I have passed the time when I used to head for buffets and gorge myself to the brim, convincing myself that the worth of food consumed is twice the price I pay. As age catches up and metabolism slows down, I realized that it's time to go for "quality" instead of "quantity". And the all-new Italian buffet launched by Pontini at Grand Copthorne Waterfront definitely fits the picture.
The concept is similar to a 4-course Italian meal but in a more lavish manner; Starters (free-flow antipasti, home-made bread, soup at the savoury counter), Primi (unlimited orders of Pizzas and Pasta), Secondi and Desserts. Before you get too excited over the anti-pasta spread or desserts, pen down your main courses so that they would be ready by the the time you finished your appetizers.
New sauces and jams always piqued my curiosity to find out their taste and it was the plethora of accompaniments that caught my attention at the savoury table. Instead of pairing them with the Italian Cold Cuts, I walloped them with home-made breads, drizzled some sweet Figs Mustard on the Radicchio, Pear, Gorgonzola cheese salad and Aged balsamic vinegar, and dunked the grilled Portobello mushroom with sweet chilli and arugula salad into Olive Tapenade. Out of the accompaniments, I adore the Creamy Walnut sauce, which tasted like honey peanut butter.
Italian Cold Cuts and Homemade Bread
Radicchio, Pear, Gorgonzola cheese salad and Aged balsamic vinegar
Grilled Portobello mushroom with sweet chilli and arugula salad
The list doesn't stop here. There is still the concentrated Wild Mushroom Soup, Tuscany style marinated octopus, cheek peas and green asparagus salad, sundries tomatoes and an extravagant cheese platter that looked like the playing poker cards spread out neatly on the tables, only difference being that these are edible.
Memorable bites include the baked butternut squash, and soft and mushy marinated artichokes, which I helped myself to second servings.
As tempting as it is to continue grazing on savories, reserve room for the astoundingly delicious pastas, prepared under the watchful eye of Pontini's head chef, Daniele Sarno. Despite being so young at only 30, the Florence-born chef already has 15 years of culinary experience, and working as a professional sommelier at Michelin-star restaurant!
Toothsome penne luxuriates in the creamy pool of "Roman Cabonara" and ham, while in another wee dish, the Tagiolini was coated evenly in "Genovese” style basil pesto sauce, which emitted a strange herby flavour. The so-called Italian Meepok "Tagliatelle" was not bad too, tossed in a jumble of wild mushroom, pancetta, pine nuts and parmesan cheese.
All the pastas here are home-made and tastefully prepared in smaller portions to avoid carbo-loading for pizzas would soon be whizzed out from the kitchen. Just like the pasta which you can choose the style and pasta type, the pizzas can be prepared according to your fancy; choose from pizza base (treporcellini, Magherita and Vegetarian) and the toppings.
Among the list of Secondi (Main Courses), the juicy chicken thigh basted in “Diavola”, spicy capsicum and tangy tomato sauce with dried oregano was wholesome and satisfying. The Piedmont style braised beef brisket on potato fondant in herb gravy, worked on textures but I could not comprehend its rustic, faint flavour. My favourite is still the oven-baked Norwegian salmon mignon in pistachio crust; a reminder of how seductive simplicity and freshness can be.
Having learnt that the hotel has recently welcomed a new Executive pastry chef, Mr Nicolas Maugard, I was yearning for the moment to try the Italian desserts. Hailing from Normandy, France, Chef Nicolas has worked for renowned Michelin starred restaurants in France and awarded second prize at the prestigious Championnat de France des desserts competition with his signature creation – roasted pineapple with eight flavoured sorbet.
However, the desserts were underwhelming and could not fully showcase the potential and the character of the chef. Dominated by petite glass shots such as the Strawberry Shooters, Tiramisu, Lemon Tart, the dessert table could jazz up on its intricacies. Say a Limoncello tiramisu with pistachio biscotti crumbs, Olive oil macaron, Hazelnut Chocolate Ravioli or simply the chef's award winning sorbet?
The one that stood out was the Stracciatella and ricotta Cannoli. Piped fresh at the live station, each of this palm-sized flaky pastry cones oozed sweet dense custard, buttressed with raisins, dried fruits and dusted with not powdered sugar but roasted pistachios. Amazing and surpassed the versions I've had from Hilton Pastry Boutique and Basilico The Regent. This was followed by the smooth and rich Panna cotta, showered by the undulating fragrance of vanilla beans which sank to the bottom.
Being established for at least 15 years, Pontini has gained a strong reputation for its exquisite Italian cuisine with a modern twist. For me, pasta is really the best thing going here and the flavours are very authentically Italian. For a very good price of $48, there is plenty to enjoy at this buffet and you can taste your way through to decide on your favourite. Full review: http://dairycream.blogspot.sg/2014/10/pontini-grand-copthorne-waterfront-all.html
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