Singapore-based chef and restaurateur Beppe de Vito has a new restaurant, and it looks a lot like Gemma Steakhouse, a 68-seater Italian destination nestled within the stately surrounds of the National Gallery.
Rather than settling Gemma into a new space, the Michelin-starred chef decided to move his other restaurant, Art, upstairs and refurbish the fifth-floor locale into a classy, social dining destination that oozes comfort and sophistication — sans the ostentatious air that hangs heavy at many restaurants of the same calibre.
Instead of the wall of wines and glasses that greet you as you walk into Art, you’ll find a feature wall of burgundy and gold in a luxe, art deco style that camouflages the kitchen ever so well. Yet, even after the compact, handsome space has been rejigged twice (from Aura to Art to Gemma Steakhouse), the fire-orange interiors and impressive marble slabs remain, as iconic as ever.
There are two camps when it comes to oysters: you’re either madly in love with them or not. If you happen to fall in the former category, the Krystale Oysters with 50 Year Old Sherry Vinegar and Citrus Bubbles will be the most unforgettable appetiser for the night.
Encased within a pearlescent shell lies a voluptuous piece of delicately sweet meat, elevated with whispers of honeyed acidity from the vinegar. The bubbles made for a fun touch — almost similar to sipping on an oyster cocktail.
Land and sea come together in the form of the restaurant’s homemade tagliolini, a hefty pasta dish that deceives with its simple appearance. Served on a neat cocoon of al dente tagliolini is a dazzle of smoked silvery sardines, fresh bottarga and a generous smattering of capers.
Unlike its description, what follows is a deep, savoury dish that’s brightened with the use of Amalfi lemon, and left us with a pleasantly sweet aftertaste.
A trolley then rolls over to present us the T-Bone Fiorentina Steak. Or as we’d like to call it, a sculpture of bovine goodness. After a series of “oohs”, “aahs”, and a whole lot of video-taking from all angles, the 1.8-kilogram slab is returned to the trolley, set to be carved and served.
The final act saw a light drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper on the tender pink slices of tenderloin and sirloin. The result? Warm, buttery, juicy pieces that render itself to your knife with ease, packed with mellow flavours.
There’s an inexplicable sense of old-world charm and nostalgia here at Gemma. Perhaps it is the seamless playlist of jazz and R&B that unspools over the course of dinner, or the freshly prepared tableside Caesar salad that brings back childhood memories of your first steakhouse experience. Whichever the case is, it’s certain that Gemma is going to be a new meat destination that’s set to stay.