SINGAPORE - When Spanish restaurant Catalunya opened at the then brand-new Fullerton Pavilion in 2012, it created a splash in the dining scene.
The pavilion is an attention- grabbing dome sticking out in the waters of Marina Bay. And the eatery boasted a team that included a former chef and the head waiter of El Bulli in Spain, once known as the world's best restaurant.
But Catalunya closed abruptly in the middle of this year.
And Monti, which has taken over the space, opened with a lot less bang last month. The Italian restaurant is part of a group that also owns Stellar at Raffles Place and Una at Rochester Park, among others.
At a cursory look, it may appear that Monti had simply moved in and taken over what Catalunya had left behind. The layout is the same - you walk into the bar and down a short flight of steps to the dining room, where you get a spectacular view of the bay and Marina Bay Sands.
But there are changes.
82 Collyer Quay, Fullerton Pavilion, tel: 6535-0724, open :noon to 1am (Mondays to Thursdays), noon to 4am (Fridays and Saturdays), 11 to 1am (Sundays)
Food: 3.5/5 stars
Service: 3/5 stars
Ambience: 4/5 stars
Price: Budget more than $100 for a la carte, but the $43set lunch offersgood value
For example, Catalunya's old booth seats are gone and diners now sit at square tables that can be brought together for larger groups.
The food is now Italian, and while some dishes such as carpaccio and burrata are familiar, most are not typical of what you find in restaurants here.
Judging from my two unannounced visits - first for dinner and then for lunch - seafood is a safer choice.
The two meat main courses I try - Australian Grilled Lamb Rack ($48) and Marinated Fermin Iberico Secreto Pork ($38) - are overcooked.
The lamb is the better dish. It is cooked well-done and not medium, which I prefer. But though the meat is a little dry, it is not tough. And the Australian lamb has pretty good flavour. I enjoy the gratin potatoes that come with it too.
The pork, however, is not only dry, but also tough and requires a lot of chewing - which is a shame because the secreto cut, from the shoulder, is highly prized. The creamy polenta and chanterelle mushrooms are not impressive either.
On a positive note, the Baby Squid With Cherry Tomato Broth ($16) from the antipasti selection is a dish I would go back for. The broth has acidity from the tomatoes as well as sweetness from the generous amount of squid, which is cooked just right. There are bits of olives and capers in the soup too, so you get bursts of flavour when you bite into them.
Smoked Swordfish Carpaccio ($18) is good too, not so much for the fish but for the combination of pomegranate, dill, fennel and pink peppercorns that explodes with flavours in the mouth. That makes up for the mild-tasting fish.
The Monkfish Wrapped In Italian Bacon ($52), however, is disappointing - even though the presentation is interesting, with the bacon strips layered over the fish, which ends up looking like a trussed-up pork loin. But the fish is bland and the bacon lacks the intensity needed to make the dish more interesting. And it is expensive too.
For its price, you can order the three-course set lunch and still have change. And I'd suggest you do that.
For $43, you get to choose from a selection of appetisers, main courses and desserts. And though the dishes are simple and made with less pricey ingredients, I enjoy them more than the monkfish.
The appetiser I choose is a salad of prawns, squid, octopus, carrot, celery and red onions - all diced and tossed together with a light, lemony dressing. It is a medley of refreshing textures and flavours that is ideal for a hot afternoon.
And my main course of pan- seared sea bream fillet comes the way I like it - with moist meat under a crisp, golden crust.
For dessert, it's panna cotta covered in a sheet of green gelatin and topped with candied rosemary. It looks pretty and tastes good.
The dessert chef obviously takes pride in presentation, but it does not always turn out well.
An example is the Yoghurt Semifreddo ($18) we order for dinner.
The semi-frozen strawberry mousse is covered by a tall white chocolate cone. At the table, the server sets alight a ladleful of Grand Marnier and pours it over the cone to melt the chocolate. But the plate is too small and the melting cone topples over and falls onto the dessert next to it.
The idea may be interesting. But the execution? Not very elegant.
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• The Sunday Times paid for its meals at the eateries reviewed here.