Enter through an inconspicuous door via a side entrance, take the lift up to the fifth floor, and you emerge into Braci (tel: 6866 1933), the newest Italian restaurant this side of the Singapore River.
The brainchild of veteran chef and restaurateur Beppe De Vito, who also owns other dining hotspots such as ilLido at the Cliff, &Sons, Aura and Southbridge, Braci is named for the Italian word for ember. Housed in a newly restored heritage shophouse, the intimate 16-seat open-kitchen space sets itself apart from its peers with its modernist decor—warm wooden tables and chairs juxtapose atmospheric dark panelled walls illumined by designer lamps, lending the space a discreet air of casual elegance.
The kitchen takes centre stage, where the dramatic performance of the culinary artists revolves around the charcoal-fired Josper oven and shichirin grill; cooking over charcoal is the order of the day at Braci, which is what gives the restaurant its name.
The concise menu, like the outfit, proffers a measured mix of elements that bucks the trend with classic Italian ingredients reinterpreted with fresh invigorating insights. Dishes are served without pomp, boasting bold and precise construction of flavours and textures built on De Vito’s instinctive familiarity with local dining trends.
A dish of foie gras semifreddo is a prime example of his and his team’s technical mastery. The shimmering block of foie gras, which looks more like an installation of contemporary art than goose liver, is very thinly coated with a crust of chocolate; its top layer bejewelled with evenly spaced drops of homemade fig vincotto (a dark, sweet syrup) and crowned with glistening slices of candied kumquats.
Next, Wagyu tongue with new onions and tomato hit the right notes. Prepared as a confit by cooking thoroughly at low temperatures for about 10 hours, the Wagyu tongue succumbs easily to the bite, with a mild taste contrasted by the umami‑rich tomato water that it wades in. Bits of cucumber chutney and pearl onion julienne further add to the complex blend of flavours, just enough to lend intrigue and dimension without taking away from the beef tongue itself.
Not all dishes here are as intricately composed, which is a good thing as it allows breathing room through the succession of courses. A faultlessly prepared dish is the tagliolini, which is made with semolina flour and matched with red prawns and caviar. It is a simple dish that showcases the virtues of quality ingredients and the intricate consideration of balance between the fresh restrained sweetness of the prawns and the mild saltiness of the Baeri caviar.
Duck breast, aged in-house for several days, is cooked on the grill and served still pink, offering a lovely intensity of flavour with just a hint of gaminess. Siding it is a thin sliver of duck skin inspired by traditional Peking duck, and heirloom carrots that punctuate the meat with nuanced sweetness.
Gianduiotto is De Vito’s reinterpretation of an iconic Piedmont chocolate treat of the same name. Here, it is made with white, milk and dark chocolate, and filled with gianduja, a classic Piedmontese chocolate spread that contains hazelnut paste. Frangelico cream and golden hazelnuts complete the dish. The serving portion is somewhat hefty, so be sure to leave room if you intend to round off your meal with this dessert.
When calling ahead for your reservation, ask for a table by the window, which will afford a view across the Singapore River. Otherwise, make your way one floor up to the 30-seat rooftop bar, where you can take in a panoramic view of the precinct over masterfully prepared speciality cocktails. Standouts include tiramisu, made from orange- and vanilla-infused vodka with Mozart chocolate liqueur and homemade coffee liqueur, as well as a deceptively mild G&Tea, made from Gin Marconi, Bombay Sapphire, Monkey 47, lemon, ginger and fennel. Salut!