Type of Institution: Non-vegetarian, Italian
Address: Forum Shopping Mall, 583 Orchard Road, #01-17
Tel: +65 6836 4647
It was definitely a pleasant surprise walking through somewhere as drab as Forum Shopping Mall and entering the doors of Casa Tartufo to find this:
I love Casa Tartufo’s concept – a “House of Truffles” that “aim[s] to be the reference for truffles in Southeast Asia, trading the finest ingredients from Italy, in order to give our guests the best products at the best prices all year round”. I am absolutely in love with truffles and I think the concept fills a lacuna in the culinary scene here. That being said, my experience here last Friday was below average. The food was underwhelming, although service was generally excellent (apart from the half-an-hour wait for the chef to come out of the kitchen, which I patiently endured because of a very elegant bottle of 2006 Pieve Santa Restituta (Gaja) Brunello di Montalcino).
Through prior email correspondence inquiring if they could accommodate my dietary habit, I was told that one of their best-selling starters is vegan and they could easily make vegan pastas for me. (It’s usually not a problem for vegans to eat out at an Italian place as long as the restaurant has dishes which use dried pasta, which run the gamut from spaghetti to linguini to penne to fusilli etc.) I think the menu had changed (which is alright, since I sent the email 6 weeks ago) because I realised there was nothing I could have on the menu. My friend and I were told that Alex, the chef, would come out to tell me what I could order instead.
Before I continue, I know there are lots of people who think that vegans have brought it upon themselves by choosing to have such a restrictive diet and they can’t possibly complain if they run into problems finding food. I agree that we have made a personal choice to be sans meat/seafood/eggs/dairy products/all-products-tainted-by-animal-sources and should accept the inconveniences that come along with it (and I do so gladly). But this argument does not apply to a high-end dining restaurant where a meal costs $478. A good restaurant should be able to cater to the demands of all its customers.
For my starter, I had pan-fried porcini mushrooms with a bed of fresh salad leaves and what appeared to be semi sun-dried cherry tomatoes with balsamic vinegar. The mushrooms, while crispy and very tender, were rather tasteless.
Main course: Angel-hair pasta with alba white truffle
The chef told me about the different items he could make for me for the main course and we settled on pasta with truffle since I love truffle. There must have been some miscommunication because I expected the pasta to have fresh tomato sauce, but this wasn’t make-or-break. What was depressing was to have a couple of thin shavings of truffle atop a bed of pasta in olive oil:
Granted, the angel-hair pasta was perfectly cooked and the alba truffle was heavenly. But a 5% truffle and 95% pasta ratio just doesn’t cut it. I don’t see how it fits into their aim of “[giving] our guests the best products at the best prices all year round”. For comparison’s sake, here’s a dish by Chef Luca – also pasta with truffle – at Bonta. My point is not that more is necessarily better, since admittedly black is less cherished than white. I just think having the right proportion between ingredients is important. That being said, I could have asked for more truffle (but I don’t think I should have had to, judging by the portion above).
Dessert: Caramelised banana with chocolate sauce
The maitre d’ said the chocolate fondant was vegan but the manager clarified that it wasn’t when I checked with her. However, she said they could make some caramelised banana with chocolate sauce for me (kudos for thinking on the spot) and I happily agreed. It was probably the nicest thing I had all night. It wasn’t spectacular, the banana could have been fresher/sweeter, but it was caramelised quite perfectly and I was satisfied.
Conclusion: As I’ve mentioned, service was excellent and I think everyone we spoke to – the chef, the manager, the maitre d’ – tried to be as helpful as possible when they found out I’m vegan. But that doesn’t change the fact that the food was average and it was absolutely not value-for-money. There was a very warm, welcoming atmosphere, but that didn’t make up for the food. No great incentive to come here again.
Side note: Last night, I watched a very well-made and impactful documentary called Earthlings, which is an award-winning documentary film about the suffering of animals for food, fashion, pets entertainment and medical research. It is considered one of the most persuasive documentaries ever made. I would highly recommend the film for its concise and informative treatment of the subject. If you have 1.5 hours to spare, watching Earthlings would be a very meaningful and life-changing way to spend it. (Click here for the trailer.) Feel free to leave a comment/send me a message if you need help finding a copy of the film.