Bye Pontini. Hello Grissini!
Shortly after my visit to Pontini at Grand Copthorne Waterfront Hotel last year, I was informed that the Italian restaurant will be closed as part of the hotel's refurbishment plans. My hopes for its re-opening never materialize, which is rather sad. What a pity for a decade-old establishment that has garnered many accolades, including "Top Restaurant (Italian Category)" for the Weekender Singapore’s Foodmania Awards 2015.
But I guess it's always welcoming to experience fresh beginnings. The hotel's new Contemporary Italian Grill, Grissini, is not without its charms too.
Instead of taking over Pontini's premises on level two, Grissini sits on the lobby level overlooking Singapore river. The full height glass windows ensure there's plenty of natural light in the day, and offers a soft tranquil view when night falls.
Featuring live antipasti stations, exclusive private dining rooms, a charcuterie and cheese room and a wine cellar, Grissini is also part of the hotel's integrated dining destination together with Food Capital, a buffet restaurant, and Tempo, a dynamic bar.
I prefer to dine within the comfort of indoor air-conditioning but can imagine that the alfresco area will be very lovely in cooling weather too. Prolonged time in the heat is not for me, but a short stroll along the riverside before dinner is fine and it turned out to be rather enjoyable and fruitful (caught quite a number of magikarps haha).
If an aromatic whiff reaches you when in the outdoors, follow your nose and you'd discover the grill station and its pride, the Josper Grill.
For the uninitiated, the Josper grill is like the "Ferrari" of ovens, combining an oven and grill in one, and is fired by charcoal and flavored wood.
Food that are prepared using the Josper Grill has that distinctive smoky fragrance with a desirous succulent texture to match.
Take for the instance, the Octopus Salad ($24) was extremely well-executed, deliciously moreish in each bite with medley of cherry heirloom pomodorini, baby rockets, Taggiasca olives and lemon zest in white balsamico dressing.
Other starters such as Lobster & Mozarella Cheese ($30) and Pan-fried Buffalo Mozzarella Cheese with Parma Ham ($26) are also worthy tries.
There is also a selection of charcuterie including Iberico De Bellota ($26), Prosciutto Di Parma ($16) and Salame Al Tartufo ($20).
When in Grissini, eat grissini too! Those complimentary servings of crisp breadstick were utterly addictive especially with the sundried tomato dip. I had to keep reminding myself to save tummy space for what Chef Antonio Cocozza has in store for us.
Chef Antonio hails from Naples (located on the Southern coast of Italy) where pizza was created, and used to run his own pizza restaurant in Singapore, so I guess it's only natural we look forward to Grissini's wood-fired pizzas a little more than usual.
Among the choice of 7 flavors, we tried the Salami Pizza ($18/$22) with Italian truffle salami, San Marzano tomato salsa, mozzarella and fresh basil, as well as White Pizza ($20/$24) with black truffle paste, mozarella, aged bacon, cream sauce and fresh basil.
Both pizzas were good but the latter resonate with my tastebud a tad more. The pizza dough's texture itself was well-made, thin and adequately crisp yet retaining a bit of doughiness for an engaging layered bite.
When it comes to pastas, there is no way I can resist those strands of al-dente deliciousness. The crowd-pleasing Boston Lobster Linguine ($36) was worth the carbs-calories, featuring an appetite-whetting Datterino tomato-based sauce with Frascati white wine and Sicilian extra virgin olive oil. Those chunks of lobster were certainly fresh and meaty.
The Mushroom Fagottelli ($24) stuffed with fresh ricotta, thyme leaves and provolone in porcini mushroom ragoût was an easy pasta dish to like too.
We moved on to the mains which best-showcased the capabilities of the Josper Grill, first evidenced in the tender and juicy Spring Chicken ($38). Though the Wagyu Ribeye ($78) might be considered a tad costly for some people, but its well-marbled and flavorsome meat made it a worthwhile indulgence.
When it comes to the seafood, I would recommend the Octopus ($36). Obviously it has benefited from the Josper grill's high heat treatment, smelling of wondrous barbeque aroma and moisture is sealed within its plump, tender flesh. The sides of roasted Ratte potatoes, Taggiasca olives, Datterino tomatoes and baby rockets complemented the octopus well.
I would also suggest giving Grissini's Gelato ($8 per scoop) a try.
Besides the typical Vanilla, Chocolate and Pistachio, there are interesting flavors such as Parmesan, Black Truffle Oil & Olives, Balsamic Vinegar, Basil, as well as Cherry Tomato for a tongue-teasing change.
The black truffle gelato was especially memorable with its distinctive taste. As one who enjoys popping cherry tomato fruit as a snack, the gelato version was just as refreshing and served as a great palate cleanser after the savory courses.
Dessert options also include a beautifully-presented Panna Cotta ($14) topped with mango coulis, berries and raspberry sorbet, and the house specialty Limoncello Tiramisu ($14), a light, zesty creation of Amalfi Coast's Lemon Liqueur with Savoiardi biscuits, mascarpone and Zabaione cream.
For friends who feel "it's not desserts if it's not chocolate", here's a warm Hazelnut Chocolate Tart ($14) served with pistachio ice cream for you to satisfy that chocolatey desire.
If you still have sufficient tummy space and energy left after the "full"-filing dinner at Grissini, adjourning to Tempo might be a good idea. These locally-inspired Signature Cocktails ($22 each) such as Chendol, Cheng Tng, Ice Jelly, Bandung, Kopi-o-peng looked deceiving innocent, but packed a devilish alcoholic punch. I thought I had flew to the moon after a few sips. Pardon this teetotler lol.
Overall, Grissini has certainly left a positive impression as a versatile dining destination suitable for business luncheons, group dinners, and even weekend family outings with the kids.
Do I still miss Pontini? Perhaps not that much anymore :p
Grissini Italian Restaurant
Address: Grand Copthorne Waterfront Hotel, 392 Havelock Road, Singapore 169663
Contact: +65 6233 1100
Opening Hours: Lunch 12pm-2.30pm / Dinner 6.30pm-11pm / Sunday Brunch 12.30pm-3.30pm
Prices are (1) Stated in Singapore dollars (2) Subject to 10% service charge & 7% GST (3) Correct at point of published date.