Bar Cicheti x Ben Fatto 95: A four hands dinner review of fresh pastas, bold flavours, and a zero waste initiative
Artisan at best
If there's anything the F&B landscape in Singapore has ignited, it's the fact that you don't have to be Italian to do justice to its cuisine. One of them, chef Yew Aun from the beloved Cicheti Group, narrowing in on Bar Cicheti for its revered stance on fresh pastas as well as private dining chef Yum Hwa from his quaint establishment Ben Fatto 95, who's notoriously adept at handmade pastas harking from various regions and techniques.
For three nights only, they've formed a formidable alliance — with Yum Hwa's rugged dough sculptures of Italian tradition and Yew Aun's midas touch of sauce treatment. It's a four hands dinner plied with six courses where carb ingesting is unavoidable; with a special nod to the common thread that both chefs are tethered to — advocating zero waste in their individual crafts. Of course, wine pairing by resident sommelier Ronald Kamiyama would play its own finite role in this, like a sprig of garnish to finish a dish.
Snacks landed in the form of gnocco fritto, a traditional Italian pastry, in two variations. The lard used in the making of this flour pillow came from the melting of parma ham, while the pair we savoured implemented ingredients that were all already present in Bar Cicheti's kitchen. The first had stracciatella livened by savoury white anchovies; and the second bore a brinier bite, featuring lardo, uni, and chives.
And so the first pasta course arrived; cavatelli is essentially what the people from the poorer regions of the South of Italy would call a typical meal. Yum Hwa made sure to honour customary ingredients like burnt wheat (grano arso), like how the locals in Puglia do, as they sweeped up scorced grains after every season of farmers burning their fields in prep for the next batch of crops. This version was made with heavily toasted semola, mixed with semola rimacinata then cold-smoked just to add that toasted hint. Cavatelli en masse, in chef Yew Aun's humble minestrone that shone a spotlight on odds and ends from leftover vegetables and legumes, felt like a honourable, relatively light-weighted premise to start.
Next up, tajarin or tagliolini tossed in a delectable meat juice derived from cross-cut veal (which would later reveal itself in the fourth pasta course). The magic counterpart of butter and parmesan made it easy to devour — just losing the heavy that typically comes with pasta dishes like this. Also, better savoured with a dry glass of Tenuta Sella, where dried aged fruit and truffles work in tandem to complement each slurp.
Before you think a pasta-led four hands reads surfeit, this one isn't. Perhaps it was the graceful steps taken to ease the palate, each course increasingly heavier, but in proper order and clever restraint. Sensible portioning probably had something to do with it as well. Our third course strung together braided loops, by hand — known as lorighittas. Each twist also meant that it could crimp in more sauce that it would be binded with. The source of flavour arises from the Spanish octopus and scraps of salumi and our favourite ingredient, chili. Points for a chewy mouthfeel, points for a good wave of heat, and bonus points for toasted breadcrumbs.
The last one offered a nice cool down from the last, and encased moreish fillings within. Unlike raviolis like we're used to, doppio agnolotti seals in two pockets instead of one. Just like how folks in Piemonte have it, there's a meat filled fold and the other for potato and cheese. Each pasta parcel presents a burst of heady flavour, while dabbled minimally with some butter and accented with walnuts.
Yes, surprisingly, you're not overstuffed even at this point. Kamiyama swoops in and serves his very own (dangerous) concoction of limoncello that weaves in Everclear and Grappa. Made to pair with a savoury and peculiar dessert — roping in fried potato skins (from the potato in the doppio agnolotti), bread crumbs from leftover loaves, passionfruit curd, and doused with a truffle milkshake slush. Dubbed as a bread and butter pudding — deconstructed — you'l find spoonfuls of bold flavours of sweet, salty, and sour harmonising with the unlikely truffle component. We don't even know how the strange medley could work, but it did to the extent shy of licking the bowl.
Bar Cicheti x Ben Fatto 95 is happening on 17 February (with 18 and 19 February fully booked) at Bar Cicheti, from 6pm-10pm. Book your seats via Whatsapp at 9710 5207 or email [email protected]