Orchard Road, on the weekend, may be an annoyingly congested place to be, as the crowds swarm to Singapore's premier shopping belt, but insiders know that there are pockets of tranquility, away from the madding masses, which are perfect for a night-out on the town.
Like at il Cielo, the Italian ristorante at the top of the Hilton Singapore, perched high above the Orchard jam, and situated next to the hotel's pool. Its breezy, relaxed vibe is boosted by the musical talents of their in-house singer, belting out acoustic covers of current hits and evergreen melodies.
Casual ambience aside, the restaurant is swish and elegant, and diners speak in hushed tones - a point I had to remind myself because I'm boisterously loud otherwise. heh
Service was top-notch:- attentive but non-intrusive, sincere and generous. Like many restaurants, the waitress asked if we liked the food...but unlike many restaurants, they actually took criticism well in their stride. We were hesitant to complain about the food, because it was mostly alright, but after a little prodding, we apprised that one of the dishes was unbalanced in one aspect. Which, to our utter surprise, was later comp-ed. That alone, was impressive.
Also remarkable was the price-tag of the 4-Course Italian Set Dinner ($74++), which was a steal. That said, the ala carte menu was pricey, and the food was generally a hit-and-miss. All things considered, il Cielo was a pretty pedestrian Italian restaurant with excellent service, decent food, and a lovely ambience.
A starter option from the set, the Pan-Fried Foie Gras possessed a bit more heft than I'd like, but I liked that that body was balanced with the fruity elements of apricot compote, raspberry gel, and fresh strawberries.
The lighter option was the Mediterranean Salad of mesclun greens dotted with cherry tomatoes, mozzarella, black olives, tapenade, and croutons.
We also ordered a couple of ala carte starters, the Burrata ($25) with marinated tomatos, basil cream, and purple olive tapenade, was scrumptious. Like the mozzarella before, the burrata wasn't the best I've ever had, but it passed muster.
The best of the starters was the Hokkaido Scallops ($28) fat and succulent, beautifully caramelized to a golden, and slathered in a saucy cream flecked with shimeiji mushrooms, pine nuts, bottarga mayonnaise, red radish, black truffle. Elegant and refined.
First of the set dinner mains was the Homemade Parpadelle, laced with wild mushrooms, blanketed in a parmesan foam, and showered with black truffle flakes. I loved its clean simplicity.
Ditto for the Butternut Risotto flavoured with anchovy sauce, and topped with a fat Hokkaido scallop. The grains were perfectly al dente, and texture oozy and creamy.
And from the ala carte menu, we had a Pumpkin Charcoal Ravioli ($24) drizzled with chickpea cream, and sided by pink pickled onions, and balsamico. This was the dish we didn't like; the onions were overwhelmingly sour and obliterated the delicate taste of the pumpkin ravioli. We didn't finish this.
The secondi main course off the set was a Pan-Fried Seabass with asparagus, black mussels, and tropea onion. The fish was delicious, as was the white wine sauce, but the mussels and asparagus were clunky.
The ala carte secondi main, a Rack of Lamb ($46) was a much more cohesive dish. The full-bodied lamb was luscious and balanced against the sundried tomato tartar, baby carrots, and sweet peas.
We loved the sweets, and the set menu dessert course, was a rich Chocolate Dome, which mousse inside was sumptuous.
The Citrus Pannacotta, with its lemony overtones, was bracing and refreshing.
No Italian meal is complete without its classic dessert, which ala carte rendition of Tiramisu 'il Cielo' ($14) was deconstructed for a pretty but ultimately unmanageable confection. Still, it was magnificent with cappuccino gelato.
Mini biscotti, lightly dusted with icing sugar, as complimentary finishers.
Complimentary bread basket overflowing with charcoal buns, olive foccacia rolls and sesame crackers.
581 Orchard Road
Hilton Singapore Level 24
Tel: 6730 3395
Open weekdays from 12.30pm to 3pm for lunch; 6.30pm to 10.30pm for dinner;
weekends from 6.30pm to 10.30pm for dinner only