Gaia Ristorante & Bar's Grande Carte Menu
Located at Goodwood Park Hotel, Gaia Ristorante occupies the space that was home to Bice - my favourite Italian restaurant for Saffron Risotto in the late 90s. Named after the ancient Greek Mother Goddess and creator of the Earth, Gaia's culinary philosophy focuses on enhancing the natural flavours of well-sourced ingredients within a Nature-inspired setting. Helmed by Chef Emanuele Faggi since August 2013, Gaia's menu features Italian regional specialties with a modern touch.Image of the private dining room reproduced with permission from Gaia Ristorante & Bar
The spacious restaurant boasts a modern lobby bar and various dining spaces such as a garden-inspired courtyard, an intimate inner dining room decked out with plush leather booth seats and upholstery and a glass-enclosed wine cellar cum private room for 10 guests.Ferrari Perle 2007 Italian Sparkling Wine @ $16 per glass
I was invited by Gaia for a tasting to savour highlights from the latest Grand Carte menu. It was a warm weekday afternoon but W and I weren't in a hurry as we didn't have to work that day. Our host, Paolo Colzani - Gaia's General Manager, offered us some Ferrari Perle 2007 Sparkling Wine to start the meal. Although I love Champagne, I'm admittedly less into sparkling wine. However, this glass was comparable to Brut from some well-known Champagne houses. Refreshing, fruity (think green apples) and creamy without being overly acidic, the Ferrari Perle 2007 Blanc de Blanc (made only with Chardonnay grapes) is a Must-Try!
We were served chips and bread whilst waiting for lunch to be prepped. Made with ingredients such as squid ink, rice, sweet potato and wheat, the colourful and wonderfully crispy chips were like multi-flavoured "keropok" (deep-fried Asian flour crackers that are usually made with prawn or fish or vegetable paste).Gaia's Amuse Bouche for the Degustation Menu Clockwise from top: Endive salad with scallop marinated with Campari & Orange, Caramelised fig with Oscietra caviar, Parmesan biscuit with balsamic reduction, Foie Gras Lollipop and Watermelon with squid ink, almonds & sea asparagus
We were pleasantly surprised to be served a slate of five types of Amuse Bouche (bite-sized appetizers served compliments of the Chef that is meant to serve as a palate-pleaser). We were told that we'd be sampling tasting portions of various dishes. Paolo then told us to start with the fig and end with the Foie Gras lollipop. I love figs and caviar so I thoroughly enjoyed the smoky caramelised sweet fig with black pearls of Oscietra Caviar that burst open with briny goodness when bitten into. Then I tried the scallop carpaccio that had been marinated with Campari and Orange juice and served on an endive leaf. Not a fan of bitters and by that token, Campari (a bitter Italian aperitif with a distinctive red hue), I thought the sweetness of the scallop was slightly overwhelmed by the bitterness of the Campari. I sought solace in the savoury and crispy Parmesan biscuit that had been given a touch of syrupy sweetness from the aged balsamic reduction as well as slight nuttiness from the toasted sesame seeds. Next, I tried the sweet chunk of watermelon that had been dusted with powdered squid ink before being topped with roasted peeled almond chunks and a crunchy sliver of sea asparagus (also known as Samphire). The Foie Gras Lollipop was intriguing. Essentially Foie Gras Mousse that had been infused with Port and Marsala Wine before being dipped in Dark Chocolate and coated with chopped nuts, the foie lolly was creamy, sweet and nutty. The Foie Gras Lollipop, Caramelised Fig with Oscietra Caviar and Watermelon are Must-Tries! As the items are served on rotation, do pre-order specific items at least a day or two ahead to avoid disappointment.Branzino, Salmone Antipasto @ $24 Sea Bass & Salmon Carpaccio with Salmon Roe, Pine Nuts & Micro Cress Salad in Green Sauce
One of Gaia's signatures, the Branzino Salmone was an excellent marriage of flavours from the sea and land on a plate. Thin slices of Sea Bass and Salmon Carpaccio had been arranged to resemble a flower that was embellished with a sprinkling of Micro Cress, Micro Purple Shiso, roasted Pine Nuts and dollops of Salmon Roe and Salsa Verde (Italian Green Sauce). The sweet and clean tasting carpaccio slices had been given a punch of flavour by the spicy micro greens, savoury Salmon Roe and herby Salsa Verde. The combination was refreshing and gets more interesting as you combine the ingredients together. A Must-Try!Hokkaido Scallop with crisp vegetables, Marinated Cherry & 180 Day Old Finland Caviar
With its focus on ingredient-driven cuisine, Gaia serves specials from time to time. We were lucky to have had the opportunity to savour Pan-Seared Hokkaido Scallop topped with 180-day old Finland Caviar. Paolo told us that they had a batch of Finnish Caviar that had been brined for 180 days thus it is more intense in flavour. As the ingredient is not commonly available, this dish is only available when requested in advance. The browned edges of the Hokkaido Scallops imparted a lovely smoky flavour to the dish with an intense umami kick from the caviar. The sweet marinated cherries were not cloying sweet and helped to temper the saltiness of the caviar. I guess appreciation for the intensity of the aged caviar is an acquired taste because I preferred the Oscietra Caviar that was served with the fig in our amuse bouche platter.Doppio Raviolo @ $24 Double filled ravioli with Parma Ham & Parmesan, Aged Balsamic Reduction & White Balsamic Foam
Another signature dish on Gaia's menu is the double-filled ravioli. I loved the slight tartness of the White Balsamic Foam and how it cut through the richness of the ravioli. The Aged Balsamic Reduction added a touch of honeyed fruitiness. Though the combination of two of my favourite ingredients within a twin-tubed ravioli was interesting, I thought Parma Ham had toughened up a little and lost some flavour due to cooking.Rigatoni Astice @ $34 Rigatoni with Boston Lobster & Lobster Bisque
We were then served a second pasta. I was glad that we were getting smaller tasting portions of each dish because I was starting to feel full. One of the most popular items on the menu, I was hooked after the first bite. The perfectly cooked, tender and juicy chunks of lobster were a delightful contrast to the firm tubes of Rigatoni pasta. Slathered with the richest and tastiest lobster bisque I've ever had, I momentarily forgot how full I was feeling and was tempted to mop the plate dry with some bread. The Rigatoni with Boston Lobster and Lobster Bisque here is a Must-Try!Torchio Piccione @ $90 Pressed Pigeon
Inspired by the pressed duck dish that was created in the 19th century by La Tour d'Argent, a famous Michelin-starred restaurant in Paris, Gaia's version features pigeon instead. Paolo explained that a pigeon is much smaller thus it makes it easier for one or two diners to share a bird instead of a much larger duck which requires more diners to share it. The preparation uses old school French cooking techniques which includes extracting blood and bone marrow from the bird using a scary looking device called a press on a Gueridon trolley next to the diners tables. Using pigeons from Bresse in France, the pigeon is roasted till it is partially cooked, the legs and breast are removed before the remaining carcass is placed into the specially-designed press with some Marsala wine. The process of extraction was quite a sight to behold and I could hear the bones being crushed from where I was seated. We were told that they use the same kind of press to extract the juices from lobsters.
The breast and legs are cooked further in the kitchen before serving while the Marsala and blood extract is combined with liver and butter to create a rich sauce that is poured over the meat before serving. Amazingly, this pigeon was not gamey but was tender, juicy and tasty with a touch of sweetness from the Marsala wine-based sauce. Served with a side of Shiitake, Champignon, Prune and Sea Asparagus, this dish has an interesting combination of sweet and salty flavours. A Must-Try if you love pigeon.White chocolate cream with chocolate ice cream, hazelnuts, eggplant & chocolate sponge
Just when I thought we were finally at the tail-end of the meal, Paolo served us pre-dessert with a cheeky grin. I was like "pre-what?". The crushed Hazelnut-coated Dark Chocolate Ice Cream was delicious with the Chocolate Sponge. The eggplant chunk that sat on top of the sweet White Chocolate Cream seemed out of place for a dessert but added an interesting flavour dimension. This dish doesn't seem to be on the menu but is worth a try if you love chocolate and eggplant.Vaniglia, Latte, Zucchero Filato @ $14 Vanilla Cream, Meringue, Milk Ice Cream & Candy Floss
Finally, dessert! Served with some caramel sauce and sable, this dessert was sweeter than the chocolate one. In spite of how full I was feeling, I loved how the milk ice cream and sable went with the caramel. The tuft of Candy Floss that topped dessert brought back childhood memories of how I used to love eating it at amusement parks.Emanuele Faggi & Paolo Colzani
Part of the T.R.E. group of restaurants, Gaia is managed by fine dining veteran, Paolo Colzani who has been running top restaurants since 1999 while Executive Chef Emanuele Faggi paid his dues in various restaurants including 2 Michelin Star Cracco Ristorante in Milan.
Prices at the restaurant are fairly reasonable with a 5-course Degustation Menu priced at $98 per person without wine-pairing ($175 with wine pairing). The Set Lunch Menu is priced at $32 (2 courses) and $38 (3 courses) with supplement of $10 for certain dishes. I checked out the Set Lunch with J a few days ago so keep a lookout for my review on the Set Lunch soon.Gaia Ristorante & Bar 22 Scotts Road, Goodwood Park Hotel, Singapore 228221 Phone: +65 6735 9937 Email: Reservations@Gaia.Sg Web: www.gaia.sg Reservations by Chope Operating Hours: Monday - Friday: 12 pm to 2.30 pm & 6 pm to 10.30 pm Saturday: 6 pm to 10.30 pm * Gaia will be holding a La Salumeria di Gaia Buffet Lunch on 19 July 2014 from 12 - 2.30 pm. Click here for details: www.gaia.sg/salumeria.pdf
PS: Thank you, Paolo and Emanuele of Gaia Ristorante & Bar, for your kind hospitality during this lunch tasting.