Dinner at Alkaff Mansion Ristorante

Alkaff Mansion Ristorante was the second restaurant we went to as part of Singapore’s restaurant week, the first of which was Taratata Bistro (review coming soon).
Alkaff Mansion serves Italian cuisine in what I regard as being one of the finest dining environments I have had the opportunity to experience. Let’s be clear, that’s a thumbs up for ambience; the verdict on the food is not quite so positive. Like I said, however, the ambience is second to none and if you’re a photographer, well…the light here is absolute perfect for shooting.

Having been built in 1918, the mansion is itself almost a century old and more information on the restaurant’s locale and history is available here if you’re so minded to read on. It suffices to say that the restaurant is steeped in Singapore’s rather modest history, not only pre-dating Independence in 1965 but even the Second World War.
Simply put, I love the location, vibe, ambience and overall feel of dining at Alkaff Mansion. It is therefore disappointing that the quality of the food, which must be the primary focus of every restaurant, is somewhat lacking. To be clear, it was not bad…the food just left me feeling like the menu had not been properly thought out, a state of affairs which was worsened by poor execution.
The Restaurant Week menu which was prepared appeared decent enough. A Burratini salad for starters, rack of lamb for mains and a cheese cake for dessert. In the interest of having variety, Jo and I opted for one set menu and to order the rest of the dishes a la carte, so we ended up ordering the oyster caviar capellini and veal ravioli from the main menu.
Burratini Salad
140318  R1000265 GXR 33 mm 1-25 sec at f - 2.5 ISO 800
I can’t really have any complaints about this dish – but I also felt that there was nothing special about. Quality burrata cheese is now pretty much commonplace in most Italian fine dining restaurants so the fact that a restaurant offers it is no longer a big deal, by and of itself.
Capellini with Caviar and Oyster
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When I first saw this priced at $33 on the a la carte menu, I thought it was a steal. This dish, or at least a variation of it, is served by both Garibaldi’s and Gunther’s and let me tell you, they do it extremely well, particularly Gunther’s (although I recall paying something close to $80 there). Given that the price range of all these restaurants is roughly similiar (with the possible exception of Gunther’s where things may get out of control), one would expect minimal variance in the quality of the food.
140318  R1000262 GXR 33 mm 1-17 sec at f - 2.5 ISO 800
Needless to say, I was disappointed. The oyster was not particularly fresh, the caviar was not of a high enough standard (it might even have been better to omit it altogether rather than use an inferior grade of caviar – perhaps ikura would have been an interesting, and cheaper, alternative) and there was just too much lemon juice. This was disappointing to say the least, exacerbated by the fact that the other restaurants simply do it better – even if for a higher price.
For me the takeaway lesson as a business owner is that if I can’t do it well, I better not do it at all, especially if my competitors are churning out the same dish with distinction.
Veal Ravioli
140318  R1000266 GXR 33 mm 1-25 sec at f - 2.5 ISO 800This was Jo’s chosen main course and although I am not a great fan of ravioli, I felt that this was competently enough although the ravioli itself seemed a tad bit under done.
Rack of Lamb
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Ahhh…I am pleased that I finally have something positive to say. The lamb was superb. Perfectly cooked although it seemed rather naked having only been presented with some sauce and sweet potatoes, but I am not one to complain. As far as food goes, this was the lone highlight of the night for me.
Cheese Cake
140318  R1000271 GXR 33 mm 1-25 sec at f - 3.5 ISO 800
Terrible. It felt more like frozen cream than anything resembling a cheese cake. No texture to speak of and it was halfway frozen…FROZEN! I don’t know what to say…when a restaurant, which charges prices like these in a location this beautiful, serves a dessert of this standard, I find it plain disgraceful. Perhaps it was because this was offered as part of the set for restaurant week, but if that’s the case it’s rather foolish. Restaurant week offers restaurants the opportunity to showcase themselves to a section of the public which may not ordinarily patronise those restaurants. Offering substandard food only because it is priced cheaply undermines the entire ethos and marketing vantage point of restaurant week.
The place is fantastic, the food is so so. For the price point you would have to meet, I think there are better places to eat.
Images captured with the Leica M (typ 240) & Leica 50mm f/1.4 Summilux and Ricoh GXR & GR A12 50mm f/2.5 Macro. 

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