Feb 17, 2014

    Yummy mix of Italian and Japanese food


    Marina Square, 6 Raffles Boulevard, #02-100

    Hours: 11am to 11pm daily

    Tel: 6822-2098

    HE'S youthful, brimming with ideas and, most importantly, he's back. After a two-year hiatus as the head chef of modernist restaurant Keystone, which closed last year, Mr Mark Richards has resurfaced on the local culinary radar.

    This time, he's heading things up at the five-month-old Marina Square eatery, Nuvo, and his first task is to give the menu a spiffy reboot.

    Gone are the heavy pastas created by the restaurant's outgoing Japanese head chef and, in their place, lighter plates bearing a mixed heritage - as though an Italian married a Japanese and bore local school-enrolled, Singlish-speaking children.

    The Angel Hair Wakame ($18/$24) is an Italian capellini sprinkled with Japanese seaweed and tossed in chilli oil, like you would a bak chor mee.

    The Green Tea Pan Di Spagna ($12) is a matcha cake with the moist density of a nonya kueh, and is served topped with a comforting banana jam and a crumble of Hello Panda (yes, the chocolate biscuit you may still remember from your childhood).

    Likewise, the Ricotta Cheesecake ($15), which bears a characteristically Japanese melt-in-your-mouth lightness and is served spiked with chocolate Pocky sticks.

    "I've missed the kitchen - all the buzz and the noise in it. That was what drove my decision to return to the motherland," says the 38-year-old Eurasian chef, who spent his break consulting on restaurant projects in China, Mongolia and Russia.

    "Plus, I really liked the concept. Singaporeans are crazy about their Japanese food and their Italian food, so it's a no-brainer to come up with a menu that brings together both cuisines."

    On his obsession with scientific cooking techniques - about 90 per cent of his dishes are sous-vide, including the risotto - Mr Richards says it's something he picked up while working in Hawaii in 2003, and he hasn't looked back since.

    "It's a practical way of cooking, it gives a better, consistent result by eliminating human error, and you are giving more justice to the produce," he explains. "But at the end of the day, the base has to be in classical cooking, and then we evolve the food from there."