The Naked Chef (and his mentor, Gennaro Contaldo) is now on our shores, and their successful joint venture (35 outlets worldwide) is finally open. We checked it out on the first day it threw open its doors.
This is Jamie Oliver's first restaurant in Asia (Address: #01-165 to 167, VivoCity | Tel: 67335500 | Opening hours: Daily 11.30am-11pm). Jamie's Italian sits on the first level (opposite Poulet) and its al fresco area is right next to waters that separate mainland Singapore from Sentosa.
The 210-seater casual, family-friendly restaurant has both indoor and al fresco seating. Jamie's Italian calls itself a 'walk-in restaurant', although a small percentage of tables are reserved for those who book online via their website.
The interior has a raw, industrial look while maintaining the warm style of Jamie's Italians all over the world: expect bespoke communal tables made by Singaporean craftsmen, open-plan kitchens and brightly coloured furniture. The wall mural design by local artist Mohammad Azlan Ramlan is not in place yet, though it is expected to be installed in a couple of weeks.
This one-of-a-kind glass chandelier is exclusive to the VivoCity outlet and has been brought in from the UK. Each Jamie's Italian has its own centrepiece chandelier.
You can choose to wait for your table at the bar. There are cocktails ($12-$16.50), wines ($11-$14 by the glass; $35-$180 bottles), non-alcoholic beverages ($5-$12; or $15-$18 by the litre-jug) and Gryphon teas available. You might want to try the beer Archipelago brews exclusively for Jamie's Italian Singapore - the Evva L'Italia (330ml $11.50; 500ml $16).
At Jamie's Italian the kitchens and chef's workstations are all open-plan. The bar seating faces an impressive display of hung, cured meats. We know where we'd want to park ourselves on our next visit.
By night, the restaurant is lit up by its many industrial-chic light fixtures. In the day, it is flooded with natural light that comes in via the floor-to-ceiling glass walls.
Begin your meal with Jamie's signature 'planks'. At $15.50 per person the meat plank comes aptly portioned, with a selection of cured meats, cheese topped with chilli jam, pickles and a salad. The largest plank serves four, and sits on cans of tomatoes. We love this cute and clever method of presenting - the elevated planks give diners more table space (underneath the planks), and the food is served closer to your nose so the aromas hit you faster. There are also fish ($17 per person) and vegetarian ($13.50 per person) planks.
If you like the branded serviettes at Jamie's Italian, these are available for purchase at $24 a set, along with other merchandise like branded mugs, planks and Jamie Oliver's books. Please don't steal them - poor Jamie and crew have been losing napkins to light fingers since Jamie's Italian's early days.
The fish plank ($17 per person) comes with beetroot-cured salmon, mussels roasted with garlic, smoked mackerel pâté and a basket of breaded fish with yuzu mayonnaise. The salad, cheese and pickles come with each plank - quite worth the shillings, we think.
For us, the highlight of the fish plank ($17) was the sashimi-like beetroot cured salmon, which was served on ice. Fresh, thick-cut slices with a touch of the beetroot - the flavours are gentler than gravlax.
The crunchy salad (that features in every plank) is a medley of shaved root vegetables dressed with chilli, lemon and mint. We were told to have this last off the plank as a palate cleanser.
Jamie (and his mentor, Gennaro Contaldo - this is a collaborative effort after all) do meatied up versions of bruschetta. The Sicilian sardine (pickled fillets with red onion, pine nuts and sultanas served with a parsley and mint salad, $13.50). Vegetarians would like the bruschetta with pan-fried wild mushrooms, chilli and flat-leaf parsley atop wholemeal, levain bread ($15.50).
Children eat healthy at Jamie's Italian. All five of the kids' meal options ($11.50 each) come with a 'shake me salad' and an unlimited glass of Bottlegreen cordial (made with natural ingredients). The salad comes in a mason jar, with fresh vegetables and dressing for kids to shake up.
The kids' menu is presented via a Viewmaster. Such a clever way for kids to choose their food, and even got the adults at our table (ourselves included) excited.
Grab a seat at this high table by the entrance to watch the chefs make their own pasta. Pasta is made daily, and the task is entrusted to two chefs.
All the pasta used at Jamie's Italian, Vivocity is made fresh, daily, on the premises. It takes a minute and a half to cook the pastas so the production line is able to move faster.
All the pasta dishes at Jamie's Italian come in two sizes - appetiser and main. The vegetarian pasta alla norma (appetiser $12.50; main $19) is a hearty and very filling Sicilian classic in a rich tomato sauce with the aubergines. We love how the aubergines aren't cooked to mush - the freshness of the fruit adds a little rawness to the dish, which we like. First timers, we recommend ordering a couple of pastas in the smaller sizes for variety.
The tagliatelle bolognese (appetiser $15; main $22) has a ragù of beef and pork and is topped with Parmesan and crunchy, herbed breadcrumbs - not quite the classic version we were expecting, but we liked the texture imparted by the crumbs. This one comes highly recommended.
The wild truffle risotto (appetiser $16; main $24.50) is easy on the butter and cream but generous with the minced wild truffle. The truffle flavour is intense so if you do not like the pungent aroma, stay away.
The mains are massive (and best for sharing). The Pan-fried whole pink snapper ($32) is served with a white wine garlic and capers sauce topped with baby plum tomatoes. The freshness of the fish and the crisp white wine sauce makes this a lovely dish for our hot, humid weather.
The tender 30-day matured prime rib ($59) is 350g of Angus breed bone-in strip loin served with wild mushrooms and a peppery endive salad. It was done a little bit on the raw side so was chewy, and had strong, but not bitter, charred surfaces.
Definitely save space for multiple of servings of this - the 'Our famous polenta chips' ($7.50), which are crisp on the outside and crumbly, almost densely spongy, within. This clearly was worthy of the hype.
At Jamie's Italian the desserts do not disappoint, and you will need a separate stomach for these - the portions are generous. Their version of the tiramisu ($11.50) is a thick slab of coffee-infused trifle and orange mascarpone topped with vanilla ice-cream and flecks of orange peel. The coffee kick is intense, just how we like it. This is a good one to have during lunch to combat the food coma that will surely descend afterwards.
Our favourite was the creamy panna cotta (see our Instagram photo here), but the most popular dessert at Jamie's Italians the world over is the JI warm brownie ($11.50). The brownie itself is half-cake, half-amaretto mousse with bits of raspberry. A great end to a good meal.