Il Cielo, the rooftop Italian restaurant at Hilton Singapore, celebrates its 9th anniversary this March by launching the first of a series of seasonal menus. Aimed to be refreshed every two months, the set menus showcase the finest seasonal produce in Japan and Italy. Resident Chef Yohhei Sasaki transforms these ingredients into authentic Italian dishes that come with his trademark Japanese sensibilities.
I was recently invited to Il Cielo to check out the first of their seasonal menus. For this period, Chef Sasaki has gathered the likes of Toyama-Japan firefly squid, Kyoto amadai fish, fresh spring Japanese cabbages, Italian white asparagus and premium Japanese Shorthorn Wagyu beef for the set menus which range from 4 to 7 courses.
We were served with three types of amuse bouche to tease our palate before the meal. These include ikura served on a cone, mochi wrapped with ham and foie gras macarons – quite creatively interpreted and nicely executed for amuse bouche. It is quite evident that a lot of effort was put into conceptualizing these cute pre-starters.
Hotaru Ika alla Puttanesca
Probably the most photogenic among the evening’s courses, the baby squid here comes from Japan with a rather generous portion of puttanesca sauce. I enjoyed the squid very much – these were sweet and had a slightly tangy flavor. More importantly, I noted the chewy texture of the squid which is laudable since it’s usually tricky to cook squid without making them too tough.
Asparagi Bianco e Tartufo Primaversa all Cabonara
Asparagus is in season at the moment so we were just in luck to have large chunks of this prized vegetable as our second starter. The mark of fine asparagus is of course the possession of supple but not too tender fibers that easily collapse and the one I tried at Il Cielo did just that. You’d want to slather as much of the cheese espuma on it, too. I could not help but fully consume that even as I had already finished up my asparagus.
Ravioli Foglia con Sakura Ebi e Cavolo Primaversa
I always try to order ravioli whenever I see it available because I’d like to be surprised by the stuffing. Chef Sasaki’s version comes with spring Japanese cabbage, made into a puree, while the dumplings are also surrounded by sakura ebi. I thought the latter was a nice touch and among the dishes I had that evening, this one probably carried the most prominent Japanese sensibilities. There is also ginger espuma on the side though I thought the ginger flavor was on the light side or perhaps just masked by the generous amount of sakura ebi.
Grigliato Takenoko alla Saltimbocca
I saw wagyu beef in the description and immediately thought this was a meat dish but actually the highlights here are the bamboo shoots and potato, both of which come from Japan. That being said, this can be thought of as a mainly vegetable dish. The actual meat content here is on the light side, with the wagyu beef thinly sliced (like skin). This main course is rather homely – with the potato risotto (potatoes cut into small cubes) evoking a comfort dish that one might have tried at home.
Special Aglio Olio e Peperoncino
I was having the 5-course version of the set menu but as with Chef Sasaki’s Japanese background, he opts to provide a carbohydrate dish towards the end of the meal in the Asian tradition of satiating one’s hunger. While carbohydrate dishes are usually seen as “fillers” in the Asian context, the aglio olio that came next is certainly not a mere filler. For this course, the service staff actually asked me how many grams of pasta I wanted. Most in my table opted for 40 grams – I went for 60 grams. After a bite of the pasta, I wished I had gone for more. The spaghetti was incredibly chewy and I could feel the noodles breaking down with each bite. The stock – a result of various types of chicken broth mixed together – was a highlight and incredibly flavorful. There were hints of chili as well that gave the dishes and added flair.
Cannolo e Uva
This Sicilian dessert staple is stuffed with rum raisin rather than the traditional creamy ricotta. This results to a chocolate-y / nutty flavor that proves to be a nice contrast to the grape sorbet.
Overall, I was quite impressed with the seasonal menu at Il Cielo. This was my first ever visit to the Italian restaurant and after experiencing Chef Sasaki’s cuisine, I now see why this venue has garnered so many positive reviews. Perhaps it is his way of inserting subtle Japanese elements that makes it a hit with the Singapore palate. Whatever it is, I hope to be back soon. Next time, I shall opt for more grams to my aglio olio order.
Il Cielo’s spring menu comes as a 4, 5 or 7 course meal and is priced at S$118/138/168 respectively. It is available from now until end of April 2019 for lunch and dinner.
Hilton Singapore level 24
581 Orchard Road
+65 6730 3395
Lunch – Noon to 2:30PM (Monday to Friday)
Dinner – 7PM to 10:30PM (Monday to Saturday)