A few notable examples have been the corner space at the junction of Sixth Avenue and Bukit Timah Road (recently occupied by Ubin Seafood), the Singapore Tyler Print Institute (formerly occupied by La Stella, presently home to the River Cafe) and perhaps most famously, this corner of Mohammad Sultan Road, which used to house the terrible restaurant Il Gladiatore (which itself replaced Fuenti).
The latest restaurant to set up shop in that ill-starred venue is Bonta, helmed by Chef Luca Pezzera, lately of the Hotel Intercontinental Jakarta, that is a worthwhile addition to a growing number of attractive Italian restaurants.
After hearing many reports that the 'curse' of UE Square had finally been broken, I decided to try it for myself.
Bonta actually occupies quite a large floorspace, with a fairly generous area devoted to al fresco dining. The real action though, is inside, and it is immediately obvious that Chef Luca knows a thing or two about entertaining.
The restaurant is stylish, but comforting. Bonta's done away with Il Gladiatore's exposed vents and pipes, and opted for a more classy look, with dappled lighting and sufficient glass and mirrorwork to enhance the space. Cleverly, one of the walls features an odd, textured mosaic that serves to absorb any excessive noise from rowdy patrons.
One of the things I'd heard so much about was Bonta's amazing bread-in-a-cup, which some patrons swore was the best they'd ever had.
While the bread certainly has a lot going for it (as well as in it - I tasted walnuts and sun-dried tomatoes), and is served wonderfully hot, it didn't seem all that special to me. Replacing the traditional olive oil, the olive and caper tapenade, while creative, just didn't fill the role of an oleogenic accompaniment to bread.
S and I shared the scallop starter, which came served in the shell. Oven-baked, with a generous helping of roe, the scallops were plump, soft and creamy, complemented by a tantalising olive hollandaise. Not usually a seafood fan, but the scallops were enjoyable.
In keeping with the seafood theme, S had an order of seafood spaghettini, which she didn't seem to enjoy that much; reporting that it was over-oily.
I had contemplated having the foie gras pasta, but it seemed a bit rich, even for me, so I decided to go with the pappardelle with braised ox-tail in arrabiata sauce. The pappardelle pasta was excellent - smooth al dente ribbons in a portion that was just the right size. What I didn't like, though, was the spicy arrabiata sauce (courtesy of the chilli seeds Chef Luca employed in the sauce), which I felt overpowered the flavour of the meat and upset the balance of the dish.
What Chef Luca does excel at, though, is public relations. After having a short exchange with us, he then proceeded to bring out two complimentary desserts - the cutest molten chocolate cakes I've ever seen.
My only complaint was that the molten chocolate wasn't exactly hot, which meant that coupled with the ice cream, by the time it entered your mouth it was only faintly warm. Still, never look a gift horse in the mouth.
Bonta is certainly a promising new venture, and it seems to stand a good chance of finally overcoming the curse of UE Square. It may not be the best Italian restaurant out there, but it has plenty of potential, and only serves to liven up the interesting Mohammad Sultan district further.
207 River Valley Road
#01-61 UE Square
Tel: 6333 8875