Buttero's Dirty steak | Photo: Celine Asril
3 out of 5 stars
What to eat: Dirty steak, zucchini fritters and chopped pork
It’s always been my policy to not review restaurants too early on. However, with the web as our (very volatile) medium, and everyone rushing to cover the newest restaurants, rules sometimes have to be bent.
I first paid a (anonymous) visit to Buttero in the middle of May, two weeks after this Italian-American restaurant on Tras Street opened to the public ("soft launched", the waiter informed me), and boy was it bad.
It wasn’t just that the vinyl music-backed atmosphere was lacking (and left noticeable voids in between changing vinyls); ours was one of two tables making up the dinner 'crowd'.
The ambience was non-existent and the dishes were also very disappointing.
The black pasta ($24) with chopped prawns, Boston bay mussels, cuttlefish and chilli was a sad heap of slightly overcooked, under-oiled squid ink pasta; the crumbed veal taco entree ($19) resembled a haphazardly put together (barely) burrito with the granny smith apples and a limp horseradish slaw looking, and tasting, more like poor afterthought. The veal was lost in the disjointed mess. The side of waffle fries with rosemary sea salt and cider vinegar ($8) had too sour of an aftertaste.
"Shouldn't kinks be ironed out before a restaurant is opened to the public? Am I paying full prices to be a guinea pig for the chef? These dishes, mind you, aren't cheap."
As if the experience hadn't slipped down the slope far enough, my very bitter negroni (pictured, left, $13) came in a stemmed water glass with a hipster candy-striped soda straw. I looked the four-eyed girl neon mural – painted by a renowned street artist, apparently – in her eye(s) and shook my head gravely.
Were the side of corn on the cob ($12) with maple and chipotle glaze made into a main dish, the meal might have been redeemed.
You could chalk our poor experience up to having visited the restaurant during its first few weeks in operation. But shouldn't kinks be ironed out before a restaurant is opened to the public? Am I paying full prices to be a guinea pig for chef Logan Campbell? These dishes, mind you, aren't cheap.
Led by duty, and much apprehension, I returned two weeks later. What a difference two weeks make.
The waffle fries were less sour. It was even good in the pulled pork and waffle fries (pictured, right, $15) from the 'Easy eats' (bar) menu, although the mozzarella was topped with strong cheese that threw the dish off a little.
Save for the dry pieces of pork, the zucchini fritters with chopped pork ($20), ricotta, charred lime and torn basil was a delight – shredded zucchini cover petite mashed potato patties so you have to break the crisp barrier when you bite into the soft mash. The creamy ricotta and squeeze of lime help balanced the flavours out.
And while I didn't care for the stiffly-battered onion rings, the Dirty steak ($34) turned up at our table as a nicely charred and well-rubbed piece of steak, topped with tart salsa verde. I was soaking up the sauces.
Though still not a fan of the soda straws in my cocktails (it was more apt a presentation for the sweet Moscow Mule, $8, but the paper-wrapped striped straw does get soggy if it sits for too long), this detail didn't irk me as much as it did on my first visit. The helpful, casual service and three-quarter-full dining room probably helped too.
Four weeks into its opening, Buttero is still finding its feet. Considering it generally takes restaurants two months to iron out their operations, they're making progress. But with everyone – websites, publications, bloggers, even the public – rushing to get to the latest restaurants in town, it's hard to tell if new establishments like Buttero are making speedy enough progress anymore.
No time to waste – I've got to be on to the next hot new restaurant in Singapore. Not to worry, I'll wait an extra week this time.
Buttero | Address: 54 Tras Street | Tel: 64387737 | Opening hours: Mon-Sat noon-3pm, 6-10.30pm
Celine Asril is guilty of taking pictures before tucking in to all her meals; it’s a [good] hazard of the job – this editor of HungryGoWhere never sits down to two of the same meals in a week.