Zafferano Italian Restaurant and Lounge – An Unforgettable Experience
Zafferano is perched on top of Ocean Financial Centre, promising elevated views and providing a tranquil sanctuary from the stresses of city life. The view from the balcony is stunning and unparalleled. We see an effortless blend of concrete, sky and sea, and the lights which make up the Singapore skyline. Against the wild backdrop of the Raffles City concrete jungle, the name of the restaurant – Zafferano (meaning “saffron” in Italian) may induce a slight sense of disorientation. Like its namesake, the restaurant may appear foreign, exotic, and seductively different. However, in the same vein, the restaurant’s décor and beautiful blend of the familiar city skyline renders the experience sensually familiar and inviting.
Numerous tall dining tables are set at the balcony, al fresco style, offering a stylish yet relaxing space to admire the skyline and have delectable Italian cuisine. All around the balcony, there are gigantic glass columns which, we were told, would collect and channel rainwater, creating a “waterfall effect” all around al fresco diners when it rains. Adding to the atmosphere was verdant vegetation overhanging the various columns and other installations at the balcony area. The outdoor balcony area surrounded three quarters of the indoor dining area, so indoor diners feel both cosiness of the indoors as well as the vastness of the open space of the balcony surrounding them.
Inside the restaurant, there is a blend of the historical and the contemporary. At once intimate and cosy, the restaurant’s main dining room is flanked by two glass-clad kitchens for a full visual spectacle into the intricacies of the requirements of preparing Italian cuisine: the hot kitchen to one side, the cold to the other. You step then into an open hall with encircling glass walls, and the main dining room sits atop a raised wooden platform. When we arrived, the evening sky was slowly darkening against the illuminated lights of Singapore’s most iconic downtown buildings. It is clear that much thought and care went into the design, décor and location of the restaurant.
The slow fade as natural light dimmed drastically changed the mood and soon we were offered a refreshing and effervescent glass of prosecco. It was then that I recalled that I had, in fact, come to this restaurant before, five years ago. I remember being equally at awe at the design and cuisine offered at the restaurant. I felt that we were going off on a very good start indeed. I very much looked forward to the food which we were going to be offered.
While enjoying our prosecco, Gladys shared a little bit more about the restaurant. Gladys took especial care in illuminating us with the concepts on which the restaurant has been build and continues operating. The approach: unforgettable Italian dining at accessible value. The execution: an art, and a promise. The Head Chef, Emaunele Faggi, is a Tuscan who brings his passion for his regional roots, flair for innovation and astute technical expertise into creating flavours and rich tastes. With his skill and background, he whips up cuisine that is at once light and wholesome, comforting and unfamiliar. Gladys’s careful and comprehensive explanation to the philosophy of the restaurant and its food prepared us for a delightful culinary experience with promising interpretations and re-interpretations of the traditional.
I pause to mention that the service staff were excellent and attentive, and constantly ensuring that service was continuous. We were continuously asked if we were doing all right and whether we had any more orders. We were told that elegance in service was also a cornerstone to the identity of Zafferano, and they were deliberately trying to move away from the detached formality of fine dining experiences common to other restaurants of similar pedigree.
Finally, I come to the highlight of the day: the cuisine.
For appetisers, we were served delicate breadsticks with olive oil. The bread was fluffy with a tinge of salt, and truly served to whet our appetite for the courses that were about to come. We were also served with a complimentary dish of multi-coloured crackers. I was fascinated to see that the crackers were perched on top of little smooth stones. The crackers were light and crispy, greatly complimenting the breadsticks.
We were then served the starters. I picked “fegato grasso carota mostarrda-te”. This dish is pan-fried Rougie foie gras with carrot puree, fruit mustard, baby carrot and tea. The puree was spread out on the plate in a delicate and intricate fashion, and was incredibly light and tasteful. It was just the right doses of sweetness and saltiness. As for the foie gras, it was sublime. The slight crispiness on the edge of the meat belied the soft almost jellylike flesh which melted in my mouth with every chew. A rather hearty serving of the foie gras was served, and I savoured every last morsel of it.
For the pasta, I chose the tagliolini tartufo nero di Perdigord, which translates to house-made tagliolini with shaved Perigord’s black truffle. Gladys mentioned that this dish was a traditional pasta dish, as opposed to the other pasta dishes. When I received the plate, the light whiff of truffle was immediately palpable, without being overwhelming. The pasta was delightfully chewy and seasoned just right.
We then came to the highlight of the day: the mains. I chose the agnello melanzone cavolo cinese caffe, which refers to a sous-vide and pan-fried Queensland farm lamb loin, served with roasted eggplant puree, sautéed bok choy and coffee powder. The meat portion was very large indeed, and cooked at just the right degree. The sauce was delicious, and the puree as usual was light yet superb. It was a very filling main dish indeed, which went very well with the prosecco.
To top it all off, we had the dessert. I chose the cioccolato fregola aceto balsemico Giuseppe Giusti 25 anni, which was the Valrhona strawberry chocolate “cremino” sponge, Japanese strawberry, 25-year-old balsamic vinegar. It was a sweet and refreshing end to a truly lovely dinner. I would not hesitate to come back to Zafferano again.