[Seasonal Specials] ilLido at the Cliff celebrates the White Asparagus

The White Asparagus is the harbinger of spring. These tender stems packing in some amazing sweet and clean flavors that fetch some insane prices at the onset of the season, and then subsequently making an appearance in every nook and cranny of Farmers markets all over Europe till the end of July.

Every year, there's a slew of restaurants that put these albino varietals on their special menus even on our local shores. From gnocchi to the classic egg Milanese, ilLido at the Cliff joins the ranks, even resorting to using white asparagus in a fancy dessert to seal the deal. There is an awkward, inexplicable backlash to this trick; but whether or not it showcases the vegetable in all its glory, you'll just have to hang in there till the finale for the verdict.

From the 8th June to 30th July 2017, ilLido at the Cliff celebrates White Asparagus Season with a luxurious seasonal menu curated by Chef Mentor Beppe DeVito and Chef de Cuisine Simone Fraternali. Stellar panoramic views of the South China Sea and a charismatic environment that draws you in more so with ruby reds trickled into long stemmed glasses; it is a no-brainer that this restaurant is the destination of numerous special occasion celebrations (we single-handedly witnessed the birthday song chimed 3 times in one dinner seating). Money squandered here makes you feel exclusive, special, and figuratively richer at the end of the meal.

From the regular menu, the Grilled Octopus with Confit tomatoes and Potato Cream ($29) goes a long way to show off the culinary pedigree of the restaurant. Tender morsels of octopus take on a smoky flavor from the grill, more importantly, the luxurious mounds of lump less potato cream packing promises of fastidiousness in the kitchen. Seasoned to perfection, this was unadulterated pleasures on the palate that needed nothing more than sips of white wine edged with a teensie bit of acidity to balance out its inherent sweetness.

Looking for something a little high minded? - the Pan Roasted Foie Gras with Raspberries and Duck Jus ($30) does the trick. It's handsomely arranged on a plate, the fattiness of the duck liver counterbalanced by freeze-dried raspberry bites and a bed of wilted spinach salad below.

Under the White Asparagus offerings, the White Asparagus with Lobster Knuckles ($32) pleases the eye with a top-hat of charcoal tuile. The lemon like bite of amalfi lemon hollandaise and it's true citrus notes acting like welcome rays of sunshine breaking into the gourmet chain of ingredients. The Baked White Asparagus with Egg Milanese and Veal Jus ($30) pleases with a thin crusted fried soft boiled egg over tender asparagus, freshly shaved truffles and a rich veal jus drizzled around the edges. Though fashionably austere and somewhat predictable, some combinations just never get old

As were most of the appetisers pleasing, the Hokkaido Scallop Crudo with Tuna Tartare and Sweet Peas ($30) is a delicate slumber party of the finest. It's fresh flavors enhanced by honest dollops of pea puree that earths the sea-worthy combination. 

If Singapore ever had a cold winter night, the Pappardelle with Iberico Pork Ragout and Guanciale ($34) would probably be just the thing. Think insanely delicious hunks of pulled pork that has taken a luxurious bath in top grade oil, quite reminiscent of a duck rillette between thin sheets of pasta and shards of guanciale scattered over that ridiculous mess. The Tagliolini with Hokkaido Scallops and Bottarga ($38) however looked more refined than it was hearty on the palate. The verdict: there was no care for seasoning lavished on this dish, the roster of expensive ingredients decking out the pasta relegating this offering to stepchild status. Deeply disappointing.

Far more prominent is the Truffle Parmigiano Filled Gnocchi with White Asparagus and Carbonara ($36) - the round mounds coloured a faint blue hide a mysterious secret ingredient. Japanese yam is used to substitute some of the usual potato suspect resulting in its extra tender disposition. Extra careful poaching techniques have been put in place to maintain it's structural integrity during the cooking process and the dish causes quite a clamour at the table. Sharing provokes tensions: Who's settling the last bite?

There's a Grand Canyon-esque gap between a slice of good quality cod and a perfectly seared slab still succulent in the center. At ilLido at the Clift, there's a Black Cod with Caramelized Celeriac and Lemon Capers ($48) on the menu that looks especially sharp on the plate. Like Soviet constructive art but brimming with the glow of spring. Outstanding. A blushing Beef Tenderloin with unnecessary adornments of foie gras is bested by its pirate mates of White asparagus and jewelled Masala wine beef jus reduction ($48) - these slices beckoned to be picked up from the plate at the speed of lightning, the come-hither mix of textures irresistible for most carnivores.

If there are a lot of you at the table; a  mix of desserts is a decision that you won't come to regret. It's strangely light amalgamations balanced out by invasion of citrus, making it all too easy to make disappear. The ilLido Tiramisu ($18) shows up free-form, jazzy with masala infused ricotta cheese above espresso and liquor fuelled sponge. This is one gem that you want to be selfish about. Don't worry, I don't judge, in fact I'll encourage the slow shift of plates in one direction. Yours. The typical Chocolate Mousse ($18) combination strays from the norm with nuances of Jamaican pepper, the rum glazed strawberries cushioning the spicy implications.

Then we arrive at the crux of the matter, the Vanilla and Orange Creme Brulee with White Asparagus Gelato ($20) - hold up, yes, the prized vegetable stylized into dessert form. Kudos to the team for their efforts to incorporate this into a sweet young thing, however, the combination does present its flaws. The rare and fleeting beauty of white asparagus immortalised in a sweet gelato hammering forth the vegetal yet resoundingly sweet flavor. This dish on a whole however had no single voice, which moved from soft folds of orange brulee anchored by a caramelized sugar crust to the quirky cold scoop. Jarring and somewhat of a letdown if you're hoping for something a little harmonious. 

If you're game to try ilLido's streamlined perfection of white asparagus infiltration, make sure to get on it before the 30th July. Diners will get to enjoy the courses a la carte or as a full fledged 3 or 4 course menu priced at $88++ and $98++ respectively during dinner service.

ilLido at the Cliff
Sofitel Singapore Sentosa Resort and Spa
2 Bukit Manis Road
t: 6884 6884

Operating Hours:
Daily: 6pm - 10pm
Sat - Sun: 12pm - 2 30pm (Saturday Prosecco Brunch is available on every 1st and 3rd Saturday of the month)

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