'Besides savings cost-wise from producing and importing directly from Italy, we also have much better quality control over the products that go into our food.'
Truffle Gourmet's Mr Sandoli
49 Club Street
Hours: 11.30am-2.30pm (Mon-Fri),
Tel 6222 5996
THE European truffle season will soon be upon us in full swing, but Club Street's latest restaurant believes the highly prized fungi can be a daily, year-round indulgence.
That's because Truffle Gourmet is run in direct partnership with the San Maurizio group, an Italian food and wine company that runs the five-star Relais San Maurizio in Northern Italy, one Michelin star restaurant Guido da Costigliole, the San Maurizio Estate Vineyards and the two-year-old Truffle Gourmet string of restaurants.
Besides its month-old outpost in Singapore, there are two other Truffle Gourmet restaurants in Monte Carlo, Monaco and Lugano, Switzerland. The local franchise is run by former private banker, Nicola Sandoli, who will oversee the brand's Asian expansion.
"Besides savings cost-wise from producing and importing directly from Italy, we also have much better quality control over the products that go into our food," Mr Sandoli explains. "We know how our products are made - we trust ourselves best."
A full menu is still being finalised, but expect a northern Italian slant to the menu, which is padded out with simple dishes designed to showcase the San Maurizio brand of truffle food products. Must-tries are the uovo fritto, or a delicately soft-boiled egg topped off with black truffle cream, and the vitello tonnato, a Piedmontese classic dish of slices of slow-cooked veal placed over a sumptuous puree of tuna, capers and anchovies. The housebrand truffle salsa rounds out the dish of robust flavours.
Free finger foods will also be offered with every glass or bottle of wine ordered, including anchovies with truffle, pecorino cheese with truffle honey and crostinis smeared with the San Maurizio truffle-infused parmigiano reggiano cream and Mediterranean truffle salsa. Eighty per cent of the dishes contain truffle.
Head chef Takashi Okuno worked with the Japanese-Italian L'Operetta group for the last three years, so expect light sprinklings of Japanese ikura or uni in some of his creations. All breads and pastas are made in-house.
Prices range from $12 for truffle fries to $50 for a bottle of their speciality "truffle caviar", or globules fashioned out of black truffle juice and served in an elegant cocktail glass.
The 100 per cent Italian wine list, meanwhile, will spotlight the brand's own wines spanning varietals such as Barolo, Barbaresco, Brunello di Montalcino, Bolgheri and Brut Rose, along with a small selection of labels from other wineries and a range of classic cocktails. Prices start from $15 per glass and $65 per bottle, and $18 for a cocktail.
The handsomely designed 70-seater also has different nooks built in across the 1,900 square foot space. Patrons can perch on the standing high tables by the front bar for pre-dinner aperitivos, or take in a full dinner at the regular dining tables organised around the open kitchen at the back. A long table for 8-10 that flanks the display wine cellar in the middle of the restaurant can be curtained off as a private area.
A direct retail business will be introduced over the next few months for patrons who may want to cart home a bottle of truffle cream after their meal. Mr Sandoli also hopes to expand to Asian cities such as Kuala Lumpur and Jakarta, while outlets in Russia and South America are also being planned.
"Who doesn't like truffles? I could eat them everyday," he quips.
Those Little Things
38 Martin Road
Hours: 11am-11pm daily
Tel 8598 9807
WINES are best consumed in the company of friends - that's the main premise behind Those Little Things.
The fortnight-old tapas bar is tucked in between Spanish restaurant Bomba and Thai restaurant Kha on 38 Martin Road and doubles up as a bottle shop and showroom for wine suppliers, Iconic Wines.
The wine importer run by Spain native Jorge Padilla specialises in old world wines from organic and boutique wineries in Spain, Italy, France and Portugal. Most of his customers are private clients, he says, so having a physical retail showroom would help to let more people know about Iconic Wines' products.
"We wanted a friendly, simple place where our friends and customers can meet up and have a glass of wine," he explains, and picked the Martin Road address for its proximity to the residences in Robertson Quay and its mixed fray of locals and foreigners.
Without a middleman between wine importer and retailer, this means that prices at Those Little Things are significantly lower than at other bars. Wines go for between $6 to $15 per glass, and prices start at $36 for a bottle. Spanish beers go from $7 a bottle.
Though small - the 600 square foot space seats only 10 by bar counters indoors and 25 outside - the variety of wines at hand will also be constantly changing, so regular patrons can try something new each time they come.
The same seasonal versatility applies to Those Little Things' limited food menu too. A small open kitchen helmed by Spanish chefs Albert Ortiz and Leonard Bertran dishes out light bites such as tuna salad ($13), steak tartare ($14), mushroom carpaccio ($12) and cheese and cold cut platters ($17 and $15), while hot tapas such as garlic prawns ($15), ham croquettes ($6.50), and grilled octopus ($13) will be prepped in the hot kitchen they share with Bomba next door.
There's also a limited retail shelf stocking gourmet food products such as flavoured pastas, perfumed salts and canned olives and sardines from Spain and Italy.
Though no other outlets are planned for now, the bar plans to introduce more events such as wine tastings and wine pairing dinners.
Drinks & Co
44 Club Street
Hours: 11am-midnight daily
Tel 6222 2005
WINES by the bottle from only $16 and in the heart of Singapore's dining strip - sounds like a dream come true? It might just have.
Taking over the former premises of kitchenware store Pantry Magic on Club Street is Drinks & Co, a two-month-old watering hole that is drawing in the crowds fast and furious.
Think of it more as a bottle shop meets casual winebar. You go in, pick your poison from a large retail shelf that runs the length of the 1,000 square foot space, and can either take it to go or, for a minimum spend of $35, choose to consume it on site, corkage-free.
"With the success of similar outlets in Singapore, Thailand and Indonesia, there is a demand for this style of experience, that of combining retail and on premise drinking," explains Drinks & Co founder Soony Phanthanuwong. The former investment banker comes from a family of restaurateurs with businesses in Thailand and England.
The whole idea, she adds, is to create a relaxed space where customers can read the wine labels themselves and "take the brand in" without the pressure of a sommelier or salesperson looking over your shoulder. The space seats up to 30 people.
Patrons can pair their wines with a mix of light bites, cold cut platters, and pizzas and pasta supplied by neighbouring restaurant Spizza, all designed to complement the drinks. Prices range from $9 for bruschetta to $25 for cheese and cold cut platter.
Drinks & Co carries over 300 different brands of mainly New World wines, along with craft beers and spirits such as vodka, gin and whisky. The price range is from as little as $16 for a bottle of Australian Pinnacle wine to $5,000 for Hennessy Cognac.
To differentiate itself from neighbouring European restaurants and cocktail bars, Drinks & Co's focus is on selling alcohol by the bottle and not by the glass, says Ms Phanthanuwong.
Having such a focus helps to lower their overhead costs, and coupled with a close relationship with main supplier, Brand Connect, prices at Drinks & Co are typically about a third lower than at most other bars. A director of Brand Connect is also the strategic consultant for Drinks & Co.
Ms Phanthanuwong says of the mutual benefits: "The alcohol companies get a showcase for their brands in a prime location, while Drinks & Co gets access to a vast range of drinks and we can get new brands more quickly and react faster to trends in the global market."
But it's not always an easy sell, she admits: "Our customers need to remember that they are buying bottles, not glasses, so there is more of a commitment from the customer to consume a bottle that is not for everyone."