Garibaldi has always been at the forefront of fine Italian cuisine in Singapore, withstanding the recent arrivals of Il Lido, Oso and others. Like the eponymous Italian revolutionary, Garibaldi looms large in our hearts, romancing us with fond memories long after the actual experience is past.
I've always felt that Garibaldi is exceedingly well-camouflaged for a fine dining establishment. Situated along Purvis Street, it's very easy to walk past without realising it. The door slides open from the inside, leaving you to wonder if they actually expect walk-in diners.
The interior of Garibaldi is very chic and sleek, with many emphasised lines and corners. The seats are plush leather and quite comfortable indeed. One of the most underrated things about Italian restaurants, I find, is bread. Garibaldi does an amazing sun-dried tomato bread which is just crusty on the outside, but fluffy on the inside.
We were fortunate enough to have Chef Roberto prepare us a degustation lunch menu which started with a truly traditional serving of prosciutto ham and melon, on a bed of arugula leaves. Simple, yet a dish in which the freshness of the produce Garibaldi uses really shone through. The ham was thin, translucent and wondrously fresh, as were the arugula leaves. Not to be outdone, the melons shone through with their sweet juiciness.
Next came the seafood platter, of sorts, comprising a grilled scallop atop porcini mushrooms, an oyster gratine, and a crabmeat salad. All were excellent, though I still dislike oysters. The scallop was fat and succulent, nicely paired with slices of intense porcinis. The oyster was gratineed with some cheese and possibly parsley, but it still couldn't disguise the strong taste of the oyster, not something I'm a fan of. The crabmeat salad was refreshing and heady, really enjoyable stuff.
I wasn't that blown away by the spaghetti vongole, though that was due to my own tastes rather than any shortcoming of the dish itself. I felt the sweetness of the onions rather overpowered the taste of the wine. The clams were quite lovely though.
The main course was a grilled filet of salmon, just seared on the outside, and with a hint of rawness on the inside so as not to destroy the delicate texture and flavour of the fish. This was served on a bed of spinach leaves, and dressed with squiggles of balsamic vinegar. The salmon was excellent, smooth and naturally oily, flaky without being powdery.
Dessert took the form of a warm chocolate cake served with hazelnut ice cream and raspberry coulis. It's hard to go wrong with something like this, and despite a slight imperfection in the cake's exterior, the chocolate was warm, oozy and lusciously rich. The hazelnut ice cream, while a bit unusual, actually complemented the chocolate quite nicely, mellowing out the flavours. That raspberry coulis was extremely tart, meant to cut through the sweetness of the ice cream and cake, but it was a bit too sharp for me.
All in all an enjoyable lunch not to be found on the regular menu (which is three courses for $26), and a first-hand experience of Chef Roberto Galetti's deft touch in preparing traditional Italian cuisine with updated refinements. Service, while a little inchoate, is generally acceptable and does not detract from what is one of the best Italian restaurants in Singapore, worthy of its heroic namesake.
36 Purvis Street, #01-02
Tel: 6837 2468
Overall: Italian dining at its elegant best.