Celebrity Chefs – love them or hate them, they are here to stay. Marketing 101 states that you need a branding to your product, and the only way to differentiate my Spaghetti Bolognese with yours is the Celebrity Chef. Call it Chef XXX’s Mama’s Spaghetti, the humble dish is now $24++.
In the recent years, local TV has caught on the celebrity chefs fever, and brought to us a couple of talented chefs like Justin Quek, Sam Goh, and Peter Neo. And now Chef Neo has a brand new Italian restaurant – Pietro at YCK.
Celebrity Chef Neo surrounded by celebrities from the local TCS (TV Station) as well as who’s who in politics and social circles. One old friend that caught my eye – Peter Schnipps of the World Gourmet Summit fame. Really the location is really ULU (read: obscure). Luckily for all of us, Google Maps can pinpoint the restaurant amidst the low-rise bungalows and semi-Ds in YCK. Parking is limited, so be careful not to drive your Humbee there.
The menu featured familiar favourites like Prosciutto Ham with Melon, Spaghetti Bolognese, Caesar Salad (which you cannot get in Italy by the way), and other familiar favourites. We started with a couple of cannot-go-wrong choices – Caesars Salad ($15++) and Clams and Mussels in Wine Sauce ($16++). The variations here were that they added sliced green apples in the Salad, and Mussels in the Vongole classic.
Then came the Funghi Portobello. Turn around a grilled portobello mushroom and topped it with a mixture of crab meat, shrimp and ebiko blended in a gorgonzola sauce. Yummilicious. The final touch of a drizzling of a sweet balsamic vinegar and rucola lettuce rounded the savoury appetizer. Highly recommended.
We ordered soups to go along, and had a slightly spicy Zuppa di Mare (Seafood soup $12++), a Mushroom soup ($10++) and a Lobster Bisque ($14++). The Lobster Bisque was a little diluted. The Mushroom soup was ok (we had better). But the Seafood soup was Wow!
The spice came from dried chilli that was added to the soup base. They did not filter that off so we get pieces of chilli mixed in the soup. Generous serving of seafood included shrimps, mussels, clams (a lot of it) and calamari. The soup was lightly salted and packed a punch because of the spice.
Main courses followed. Along with the menu, there are limited servings of Chef’s specials – look out for them on the wall. The waitress did not even bother to explain what were available that day. More about the service staff later.
There were around 10 items on the specials, and 4 of them featured truffles. I suspect truffles were in season. I ordered a Truffles Riviolli ($28++) to go with the other 2 pastas we have ordered. Topped with rich cream of mushroom and truffle sauce, the riviolli are stuffed with mushrooms (?) and truffles. You have to be lucky to get a piece with a good amount of truffle in it, but the sauce was infused with the richness of truffles to compensate those that did not have truffles in them.
Next came the Fettuccine di mare ($26++). It came wrapped in baking paper, and opened to show a piping hot serving of seafood with linguine (wasn’t it suppose to be fettuccine?). The amount of seafood was again very generous. Hidden under the linguine was a whole bed of calamari. The tangy sauce complimented well with the pasta, but the taste was strangely familiar. Yes, the seafood soup was made from the same base and therefore we had a bit of deja vu with this dish. So recommendation – if you are having the soup, skip the linguine.
We ordered the Spaghetti Nero ($24++) as per our custom – we always ordered this in every Italian restaurant we go to as a yardstick, together with Mushroom soup and Tiramisu. OK, but not great was the verdict.
This dish Pancetta Arrosto ($26++) came highly recommended with bloggers who have been to this place as well as the Chef himself. The pork belly was a bit over roasted to my liking, the skin was quite tough. But the melt-in-mouth texture of the pork belly as well as the kidney bean base were a perfect combo – not too fatty and flavourful, with a rustic charm to the dish. Would recommend it for the kidney bean and pork, but for those hoping for “Sio Ti”-ala Chinese style, this is not for you.
We had another Pork dish. I thought I order the Pork Ribs, but came the Pork Rack. The waitress from a neighbouring country articulated the words Rib and Rack in almost the same tone. So when she repeated the orders, I did not realise the difference. So imagine the surprise I have when the Pork Chop came up. So called a Pork Rack, it looked more like Hainanese Pork Chop. All you need is the sweet and sour sauce and there you have it. And at $30++, it is a damn expensive of pork chop (despite that it was pretty good).
The desserts were the highlights of the day. We had 2 types of lava cakes – the Chocolate (without Rum, $12.80++) and the Fruitti Lava ($14.80++). The Chocolate one was fantastic – dark chocolate filling in a chocolate sponge cake with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, warm and cold, sweet and bitter, runny and spongy. It is usually want a dish has all kinds of contrasts that make it memorable.
The Fruitti Lava is similar but used a strawberry filling in a fruit cake with pistachio ice cream. The contrasts were not as distinct and therefore this one was not memorable. A bit too sweet overall.
The Tiramisu ($12++) was a bit too moist for my liking.
Ambiance: Casual, definitely not fine dining, sloppy for some. Food: A few delights, but not the place to drive to just for it. Service: Bad, I cannot understand her, she cannot understand me. Price: $50++ pax for lunch. They have a one-for-one special for lunch for weekdays.
Pietro Ristorante Italiano
12 Jalan Kelulut
Tel: +65 6484 5528