Published on Friday, 22 December 2017 00:00
Written by Cheryl Teo Kai Lin
Ah Bong's Italian is a little hole-in-the-wall etched into the side of Marrison Hotel, just a stone's throw away from Bugis MRT. This elusive cafe focuses on churning out affordable and authentic pasta dishes along with a variety of sides. This unassuming little bistro is a hot favorite among foodies in Singapore who have been keeping this place covert to prevent their favorite pasta place from overcrowding issues. Now the secret is out.
Ah Bong's Italian had its humble beginnings as a small food stall in Tiong Bahru Kopitiam, only operating for 4-5 hours a day from 10am – 2.30pm, until it moved to its current home along 103 Beach Road due to high demand.
The little eatery was born out of owner Chris' passion for the culinary arts that he has been harboring ever since the tender age of 10. However, he forayed into the corporate sector, fulfilling his dream of becoming an accountant first before he took the plunge and make a career switch into the F&B world about four to five years ago. It is all thanks to the love and support from his family who pushed him into becoming a chef that we are bestowed with delicious and affordable Italian grub.
Not only does Chris hold a degree from the London School of Economics, he also possesses a Diploma in Culinary Arts from at-Sunrice. And despite his short stint in F&B, it is impressive how he managed to get three Michelin star Chef Bruno Menard from La Cantine to train him and hone his culinary skills.
The shop is named after Chris' elder daughter who earned the nickname Ah Bong due to the frequency of her falling over when she was younger and knocking her head against the floor, with a sound effect that sounded like “bong”.
The Italian tavern was inspired by Chris' travels in Sicily where he stumbled upon an obscure hole-in-the-wall pasta restaurant around 12 years ago. The modest and unpretentious setting of the restaurant gave no inclination to how he would be blown away by the good old traditional pastas, created plain and simple from scratch with no frills, but whole-heartedly hearty and yummy with the surprisingly scant ingredients that go into the dishes. Chris attempted to replicate that wholesomely simple concept that he fell in love with, and the horde of regulars that he has accumulated over the years proves that it has been an immense success.
From left to right: Lervig Lucky Jack, Hofbräu München Original, Matso's Lychee Beer, and Matso's Hit the Toad
The small cafe stocks a rotation of carefully curated craft beers that will go down great with any of its dishes. We had the Lervig Lucky Jack, Hofbräu München Original, Matso's Lychee Beer, and Matso's Hit the Toad. Lervig Lucky Jack is the perfect beer to combat the sweltering heat of Singapore with the revitalizing flavors of grapefruit and citrus fruits. Hofbräu München Original is a classic German lager with refreshing, bright and bitter flavors that make it really easy to drink. Matso's Lychee Beer carries a syrupy sweet fragrance of lychees with a sticky mouthfeel with an aftertaste of canned lychee syrup that lingers. Matso's Hit the Toad is rather malty with a delicately sweet taste of corn.
Truffle Fries, $7
Deep-fried golden-brown and dusted in parmesan cheese, the steak-cut truffle fries are crisp on its exterior, yet soft and fluffy within. The bowl of truffle fries emanates that beloved earthy and musky aroma of truffles but it is kept subtle and light so that it does not overwhelm the palate.
Comfort Eggs, $8
Two jiggly onsen eggs nestled in a bed of sliced mangalica pork sausages and shiitake mushrooms is topped off with grated parmesan cheese and a few drops of truffle oil. This dish is hearty and comforting with the gooey yolky goodness of the onsen eggs, the earthy and musky flavors of the shiitake and truffle, and the fatty juices of the succulent mangalica pork sausages.
Simply Crab Cakes, $8
Three crab cakes are loaded with a ton of fresh crab meat and pan-fried golden brown. It has a crumbly and buttery crust, with an abundance of sweet and malty flakes of moist crab meat within that carry a faint whisper of its oceanic origin. There are no additional fillers used in packing the crabby patties, each bite is a mouthful of pure crustacean flesh that is an absolute joy to eat with the creamy and aromatic garlic mayo served on the side.
Crispy Pork Belly, $12
The crispy pork belly is so gloriously fatty that the gelatinous fat melts directly on the tongue, beautifully juxtaposed with the savory and crunchy crackling skin. This slow roasted pork belly is derived from the Duroc pig (black Spanish pig), a breed coveted for its tender flesh packed with layers of fat. The heartiness of this sinful dish is balanced out by the sweet and fruity burst of juices from the roasted cherry tomatoes.
Angus, $16 (dried pasta) / $21 (home-made pasta)
This is a pasta dish that will warm the cockles of any meat lover’s heart with the abundance of Angus beef cheek and Duroc pork incorporated into the flavorsome meat ragu. The Angus beef cheek imparts a slightly sticky and viscous texture to the pasta, while the Duroc pork provides a very fatty and tender bite. This pasta is MEATY, with more meat than pasta put together. It is beefy and porky, sweet and savory, and hearty and homely.
Amatriciana, $16 (dried pasta) / $21 (home-made pasta)
The amatriciana has been around since ancient Roman times. This humble and rustic pasta dish used to be fuel for the common folk, and has transcended through the ages for its simplicity and the bold balance of flavors. Ah Bong's Italian's version of this classic Italian dish is simple yet divine with the rich smoked salty pancetta, the sweet and tangy tomatoes, the heat from chili peppers and the evergreen crunch of broccoli.
Mentaiko, $16 (dried pasta) / $21 (home-made pasta)
This mentaiko pasta does not have the same creamy texture as the many run-of-the-mill mentaiko pastas that you find at other establishments. Instead of using cream as a filler, Chris indulges us with a generous abundance of mentaiko. The salty granules of cod roe are mixed with butter and tossed with the pasta. The result is a light and buttery pasta dish brimming with all the flavors of the ocean with a slightly sharp spicy kick.
Home-Made Tiramisu, $6
The mascarpone cheese is extremely light and fluffy yet ironically, creamy and rich, the perfect flavor and texture combination of an authentic Italian tiramisu. The lady finger biscuits that are packed at the bottom of the cup are heavily infused with a sweet and bitter alcoholic finish. This is a delicious pile of velvety bliss that we can't get enough of. Chris changes up the alcohol that goes into the tiramisu from to time. If you're lucky, you can even enjoy one incorporated with single malt whisky.
Ah Bong's Italian
Address: 103 beach rd, #01-02 (below marrison hotel), Singapore 189704
Hours: Mon – Sun 12pm – 2pm, 6pm – 9pm
Tel.: +65 9650 6194
Hi, I'm Cheryl. I possess a joie de vivre spirit unique to my character, my expressions of euphoria are wild in nature and I approach life like one colossal party. I love venturing into the unknown and exploring all that is possible; from exotic foods to cliff-diving. When I am not seeking out something extraordinary to check off my bucket list, I love curling up on a comfy couch with a glass of wine and a book in hand. Follow my personal adventures in my blog here where I let loose of all inhibitions, voice my inner-most emotions, exult in all that is wonderful, unleash the monsters within, lose myself in beautiful reveries, reminisce treasured memories and curate recherché experiences.