Zafferano, the contemporary Italian restaurant that sits perched on the 43rd floor of the Ocean Financial Centre has shipped in a new head chef. Still very much focused on contemporary Italian cuisine, Chef Emanuele Faggi brings his expertise and Tuscan flair into the competitive CBD mix in Singapore.

Aside from flavour profiles, Chef Emanuele opts for a nouvelle and conscious approach when it comes to plating his gastronomic creations. Each dish is served not unlike a piece of colourful modern art. His weapon of choice? Coloured powder.

Different coloured powders are derived from dehydrating discarded vegetable parts before going through the grinder – purple potato gives the obvious purple, green pea for the green…you get the idea. This takes zero waste to the next level.

The appetisers were a hit. Playful and fun, they embody the experimental and creative nature of contemporary Italian dining. Starting with the raw Hokkaido scallops ($32), which are enhanced by little dots of saffron cream sauce. Monk Capers feature prominently in Chef Emanuele’s menu starting with this dish while the avruga caviar adds a touch of decadence.

The Marinated Salmon ($28) in beetroot juice served with beetroot lime salad, salsa verde and quinoa chips left quite an impression. The thinly sliced salmon is marinated in beetroot juice for no less than 3 days, adding both flavour and colour while the anchovies and salt give it an extra layer of umami. The simple flavours are not difficult to enjoy especially when they work together so harmoniously.

White not exactly new on the menu, the raw red ‘Mazara’ prawns ($32) are presented differently. Served with warm ricotta, tomato confit and a cocktail espuma concocted with ingredients like house-made mayonnaise, ketchup, brown sugar, Tabasco, cream and Worchester brandy, Chef Emanuele’s updated prawn cocktail brings out the natural sweetness present in these prized crustaceans. You’re going to wish there was more than just the three.

The shining star of the pasta section has to be the Saffron Risotto ($32). The deceivingly simple plate of yellow rice with a gold square of 24 karat gold leaf, does not prepare you for the explosion of flavour you encounter once you dig in. The saffron and bone marrow combination is quite exquisite; a fitting tribute to Chef Emanuele’s mentor, the esteemed Chef Gualtiero Marchesi who created this famed dish.

Despite having visited Italy several times, I’ve never had ‘Gnudo‘ ($26). These Italian dumplings made from ricotta, parmesan and spinach are in essence, ‘nude’ ravioli. Served with baby squid cooked in butter and sage, these pasta-free dumplings are dense and might be a touch to foreign in taste and texture for the Singaporean palate. If you’re a fan of oysters, get the hand-made ‘Bottoni’ Pasta ($38) filled with braised veal tongue. Served with a single fresh oyster in a pool of oyster broth, this pasta dish is innovative and packs an intense umami punch. The bold combination of veal and oyster pays off in this interesting version of surf and turf.

The mains are less flashy but keep up with the flavours. The roasted ‘Bresse’ Pigeon ($68) is prepared in two different ways. The legs are braised till tender while the breast meat is roasted before being baked for a couple of minutes in the oven. Just before it is served, it is briefly smoked in rosemary adding a delicate aroma to the meat.

The 150 days grain fed Black Angus Beef Tenderloin ($58) melts in your mouth with its sheer tenderness. Gratinated with liquorice and capers, the meat is first roasted then set in an oven till medium rare. While some may not enjoy the liquorice, I felt it enhanced the natural flavours present in the beef. The incredibly fresh Oven-baked Alaskan Black Cod ($58) is very lightly seasoned with Maldon salt and makes for a satisfying dish with roasted potato puree and vanilla-scented green asparagus from Peru.

Last but definitely not least is the Rack of Lamb ($55). Sourced from the farms of Queensland, the lamb chops are chunky with a good portion of meat on the bone. Sous vide with thyme and garlic then pan-fried, the rack of lamb is finished off on a charcoal grill. The coffee jus further intensifies the smokiness while the roasted eggplant puree keeps to the overall theme of the dish.

No Italian meal is complete without Dolci. Chef Emanuele’s Chocolate Cremino ($16) is abstract in presentation. The chocolate cremino (a richer version of chocolate mousse), white sable, yoghurt sponge, watermelon and lastly a watermelon sorbet mingle together on the plate in a seemingly haphazard fashion. Our only gripe? The inadequate amount of watermelon sorbet. The Mascarpone Cloud ($16) is a light sponge dome that encases mascarpone cheese and cream. The shredded sponge is infused with Iranian saffron and made to resemble the mimosa flower. This one is rich and creamy so  give it a miss if you’re relatively stuffed, and opt for a dainty macaron instead.

Zafferano is located at Ocean Financial Centre, 10 Collyer Quay, Level 43, Singapore 049315, p.+65 6509 1488. Open Mon-Fri 11.30am-3pm & 5.30pm till late. Open Sat 12pm-3pm for brunch & 6.30pm till late.  

Photo Credit: solostepstudio