SINGAPORE - Otto's Deli Fresh is more than what many people may expect of a delicatessen.
Certainly, you find the usual salads, sandwiches and burgers on the menu of the 11/2-month-old eatery. But there are also grilled meats such as wagyu rump and kurobuta pork that you would expect to find in a posh restaurant, not a casual diner staffed by a group of youth.
One reason is that the chef de cuisine is Mr Rick Chow, who used to head the kitchen of Portico Prime, a grill restaurant in Dempsey Hill specialising in premium meats.
And the reason for the youthful staff is that Otto's is opened by Mr Otto Weibel, a veteran in the dining scene here, who played mentor to many young chefs when he was director of kitchens for more than two decades at the Westin hotels (later rebranded Fairmont and Swissotel).
Even after he retired, the 70-year-old continued to be an ardent supporter of young chefs through scholarship programmes. And he wants his restaurant to provide opportunities for young people in the service industry too.
OTTO'S DELI FRESH
02-01 Raffles@Holland Village, 118 Holland Avenue, tel: 6694 -3291, open: 11am to 10pm daily
Food: 3.5/5 stars
Service: 2.5/5 stars
Ambience: 3/5 stars
Price: Budget about $60 a person, without drinks
But the young, undertrained staff means that service is patchy.
On one visit, I have to seat myself, ask for the menu and later for drinks. On another visit, my dining companion is served a steak meant for another table - he had ordered lamb and does not eat beef.
But it's easy to forgive the lapses because once you catch their attention, the servers charm you with their youthful, bubbly nature.
The food can take a while to come out too, but it is often worth the wait. There are more hits than misses and most problems can be solved with minor fine-tuning.
I usually get bored with salads, but not the ones I try here. The Grilled Fremantle Octopus Salad ($17) takes the monotony out of the spinach leaves with tender, smoky pieces of octopus. It makes a light but satisfying dinner for me on a day when I am feeling too full to eat anything else. And it is healthy too.
Back for lunch on another day, I order the Burratina Roquette Salad ($17), which is just as satisfying. The arugula leaves take a backseat, really, to the complementary flavours of the milky burratina cheese and shavings of jamon Iberico de Bellota. There is some cherry tomato chutney too, which injects shots of sweetness and acidity when you do not expect them. I also like the balsamic buerre noisette, a satisfying brown butter sauce used to dress the salad.
The simple Button Mushroom Soup ($8.50) stands out too because of how wholesome it tastes. It is not creamy, but boasts a full-flavoured stock with the distinctive, woody taste of mushrooms. One thing you can be sure of is that this definitely does not come out of a can.
From the grill, I would recommend the Heritage US Kurobuta Pork Rack ($39 for 300g). This is the most expensive item on the menu, but it is worth ordering for the succulent chunk of meat. It comes with hand-cut fries that look burnt but taste amazing. What fat are they fried in, I wonder.
The Limestone Ridge Full Blood Wagyu Beef Rump MB4-6 ($32 for 150g) is less appealing, but that is because it is not a cut I fancy. Despite its high marbling score, there is little fat in the meat. And it has a gamey taste too.
The Tiger King Prawn Linguine ($25) boasts two good-sized prawns. And the pasta is tossed in a tomato coulis with bits of chorizo and edamame beans, which is a good mix.
What fails the dish, however, is that the linguine is slightly overcooked. Removing it from the boiling water half a minute earlier would have left the pasta with more bite.
Desserts could also be better.
The Burnt Banana Waffle ($11.50) is interesting because of the freezedried banana. Inside its blackened skin, the fruit is soft and creamy and you can spread it over the waffle. But the waffle itself is too thick and tastes bland.
There is also a display of cakes on the counter. But a slice of peanut butter cake that looks tempting is a bit too dense.
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•The Sunday Times paid for its meals at the eateries reviewed here.
For more reviews by Wong Ah Yoke, go to http://str.sg/4MbE.