With Chinese New Year nearly upon us, many restaurants will be offering special Lunar New Year menus featuring seasonal dishes usually eaten at this time of the year. One of these restaurants will be Tamarind Hill, owned by the luxury hospitality chain Samadhi Retreats. To get to it, you’ll have to drive (or take a long walk) deep inside Labrador Nature Reserve, where the forest will part to uncover a bungalow that looks like it was built in the colonial era for the residence of a British official. That’s not far off from the mark; it started as Labrador Villa, the residence of George John Mansfield, a British shipping magnate. But in 2018, it’s now a fine dining restaurant specialising in Thai and Shan cuisine.
Nestled in Basement Two of Vivocity, Buono Trattoria will not attract much attention at first glance. The restaurant, while brightly lit, is plainly designed. Neither is this a place where you will linger. With low partitions, the noise from the busy thoroughfare outside the restaurant filters in easily.
But Buono Trattoria is saved by its quick service, good food, and reasonable prices. It is not fine dining, but individuals and groups looking for a fuss-free, unpretentious, and delicious meal will probably leave satisfied. Most dishes are priced between 5 to 15 dollars.
I also find the option to customise your own pastas and pizzas to be an attractive feature of this restaurant (more on that below). Families with children would probably find Buono Trattoria a fun place to dine at.
I begin my meal with the Cream of Mushroom Soup ($5++). Portioned decently, flavoured evenly, and with just the right consistency, Buono Trattoria’s mushroom soup passes my taste test for its price.
I also like the Frittura Di Calamari ($12++; tasting portions depicted). The calamari rings are fried in an appetising golden colour, and I find the fried squid fresh and firm to the bite. The rings are also infused with sweet paprika and fresh herbs, making them highly addictive with each bite.
The Chicken Wings (6pcs) ($8++; tasting portions depicted) are similarly flavourful, and are rightfully deserving of its claim as a “best-seller”. While I think the spice-coated chicken wings and drumlets could be larger, I am happy with the price-to-quality-flavour ratio.
Customize your own Pastas and Pizzas!
Buono Trattoria serves good pasta. The Linguine Chicken & Pesto ($12++) has a pleasantly distinctive nutty flavour, thanks to its home-made pesto cream sauce. The Baked Porcini Mushrooms Ravioli ($12++) is also a standout dish because of its delicious homemade beef bolognaise, use of three types of cheeses and flavourful mushrooms. I am not usually a fan of ravioli because it has the potential to be overly starchy. But Buono Trattoria’s rendition contains a good ratio of filling to dumpling skin.
The restaurant offers you the opportunity to create your own pasta, from $9++ onwards. You choose from three pasta types (Spaghetti, Penne and Linguine) and three sauces (Aglio Olio, Pomodoro or Cream). To complete your customised order, you select at least two toppings from the vegetables, dairy/meat and seafood categories.
This customisation option is available for pizzas too. From $10++ onwards, you mix and match fresh toppings comprising vegetables, dairy/meat and seafood, to go with Buono Trattoria’s signature pizza crust. The restaurant produces its dough in small batches and hand-kneads it.
Buono Trattoria’s pizzas come in two sizes – an 8-inch version which is good for up to two people, and a 12-inch size which can feed four people. Unfortunately, I find the crust on my 8-inch Hawaiian pizza ($15++) a little hard, though the rest of the pizza is fine. There are better pizzas elsewhere, but at this price point, I can’t really complain.
Affordable desserts where the magic happens
I am most excited for desserts, with each ranging between $5-8. Buono Trattoria’s Panna Cotta ($5++) is an example of the magic that can happen when cream and mango puree are expertly combined. Though the middle-aged couple at the next table grouse about the sweetness of the panna cotta, I have no issue with it.
While Buono Trattoria is not a cosy place for dinner, it is a good place for families and friends to adjourn to after a long day of shopping at the mall. The restaurant works because it is casual, convivial, and serves high-quality fare at wallet-friendly prices. I would make a return visit if I am in the area and am seeking a quick and affordable dining place with friends, before adjourning to one of the attractions in the vicinity.
Thank you, Buono Trattoria, for the invitation.
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