Keeping it Simple at Jamie’s Italian
By Tris Marlis - Friday, Aug 16, 2013
There has been an overwhelming buzz about it since the British naked chef, Jamie Oliver, opened his first restaurant in Asia – Jamie’s Italian at VivoCity – earlier last month. Almost immediately after their announcement, the book was full for the next two months ahead. As described by one of the service staffs, “queue day and night, every day, all the time.” The average wait can go up to two hours, just for a taste or feel of Jamie Oliver’s creations and the experience.
Oliver’s presence is prevalent in the restaurant. Books, kitchen products, souvenirs (Jamie’s hat, anyone?) and even their bottles of tomato ketchup are signed with “Jamie’s.” Chalkboards are hung on the wall with messages from Oliver saying how happy he is “to be here, JOxx.” The atmosphere is lively, the restaurant is packed and a great number of staffs are running the show.
The restaurant has no chance for a test drive, as media and food bloggers were already lining up at the door for the anticipated coverage. There have been both positive and negative comments online, the latter being statements about the underwhelming experience. High expectations are inevitable, especially when you are dining in a restaurant by one of the most famous chefs on earth. But again, this is Jamie Oliver, not Joel Robuchon.
Jamie’s Italian is a chain restaurant with 35 (and counting) joints worldwide, kind of like a very much refined TGIF but only it makes you go “thank God” anytime you come – their food quality, service and atmosphere are better than most chain restaurants. The menu is simple and rustic, they call it “recipes Jamie Oliver loves” when he was traveling across Italy. The menu you find in Singapore will not be too far off from Jamie’s Italian in Dubai. Dishes, from antipasti to mains and desserts, are kept simple.
If you are a cze cha lover and like to have everything served together, you might want to consider skipping the antipasti and go straight to the main and pasta. Antipasti plates, such as crispy squid and crispy risotto balls, are light in flavour and rich in texture, served with their house made condiments. Their planks of cheese, cured meat and pickles are best with a glass of wine.
The pastas are made in-house fresh daily, and paired with minimum sauce as not to overwhelm the pasta. A classic like tagliatelle, a broad and thin noodle, is paired with a medley of beef and pork ragu with a hint of Chianti (rosemary). The tagliatelle is nicely al dente, with the shaved parmesan cheese binds the minced meat and sauce that cling onto it. Their black squid ink pasta is served with just a few dashes of seafood broth. The pasta is good by itself with an umami taste and a texture that somehow resembles a really slow-cooked squid, that it makes the scallops and everything else insignificant. Their pastas come in two sizes, the small size is ideal if you are opting for just a taste.
If simple is not what you are looking for, go big bucks with their mains, such as the 30-day matured prime rib with black truffle or Jamie’s burger that comes with premium wagyu steak. But if there’s anything locally sourced, it’s the fish in the bag, which comes with local fish of the day and other seafood, such as mussels and clams, wrapped with paper and baked with some couscous, a very hearty dish. Another signature, the wild truffle risotto, is cooked in water instead of stock with finely minced black truffle- so fine, you can barely taste it (probably good news for the non-truffle eaters). Quite a twist in the tale.
One thing is for sure – desserts. Their tiramisu is moist and intensely packed with strong coffee liquer, balanced with ricotta and shaved orange zest. The panna cotta is wobbly and creamy, goes perfectly with the super tangy mixed berries. The chocolate and vin santo pot is “awfully chocolate,” the cocoa tasted almost raw and bitter, but utterly satisfying.
So, these are all Oliver’s idea of comfort food, with a slight twist of influence globally. It is after all a family restaurant with rustic dishes, but only served in a dining room with modern hip and chic décor. But with dishes priced mostly around $20, it looks like the wait is going to last for a while.
Vivocity, 1 Harbourfront Walk
Hours: 11:30 – 23:00