Cova Pasticceria Confetteria originated in Milan in the early 1800s, establishing quite a reputation as a venue of choice for ladies who lunch (or rather, tea). Caffe Cova opened in Singapore about 6 months ago in Paragon, and staying true to its heritage, is quite the tai-tai hangout.
Given the target clientele, it shouldn’t come as a shock that prices on the regular menu are on the steep side. Thank goodness, then, for my cousin L who clued me in on a really good Citibank credit card deal. Until the end of December, they have a one-for-one deal on their $69 4-course set menu. L and M joined us for dinner and all of us had the promotion.
The starter was meant to be a choice between the insalata caprese and a beef carpaccio, but I guess we were there pretty late (close to 9 pm) because they were out of the carpaccio. At least they offered us a decent alternative – seared scallop with arugula. A and I both had the scallop and it was a good start to the meal. The scallop was juicy and meaty, nicely seared and was served with quite a tasty pumpkin puree which worked well with the arugula.
The pasta course was next; there was no choice for this, just one option of squid ink tagliolini with scallops, prawns and cherry tomatoes in bisque sauce. This was good – they were quite generous with the seafood, which was very fresh, and the bisque sauce was very flavourful. I couldn’t really taste the squid ink in the pasta; it could’ve been any regular home-made pasta, but the lack of any squid ink flavour didn’t really affect the overall taste of the dish.
Next up came the mains. All of us except M had the rib eye; M had the atlantic cod with mashed potatoes and caramelised onions. This was where it started to head south a little. Portions were quite tiny; I’m not sure whether it’s because we had the one-for-one promotion, but I certainly hope not. I would expect these portion sizes for a 7 or 8 course tasting menu, not a 4 course meal where the other portions are equally small.
All of us ordered the beef medium rare, but while L’s turned out pretty well (hers is the one in the picture), mine was overdone to at least medium instead. Still, the meat was very flavourful and well seasoned, so my only grouse would be the rather inconsistent portion sizes and levels of doneness.
The final course is a choice between dessert and coffee/tea. The boys had the drink, and the girls ordered a cake each. Again, it was late so only limited cakes were still available. L had the Sacher torte, and I had a blueberry cheese cake.
Unfortunately this really ended the evening on a low point. I’m really surprised that for an establishment that’s meant to be primarily a tea-room, the desserts were by far the worst part of the meal. Expecting a typical baked cheesecake topped with blueberry, this turned out to be the refrigerator-type cheesecake that uses gelatine as the setting agent.
L’s Sacher torte was, to quote her, “very Prima Deli”. She already suspected that something was amiss when she saw chocolate rice on the outer circumference; who uses chocolate rice these days?! One bite confirmed that it was a very uninspired, lacklustre version of a Sacher torte.
Service was fairly ok, although I did sense a tiny hint of condescension from one of the waiters after we inquired about the one-for-one promo. Food also took quite a long time given that they were almost empty by the time we ordered.
I’m definitely steering way clear of the desserts here, which seem straight out of the 80s (Chocolate rice? Refrigerator cheesecake?), and I don’t think their latte is worth $9 either, but some of the pastas on the a la carte menu look interesting, and I wouldn’t mind going back to give them a try.
It’s lucky my latte was part of the set. There’s no way it’s worth the $9 price tag. And the desserts aren’t great either. Considering that these are supposed to be their specialties, they were very disappointing.
What really is good, surprisingly, is the quality of the food. I had the best ribeye I’ve had in awhile. We may have gotten small portions because it was part of the set dinner, but if the a la carte portions are full sized, then they are well worth the $30+ price.
And considering how snotty the place looks, the service was surprisingly friendly and good also. I’ll definitely want to try this place again for the ala carte before I make a final recommendation. For now, just make sure you don’t waste money on the coffee and desserts.
290 Orchard Road
Open daily: 11 am to 10 pm