SINGAPORE - When the Victoria Concert Hall and Victoria Theatre were refurbished in 2014, a new air-conditioned atrium was created in the passageway between the two buildings to serve as a foyer.
This freed the lobby space on the ground floor of the Victoria Concert Hall for other uses. Last month, the elegant Foo'd by Davide Oldani restaurant opened there.
The beautiful architecture of the 116-year-old building means the restaurant already comes with a lofty ceiling held up by stately Corinthian columns.
To balance these classic structures, the restaurant's designers cleverly put in modern features such as automatic floor-to-ceiling glass doors and a stylish bar at one side.
The result is chic and tasteful - which the owners then proceed to spoil by hanging two large flatscreen TVs high on two of the walls.
The food is in less-questionable taste.
I had not heard of Davide Oldani before Foo'd opened, but he is the chef-owner of the one-Michelinstarred D'O restaurant in Cornaredo, just outside Milan in Italy. He is not based here. However, he conceptualises the menu and pops in occasionally to check on the kitchen.
Meanwhile, the guys whipping up the food are executive chef Simone Depalmas, who was previously with Alkaff Mansion Ristorante, and Alberto Marcolongo, who has worked with Oldani for four years.
The menu is full of ideas, which are often translated into beautiful platings. Some dishes work better than others, however.
I find the dishes I eat at lunch more interesting than those at dinner - which is rather astonishing, considering that my four-course lunch costs $52 while the sevencourse dinner costs $168.
But the restaurant is changing its menu and introducing an a la carte selection later this month, so your experience may differ in some ways.
For my lunch, I am intrigued by a starter of Iced Lardo, Honey, Roasted Polenta.
Lardo is cured lard, which means pure fat. But when frozen and sliced thinly, as it is here, it does not feel very greasy. The roasted slabs of polenta and drizzled honey help to balance the fat too. And lard and honey taste so good together.
FOO’D BY DAVIDE OLDANI
01-01 Victoria Theatre&Concert Hall, 11 Empress Place, tel: 6385-5588, open:noon to 3pm,6to 11pm (Mondays to Saturdays)
Food: 3.5/5 stars
Service: 4/5 stars
Ambience: 3.5/5 stars
Price: $45 a person for three courses and $52 for four courses for lunch; $138 for five courses and$168 for seven courses for dinner
From the main course selection, I am charmed by a risotto dish described as Toasted Seeds, Coffee Powder, Blueberries, Bottarga, Year Old Aged Rice. It is a pretty dish, topped with a multi-coloured layer of seeds and shaved bottarga that looks like one of those patterns for colour blindness tests.
Dig your spork (a spoon and fork hybrid designed by Oldani) right to the bottom for a scoop of all the ingredients and marvel as the flavour profile blossoms in your mouth.
My dessert of Lemon Curd, Meringue, Lettuce Ice-cream And Cocoa Crumble is notable for the lettuce ice cream, which is a lot more palatable than it sounds. Vegetable haters may disagree, but I find it very refreshing and a great palate cleanser.
The lemon curd and meringue are safe flavours, but the way the dollops of white meringue are placed like thorns on the ball of bright yellow curd makes for a pretty picture.
For my dinner, what makes the most impression is the starter, an Oldani signature dish described as Caramelised Onion, 20 Months Aged Grana Padano, served hot and cold.
It's an onion tart with a lovely gooey crust topped by a scoop of grana padano cheese ice cream. So it is not just hot and cold, but also sweet and savoury. The combination is yummy and makes an impact.
The rest of the meal is good and the cooking certainly competent, but the dishes fall short of jumping at you or leaving an imprint in your memory bank.
Dishes such as Beef Cheek, Red Wine Reduction, Trout Pearls or House Apicius Blend, Confit Duck Leg, Honey are nice - do not get me wrong - but you get the feeling of having eaten something similar before.
So I enjoy my lunch more than my dinner. Which is wonderful, since I pay about $100 less too.
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• The Sunday Times paid for its meals at the eateries reviewed here.
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