Next on our set lunch trail is Forlino, a much-lauded Italian restaurant that opened about 6 months ago at One Fullerton. I must admit that despite rave reviews in the press and other food blogs, I was quite hesitant to give this place a try because it was widely publicised as a joint venture between chef Osvaldo Forlino and Beppe de Vito, of Il Lido. When we heard that, our posh antennae pricked up and we decided that it was a bit too stiff and formal for us.
Still, aside from the Il Lido affiliation, I was quite drawn to the fact that it’s essentially a family-run restaurant. Just like Valentino, Forlino’s entire family has moved to Singapore and helps out in the restaurant in some way or another. On that basis, we decided to give it a trial run for lunch. It didn't bode well when we made our way to the restaurant – gilded moose heads and ornate cornices lined the long walkway to the restaurant. However when you finally get to the main dining room it looks quite different – it’s still quite luxe but very understatedly so. And unlike Prive, their full-length windows aren’t shrouded with drapes and you get a lovely view of the Esplanade.
The set lunch here is $45 for an amuse bouche, starter, main course and coffee with petit fours. You only get 2 options each for the starter and main course though, so you may be out of luck if you’re not too keen on both. The amuse bouche was a slice of chicken liver on a bed of polenta. I like my liver quite runny inside and this was a bit overcooked for me.
The slightly uninspired amuse bouche was more than made up for by the bread - personal portions of foccacia, about 5 inches in diameter, sprinkled with sea salt and drizzled with olive oil. The chef’s mother apparently makes this fresh twice daily, and it's really good.
Obviously with just 2 choices per course, we had one each. A had the salmon carpaccio and I had the minestrone soup. The carpaccio was sliced quite thick – fine with us but I was quite surprised since thick slices aren’t very fine dining. The minestrone was actually more of a tomato cream soup drizzled with basil pesto. The large cheesy croutons saved this from being a rather ordinary dish.
When the main courses arrived, it confirmed that while everything else in this place gives off fine dining vibes, the food itself is decidedly not. The main course portions were huge, and plated very basically with no foam or glazes paintbrushed onto the plates. I had the seafood pasta and A had the pork chop.
The pasta was a little past al dente, but I liked the light broth and the super fresh prawns, clams and melt-in-the-mouth pieces of cod. The pork was well seasoned and quite juicy, but my one complaint is that if they aren’t going to ensure that the pork rind is crispy, they should just remove it. It was tough and chewy and not very edible.
The petit fours accompanying the coffee comprised a rich chocolate truffle, meringue kisses sandwiched with Chantilly cream, and generic shortcake. Surprisingly the meringue won us both over.
Well, lunch today has certainly changed my mind about Forlino. The food seems to be very honestly Italian, just a bit luxed up to fit the restaurant’s image. It’s a bit of a pity, because I think they’ll do better in the long run as a no-airs, family-run Italian restaurant serving simple yet well-executed Italian food.
I really like this place. The view is great. The service is excellent. And the food is pretty good. Even though it’s on the expensive side, the portions you get are very large portions. The set lunch especially is really good value for money despite the $45 price tag.
Lunch: 12 pm – 2 pm (Mon to Fri)
Dinner: 6.30 pm – 9.30 pm (Mon to Sat)