1 ✻ Michelin Guide Singapore 2016
visited Aug 16
Following the release of the 2016 Michelin Guide in Singapore, Terra was the first restaurant I paid a visit to. Chef-Owner Seita Nakahara’s restaurant Terra was recently awarded one star in the 2016 Michelin Guide and I was curious to try the Tokyo-Italian cuisine his restaurant offered. Serving an unusual amalgamation of Italian dishes with nuanced Japanese influence, Terra is not quite an Italian restaurant or a Japanese restaurant. It’s not quite a fusion restaurant either, and during my recent visit there I found the restaurant’s hybrid identity a source of bafflement and confusion.
Despite hearing some good things about Terra, during my recent trip there for lunch I found myself somewhat frustrated with Seita’s accommodation of two cultures with massive culinary heritage. As a concept it struck me as somewhat iconoclastic rather than innovative and the overall quality of food left much to be desired. I ordered the 4-course set lunch over the tasting menu since I generally prefer a light lunch, but unfortunately I found it not quite up to my expectations.
The set lunch started with an amuse-bouche consisting of burrata, proscuitto, tomato, char-grilled sweetcorn and some greens. The burrata had a smooth creamy texture and the grilled corn was exceptionally juicy but the individual components of the dish seemed somewhat confused and dissociated. Not too sure what was going on here.
A little bread was served next with a porcini butter, which had and excellent earthiness and creaminess to it. However, the portions served were dismal at best, and there was only one small chunk of bread each; no bigger than a ping-pong ball.
Up next was the pasta course, a spaghetti dish served with uni and bottarga. The uni was served warm with a consistency resembling a sauce, which was a pleasant departure from the uni usually served at Japanese sushiyas. Elegant briny notes from the grated bottarga and a touch of citrus in the form of yuzu that complemented the creamy uni well. Somewhat reminiscent of spaghetti alla carbonara, especially the colour and consistency of the overall dish. Despite the unimpressive plating, the ingenious accompaniment of the uni, bottarga and yuzu with the handmade spaghetti done to al dente perfection was unquestionably the only noteworthy dish of the meal.
After the pasta course came the mains: a beef pâté with mushroom sauce, which struck me as being closer to meatloaf than pâté. The sauce in question was deep, earthy and salty, derived from 5 different mushrooms; porcini, shimeji and shitake come to mind. Sketchy Italian lineage here with a vague incorporation of Japanese ingredients. Hopefully not the restaurant’s best offering.
Desserts arrived, some ice cream of sorts with berries, although at this point the meal felt pretty heavy. I’ve always had an exclusive preference for lighter desserts and the ice cream here wasn’t tremendous, some vague composition thrust in a bowl.
On the whole, I cannot confess to liking the omakase style of tasting food nor the set lunch offered at Terra. The combination of unexpectedness and bout after bout of perplexingly vague dishes left no respite for contemplation and enjoyment. At times like these I can’t help but feel that the whole notion of a surprise ‘omakase’ menu amounts to little more than poor communication with customers that inevitably get left in the lurch. Naturally, set lunches (or set anythings) rarely represent the best offerings of any restaurant, but it was really the culmination of these aforementioned factors that set the meal up for disappointment. (How is one to be surprised by dismal portions of bread and dull, heavy desserts?) A better arrangement, to my mind, would be to offer a choice between an outstanding omakase-style tasting menu and a set lunch with specific dishes, which, although less elaborate, are better representative of the cuisine and the restaurant’s overall standards. Not rocket science.
Plating at Terra also leaves much to be desired. While not exactly sloppy, Chef’s Seita’s dishes were not particularly refined in their presentation. But I suppose traditional Italian cuisine, despite its wholesome flavours, tends towards being more rustic and uncomplicated. Leaving the restaurant, I find myself wondering if it’s Japanese minimalism, unpretentious Italian cuisine or a general dissociation with presentation in Chef Seita’s kitchen that influences the aesthetics of the food. And though the meal was fairly okay overall, I couldn’t help but feel a little underwhelmed.
a note: in retrospect this was definitely the worst restaurant i’ve ever visited. not too sure how it even got into the fucking Guide but it also reaffirms my lack of faith in the Guide. Nowadays i tend not to think too much of stars in Asian localities (SG, japan, HK, etc). some 3 star restaurants in JP are pretty fucking shit and there are too many goddamn one-star places.
the only rankings that matter are the San Pellegrino ones and if you’re not there you’re basically nothing important
cuisine: 9/25 | aesthetic: 4/15 | technicality: 5/15 | originality: 7/15 | ambience: 5/15 | service: 4/10 | value: 0/5