Monday, December 26, 2011

Avanti Expresso, Robertson Quay

 If you've been shopping around for discount coupons you should have no doubt come across Avanti Expresso, a new establishment promising [sic] breathtaking view at Robertson Quay. We bought the coupon that promised us $9.90 for a 4 course set meal of soup/salad, pasta, coffee and dessert (UP: $18.90). Pretty sweet deal!

 We made a reservation for lunch on Boxing Day / my birthday :)

 Firstly I wouldn't quite put this place at Robertson Quay, technically it is but it's right at the end past Boomarang and Em by the River and you will find it right next to Kith Cafe, and directly opposite Miramar Hotel. Long walk from Clarke Quay!

 A rather small place with about 6 tables indoors and a few outdoors, and not much of a view to be honest! But for me it's (almost) all about the food ...

The starter came with a choice of salad or soup. I had the Caesar salad which was just that - leaves with caesar dressing. A little chicken or cheese would have made it better but salad's salad!

{ Caesar Salad }
 Had the asparagus soup to start. Tasted suspiciously like generic Campbell's Cream of X from a can. My first impression of the food quality was somewhat diminished.

{ Cream of Asparagus }

 Not at all impressed by the starters, we had to wait an inordinately long amount of time before the mains came.

Now I'll be honest and say I don't order Carbonara often because I'm always afraid of getting the white creamy/soupy version that Pizza Hut popularized in our younger years. Might this be one of the first proper, traditional non-creamy Carbonara I've had? Possibly. Was it awesomely light, but sweet and rich in egg yolk flavour with every bite? Absolutely. The traditional Carbonara is a simple recipe, yet done so well here and tasted so magnificent. And the little bits of bacon also done right - thin and crispy like a cracker.

{ Spaghetti Carbonara }
The classic recipe with bacon, cream, egg yolk and parmesan cheese

 My Putanesca arrived, and I was eager to dig in. The heaped pile of penne looked very scrummy and I could see the fibrous bits of anchovies and capers generously tossed within the pasta. Now I took a bite and unfortunately had to wince from the all the saltiness. Now, I understand Putanesca is meant to be a tad salty but this was like a score of 17 on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being 'Mouth-is-collapsing-into-itself-salty'!

I then gave in to separating the pasta from the anchovies and capers, even though the saltiness lingered. We decided to sound this out to the waiter (who we later found out was the chef) just so they are aware. Without hesitation, he apologized and offered to replace the dish entirely. I was almost dumbfounded by the generosity and swift action. I took his very kind offer, and let him surprise me with whatever he wanted to make - all the while feeling bad, because we were dining at a discount and this would be an additional cost to them.

{ Penne Putanesca }
Short pasta with italian sausage, tomato and olive

 Might have been the Christmas mood, might have been the warm and funny staff and service, or it might have been the fact that it was  's birthday, but we didn't quite let that little hiccup get us down. In fact the honest apology and the earnestness in his offering to replace our dish from the chef might even have made us feel bad that they were going to make us another pasta!

We shared the Carbonara while waiting for the pasta to arrive, and lo and behold we were indeed surprised when he returned with ravioli in pesto - one of  's favourites! Homemade pesto and TEEMING with pine nuts, the pesto itself was divine in oil / basil flavour and we so well with the spinach/cheese ravioli. As a personal preference I preferred my pesto with less nuts and more basil (so it's more green and saucy instead of nutty and chunky), but this was still so great and  absolutely adored it.

{ !!! }
 This picture doesn't look pretty at all but seriously, this ravioli in pesto was so effing good! Now when he came out with this, I immediately said, "How did you know I love pesto?" - because I really do! This rendition is a little heavy on the nutty side, but I actually really like it this way! The texture is similar to satay sauce (sorry for lack of better illustration) and the crunch of the pine nuts along with the herbiness of the basil was a very fine birthday present :P I could eat this stuff everyday, I swear.

 Already quite satisfied with the great pastas, we had one last dish which were profiteroles - comes with chocolate cream and covered with chocolate flakes and this sweet cream/foam thing. Was pretty good but wish it was a lot colder!

 From the great service and the chitchat with the lively staff and chef, I quite literally asked   if I should tip them - even though they did oversalt the putanesca, I thought their recovery was great and that they did deserve it! But she said "no la just order more coffee" which we did (coffee is great by the way).

Made me feel even bad when I was going to pay for the two extra coffees but the staff said the coupon actually included free flow of drinks, so even the two extra coffees were free! I quite literally insisted on paying for the extra coffees but he refused and said that we should just come back - which we will :)

Honestly at $9.90 for a pasta set lunch - at a new establishment no less - I was expecting nothing more than a cheap eat. What we found instead was a true gem run by magnificent staff with big hearts, and authentic great pastas (even though as the chef said it himself, he's still learning!). I would most definitely revisit for another relaxing Monday coffee.

 An incredibly memorable lunch! Great service makes ALL the difference and we are really glad to have known what great service is all about :) if you're reading this, Avanti folks, the couple in matching green outfits can't wait to be back!

HGW Link (50% recommended at time of posting) :
Rating (out of 4) : 

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