Buona Terra review: 1-Michelin Italian restaurant releases a summer menu
Housed within a bungalow, you might miss Buona Terra if the visit isn't intentional. The fine Italian establishment first emerged in 2012 and recently clinched its first Michelin star last year under the helm of resident chef Denis Lucchi. Now in phase two of the circuit breaker, we're chuffed to have made it just in time for summer.
Seasonal produce remains to be an important fixture of Buona Terra; albeit a little more challenging now with import road blocks in lieu of a global pandemic, but with a steady stream of returning customers, there's nothing a little improvisation and trusty rapport can't solve. Although it might look that way, despite being Italian and well, a quote-unquote decadent place to secure a seat at the table, Buona Terra isn't your typical restaurant to only serve up lavish carbs and designer wines.
There's a clever interpretation to every dish on a course menu here. Starting with the snacks, where this summer, one of the single bites revolve around the iconic tomato, stemming from French Le Jardin de Rabelais tomatoes. Chef Lucchi makes a frozen gazpacho before the stiffen balls are dipped in melted cocoa butter. Think a chocolate ball filled with ganache, just with tomato taking centerstage. Following that, Hokkaido scallop tartare stuffed in a mini butter cone and an intricately plated potato roll plied with cod fish mousse and a spring onion gel to tease your appetite.
A surprising amuse bouche ensued, the snail ragu. For the most part, we've been accustomed to escargots served the French way. But at Buona Terra, the common delicacy is soaked in a ragu before layered with the sabayon — an Italian dessert, but made savoury in a yolk emulsion spiked with four kinds of pepper then topped up with vermouth. And with the treatment of standout produce, chef Lucchi approaches each of his in an ovoid way. Setting the stage for the main stars, came the sea perch. Grilled over binchotan, the silky fish is steeped in a tomato-based broth, joined by French bouchot mussels, marjoram, micro greens, sun-dried tomatoes, and black olives. It's a piquant, kissed-by-the-ocean slurp that sets a prelude for what's to come.
And we got to say, we came at an opportune time. Hands down, a loose risotto comprising of Acquerello grains — a unique product in itself, as it goes through a rigorous ageing and whitening process before landing in the chef's hands. This 7-year aged carnaroli rice is cooked in fish and prawn bisque, sun-dried tomato sauce, butter, squid ink, and brandy, then laid with a chargrilled carabinero prawn. For more flavour pulses, we scraped out the insides of its head for more juices to come through. It might have been the firm, perfect bite of each grain or the punctuated brine of the prawn in itself, but this was possibly the best risotto we had in a while.
While the dry-aged mieral pigeon didn't come close to surpassing that dish, it was a sweet, sticky rendition of the poultry, aligned with peaches, pumpkin, amaretto, and moscato sauce. You'll also find a mean, alternative portion of carbonara here, that to our surprise didn't encompass fresh pasta. In line with chef Lucchi's philosophy that dried noodles can also be quality pasta — against the popular opinion out there, Buona Terra uses a mix of both dried and fresh pasta in its menu. His Mancini spaghetti is treated with a parmesan stock, before sautéed with butter and guanciele then topped with shaved cured egg yolk and fresh black truffles. It's a radically smokey iteration of the classic dish, hence proving that authenticity in Italian cuisine should never be deemed all alike. Basically summing up our experience at Buona Terra.
29 Scotts Rd, Tel: 6733 0209
Opening hours: (Mon-Fri) 12pm-3pm, 6pm-10.30pm, (Sat) 6pm-10.30pm