Restaurant Review

Oso Ristorante - Staying true to Italian fare

Oso Ristorante boasts a mix of contemporary and classic dishes, but does not waver from tradition

Two weeks ago, Oso Ristorante moved into Oasia Hotel Downtown in Tanjong Pagar. There was little fanfare, but it is nonetheless a big move for the Italian restaurant.

The new premises are swankier than the old shophouse in Bukit Pasoh Road. Located on the 27th floor as a standalone structure between the hotel's twin swimming pools, the restaurant boasts a high ceiling that gives one a sense of airiness.

Glass panels on the roof and walls let in plenty of sunlight during the day and provide a cheery feel. At night, the ambience gets more intimate as darkness closes in from outside and yellow bulbs hanging from the ceiling cast a warm glow over the irregularly shaped room. The layout allows the space to be sectioned into different areas, so you are not seen by everyone when you walk in.

The decor is a mix of classic and contemporary that should sit well with most diners. Think industrial chic combined with rustic brick walls and blown-up portraits of glamorous women from bygone eras.

The menu similarly offers both classic and contemporary Italian dishes. In fact, they are listed under the headings "Classic" and "Today", so you have no difficulty figuring out which is what.

But Chef Diego Chiarini is not one to go too modern with his cooking, so even his contemporary dishes stay true to traditional Italian cooking.

For example, a pasta dish under Classic would be seafood spaghetti, while Today has crab meat angel hair - which is hardly revolutionary. Call me old-fashioned, but I have absolutely no problem with that.


    27th Floor, Oasia Hotel Downtown, 100 Peck Seah Street, tel: 6327-8378; open: noon to 2.30pm, 6 to 10.30pm daily

    Food: 4/5

    Service: 4/5

    Ambience: 4/5

    Price: Budget from $80 a person, without drinks

Dishes from both sections of the menu are enjoyable, though I have my favourites.

Angel Hair Pasta ($24) with crab meat, chilli, tomato and garlic will find fans here with its spicy flavours and sweet crab meat. But it is a dish that can be found in many eateries and the version here, though good, does not differ enough to stand out.

What impresses more is the Nero Risotto ($28), where the rice is just lightly flavoured with squid ink so that it does not overpower the prawns and marjoram placed on top. As a result, the rice is grey, not black. It is also rather light, but those who prefer their risotto richer can get some cheese shaved over it.

Among the main courses I try, my vote goes to Maiale ($35), which is Italian for pig. It's a square block of pork belly, slow-cooked with red wine till the meat gets tender and the fat is melt-in-the-mouth soft. It's then drizzled with honey and served with four luscious figs. The menu does not state the pork's origins, but it tastes amazing, as good as some Iberico and kurobuta pork I've tried. There is more meat than fat, so it does not feel very heavy either.

The Whole Sea Bream Al Sale ($38) is a healthier option, but it tastes bland, which is odd as the fish is baked in a sea-salt crust. Perhaps it is a deliberate attempt to let the diner appreciate how fresh the fish is - which it is - though I would prefer a tad more seasoning.

What diners can do, however, is ask for some Riserva Mare, sea water in a clear spray bottle that the restaurant offers in place of salt.

When it comes to dessert, I can't find fault with any of the items I try. These include the classic Tiramisu ($14), which the restaurant has always kept on its menu and is still among the best I've eaten.

There is also the more modern Fragola ($14), which I like for its balance of sweetness and acidity from sliced strawberries marinated with balsamico and served with strawberry sherbet.

I will also go back for the Miele ($14), a honey-beetroot cake served warm with espresso sauce. It is moist and not too sweet. And its deep, wholesome flavours speak of hearth and home, and all things nice.

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•The Sunday Times paid for its meals at the eateries reviewed here.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on September 17, 2017, with the headline 'Staying true to Italian fare'. Print Edition | Subscribe