Osteria BBR by Alain Ducasse
1 Beach Road
Tel: 6337 1886
Open for lunch and dinner Thurs to Mon: 12pm to 2.30pm; 6pm to 9.45pm.
Closed Tues and Wed
THERE’S nothing sadder than having a party that no one can come to. Two may be company, but three – in fact, more – is a crowd that the newly reopened Osteria BBR by Alain Ducasse sorely needs to bring life to a concept built on conviviality, not date night for hermits.
Which is why the 2-person ruling doesn’t quite do justice to a place that’s the restaurant equivalent of a labrador retriever – too big, too bubbly and too eager to make friends. It was, after all, designed pre-Covid and then hobbled by it, taking a much longer hiatus than the other restaurants in Raffles Hotel which opened soon after the first lockdown. Osteria BBR only recently took on its new smart-casual Italian identity, with a one-size fits all menu that appeals to both the pizza lover and diners who want to dial it up a notch.
The result is food that hits the middle ground – pleasing, well-executed cooking that doesn’t try to break new ground or compete on a higher dining level.
There are some nice little touches like a freebie snack of deep fried salt cod fritters – almost like a mini Spanish croqueta with a creamy bechamel filling – and fluffy soft focaccia to kick off your meal.
There are tasting menus that seem well-priced at S$108 but since everyone at the table – wait, just both of you – has to have the same one, it doesn’t give you the flexibility to try other things on the menu. Since we want to try the much Instagrammed tartare of Italian red prawns and caviar (S$68), we go a la carte instead.
This deluxe appetiser is almost like an Italian translation of Waku Ghin’s trademark botan ebi and caviar creation, sans the dollop of uni and the spiky shell it’s piled into. The raw Mazara del Vallo, however, assert their Europeanness with a more pronounced ‘prawniness’ compared to their discreet Japanese counterparts.
Generous chunks of shrimp are lightly marinated in olive oil, and layered with creamy fresh mozzarella to bind it to delicate seafood jelly, before being topped with a dollop of Kristal caviar. It’s a good-sized portion but still falls into special treat territory, say, to celebrate the aforementioned hermit’s first verbal communication with the outside world.
It’s a nice-to-have but not a must-have as there’s equal enjoyment to be had with the more affordable char-broiled octopus (S$28). Three thick cylinders of meaty octopus are firm yet yielding to the bite, sitting pretty atop neat potato slices glazed with sweet balsamic vinegar, and parsley pesto which is like a potato’s soulmate. The octopus is like the Goldilocks of cephalopods – not too chewy, not too mushy, just nice.
The pizza may create a philosophical divide between those who belong to the Neapolitan or thin-crust factions. For those who like to wade into chewy pillowy dough, take a back seat and let your thin crust-loving partner devour the Calabrese (S$30) – a crisp, almost crunchy base slathered in a potent tomato sauce that’s laced with nduja for a jolt of heat, topped with arugula and buffalo mozzarella. If there’s any left over, take it home because a toaster oven easily revives the crunch. Neapolitan pizza lovers, however, can complain away.
Since Osteria BBR is seafood-centric, we skip the meats and go the crustacean route with Fusilli di Gragnano pasta with Maine lobster (S$45) – short spiral pasta tossed in a bisque-like sauce with a vague perfuminess the server identifies as marjoram, and enough meaty chunks of lobster to make it worth the price. The pasta itself lays on a bed of eggplant puree, a surprise touch that thickens the sauce further with a smooth velvety effect.
It works better than the Cacciucco or Tuscan seafood stew (S$68) which starts out as an attractive arrangement of fish, prawn, octopus and lobster over which the server pours a hot tomato-based gravy. Apart from a nice fat lump of lobster, the dry fish fillets and salty octopus aren’t in a cooperative mood, perhaps protesting at having to share the stage instead of getting top billing. Either way, it’s a pretty lacklustre production.
Sweetening things up a little is the signature Baba (S$18) with the usual rum substituted with limoncello. The airy, brioche-like cake is a greedy sponge for the boozy lemony syrup, blanketed with whipped cream for a messy, citrusy ending.
As it stands, party time may still be a while away; but until then, Osteria BBR has enough flair and fun to make the wait an easy one.
WHAT OUR RATINGS MEAN
10: The ultimate dining experience
7-7.5: Good to very good
Our review policy: The Business Times pays for all meals at restaurants reviewed on this page. Unless specified, the writer does not accept hosted meals prior to the review’s publication.
This article was originally posted in The Business Times.