Fresh pasta is having a moment. It’s not exactly a phenomenon, as more and more people opt for handmade food as a wholesome approach to dining out. And there’s the issue of authenticity — nothing compares to the taste and texture of pasta made freshly by hand and from market-fresh ingredients.
In Singapore, three pasta bars opened within months of one another, proving that the hearty carb is here to stay. And while none boast kitchens bustling with Italian nonnas, pastas here are still molto buona. Of the three, it’s Bar Cicheti (pronounced chee-keh-tee) that got us hook, line and sinker.
Located within a Peranakan-tiled shophouse in Jiak Chuan Road, Bar Cicheti channels the modish pasta bars of abroad with its intimate 42-seater space, and sleek, yet minimal interiors a la Italian bistros of the 1960s.The word “cicheti” refers to small plates and is Venice‘s answer to Spain‘s tapas. Like the Spanish appetisers, they’re enjoyed in local wine bars on a pub crawl. Bar Cicheti brings this culture to Singapore, with pastas offered in tasting portions and paired with wine.
But what really sets this pasta-and-wine bar apart are its big flavours — bigger than most, as it caters to local palates. This is, in most part, thanks to its all-Singaporean team. Head chef and co-owner Lim Yew Aun runs the kitchen, with experiences that include stints at L’Operetta, Raffles Hotel and modern Australia restaurant Fynn’s.
Chef Aun’s vision is to elevate the fresh flavours of handmade pastas with locally-sourced natural ingredients.
“I want to enhance the heartiness of the everyday Italian meal of pasta and wine, but deliver my own interpretations to bring about a yet-to-be-explored menu.”
And classic Italian pastas they are, but with a twist. See these dishes from the Spring menu for reference.
Take the Spaghetti from the Spring menu, for instance. As the only pasta that’s not handmade, there’s a lot riding on this plate. But Chef Aun pulls it off with aplomb, by giving the classic pesto a spicy update with jalapeño. Simple yet bursting with flavours, the dish is surprisingly light, packing a nice crunch with chopped pistachios, and grated ricotta salata for a salty punch.
Pasta, butter, and cheese: The trifecta of comforting ingredients. Bar Cicheti’s Pici Cacio E Pepe (Italian for cheese and pepper) is served with the fat, flat and thoroughly hearty pici to soak up the rich sauce. Parmigiano is used here instead of the explosively salty and funky Pecorino cheese. Cutting through the richness is the warm and aromatic Sarawak black pepper, and a squeeze of lemon.
Those who want the full works should opt for the Agnolotti. This will surely hit the spot as it features grass-fed beef cheeks that takes two days to prepare, and 10 days to braise in vegetable stock. Hand-shredded, cooked in its jus, then blended to a silky texture, it is stuffed in pasta squares and served with a delicate butter sauce. For a date-night pasta, the Taglioni Nero is a crowd pleaser. Squid ink has been folded into the pasta dough for a mildly briny flavour. Served with Hokkaido scallops, local squid, and Japanese uni, and a rich bisque reduction, this is a dish that’ll have you wanting more.
No cicheti experience is complete without wine, and Bar Cicheti has this down pat. Sommelier-partner Ronald Kamiyama has put together a varied and exciting wine list that includes boutique wines from world over. Kamiyama deftly pairs the notes of each dish with a complementary wine, balancing the chopped pistachio of the Spaghetti from the Spring menu with the nutty nuances of a light and dry manzanilla sherry, the umami flavours of the Tagliolini Nero with a smoky and earthy Nerello Mascalese, and a glass of amaro that shares the herbs and spices of the cannoli dessert.
Bar Cicheti is at 10 Jiak Chuan Road, Singapore 089264