The dish: For the longest time, Japanese-Italian cuisine has been contained to either posh fine-dining restaurants like Caffe B in Marina Bay Sands, or in casual outlets like Bene Spaghetti on Circular Road.
Located on Tras Street, newcomer Terra is an elegant yet homely spot serving up refined Japanese-Italian fare. The cosy 36-seater, with its terracotta tiles, wood furnishings and abundant natural light (thanks to a partial glass ceiling overhead), is an inviting space where chef-owner Seita Nakahara, formerly from fine-dining outlet Enoteca L’Operetta in Singapore, demonstrates the art of balance.
Think dishes that are light yet packed with flavour, best exemplified in a modest dish of pasta with sea urchin and bottarga that belies the effort and thought put into it. The fresh mullet roe, for instance, is cured in-house over three weeks, then tossed into the spaghetti with a generous dollop of uni. Nakahara finishes the dish with a dash of yuzu juice to cut through the buttery rich flavours.
“When it comes to fresh produce, you just need to cook it slightly. I’m not a fan of cutting things into small pieces and making purees,” says the 36-year-old, who has trained in some of Tokyo’s traditional Italian restaurants and done stints in the kitchens of Tuscany, Sicily and Piedmont.
So serious is he about getting in good produce that can shine on its own that the Singapore-raised, Yokohama native recently took a year-long sabbatical to visit farmers in Europe and Japan. On this trip, Nakahara cultivated his friendships with various suppliers, personally selecting the produce that would feature on his menu here at Terra. Take, for instance, a dish named Mr Yoshioka’s Pork, which comes from a Japanese supplier Nakahara met in Spain. The slab of Spanish iberico shoulder is tender with a gorgeous strip of marbling at the side, and has a sweet edge thanks to being smoked for a minute over cherry wood chips just before serving.
But what we really like most, apart from Nakahara’s dedication and boyish charm, is that there is no need for airs in this space. Just familiar flavours executed well, served in a comfortable space that feels like home.
Mastermind in the kitchen: Seita Nakahara, chef-owner
Spotlight on : Sea Urchin from Hokkaido, Mr Yoshioka’s Pork
Insider tip: If you’re here for a tete-a-tete, Nakahara recommends grabbing the corner table beside the glass partition, where you get to peep into what’s going on in the semi-open kitchen, from a private space that offers a ‘green view’ of the garden wall next to it. “Much like peeping out of a window into a garden,” says the chef.
Address: 54 Tras Street