Friday, April 29, 2011

Step aside Lion King, for Osteria Mozza

Earlier this month, during the Songkran Festival (yes, I missed my 2nd consecutive epic water war), I made my periodic trip to Singapore. As I also brought along some Thai customers there for a holiday, I was obligated to make a couple of trips to MBS with them, and realised that the famous Lion King musical was showing, and decided to give Li Li a deserved treat by watching it!

However, since we could not take any pictures during the musical, it will NOT be my focus today. The only advice(s) I can give is for you to book tickets early to ensure u can sit beside your loved one, and that the price of the ticket really does not matter too much. The MBS Theater is designed in such a way that everyone is relatively close to the stage. As long as you sit towards the center, you do not need to have to spend more to get a good experience. For this particular musical, sitting downstairs is HIGHLY recommended.
We bought $125 tickets, the $85 seats are a mere few metres behind us, no difference I reckon.
 Instead, foodies should take note as this will be a detailed review of celebrity chef restaurant Osteria Mozza, where we had our pleasant pre-theater meal.
Tip 1: For the best deal, try the Pre-Theatre Menu. Ask for it, otherwise they will not give it to you!
After a smashing experience at Jamie Oliver's Fifteen restaurant in London during my extremely enjoyable jobless days in 2009, I never had a real chance of patronizing another similar restaurant, and having watched the glut of food-related shows on TV every single day, I will of course pounce at this opportunity, now that many celebrity chef restaurants have opened in MBS.

I do not know an awful lot about the chefs behind Osteria Mozza (Nancy Silverton, Mario Batali and Joe Batianich) aside of Silverton's fleeting guest appearances on Top Chef, but I figured I'd have a go anyway since I love Italian food. My second tip of this post would be for everyone to reserve your tables early. I tried in vain to make a reservation on the day itself, but we compromised with the bar after surveying it. Well, space was ample, chair was relatively comfortable and we were looking straight into the salad kitchen, so why not?
Not bad for a bar seat eh? And yes, the restaurant is right opposite the MBS Theater
Service was great, as we would expect from a restaurant of this class, so I will zero in straight to the food. On a side note, one of the reasons I chose to dine here was because I scrutinized the Pre-Theatre Menu online. Being a pasta-lover myself, I was absolutely looking forward to tasting Orrechiette and Corzetti Stampati. If they offered the boring Linguine and Spaghetti as their pasta choices, I might have given it a pass.
The meal started off with a home-made ricotta 'toast', compliments from the chef
First up, the Antipasti, in which this menu focused on cheese. I guess it was fortunate that I did not have extremely high expectations, otherwise I would be really disappointed. The starters did not taste bad, but they did not leave any impression too, despite the chef's obvious efforts. The only things I remember were that Li Li's iceberg was way too sour (I live in Thailand, I know what sour is) and that the Bufala Mozarella cheese on her dish tasted quite good.
Li Li's overly-sour antipasti, but the cheese was yummy, 4.5/10

First time I ate artichoke, but it didn't have much taste. I will give this a 6/10 at best. Looks pretty though.
Fortunately, from the Primi (in this case the pastas I came for) onwards, Osteria Mozza did start to show higher standards. For your information, Orechiette is a home-made shell pasta, very much like the more common conchiglie, just a little more rustic and thicker. It has a chewy texture because of its thickness, feels almost like chewing gnocchi. Corzetti Stampati, on the other hand, is a very thin coin-shaped pasta, usually stamped with different designs on it, in this case, the restaurant logo. Think lasagna sheets, just very much thinner and in the shape of large chocolate gold coins.
Orecchiette: It had an interesting texture. A very heavy dish, which ended up a little on the saltish side, we kind of enjoyed it, but wish it was lighter. 6/10

Corzetti Stampati: Easily the best dish of the night. The sauce was excellent, and the pasta was cooked to perfection. 10/10
It was good to see that the servings were quite big, so my third tip is to advise you not to go for the Secondi (usually a meat dish) which requires an additional top-up of $25, unless you are very hungry of course. We were starting to feel full even before desserts were served.
Vanilla Panna Cotta: Light, cool, creamy, soft and refreshing. It's a simple dessert to make, and they passed with flying colours. 9/10

Torta Della Nonna: Basically a sweet cheese tart. Equally delicious, deserves higher marks if only we had a better appetite. As a last course, I feel it's a little too rich. 8/10
Osteria Mozza isn't a perfect restaurant, but it gives excellent service, a nice classy ambience and reasonably good authentic Italian food that you are not likely to get in normal Italian restaurants in Singapore. At $60 per 3-course pre-theater meal, I guess it doesn't do a shattering damage to your wallet as well.

If you are looking for a relaxing, satisfying meal before you casually stroll across the walkway to catch a musical, do give it a shot, just remember to call early unless you want to 'compromise' with an equally enjoyable bar-table experience like we did.
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