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Food with enough twists to keep your interest
52 Boat Quay
Tel: 6866 1933.
Open for dinner only Mon to Sat: 6pm to 11pm (restaurant); 5pm to 12am (bar). Closed on Sun.
FOR Beppe de Vito, opening new restaurants is like us buying sneakers. We don't really need another pair, but when we see one that speaks to us, resistance is futile.
We don't know exactly what this Boat Quay rooftop space said to serial restaurateur Mr De Vito, but it must have been along the lines of, "come on up and I'll show you a view you won't forget". We hate Boat Quay but we have to say it's quite something to sit down to dinner with a panorama of the Singapore River and the old Parliament House right in front of you.
Braci is first and foremost a bar, and the open-air space on the sixth floor gives you a stunning three-sided view of the city, which is enough of a conversation starter for you to linger on in the cosy living room-like space with a cocktail or four.
What is more interesting for us is one level down, where Mr De Vito has carved out a tiny dining room, seating just 16 people on one end of the wall, flanked by a long open kitchen that is the messy person's nightmare - if he or she had to keep everything as neat and shiny as this. Gleaming stainless steel counters and cabinets are spotless, with an artfully arranged wooden bowl of vegetables breaking the monochrome monotony, as well as the playful lighting fixtures above.
All the cooking is done in a charcoal burning Josper oven and finished off on a table-top grill. The downside to this is that the oven sends out more heat than the airconditioning can absorb, so you're in a constant state of almost-but-not-quite sweating flux throughout the meal.
Which brings us to Mr De Vito, whom you expect to exchange pleasantries with and have him disappear as one expects a boss man to do. But he is dressed in an apron and he starts cooking, and we're told he does this on most nights - in fact, Braci is in effect his private kitchen.
It's no wonder, then, that the carefully curated menu doesn't sound very Italian. That's because the dishes are Mr De Vito's own creations, which have an Italian foundation but feature influences from all over.
The olive oil that he pours out for you (no refill is offered) comes from his own family olive grove in Puglia - a mellow fruitiness that you dunk chunks of bread (a grainy semolina-based loaf brought in frozen from Italy and toasted on the grill) in.
You either pick from the ala carte or get an omakase of five courses picked by Mr De Vito for S$100 a head. The menu looks interesting, so we leave the decision-making to him.
The tuna millefeuille (S$28 on the ala carte menu) is a novel idea, featuring slices of lightly aged akami layered with a mixture of raw mushrooms and shredded truffle. A few dabs of bagna cauda or anchovy sauce on the side add extra seasoning, while a bit of vinaigrette adds acidity. The first few bites are good, but it gets a bit much after that.
Wagyu tongue (S$25) is slow-cooked till tender but with enough bite, served with a shower of shredded big olives which aren't at all salty and have the texture of bamboo shoots, perked up in a base of tomato water and pulp. It's unusual not to have a proper sauce, but the tomato water does the job of lightening the heartiness of the tongue.
As it's part of the omakase, Mr De Vito skimps on the portion of pasta (S$32) that turns out to be our favourite dish - simple fettucine tossed in a light vermouth sauce, with curls of very fresh razor clams sprinkled with a zesty green herb mix. Dehydrated clam powder and Szechuan pepper add a surprise touch, making the pasta sweet, savoury, fragrant, herbal and tongue-tingling.
Duck breast is dry-aged to self-tenderise before it's cooked in the Josper - it's tender at first but dries out quite quickly. It doesn't do much for us, although we're rather partial to the filo pastry-textured duck skin that's glazed with sweet sauce.
An entire side of a pig's face (S$68 for two) is brought to you - roasted to a rich, golden coffee hue - which later yields two melting soft nuggets of meat from the cheek, and a slightly bigger haul from the jowls. Celeriac presented in both puree and candied nuggets make up the vegetable quota, while the meat juices are cooked down with tart blueberries to counter the unctuous, collagen rich meat.
Desserts end the meal on a high, with the biggest surprise being the unimpressive sounding pumpkin pie (S$18) with yoghurt and licorice. A thick circle of pumpkin, stewed to near disintegration but still holding its shape, is infused with sweetness but is a magical fit with lightly tangy yoghurt sorbet doused in a blanket of licorice sabayon. Crunchy nougat adds bite.
Sticky chewy chocolate is the main event in gianduiotto (S$18) - with three different kinds layered with firm sponge biscuit coated in thick glaze and flanked by whipped frangelico cream and hazelnuts.
If he ever gave up his day job, Mr De Vito can well hold his own in the kitchen, with his stable of recipes that are not complicated but hold enough twists to keep your interest. Catch him there while you can. One suspects it won't be long before yet another venture grabs hold of his attention.
WHAT OUR RATINGS MEAN
10: The ultimate dining experience
7-7.5: Good to very good
Our review policy: BT pays for all meals at restaurants reviewed on this page. Unless specified, the writer does not accept hosted meals prior to the review's publication.