Bar Cicheti, Singapore’s first homegrown pasta and wine bar, is the brainchild of restaurateur Liling Ong that is fashioned after the back alley bàcaris of Venice. In the kitchen, co-owner and cousin, chef Lim Yew Aun and his all Singaporean team present a confidently curated menu of handmade fresh pastas that are both bold in flavour and traditional in execution; matched with a carefully curated, ever-changing global wine list where sommelier-partner Ronald Kamiyama brings the adventurous and unexpected to the fore, including a number of biodynamic, organic and sustainably farmed labels. A gutsy perspective on wines, a Singaporean palate with the right hit of spice, and a passion for creating extraordinary experiences; like the tradition of a daily Italian meal it honours, Bar Cicheti is the sum of all the best parts.
Complementing the current menu, spring brings its sweet, hearty harvests to the plates of Bar Cicheti, and the menu is a tribute to all three partners’ love for springtime in Italy: who have worked collectively to design a focused list that evoked their personal favourite memories, from driving through the hills of Tuscany to the seaside sunsets in Sicily.
“There’s no better time to eat and drink your way through Italy than the onset of Spring. Chef Aun’s rich, comforting dishes give way to fresher, brighter tastes that celebrate the Spring bounty, while Ronald’s new floral-forward wine selections are delicious on their own, and each with a lovely story to tell, but are just perfect with our pastas,” says Liling.
Ronald, a wine geek as he calls himself, showcases a gutsy perspective on wines that favours off-the-beaten-path regions, unknown varietals and different vindication techniques, with a number of biodynamic, organic and sustainably farmed labels in his arsenal. He recommends beginning with the 2017 Pojer & Sandri, Zero Infinito Frizzante, a small-batch pét-nat made entirely of organic Solaris, unfiltered with no sulphites added. Bright and fizzy tropical notes make it the ideal, refreshing start for the meal ahead.
For spring, Chef Aun has created four inspired specials dressed in colours and flavours of the season. Twirl up forkfuls of Spaghetti done one of two ways; the first, is coated in a creamy, housemade jalapeño pesto that’s tossed with chopped pistachios, toasted pine nuts and a generous grating of ricotta salata. Pairing perfectly is the 2015 CVNE, Monopole Clásico, fresh, fine and bone dry, manzanilla sherry is introduced to the barrel aging process, resulting in a nutty characteristic that lends itself beautifully to the roasted flavours of the pesto. The other is a classic Spaghetti alle Vongole, where the sweet leek of Spring gets a fresh coat of char, adding an irresistible aroma to the clams’ briny tang.
The third sign of Spring are hand-stamped medallions of Corzetti, a Ligurian specialty dating back to the middle ages, that need nothing more than earthy slices of porcini and button mushrooms sautéed in a flavourful Marsala sauce. Best enjoyed in between sips of the 2006 Tenute Sella, Lessona, a lost expression of Nebbiolo from Alto Piedmont that’s making its way back into vogue. Vibrant aromas of leafy underbrush, moist soil, berries and herbs, along with a shared provenance, bring out the earthy undertones of the moreish mushroom ragu. For a taste of the lush Lazian countryside, the final seasonal special is Bucatini, where thick, hollowed strings of pasta are tossed with spring peas, citron zest and a seared Hokkaido scallop, in a hearty saffron broth.
Adding to the new permanent menu is an update of Bar Cicheti’s rotation of pastas, offering more vegetarian options, new pasta shapes and in-season ingredients. All available in either starter and entrée size, pretty purses of Anolini stuffed with taleggio, ricotta and parmigiana are finished in a decadent brown butter sauce, topped with caramelised onions and a sprinkling of hazelnuts. The ever-trendy Cacio e Pepe gets more bite than before with slippery strands of hand-rolled Pici Cacio e Pepe, spiced with Sarawak black pepper, fresh marjoram and a squeeze of lemon to cut through the rich parmigiana.
Linguine is an uncomplicated toss-up of handpicked blue swimmer crab and treviso radicchio, an Italian chicory that together with the crab, release sweet flavours of land and sea brightened with orange zest. On the other end of the spectrum, stubby tubes of Paccheri are paired with slow-braised polpo and given the Puttanesca treatment, withfresh tomatoes simmered long and slow, folded with fiery flavours of chilli, anchovies and capers, and to finish, a sprinkling of toasted bread crumbs. Here, the 2016 Château de Trinquevedel Rosé is ideal for the bright, tomato flavours in the feisty sauce. This is a fourth-generation gem from the Tavel appellation of Southern Rhone, France, made with mostly Grenache and other native varietals such as Clairette, Mourvedre, and Cinsault.
Tagliolini Nero is chef Aun’s way of reimagining Bar Cicheti’s reigning darling, Fusilli Nero. While the original is a feisty umami bomb of squid ink fusilli, crab lump, Japanese uni and basil and anchovy crumbs; the latest interpretation is an ode to the sea at its seasonal best. By folding freshly harvested squid ink deep into the dough with military precision, each black and briny strand lends itself to an ocean-fresh medley of Hokkaido scallops, local squid, and Japanese uni, all coated in a bisque reduction tasting of the sea.
Sharing is encouraged, so all pasta dishes are available in two sizes, for a little bit of everything. With wines available by glass, quartino and bottle, Ronald and his team are on hand to help diners pick the perfect wine for any pasta.
While the menu is Italian in inspiration and execution, Bar Cicheti’s Singaporean touch of Ong and Chef Lim, and in no small part sommelier Kamiyama, brings a synergy that elevates a simple daily meal of pasta and wine to a experiential evening of flavour and exploration.