SINGAPORE — Zafferano is so incredibly romantic that it feels slightly perverse to be eating here for the practical purpose of a review. Perched on the 43rd floor of Ocean Financial Centre with sweeping views of Singapore’s Marina Bay, Zafferano maintains a level of exclusivity from the moment you exit the lift. The place opens up from the short walkway, flanked by kitchens on both sides, directly into a dining area that has been rearranged to take safe distancing into consideration. In the middle, is a bar with an imposing centrepiece hanging off the ceiling—apparently a representation of the Saffron spice which Zafferano is named after. It’s all very breathtaking and impossible not to swoon at—like a giggly schoolboy on a first date.
At the centre of this establishment is Andrea De Paola, a young head Chef with roots in Milan and Italy. The menu he curates here at Zafferano is primarily influenced by his memories of food growing up as well as reverence towards ingredients found in the places where he once travelled or worked. In some ways, it is a global menu reflective of his journey from Italy to Asia. And in another, I’m slightly envious of his extensive travels—white miso from Japan, anyone?
But what truly sets his food apart from other similar Italian restaurants is youth. At 29, Chef Andrea has very little hang-ups when it comes to food as deeply and culturally significant as that of the Italian persuasion. Instead, age has given him free rein to juxtapose an immense level of creativity—very seldom seen in Italian cooking, if I do say so myself—with an intricate understanding of flavour pairing that technically should not work, but in his deft hands, a creation that truly takes my breath away.
For a restaurant of this pedigree, the menu is surprisingly simple and easy to order off. It starts with the scampi (S$32++), a beautiful and umami-laden langoustine covered in a mixture of seaweed and colourful Japanese sesame seeds. It sits on a shallow pool of the most fragrant white miso sauce (think caramelised miso mixed with mirin and vegetable stock) with hints of sesame oil drifting by. A plate of fegato d’ oca (S$28++) is jaw-droppingly complex (and we’re only at starters, damn it) with quenelles of Orange-cured foie gras wrapped in a pickled beetroot gel. It takes away the slightly beefy overtones of foie gras and adds a graceful nod of sweetness from the beetroot—a cheerful tumble of technique and ingredients I haven’t seen in a long time.
Elsewhere, there’s a plate of very pretty looking spaghetti (S$30++/starter, S$42+/main) cooked with razor clams and a veloute made from its drippings. It’s a razor clam party and programming that pays off. Razor clam on its own has very little fanfare to its taste, but here, it pairs perfectly with the herb oil of tarragon, basil, dill and thyme, that gives it a slight earthiness and a marvellous mouthfeel.
As far as presentation goes, the branzino (S$48++) might look slightly pedestrian when compared to the more adventurous plating of dishes before. But with Italian sea bass as creamy and divine as this, you don’t really need any fancy filigree for filigree’s sake. Here, a sizable chunk of roasted sea bass sits parallel to a handful of spring herbs salad and a deep green zucchini cream. Sure the brushed tarragon salmoriglio on the fish is all sorts of buttery and tangy, but have you had roasted zucchini cream drizzled with mint because that unassuming spoonful of condiment is the bomb.
There is, of course, the Manzo (S$62++), for you connoisseurs of meat—charcoal-grilled Sanchoku wagyu beef striploin with a marble score of six and seven, in essence, a more decadent and more premium cut of steak. It melts in your mouth like an indulgent slab of butter but with slight restraint so that you can finish the serving without your brain telling you there’s no room for dessert.
At the risk of sounding biased (but which food review isn’t, right?), I would suggest only one dessert to end this overwhelmingly romantic evening of food. The mozzarella (S$16++) arrives, and immediately a hush falls over the table as my dinner company and I scrutinise every angle of this beautifully plated dessert. An unassuming sphere of Buffalo mozzarella cheesecake sits on sliced Kyoto strawberries, which, when cut, gives way with barely any resistance.
Someone comes by and drizzles an award-winning extra virgin olive oil which is nothing like what I get from Cold Storage. It’s fresh, fruity, and makes me a convert of oil on dessert. The cake itself is silky, creamy, and smooth, and has just the right amount of sweetness to make me swoon. I wish all desserts I eat were like this.
Website | Ocean Financial Centre, Level 43, 10 Collyer Quay, Singapore 049315
Lunch: Tuesday – Friday: 11.30am – 3pm; Saturday – Sunday: 12pm – 3pm
Dinner: Tuesday – Friday: 5.30pm – 11.30pm; Saturday – Sunday 6.00pm – 11:30pm
Closed on Mondays
Balancing the New Normal: