It's not too often that I walk upset out of a restaurant in Singapore. But it definitely happens more often on my attempts to visit Italian restaurants. Perhaps because, being Italian, I know what the real thing should taste like, and it particularly irritates me when I get charged fine dining prices for food that can barely be categorized as home cooked food. Unfortunately, Bonta is one of those places. My full review can be found at: http://foodieah.blogspot.com/2008/09/bonta-but-not-quite.html
Having read advertisements raving about the multi-awarded head chef, I naively hoped their food would match the expectations set by the advertising campaign. Well... it doesn't, and it's not even close.
I started getting suspicious as I went through their vast menu. I could count about 11 starters, 11 pastas/risottos, 10 mains and 6 desserts. It would be rather challenging for a fine dining restaurant to successfully maintain an appropriate level of quality with so many dishes on their menu.
We were first served what was announced by the waiter as their 'renowned bread'. It was a warm load of bread served in a cup, enclosing a rich combination of Feta cheese, nuts and other ingredients. Not bad, but not particularly Italian either. Overall, I would say that this 'freebie' was their most successful dish.
As a starter we ordered 'oven baked Australian scallops' ($24). They came with their shell, topped with spinach and a 'black olive hollandaise sauce'. On top of it all, an extra bit of greenery. I am not entirely sure what's Italian about this dish, but I would be happy to forgive the 'fine dining' creativeness if it was well done. Unfortunately, the combination of oven baked scallops with hollandaise sauce, spinach and watercress doesn't quite work. Scallops are a subtle delicacy. Keep it simple.
The other starter also came topped with the same greenery, which seems to be particularly fashionable at this restaurant, as much as the 'basil oil' which surrounds every dish. The 'Sicilian swordfish carpaccio' ($29) couldn't have been worse. The delicate texture of thin slices of swordfish were raped by the presence of a salad right on top. And we are talking a real salad, with full-sized slices of tomato...
Now the pastas, what every respectable Italian chef gets a chance to prove himself with. The 'spaghettini with tiger prawns, cod, sun dried tomatoes and bottarga' ($30) were topped by our favourite topping: watercress. Traces of bottarga could be spotted if you looked hard enough. Overall there was nothing particularly wrong with this pasta, but it wasn't exciting either. Just an average, rather oily pasta, which you would have in a normal 'pizzeria' (please note, not restaurant) if you were in Italy.
The same can be said about the 'homemade basil infuse angel hair with crab meat, chives and salmon roe in white wine sauce' ($29). Once again, topped by the usual magic touch of watercress and surrounded by oil and chopped basil. Flavours weren't quite as distinct and sharp as they should, and the whole thing had a rather creamy texture.
We didn't order the desserts, as we thought we could save ourselves further disappointment and unnecessary bleeding of cash. The bill came up to $170 including 2 cocktails and a bottle of water. I am happy to spend such money for food that's worth it. Unfortunately Bonta is not the kind of place that makes me proud of being Italian. Take a look at their website: http://www.bonta.com.sg/. They sell Bonta as a fine dining restaurant. This is simply unacceptable, when obvious shortcuts are taken when it comes to produce, preparation and presentation.
The service was friendly and efficient, while ambiance rather spooky and uncomfortable, probably due to the unsettling lighting.
Next time, should I be around the area and crave for Italian, I will go to Cugini. Only a few steps away, I can have the best Italian food I have had in Singapore to date, and for a more reasonable price.
UE Square is in between Mohamed Sultan road, and Robertson quay, together the area’s a conclave for food and beverage alike. Bontá Italian restaurant & Bar is one of them, located within UE square facing Mohamed Sultan. Having seen this place on both my past visits to Sage the restaurant, and Epicurious, I immediately recalled this place when my partner mentioned that they are famed for their complimentary bread.
A quiet affair on a weekday dinner, Bonta had a very beautiful al fresco area, which was definitely welcome if you need some private moments while enjoying the air outside.
f sweating isn’t what you really imagine on your first date out, you can of course enter the cozy and elegant interior of the restaurant. Coupled with the warm lightnings, Bonta does makes a nice place for a romantic dinner. There’s also a private room available just beside the wine cellar.
The complimentary bread which Bonta’s famous for. We were full of expectations since we heard rave reviews about the bread, and when the bread came, we were not disappointed. Coming in the form of a cup, the bread at Bonta’s baked freshly everyday, and the smell of it was captivating enough.
Usually the idea of a fresh complimentary bread is dry, unappealing to the palates, and the main reason for its existance is to have a bite while waiting for the appetisers to serve. But not this one, the walnut foccacia bread was totally in a different league on its own. It’s crispy outside, soft and fluffy inside, with walnuts, sundride tomatoes, and feta cheese.
Feta cheese, made from goat’s milk, was the chief architect for the aromatic scent. Crumbly and grainy texture could be best used to describe feta cheese, but if you ain’t a cheese person, and didn’t really like the smell of feta cheese, then maybe you wouldn’t appreciate the bread very much.
Lobster tartare ($39)
Tomato salsa, olive oil, capers, sicilian olives, rocket leaves, and of course lobster made up the lobster tartare. We ain’t quite sure what exactly made us order the most expensive appetiser on the menu, but since we weren’t very hungry, and wasn’t planning to order a lot, plus my partner didn’t try lobster before, we decided to go for it.
The first form of emotion felt when the lobster tartare arrived, was a rather let-down feeling. Well to be frank, paying almost 40 bucks for such a appetiser did not make economic sense when you could order a main course with the price.
The tomato salsa which formed the top layer of the tartare, was too overpowering and jarring, which almost completely covered the taste of the lobster. So even if the lobster wasn’t fresh, you couldn’t really tell. Lobster meat wise, there wasn’t much of it to be seen and felt.
Basil infused angel hair pasta, with jumbo crab meat ($29)
The angel hair pasta was apparently green with basil providing the colour. Chives, white wine sauce, and jumbo crab meat was part of the ingredients which accompanied the pasta. Basil infused angel hair pasta, was definitely a better pairing compared to the tom yam one we had at Absolute Haven,
My partner found the pasta bit soggy, and the lack of sauce which made it too dry for her liking. The jumbo crab meat serving though, was rather generous, with big bits of crab meat. Angel hair still tasted like Chinese rice vermicelli to us. The salmon roe, was quite a good addition apart from the crab meat. Overall there wasn’t anything intriguing about the pasta, just a good and solid version.
Total Bill was $80.04 for one main course and one appetiser for the two of us. We didn’t order a lot because we weren’t feeling very hungry. The walnut foccacia bread was certainly excellent, and one of the better complimentary bread around. The same couldn’t be say for the lobster tartare, which we felt was a rather let down since we expected more from it.
There was a rather unpleasant incident at the beginning because initially I asked permission from the restaurant manager, Mr Karim Benramdane to take photographs of the restaurant, and he agreed with politeness. But after I took some pictures, the executive chef, Mr Luca Pezzera came and asked me to stop taking photographs, citing reasons that they had bad encounters with customers taking photos, and written bad reviews about Bonta, which caused negative publicity for them.
I did agree with him that different people have different taste and preference, so reviews cannot be properly judged the standards of a restaurant. But i felt that if a restaurant is really good, they shouldn’t be afraid to let the customers take photo of their place.
I’ll also like to praise one of the staff, Mr Morning, who was really polite and professional in his work. He greeted us with his friendly smile, and also explained to our enquiries diligently, for that i’ll say there isn’t many restaurant who has professionals like him, and he will go a long way in serving Bonta.
I don’t think that one appetiser and one main course can be used to judge Bonta fairly, since we didn’t have their signature dishes, it will be unfair to make an early judgement on their standards. Therefore, i’ll return for their valued set lunches which at $28, comes with appetiser, main course, dessert and tea.
You are always welcome to visit ladyironchef for a full-up on this trip. Whatever written herein are my genuine feelings expressed in words. Food, my dear, is what they call an adventure!
Monthly dinner was decided to be had at Bonta after much discussion with the group. Apparently, we were getting pretty tired of Chinese cuisine after our failed attempts with Golden Peony and Hua Ting and so Italian was on the cards this time. Opened in April this year, the restaurant has gotten many rave reviews for its food and service and is helmed by chef Luca Pezzera, formerly of Hotel Intercontinental fame.
The exterior housed a nice chill out space in an alfresco setting while the interior was small and cosy complete with soft lighting which they dimmed as time passed and a small wine chamber for those so inclined. Seating capacity was small however, and the maximum the restaurant could hold inside was probably around 40 people.
Complimentary Bread - The complimentary bread was served after much fanfare and bantering with the overly friendly waiter who took our order. Still, this is another one of those great-complimentary-breads-in -posh-places item. Its also one of the best i've had thus far. The bread was served warm in a longish cup and is crispy on the outside while soft and fluffy on the inside. Pockets of cheese and walnuts were also interspersed to enhance the experience. These are available for take away at a whooping $8 a loaf if you are interested.
Foie Gras (Pan fried goose liver $24) - I got to try one small piece of this and i must say it is surprisingly pleasing. I'm not a big fan of foie gras but this was done well. Slightly crispy on the outside and smooth and creamy on the inside. The aftertaste lingers long after you have swallowed it but is overpowering in bigger doses.
Oven Baked Scallops ($22) - I shared this item with a friend to minimize the damage. At $22 for 4 scallops, this came across as being overly expensive. The scallop was sweet and went well with the accompanying sauce to create a pretty good appetizer.
Home Made Angel Hair ($42), Ravioli with Goose Liver ($28)
- The angel hair was springy, soft and sweet making it a decent though not excellent dish. The baby lobster was overly cooked and lacked the fresh sweetness i hoped it would exhibit. I also had a piece of Ravioli and found the taste overpowered by the cream sauce instead of the goose liver present in it.
Black Angus Beef Sirloin ($42) - This dish i did get to try....twice because the first was ordered by my friend, while the other was a wrong order the waiter served to me....twice as well. The first wrong order being Angel Hair and the second being this dish. My main order was actually a Wagyu Beef steak. The beef was served medium rare but lacked the strong beef taste i would love to have. It also came with wierd, greenish tasting porcini mushrooms and foie gras which didn't really cut it for me since my mood was already spoiled by waiting without a main for 20 minutes while my friends finished their own mains before my main arrived with a wrong order again.
The bill came up to $451.96 for 7 people for an unsatisfying dinner and huge service blunders.
Commercial reviews are either overrated or over showcased in my opinion. I don't suppose a restaurant will make bad food for food critics and newspaper reviewers but if they could do it for the writers, at least have the capacity to do it during normal hours as well. The working staff here need retraining and learn to apologize when mistakes are made or at least have the presence of mind to offer a gesture of peace when an error is committed. Still, their snotty attitude and average food offerings brought down this experience very much where i am concerned. Even for my friends, nobody found it in them to order a dessert at the end and thats saying alot. Stay away, stay far far away.
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