If you’ve ever taken a stroll down Boat Quay, you’d know that it is, for lack of a better word, raucous. Brightly lit displays high and low call for attention while touts beckon frantically as you make your way through the quay perpetually thronged with crowds (now masked) in various states of inebriation.
Braci, opened in 2017 by veteran restaurateur Beppe de Vito, doesn’t need any of that. You make a turn into a nondescript shophouse and end up in a marble-clad lobby that wouldn’t be remiss in Raffles Place. Five floors up, however, and you’re greeted with a mod-luxe open-kitchen concept that’s at once comforting and revolutionary – and thankfully, blissfully quiet. It’s an intimate space that encompasses all of two floors and fits, at least for the restaurant, just 16 in non-Covid-19 times.
Chef de cuisine Mirko Febbrile has held the reins here since its inception after cutting his teeth at Il Lido Group’s other properties like the now-defunct Aura and Il Lido at the Cliff. His cuisine is classically Italian – at least philosophically, meaning it’s an ode to seasonality and terroir. Practically, it is progressive, bold and never self-conscious. It’s also draws, largely, from fire – after all, Braci means ‘embers’ in Italian.
Before the meal begins proper, you’re presented with a glass of bubbly – we got a bright, sparkly number of a Billecart Salmon Brut Reserve, a welcome drink any time of the year – and a menu. Not an actual menu, since you’re more or less confined to the Febbrile’s whims, but an ingredients’ list – not just as a way to make alterations for finicky or allergic, but to highlight what’s coming up and where it’s from.
That answer, by and large, is Italy and Japan, both in provenance and style. There’s a panzerotti, stuffed with fontina and white corn from Northern Italy and Hokkaido and crowned with a dollop of eggyolk-and-saffron jam; firefly squid, available only from March to June, briefly kissed by a shichirin grill and served in a kombu dashi broth and elderflower vinaigrette; and white asparagus, glazed in a canvas of beurre blanc with a crisscross tapestry of bottarga (cured fish roe), salsa verde and squid ink.
Other seasonal highlights include Jerusalem artichoke – first grilled on binchotan before its insides are pureed and returned to its outer shell, before being topped with Alaskan king crab grilled in the joint’s Josper oven, home-cured sardines and fennel fronds. The shells from said crabs, along with aged seaweed, are then turned into a savoury consomme to complete the course. That philosophy of nose-to-tail continues with grilled dover sole, micro-tomatoes from Japan and sweet peas in a pil pil that incorporates extracted fish gelatin from the head and bones of the sole.
Febbrile’s even found space for an inside joke by way of subverting expectations – celery root, sourced from Verona, is steeped for 20 days in beef fat, giving it a delicate consistency not dissimilar to carpaccio. Not just any beef fat though – fat from Kagoshima wagyu, as the menu reads, an educational jibe to encourage guests to expect fine produce other than Japanese beef. Even without marbling, the charred slivers of celery root are doused in an endlessly moreish sauce of capers, Martini Bianco and ikura.
Apart from the seasonal menu, several signatures make a return. Foie gras from the south of France, is marinated with Marsala and turned into a creamy, white chocolate-covered semifreddo. It’s served with warm brioche, kumquat jam and fig vincotto – which technically means cooked wine, though there isn’t any. The tart, molasses-like reduction, originally intended as a way to preserve surplus fruit, mellows out the richness of the foie.
Another signature of Febbrile is 32-eggyolk tagliolini, so-called for its use of, well, 32 eggyolks to a kilogram of semola. It’s accompanied by two types of uni – bafun sea urchin, or red uni, is preserved and incorporated into the sauce while Murasaki sea urchin, also known as white uni, crowns the dish beside a spoonful of ossetra caviar.
For dessert, there’s a spherified bubble of white peach, milk and honey; torta della nonna or grandma pie, a traditional pastry made with just eggs, flour and milk with an additional helping of Apulian almonds; and nama chocolate, dusted with sundried tomato powder and finished with a crispy sage leaf.
It’s a menu that charms without being loud – or needing to – in a restaurant that you’d be blameless to overlook in bustling Boat Quay. But you’d be missing out.
#05-01, 52 Boat Quay. Tel: 6866-1933.