Casual Fine Dining...quite an interesting concept I must say. Neither here nor there at first thought, but if you think about it, kind of makes sense in a casual (and warm weathered) city like Singapore. When I think of fine dining, I imagine the world of Michelin stars, where I would have to dress up...wear a suit and tie...not that I don't enjoy wearing these fineries...see my bespoke blog, but sometimes it makes real sense to just turn up as you are...and have some fine food. Sacrilage? perhaps...but perhaps also fun.
Friends in Jelita is one such establishment. As one enters the restaurant...a rather large space tucked in the second floor for a building where the main draw is the Cold Storage supermarket...the decor is rather...um...casual fine dining...
The place seem to be able to look classy and relaxed at the same time. The entrance is strewed with empty wine bottles...suggesting that fine wine and wonderful dinners have been consumed here...the tables were strangely more like an upmarket food court than fine dining...the decor of Food Opera in Ion was more aligned to the fine dining concept than Friends. But the ambience set felt right.
I came to sample the angle hair pasta with truffle oil and caviar. A dish made so famous by the effable Gunter's that it is a must eat at the little French eatery in Purvis Street. The only regret after eating this iconic dish at Gunter is twofold...one being that one becomes addicted to it for life...and the other one regrets that it is very expensive...a very small serving...hardly a mouthful (ok, two mouthfuls, as one tends to exaggarate about these matters...and yes, I do have a big mouth) of this ingeniously concocted pasta is a princely S$60. True, osteria caviar is liberally sprinkled on it...hence making it so wonderful...And my good foodie friend, Larry called me one afternoon in excitement, saying that the Friend's version is a quarter the price, double the portion, and almost as good.
So I had to try it myself.
Indeed it was significantly larger...smelled wonderful with the air thick with the truffle oil aroma as it was served. Small bits of black truffles can also be found, interspersed with the anglehair pasta....chilled to bring out the taste and fragrance of the truffles. A small dollop of caviar...red lumpfish caviar...says the menu. It certainly is not Osteria, and looked like flying fish roe prized by the Japanese restaurants. The taste was EXCELLENT. OK, not as good as Gunter's...but at a tad below $15.90, for a portion probably 2 or 3 times larger...I am in semi-heaven. Really! This is very good. Two Thumbs up!
We also sampled the stuffed squid.
The squid was perfectly cooked...nice, tender, but still a bit springy and resillient to the bite. Flavour was excellent, and a breath of the sea can be caught at the nose as one chews on the squid. The insides were stuffed with a kind of flavoured, seasoned rice. And a light tomato based sauce accompanies with great aplomb.
We also sampled the pizzas...
The first was a kind of seafood pasta...Japanese inspired:
The pastry of the pizza was crisp, a tad oily and very biscuit like. The topping were an array of seafood...all very fresh...squid, prawns, bonito flakes and strips of dried Japanese seaweed. We found this to be quite delicious.
The second was, in my opinion, less successful
Pork jowl with apple...interesting combination of ingredients. I found the pork jowl too fat for me to throughly enjoy...and the presence of the apple made the pizza too sweet...perhaps more like a dessert than a regular savoury pizza. Didn't really enjoy this dish.
But overall, this is an impressive place. When we were there at peak lunch hour...about 12:45 on Tue...we were the only table there. Very quiet...perhaps the evenings and weekends are busier...I certainly hope so, for I like this little restaurant. The cold angel hair pasta is quite wonderful to warrant re-visits.
Friends Restaurant @ Jelita
293 Holland Road #02-04
(private parking available)
Tel: +65 6463 1011