Angeleno's opening last month created a bit of buzz for a couple of reasons.
One is that chef-owner David Almany is from Osteria Mozza, the popular Italian restaurant at Marina Bay Sands under American celebrity chef Mario Batali.
The second is that it is a partnership with Travis Masiero, chefowner of Luke's Oyster Bar & Chop House, another very popular restaurant known for its good steaks. In fact, Angeleno takes over the Gemmill Lane shophouse unit formerly occupied by Luke's, which has moved to a bigger space next door.
The layout of the restaurant is not much changed from when it was Luke's, with the bar on one side and tables lining the facing length of the room. But the former white dining room is now dark, with charcoal grey walls and black seats.
Because of the small space, some tables are very close to one another and some diners may have to sit at the bar counter.
20 Gemmill Lane, tel: 6221-6986
Open: Noon to 2.30pm and 5 to 11pm (Monday to Wednesday); noon to 11pm (Thursday to Saturday). Closed on Sunday
Price: Budget about $140 a person, without drinks
Also, the two times I make a reservation for 7.30pm, I am told that I have to vacate my table by 9.30pm - a policy the restaurant adopts to fit in two seatings a night.
But to me, that seems unnecessary. I don't think many people here dine out at 9.30pm, yet early diners are made to feel they have to hurry through their meals.
To be fair, despite the policy, I am not rushed by the staff at both my dinners. And my server impresses with her good knowledge of the menu and ability to answer any query I throw at her.
An Angeleno is an inhabitant of Los Angeles, which is where Almany comes from.
The cooking is American-style Italian and two things stand out: Flavours tend to be on the heavy side and some dishes come across as salty. Also, tomatoes feature in a number of dishes, with the result that you can end up feeling that they taste too much like one another.
If you are okay with this, you will be happy here because there are some good dishes.
Angeleno's Meatballs ($22) are my favourite. The two large meatballs are juicy and the beef is ground coarse enough to have some bite and are not compressed too densely. The tomatoes and herbs in the sauce work well here, especially as the meatballs come on a bed of wood-fired polenta to balance out the flavours.
The Rigatoni "Amatriciana" ($28) comes across as too salty, probably because of the pieces of cured pork in the sauce, which is mixed with roasted tomatoes, red onion and chilli. I like the spiciness from the chilli though and the housemade rigatoni pasta tubes have a nice bite.
For a lighter-tasting pasta, the Linguine Nero ($31) is a good choice. The little neck clams are replaced by local lala clams when I am there, but taste good nonetheless, tossed with bits of zucchini, chilli and scallion in white wine.
The Kale Salad ($26) is also rather salty, which I do not expect a salad to be. Perhaps the chef can be a bit more lighthanded with the bacon and pecorino in the dish.
Among the main courses, the Signature Veal Chop Parmigiana ($75) is excellent. Breaded and deep fried before being enveloped in a classic red sauce and melted mozzarella, it has a crisp and aromatic coat covering tender meat. I usually find veal lacking in flavour but here, the heavy seasoning makes sure there is no worry of that.
The Roasted New Zealand Grouper ($48), however, is too delicate to survive the strong flavours of tomato, spicy peppers and tahini in the sauce. The fish itself is smooth and fresh, but one would be able to taste it better with a lighter-tasting sauce.
My order of Grilled USDA Prime NY Strip Steak ($65) is spoilt because it arrives well done instead of the medium rare I request. The meat is too dry as a result, something that the chimichurri sauce cannot improve.
Among the desserts ($15 each), both the Coconut Panna Cotta and the Pineapple Upside Down Cake are decent, but not the best I have eaten. The Tiramisu is more appealing because of the generous dose of liqueur in it, and the fact that the sponge fingers are moist enough.
Angeleno will appeal to those who enjoy food that is heavily seasoned, but I would like my dishes a little less salty.
The prices, too, can come down a notch.
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•Life paid for its meals at the eateries reviewed here.