Review: ALBA 1836's Authentic Italian Experience

Some say it’s hard to find decent, real Italian food in Singapore, but this fine dining restaurant ends the search for now.

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If you’ve been looking to experience some decent, authentic Italian cuisine in Singapore, the search is over. ALBA 1836 wine bar and restaurant may be hidden away in the sprawling escape of Duxton Hill, but once found, is like a treasure to which you will always return.

Walking up to the Italian fine dining restaurant is already quite the experience. Leading up to the place was a sentimental cobblestone pathway stretched out amidst low-rise, whitewashed colonial buildings that gave a slight throwback to old town Singapore.

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ALBA 1836 makes for the perfect place to enjoy some authentic Italian cuisine with excellent wines, but it doesn’t stop there. The restaurant/bar makes sure you get the whole Italian experience, as you dine in the ambience of tasteful, Italian décor with the occasional, quirky paraphernalia in the warmth of soft lights. For an outdoor experience, you could choose to dine outside in the lovely Al Fresco Terrace. The essence of the restaurant could be summarized in the way a kind of Italian elegance ties in with contemporary styles and traditional ways. The restaurant presents Italian cuisine in a gorgeous assembling of past and present, and with the elusive experience of authenticity from the North to the South of Italy. In short, the restaurant/bar serves Italian food, sourced from Italy, made by Italians.

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Its award-winning Chef de Cuisine, Luca Piras, is also from Italy. You could say the Sardinian native grew up learning to cook in the quintessential Italian way, from his mother and grandmother, learning tradition from generations through mornings of fresh pasta-making and slow-cooking meat.

As we sat in the softly lit interiors of this idyllic, Italian restaurant, we took in the delicate Amuse-Bouche of fresh figs and cold cuts. The basket of fresh rolls had a sort of endearing countryside warmth we quite avoided, fearing less space in our stomachs for the courses ahead.

The starter featured a rather generous cut of Tuna Carpaccio with a delicate peppering of smoked caviar on sour cream, Altamura flakes and Mediterranean sea urchins. The dish was fittingly, a light entrance, with a visual semblance of the seabed, complete with a lovely, single hibiscus. A glass of white would be a perfect pairing. A selection of rare Italian balsamic vinegars, some aged gracefully over decades, are available on the side if you please.

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Next on the menu was a homemade fresh spinach and Parmesan tortelli on a rich sauce of butter and sage, with a topping of roasted almonds. The earthy pasta seemed to depict a sort of figurative “bringing back to shore” from a sea-bound adventure. The dish seemed a graceful movement from the light starter to a solid, earthy pasta, crafted with elegant detail. This one would also pair best with white wine.

The main was an anticipative highlight, and with good reason. Roasted lamb loin in a Sardinian Pecorino cheese-crust was the clear star of the menu. Served with sautéed asparagus, purple potatoes, shallots and lamb sauce on a choppy, contemporary-fashioned plate, this hearty main was a delightful culmination to the night’s offerings. Naturally, you would pair this one with a glass of red, preferably Pinot Noir. When in doubt, don’t hesitate to ask the knowledgeable waiting staff, who will be more than happy to recommend from their selection of prestigious champagnes and over 350 Italian labels.

While I’m not one for raspberries, the way the flavors came together for this particular dessert was particularly nice, especially when presented with the restaurant’s penchant for quirky plates. Sweet and tangy, with a little crunch, it appears that the dark chocolate millefeuille, topped off with light mascarpone cream and fresh raspberries was a perfect conclusion to an authentic, Italian experience.

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