There are far too many Italian restaurants in Singapore with the same salt-baked sea bass and handmade durum wheat pasta. Alba 1836 is not one of them, and we have Alessandro Frau to thank.
The 37-year-old Sardinian is based in Phuket, where he oversees his five-year-old Italian restaurant Acqua. That was until Matteo Trabaldo Togna, whose family’s Italian textile firm was founded in 1836, approached him for a collaboration in Singapore. Thus Alba 1836 got its name. Now, Frau spends four days a month here.
Both restaurants’ interiors have a common thread: They embrace light and keep to a sleek decor. The 50-seater Alba 1836 sports black leather couches and timber panels, while large windows and skylights bathe the space with natural daylight. The food in his Singapore branch, though, is far more sophisticated than that in Phuket, which comprises Italian classics.
Expect a contemporary Italian menu where beautifully plated portions burst with flavour. The raw red Sicilian prawns marinated in olive oil and lemon with smoked caviar is the best item on the menu and almost too pretty to eat. The lemon marinade brings out the prawns’ natural sweetness and smoked caviar gives a savoury roundness to the dish.
We also love the saffron risotto for the addition of Sardinian sea urchin. It’s an uncommon variety here, compared to Japanese uni. While both types look similar (orange and disturbingly cranial), the Sardinian counterpart is saltier and less creamy, lending the perfect umami oomph. The restaurant can up its game with the desserts, though. The panna cotta and tiramisu are delicious, but their presentations in a bowl and martini glass respectively appear outdated, compared to the swanky mains – especially when other restaurants showcase multi-textured sensations like sorbets, foams and soils.
Still, dining here is a worthwhile affair. In a country where pasta-laden options are aplenty, Alba 1836 is a breath of fresh air.
28 Duxton Hill. www.alba1836.com