I've been wanting to try Valentino for the longest time. But its previous Binjai Park locale was really far away from the city. Plus, its tiny shop space ensured you couldn't get reservations unless you were the type who planned what to eat for dinner at least 2 weeks in advance. Now that it's at The Grandstand (previously known as Turf City, which previously housed the old Turf Club), a slightly more centralised (and consequently closer to the the city center) location, it's less of a hassle to drive out to the suburbs to try this famed and much raved about Italian restaurant. And, with its much bigger premises, we didn't have a problem scoring a table despite the lack of reservations.
The Grandstand, which spent millions of dollars rehauling itself, still reeks of paint fumes, and still in dire need of tweaking. There are virtually no directional signs, and no directory that we could see at all. There were little nooks and crannies that led to hidden doors which, in turn, led to an entire stretch of eateries tucked into obscure corners. There was no organization of the tenant eateries and shops that I could see, so it's all a mess of shop space. Really annoying and quite frustrating, especially if you're trying to locate a specific restaurant.
But, once we got to the restaurant (with the assistance of many a sweet and helpful shop staff along the way) our frustrated selves were immediately soothed. We felt like we were transported to an Italian countryside or vineyard. It was casual and relaxed. In line with its charmingly homestyled ambience, service was animated, reactive and genuinely friendly. We had a wonderful time, courtesy of the staff and entertainingly jovial manager.
We also enjoyed the food. Valentino boosts refined home-cooking, which sounds a little oxymoronic coz it's both rustic but elegant. Just think of it like this, it's as if you had an Italian grandmother who cooked damn well and plated it very finely.
We got all of our mains to share. We started on a high note with the Fettucine al Granchio ($25.90) perfectly al dente squid ink fettucine slathered with a tangy and sweet creamy tomato sauce layered with generously huge chunks of sweet shredded crabmeat. A little chilli helped keep this sharp and spicy.
The Ravioli Beef ($28.90) stuffed with minced beef and creamy ricotta cheese was tossed in a tomato and garlic sauce, while slices of porcini provided texture and an earthy taste.
The Risotto al Funghi Porcini ($24.90) al dente starchy rice with gourmet porcini mushroom and bright sunny saffron was an exercise in restrained flavouring.This was a great balance of starchy elements and light simple flavours.
We also ordered a meat option to liven up all that carb courses, the Secondi, the Salti in Bocca alla Romana ($38.90). A duo of moist and tender veal wrapped in salty Parma ham and pan-fried, then smothered in a buttery sage sauce and served alongside boiled skinned baby potatoes, softened beans and baby carrots.
The Tiramisu ($13.80) classic Italian dessert infused with espresso was wonderfully aromatic, and heady. Moist and rich and a real zinger with copious amounts of cocoa powder.
The Lava Cake ($18.50), a daily special, was also awesome. The chocolate cake was baked to perfection, with gooey bittersweet chocolate oozing out of its warm center. A scoop of vanilla ice-cream lent sweetness and a icy respite from the chocolate.
The complimentary crusty bread rolls, fresh out of the oven so they were still warm, were paired with a olive and parsley herb emulsion. Bright, herby and potent.
Ristorante Da Valentino
200 Turf Club Road
#01-19 The Grandstand
Tel: 6462 2247
Open daily from 12noon to 2.30pm for lunch; and 6pm to 10.30pm for dinner