Simple and Hearty
It’s easy to dismiss Monti, a new outlet helmed by chef Luigi Calcagno (of Bali’s Zibiru). Its cuisine is modern Italian and it’s located at Fullerton Pavilion overlooking the Marina Bay area. Granted, the view is spectacular at night, but unless you’re a tourist, it’s likely you won’t be too impressed.
However, if you decide to pass on Monti based on those two points, you’ll be missing out on expertly prepared, unpretentious fare. Portions are hearty, so big groups are definitely recommended.
Perhaps the menu item that best embodies what Monti is about is the baby squid in a cherry tomato broth. Decidedly rustic, the broth is delicate, as is the squid, with the capers adding a lively bite to the broth. It’s served with plenty of crusty bread, which can also be dunked into one of three varieties of olive oil on offer, ranging from subtle to extremely robust. Sourced directly from small growers in Italy, they come in Monti-branded containers, but are unfortunately not available for sale. More’s the pity; I would have made off with the Nocellara if I had the chance.
More homestyle dishes can be found in the primi piatti selection. I had the gnocchi, which was prepared in a light tomato cream sauce and flavoured with artichoke and bottarga. The gnocchi is made in-house, as are the other pasta items on the menu.
Things got a little more modern with the secondi piatti – Iberico pork shoulder with chanterelles on a bed of polenta. While expertly grilled and sliced wafer thin, the cut of pork was the real star. It has a texture very similar to onglet, that is, crunchy yet very well marbled, so it’s velvety on the tongue. The creamy polenta provides an excellent counterpoint to the cut’s chewy texture.
To finish the meal, I had olive oil ice cream paired with honey mascarpone and a parsley and mint sponge. It reminded me vaguely of tiramisu, the sponge’s vivid green hue and herbaceousness contrasting nicely with the richness of the ice cream and mascarpone.
Good though most of the items I sampled were, there were a few misses, the black truffle risotto comes to mind. Aside from the theatrics of having it finished tableside, tossed in a wheel of parmigiano reggiano before having a generous amount of black truffle shaved over it, the risotto felt somewhat one-dimensional and cloying. So much so I felt rather overwhelmed and had to stop after just a few mouthfuls.
There will inevitably be some that will bemoan Monti’s lack of a gimmick, but that’s not a big deal when you consider Monti does simplicity well. After all, while Led Zeppelin’s sprawling art rock is incredible, sometimes all you really need is a rollicking dose of Queen.