Italian cuisine isn’t what you’d normally call surprising – we’re all too accustomed to pasta aglio olio, spaghetti bolognese, pasta carbonara and handmade pizzas with the usual line-up of ingredients (parma ham, mushrooms, artisanal this-and-that). But even if you’re feeling a little blasé at the thought of yet another Italian restaurant, hold off the cynicism for now – Equilibrium‘s selection of small plates, yet-unheard-of Italian street food, and creative desserts will surprise fussy foodies and hardened food critics.
As far as small plates go, Equilibrium’s are big in flavour. Plus, it’s a chance to sample dishes and regional street food you probably haven’t had the pleasure of trying. Case in point: the hearty La Bombette (below, $9.50) – grilled skewers of pork wrapped around a mixture of parmesan, oregano and chilli flakes – which is inspired by street food in Puglia, southern Italy.
Another must-try (my personal favourite): the Panelle (below, $12), traditional Sicilian fritters made of spiced gram batter – they taste like falafel, but lighter. Delicately spiced, fried to a perfect crisp – so good with beer. (Go for Italian lager Peroni, which Equilibrium has on tap)
It’s not all rustic comfort food, which can get a little heavy on the tummy. For a light snack, try the citrus-air-topped Calamari all Griglia (below, $15) – tender grilled squid seasoned with fennel, chilli and mint and topped with citrus air for a result that’s unexpectedly Thai-like.
If you raised your eyebrows at “citrus air”, chill. It’s not customary to find elements of molecular gastronomy in food at mid-scale restaurants, but Equilibrium’s head chef, Samdy Kan, is a man who’s out to upturn expectations. And so you’ll get citrus air on a $15 plate of squid, parmesan foam on the carbonara pasta, and you get Maiale e Funghi alla Aglio Olio (below, $19), an aglio olio pasta with a mee pok slant – thanks to lashings of minced pork, chilli, white wine vinegar. The latter, Kan shares, is a tribute to his roots – he grew up immersed in the runnings of his grandmother’s two kopitiams (coffee shops), and wanted to show that the humble mee pok could be solid restaurant fare. Point proven: The East-meets-West concoction is delicious.
A lot of effort has also gone into the restaurant’s setting. It’s not gone with the much-favoured industrial look, and isn’t getting on the rustic-charm bandwagon either. Equilibrium is chic and eclectic without being pretentious, with just enough quirky details to keep things interesting: antique mirrors, moss-textured walls, a marble bar counter, and comfy designer chairs.
Like the decor, the desserts aren’t quite Italian, but they are certainly inventive. Try the Watermelon Carpaccio (below, $14), which gets its name from how the slivers of compressed watermelon resemble, well, carpaccio. The refreshing dish is served with brown butter dust, cheese milk foam (Heston Blumenthal, watch out) and watermelon sorbet.
Another Blumenthal-like creation is the Deli Charcuterie (below, $21): a platter of chocolate, sweet bacon jam and whisky caramel jelly made to look like a plate of cured meats, pate and blood sausage.
And now you know exactly where to go the next time someone asks you to choose somewhere interesting for Friday night dinner and drinks. You’re welcome. #01-86 Capitol Piazza, tel: 6384-4069
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