Pasta will always be one of the few foods that tread the axes between simplicity, comfort and romance. At its simplest, pasta is soul-warming, and when refined, it can border on art. Bar Cicheti, a new wine bar and Italian restaurant along Keong Saik, is an establishment that captures that ethos. Revolving around seasonal produce, a meal at Bar Cicheti takes you from Sicily to Tuscany with its moreish small plates and pasta, and you don’t even have to board a plane.
Chef Lim Yew Aun, a self-declared pizza enthusiast and the muscle behind Bar Cicheti, breaks the stereotype that you have to come from Italy to make quality pasta. You don’t even have to visit Italy to be able to craft Italian food that excites (a statement, we suppose, will incite the rage of many Italians). He and an all-Singaporean kitchen team have conceptualised a menu that creatively plays with the Italian signature while incorporating Asian flavours where appropriate, making this one of the many reasons why Bar Cicheti is worth visiting. Let us take you through the rest because there are plenty.
Most of us are content dumping strands of dried, store-bought pasta into boiling pots in our own kitchen, that standard does not apply to when we choose to dine out. Pasta should be fresh-made, even more so when the barometer for a top class pasta bar is, well, how good the handmade pasta is.
At Bar Cicheti, you can guarantee that all the pasta, with the exception of the spaghetti, is made by hand. The firmness of each strand or parcel that passes from fork to mouth betrays the dedication Bar Cicheti has to freshness first.
Those painstaking creations are then transformed into plates that are either classically Italian or decidedly innovative. We particularly enjoy how Bar Cicheti holds true to simplicity when creating classic recipes. Take, for example, the anolini, where light pillows of pasta stuffed with a trio of ricotta, parmigiana and ricotta are tossed in a rich, nutty brown butter sauce, and then topped with caramelised onions for sweetness. It’s a mere handful of ingredients, composed without frills. Yet, the focus on perfecting every humble component comes through with every bite.
Another nod to an old Italian creation is Bar Cicheti’s cacio e pepe. Pici pasta is used for more of a bite, dressed with Sarawak black pepper, fresh marjoram and parmigiana instead of pecorino cheese. Despite its three-ingredient simplicity, cacio e pepe is astoundingly easy to get wrong, but Bar Cicheti’s rendition is so right.
Spring flavours abound
The latest menu at Bar Cicheti is a homage to springtime in Italy, highlighting produce from the nation that is at their peak. Ingredients like asparagus are given license to shine, especially when grilled and dressed in a combination of herb butter, ricotta cream and shaved ricotta salata. We had two people who professed hatred for asparagus at the table, but when this appetiser was served, even they were swayed.
Having a seasonal menu also allows Chef Aun to be dexterous with flavour combinations. One of the springtime specials is an Asian spin on spaghetti with pesto. The basil-based sauce gets a jalapeño remix, delivering a seriously piquant wallop to the tongue with every forkful. Toasted pine nuts and ricotta salata add bite to the dish, but they do little to alleviate from the capsaicin that comes through. This is one for serious spice devotees.
A world of wines beyond Italy
You’d expect a pasta bar to front Italian wines, but that’s not the case here. Ronald Kamiyama, the sommelier and partner of Bar Cicheti, has cultivated a wine list full of offbeat varietals and lesser-known regions beyond Italy.
Any diner should not be shy of approaching Kamiyama to recommend a glass or bottle to pair with the meal to come. The man’s experience and insight engender seamless combinations like a Chenin Blanc-blend crémant from Domaine Amirault, rife with notes of crisp pear and spice, bold enough to hold its own against a milky round of burratina on sourdough.
Kamiyama also has a penchant for organic and biodynamic wines, and we got to sample some of his choices during the meal. A standout was the Frank Cornelissen Contadino 2016, an organic red wine from Sicily. This ruby red beauty carries rich notes of juicy plum and roses, with a touch of umami that plays perfectly with seafood dishes like the squid ink taglioni on the menu.
Bar Cicheti is the type of place you’d make your regular. Just like the food it serves, this pasta bar makes you feel right at home, with small pockets of intrigue across its menu and a wine list that keeps you coming back for more.
6pm – 10.30pm
Tuesday to Saturday
11:30am – 2:30pm, 6:00pm – 10.30pm
$60++ per person