Thursday, May 22, 2014

Cacio e Pepe Review - Yummy Italian Cuisine in the West!

Quite some time ago, I briefly posted that I would try to incorporate more lifestyle posts in my blog so as to attract different readership and to spice things up with non fish posts. Well, here's one which I felt must go into the blog since it is a rare hidden gem tucked away in a corner of the west! Now, I'm no Italian connoisseur so take my review with a pinch as I am more ah beng Italian than true blue Italian!

Some brief history of Cacio E Pepe Italian restaurant... It opened in the East quite some time back and recently has moved to Bukit Timah. I somehow stumbled upon some reviews of the place and was intrigued by the reviews I saw. They weren't your usual reviews but users used the words "Hidden gem", "rare find" etc... That was something unusually delightful so I had to check it out!

When I reached the place, the whole setting seemed totally homey and dull in the good kind of way. The restaurant menu, décor, ambience seemed to slow time down and transform our dinner into an experience. Good eating places these days require a fair bit of booking, shoving, q-ing and it simply turns the dinner mood into a quick, rushed affair. So you could see why I was absolutely pleased! I was tucked into my table and given quaint but simple menus to order from. The server announced some specials for the day which was good as it shows they do customize their dishes so it won't be the same old stuff everyday!

Time slowed down and we can finally enjoy dinner as a slow process!
Since it was my first time there, I decided to go with what was recommended by the reviews (although we would later peek at what others were having and be sort of tempted to try that too). The customer service here was fantastic. I found it very pleasant that the server managed to remember my name throughout dinner, topped up our water whenever it was low and was always with a smile! I ordered a starter,  a soup of the day (Pumpkin), 2 + 1 pastas and 2 desserts! Now, the 2 + 1 pasta was surprising because the loves Aglio Olio and my request for a "mini" portion of Aglio Olio was accepted by the server! Now how's that for customer service?

Complimentary bread with olive oil, Pumpkin soup and Portobello mushrooms
Complimentary bread was a good touch to the starters because as diners, we would sometimes be too famished, something light to munch on would be nice! You know... at Chinese restaurants when they give you some nuts?

The starters for the day were the recommended "Portobello" which actually was stuffed with prawns, crab meat and some other things. The combination was perfect! But the did comment that the juiciness and taste of the mushrooms were gone. 8/10! $18

Pumpkin soup was absolutely delish here! It is the thick type of soup and you would think it looks very normal at first glance but as you dig in, the flavours start to attack you with every spoonful! I found that alternating between the mushrooms and soup seemed to enhance the flavours more! 9/10 $8
Mini Aglio Olio
I have never been a fan of Aglio Olio but I thought that since this place was known for its pastas, why not try a little? I was not disappointed and was rather impressed at the pasta. They used a very slim type of pasta which accentuated the flavor more. Somehow, the olive oil was "not really oily" but felt very dry in the good way. The flavors were very subtle... something like a little bland but then suddenly you bite into some garlic and the whole dish bursts into flavor! A clear winner here... even the Aglio Olio fan approved of it! 8/10 $8

Squid Ink Pasta
Next up was yet another very common pasta found everywhere these days. It's none other than the squid ink pasta. I always remember making fun of myself or friends with the black lips more than the taste of this pasta. Being a squid lover and an eging fan myelf, I always have high standards when eating squid. With squid ink giving the pasta the sweetness, you better be serving some pretty good stuff! I was vindicated with my choice of Cacio e Pepe when I bit into the pasta. It was absolutely heaven. The initial taste was the sweetness of the squid ink and the al dente texture of the pasta but the tail end of the sensation was the flavor of the shellfish giving you the taste of the ocean. Add some cherry tomatoes in and you have a perfect balance of sweetness! The squid itself was also very fresh and not the usual artificially enhanced QQ texture. Where the nuts did they get their squids from?! Best squid ink pasta I've tasted... not purely on looks and novelty but big on taste! $20 9.9/10

Tagliatatelle Tartufo
Next up was the Tagliatatelle Tartufo which was home made egg pasta swimming in truffle sauce. The package came with scallops and prawns. The absolutely loved this pasta. The truffle sauce was a great compliment to the home made egg pasta and it was really screaming to us! Eating this with the squid ink pasta was a great combination. I would eat a little of the squid ink pasta and then turn to the Tagliatatelle Tartufo! I compared this to the Chinese "Ee Mee" because of the delightful egg flavor. The prawn was notably very good too, also none of the artificial enhanced QQ texture. Now where the nuts again did they get their prawns?! $24 9.5/10

After our food was the dessert and I couldn't decide again! I chose the lava cake with macadamia nuts and had the hard task of choosing Panna Cotta or Crème Brule. Well, I still couldn't decide and I asked the server for a recommendation and her reply was... "You have to try an Italian dessert when you come to an Italian restaurant!".

Molten Lava Cake with Macadamia nuts

I have eaten numerous lava cakes before... from the café ones to the ones at Andersons, Haagen Daz etc... and well, nothing comes close to this. The chocolate syrup was hot and in a generous amount. It was thick and I'm not sure if it contained hazelnuts... Well real men have sweet tooths right! Vanilla ice cream was a little normal but this just makes the lava cake stand out more! Check out the video! 9.5/10 $13

Panna Cotta
I was skeptical of the Panna Cotta. Looked very normal to me... looked very chic... but as usual with all the dishes here, it blew me away. For only $10, I feel this is a steal. It's my first time eating Panna Cotta so I shall not comment much here! 9/10 $10

More Notes on the Service
Pepper/salt upon request was grinded by server on the spot and into our soups! No more troublesome hand shaking actions with stuck salt/pepper and uncooked rice! Blah! Absolutely considerate that our starters came together, main courses came together, desserts came together. No more waiting for your friend to eat and being a total loser while you wait!

Anyway, I've come to the end of my review. Apologies for the not so impressive pictures but I didn't bring my DSLR and had to make do with handphone cameras!

Contact Details
Cacio e Pepe
Address: 3 Chu Lin Road (off Jalan Remaja)
Contact Tel: 6760 3534
Opening hours: 11.30am – 2.30pm, 6.00pm – 10.30pm. Closed on Mondays

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