



We were greeted cordially and shown to our table. Leonardo is charming and exudes that infectious Italian hospitality. He oversees the front of the house and makes sure the guests are comfortable. The staff are courteous and friendly, greeting everyone with genuine warmth.


There are two floors. The ground floor is rustic and informal whereas the top floor is modern and intimate, offering more privacy for quiet dining.

With a pleasing ambience, Caruso can accommodate families as well as business diners. Small-scale events can be organized for celebration, wine and cheese testing or degustation menu. Guests can also just pop by the bar counter for a Italian cocktail and some aperitivo snacks.

The menu has a wide array of antipasti, pastas, pizza, main courses, dessert and wine. They also offer brunch every Sunday during lunch hour.


We were recommended to try the Locototondo white wine along with the orders of antipasti. It was a light-bodied, pleasant wine with a floral scent. Clean and refreshing on the palate and appealing to the olfactory senses. It complemented the food very well. 


Here is a round-up of the dishes we sampled,

Burratina Alla Pugliese

Creamy mozzarella with green salad and fresh tomato

This is the best kind of salad anyone could possibly want. The burrata cheese is the show-stopper of this dish. I let out an audible gasp when it was placed before me. Looking at that ball of fresh, soft, creamy goodness just made me want to gobble the whole thing up (which of course, I didn't do!). We cracked some fresh black pepper over it and took our time savouring the cheese along with the fresh tomatoes and crisp lettuce.

Yum is the word!



Cozze Alla Tarantina 

Authentic Puglia black mussel with spicy fiaschetto tomato sauce “tarantino” style

While I was busy devouring the burrata cheese, my friend spent a good 20 minutes relishing this starter. She was delighted by how fresh the mussels were, how well they had absorbed the flavour of the tomato sauce and in turn lent the essence of the sea to the sauce itself which she said although a teeny bit salty was delicious nonetheless. She liked the herbs that were used for garnish too. 


We were given a bread basket with two kinds of bread in it to dunk in the tomato sauce and enjoy. I am a total sucker for bread and when it is good, there is no stopping me! In hindsight, I shouldn't have wolfed down so much of that bread and left more space for the incredible dishes that were yet to come. I don't really regret it though. Both breads were fabulous. 

Ah! I'm thinking about it right now!



Orecchiette Con Pomodoro E Burrata

Authentic Puglia orecchiette pasta with fiaschetto tomato sauce, fresh basil and burrata cheese

I polished off this dish all by myself since it was one of the three pasta dishes that catered to my dietary preferences. Fresh handmade pasta trumps the store-bought variety by leaps and bounds. The pasta was cooked to perfection al dente as it should be. And although I prefer cream-based pasta sauces to tomato-based ones any day, this sauce was good that I had to make an exception. It was packed full of flavour and did not have that pronounced one-dimensional tartness that most tomato-based sauces do. The burrata cheese offered the perfect contrast to the sauce by lending that delightful creaminess. The perfume of fresh basil was a welcome addition.



Orecchiette Allo Scoglio

Authentic Puglia orecchiette pasta with king crab, black mussels in spicy tomato sauce

I was told that this dish had the familiar flavours of the mussel starter that was brought to us in the earlier course. Again, perfectly cooked orecchiette pasta in a lip-smacking tomato sauce, tossed with flavorful mussels, fresh crab and a herb garnish. My friend had no problems demolishing the dish whatsoever!



Strascinati Con Salsiccia E Porcini

Authentic Puglia strascinati pasta with pork sausages ragout, porcini mushroom and fianchetto tomatoes

What my friend loved most about this dish was the pasta itself (which she had never tasted before) and the meaty rich-tasting porcini mushrooms which she couldn't stop raving about.



After we had emptied the first glass of wine, we were suggested to try the Torresella Pinot Grigio Veneto to go along with the main course.

This was a light-bodied, smooth and delicate wine with fruity notes. Slightly sweeter than the previous wine. We enjoyed this one immensely too!


Costolette Di Agnello Alla Locorotondese

Authentic “Locorotondo” style herbs roasted lamb chop with roasted artichokes, roasted rosemary potatoes and wild rocket

I thought the presentation of this dish was beautiful. I watched my friend tuck into it with great gusto. She remarked that the doneness of the meat was to her liking, the slightly tart, well-seasoned and tender artichokes were yummy and that the crisp herbed potatoes and salad leaves were perfect accompaniments to the meat.



Capocollo Porcini E Tartufo

Roasted pork collar korobuta with porcini mushrooms, black truffles, roasted rosemary potatoes and wild rocket.

This dish was a big hit with my friend. She said she preferred it to the lamb. The feedback I got was that the pork was perfectly cooked, the strong nutty flavour of the porcini mushrooms added a delicious touch, the crispy potatoes were flavourful and the salad was refreshing. Despite how full she was (as you can imagine), she finished off the whole plate which I think is testament to how good it was.



Tiramisu

A stalwart of the classic Italian dessert menu, this delicious dessert makes for the perfect end to a meal. After all, coffee and booze make for classic after-dinner pairings.

The Tiramisu at Caruso consists of lady finger biscuits sponged in coffee, Marsala liqueur and mascarpone cream cheese. The dessert arrived looking gorgeous and no invitation was needed to dig right in! I finished off the lion's share of this dessert because at that point any more food and my friend would have had to be wheeled out of the restaurant on a gurney! The Tiramisu was moist, light, had the delectable aroma of espresso, just the right amount of sweetness and the mildest hit from the alcohol without bludgeoning your senses. I personally do not like my Tiramisu to be cloyingly sweet or too boozy.

Although I am no authority on Tiramisu, I have had my share of mediocre Tiramisu over the years to be able to identify one that is above-par. The Tiramisu at Caruso hit all the right notes and is one of the better renditions of Tiramisu that I have had in Singapore.

That right there my friends is art on a plate!  Bellísimo!



My concluding remarks: 
Caruso Italian Restaurant is a no-frills, charming little dining establishment nestled in the upscale neighbourhood of Bukit Timah from a team of Italians who are fiercely passionate about their food. There is no pretense here; just honest and authentic Italian fare. The portion size is decent, the flavours are well-balanced and the presentation of the dishes are impressive. I really felt like I was whisked off to Italy. What's even better is that the food isn't stodgy and heavy. Instead, it is light and healthy. This is a typically mid-range restaurant so it wouldn't cause too much damage on the wallet. The service is top-notch. This is an ideal eatery for couples, families, an evening out with friends or even business lunches or dinners. I enjoyed a lovely afternoon with splendid company and good food and wine. I certainly don't need an invitation to come here again and will make my way in the future with my family in tow. I sincerely wish Leonardo all the best and hope his fine restaurant will scale greater heights in the coming years.

Highly recommended!

My rating for this restaurant is




Caruso Italian Restaurant Singapore
791 Bukit Timah Road #01-01, Singapore 269764

Phone: 6469 7508
Fax: 6469 7509 

E-mail: info@caruso.sg
Website: www.caruso.sg 

Opening hours: 12.00-14.30 and 18.00-22.30


Acknowledgement: 
A big thank you to Caruso for their gracious hospitality and to my dear friend Hwee Teng for accompanying me on this tasting


Disclaimer: This was an invited tasting. I have not received any monetary compensation in exchange for this review. The opinions in this post are solely my own. 




Cheers,


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