December 03, 2012

Ristorante Da Valentino ~ Falling In L♥VE All Over Again

I first got to know about Ristorante Da Valentino while planning a team dinner for my company's previous CEO. He used to be based in Japan and whenever he visits Singapore, this is the de rigueur place for hosting the dinners. With numerous new dining establishments sprouting so very often and old favorites vying to stay in favor, there is no lack of choices. So, what is it about Ristorante Da Valentino which always draws him back?

I kind of understand when I had the chance to dine there for the first time. I was drawn to the rustic feel and homely atmosphere of the place, the warm service rendered and of course, the fantastic food! Since that dinner and a few subsequent visits after, Ristorante Da Valentino has stayed in my heart as my favorite place for Italian food.

Ristorante Da Valentino was previously located at Jalan Bingka and has since moved to The Grandstand (formerly Turf City) 3 months ago. My friend suggested dinner one evening and we decided to check out their new premises. I couldn't contain my excitement during the car ride over!

Here I am, finally! The exterior of the new premises retains some of the rustic feel of the old. Look at the 2 bicycles parked underneath the signage. Doesn't it looked very charming?

Let me take a photo first! :D

Ristorante Da Valentino is headed by Executive Chef Valentino. His family members helps out in both the kitchen and dining area in this family-run restaurant too. His sister, Perla, heads Perla's Pastry Boutique which is now located within the restaurant. A big black and white portrait of the family greets us as we approached the restaurant's entrance.

Stepping into the restaurant feels like stepping into a Italian home. Compared to before, it is now a much bigger home! (In Singaporean context, imagine it as an upgrading from HDB flat to bunglow). The ambience of this foyer is rather inviting. Don't you feel like sinking down onto those couches and relax?

Can you spot familiar faces among the portraits of these visiting guests?

A bigger space also meant that it is now able to accommodate a bar counter which is excellent for a pre or after-dinner drink.

The dining area retains the furniture and sweet pink tablecloth of old and is now hosted in a very airy and spacious hall, which allows the tables to be spaced further apart from each other. I kinda miss the days when it was in a more intimate setting. Gone are the times when vivacious chatter and burst of laughters can be heard from nearby tables. The crowd seems to be very subdued on the evening I was there.

Check out the private dining room if you're planning a private function. It's also furbished like an Italian home and can accommodate up to 45 people! The room can be further divided into three private rooms for group of 10 to 16 people. Authentic Italian food in a Italian home setting, doesn't it sounds wonderful? Godfather theme party, anyone?

My favorite part of the restaurant has to be this intimate tête-à-tête corner! Its 'tucked away in our own little world' set-up in perfect for couples in love ♥♥♥. If you're wondering where to bring your girlfriend/wife/love of your life for a romantic meal, you may wanna consider this. I would recommend that you call and make a table reservation.

There is also an alfresco area reminiscent of an European courtyard.

 Chef Valentino

I'm glad I was there early before the dinner crowd starts coming in, because Chef Valentino is still not too tied up in the kitchen yet and had time to show me around the premises! He is a very warm and friendly person and takes effort to interact with his guests. I even saw him serving pizza to another table personally.

After my excitement of exploring the new premise is satisfied, we were ready to look through the menu and place our orders. The menu items remains the same as before, comprising of a wide variety of antipastos, pastas, pizzas and main courses. Choosing what to order is not a difficult task as I already had a few of my familiar favorite dishes in mind. Chef Valentino was also there to make recommendations and suggested that we try a seafood dish which is not available from the menu. The seafood is brought in freshly from Italy!

 Amarone della Valpolicella Classico, 2007 (S$110++)

We started off dinner with this bottle of Italian Red, which is poured and served in a decanter. I was told that this is to aerate the wine for an enhancement in taste and aroma. I'm no wine connoisseur, but this is one of the very few reds which I did enjoyed.

Bread Basket with Green Sauce (Complimentary)

Usually, I will skip the complimentary bread basket as carbs fills me up too quickly. I prefer to leave tummy space for the food, but I couldn't resist chewing on these bread rolls which drawn me with its warm and not too dense texture. Instead of the usual olive oil and balsamic vinegar dip, the bread rolls are served with a green sauce, which is made of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, parsley, garlic, anchovies, salt, pepper and some 'secret ingredients', which the waiter refuses to tell me

Tomino (S$24.90++)

This deceptively boring looking starter is a must-try! Tomino cheese is wrapped with parma ham and pan-fried to a crispy, golden brown exterior. The combination of chewy melted cheese with the saltiness of the parma ham is simply delightful as it waltzed around in my mouth! This is what I would describe as calories-worthy!

 Mussel Veraci (S$42.90++)

Mussels and clams are bathed simply in tomato sauce, which has a slight hint of spiciness. The freshness of the seafood goes very well with tanginess of the gravy. Thou shalt not waste this wonderful essence of flavors! and I wasted it not by mopping up the very last of it with the bread rolls. Yummy!

 Linguini Aglio Olio ai Frutti di Mare (S$24.90++)

It is said that the more simpler the dish, the more difficult it is to get it perfectly done. This simple pasta dish of seafood linguine aglio olio hits all the right notes perfectly! The seafood medley of prawns, clams and squids are fresh and succulent. The linguine is done al dente and glorified in olive oil, parsley and sliced chili. But in my humble opinion, the star of this dish goes to the garlic! The aromatic whole garlics perfumed the dish to a new dimension! Perfect deliciousness!

 Beef Florentine (500g / S$95++)

The Florentine styled T-bone steak is grilled to medium rare doneness with only minimum seasoning. I like my steak done this way to savour the best of its natural beefy flavor and juiciness. A tiny squeeze of lemon added some zest to the meat and cuts the slight bitterness of the fresh rocket leaves at the same time. Presented on a wooden board, this portion is good for two persons to share.

As much as I'm a steak lover, I don't know whether to be happy or unhappy... because my friend has a small appetite and can only managed 2 slices. I ended up finishing the rest of it. Happy satisfied tummy, unhappy bulging tummy. Oh well.... I didn't spend much time thinking about it because....

It's dessert time!!

Throughout the evening, I was looking out for the vintage dessert trolley, which was a highlight to the end of the meals. I remembered loving the moments when the old fashioned beauty was wheeled up to my table, my eyes lighting up at the visual treat of sweet temptations, and placing my orders by pointing to the pastries which caught my fancy.

Where is the dessert trolley??

Unfortunately, the dessert trolley is now in retirement. As Chef Valentino explains it, the current bigger space would mean that they would need 2 or 3 dessert trolleys making its rounds to cover the whole space. They do not have the manpower and it's just not viable to do it. "Things changed", he said.

I couldn't hide my note of disappointment but proceed to order the desserts from the desserts menu anyway. A meal without an ending with desserts is not the end. You can order the desserts alone by itself, or with the suggested wine pairing.

 Tiramisu (S$13.80++)

This classic Italian dessert needs no introduction. The rendition here comes with a generous dusting of cocoa powder. Served simply in a cup, it has none of the fanciful plating adopted by most restaurants, but is with an indescribable taste of divineness that shines above all.

 Stracciatella (S$15.50++)

We ended our meal with vanilla ice cream which is topped with swirls of caramelised hazelnuts and cocoa powder. Light and not coyingly sweet, this is a crowd pleaser which is difficult to go wrong.

I wish I have some tummy space left to try more desserts from Perla's Pastry Boutique, but I guess it would have to wait till my next visit.

The very warm and beautiful Chef Perla

With its relocation to the new and bigger venue, Ristorante Da Valentino has lost some of the boisterous charms of old, which I feel has more character. Like what Chef Valentino said, "things changed". I guess change is inevitable at some point. But I'm glad some things like awesome food and warm hospitality have remained as they've always been.

Ristorante Da Valentino, I'm in love with you, and now I'm falling in love with you all over again. ♥

Ristorante Da Valentino
Address: 200 Turf Club Road, #01-19, Singapore 287994
Contact: +65 6462 0555

Perla's Pastry Boutique
Address: 200 Turf Club Road, #01-19, Singapore 287994
Contact: +65 6462 2760


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