Like all good Italian boys, chef Luigi Calcagno first learnt to make fresh pasta from his grandmother at the age of seven. Leaving his hometown of Rome, he travelled across Europe and New York honing his culinary skills before finally opening his first restaurant in Bali, Indonesia. Now, he is helming the kitchen of Monti (tel: 6535 0724), right in the heart of urban Singapore at The Fullerton Pavilion.
Inspired by the namesake Roman city reputed for its charming old residential neighbourhood with a Bohemian edge, Monti boasts a menu of Italian classics, family traditions and new creations fit for the stylista. Some 70 per cent of all produce used at Monti is either organic or sustainably sourced. Creative healthy options stand out in this menu. The Superfood salad’s understated appearance belies the bold combination of flavours and textures. All etiquette and decorum were lost as diners clawed for the hazelnuts, chia seeds, borlotti beans, cucumber and every last bit of this 20-ingredient masterpiece.
In contrast to the wholesome Superfood is the traditional La Grande Selezione—a delightful board of freshly-sliced cold cuts and cheeses. An old tradition of the chef’s family makes an appearance in this presentation. Fresh broad beans are eaten with a slice of truffle pecorino (a hard cheese made from ewe’s milk) and homemade carrot jam, displaying distinct flavours of sharp cheese with the subtle sweetness of jam and layered with a gentle crunch of the beans.
And what’s an Italian restaurant without pasta? Here, classic dishes are treated sagaciously. Parcels of hearty osso buco sealed in fresh, al dente pasta and bathed in a glorious bone marrow sauce hit the right notes. It is a dish steeped in tradition that needs only the best ingredients and mastery of the chef.
Other classics are treated with fresh spins, such as the risotto with Piedmont truffle. The chef prepares this dish tableside in a Parmesan wheel, doused with rum (arguably the new favourite tipple) and set alight. While it is most definitely a “performance” dish, its flavours are complex and robust, with a measured blend of roundness and acidity.
Monti also offers black venus rice. Naturally black, this family of short rice grains has a mild nutty flavour, reminiscent of sticky black rice. Plated with a generous portion of tender Japanese squid with a sprinkling of chilli and lemon juice, it is a tempting alternative to traditional risotto.
Some of the best dishes here are meant for sharing. The rombo is one such dish—a sustainably sourced whole turbot, baked and layered with crispy potato discs. Meltingly moist, the dish is clean on the palate, showcasing a well-constructed balance of flavours and textures. A sprinkling of olive crumbs adds complexity to this elegant creation.
While there are many steakhouses and restaurants that serve beef, Monti’s is right up there in the league of stars. Cooked in a high temperature wood-fired oven, the Signora Monti is one gorgeous kilogram of Sanchoku A4 Wagyu prime rib. Meat lovers recognise a gem when they see one, or in this case, taste one. One word: Amazing!
Make sure to save room for desserts, which takes a decidedly modern twist here. Chocolate is presented like a cigar. Infused with lapsang souchong tea, it displays intriguing aromas of smoke and whiskey. Semifreddo is a spectacle of fire and ice with flames engulfing the frozen yoghurt, while morsels of fluffy pistachio sponge and strawberry mousse lend dimension and visual balance.
This venue was conceived as a destination. A bar that used to take centre stage in its previous incarnation is now anchored on the side, clearing the way for unobstructed views of the Marina Bay. It is indeed a sight to behold. With a live DJ and a respectable list of creative cocktails, the night is only just beginning. monti.sg