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Entertainment, Food & Beverage

Woody steakhouse with funky beef

Celeb chef Mario Batali is looking to add steakhouse Carnevino to his chain of Italian restaurants here
The Straits Times - October 8, 2012
By: Rebecca Lynne Tan
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Woody steakhouse with funky beef PHOTO: MARINA BAY SANDS

American-Italian celebrity chef Mario Batali is planning a third restaurant in Singapore, 21 months after opening Pizzeria Mozza and Osteria Mozza at Marina Bay Sands.

The pony-tailed chef-restaurateur will be bringing his Italian steakhouse concept, Carnevino, to Singapore's Central Business District.

A location has not been finalised yet, but if all goes well, the restaurant, which started in Las Vegas and has a Hong Kong branch, may likely open in the next six months to a year.

Chef Batali, who co-owns 25 restaurants in the United States, Hong Kong and here, adds that most cultures will want to "eat a little beef now and then", and is certain that the market here will "love it".

He was in town over the weekend to check up on his current restaurants and visit the potential location for his new steakhouse.

Diners can expect Carnevino here to embody the wood-feel of a traditional steakhouse.

The 52-year-old Batali says: "We don't like shiny metal. In Italy, they still like shiny metal, like 1984 didn't stop. I think it's hilarious.

"I like wood and the colours of autumn. For me, they say comfort, warmth, happiness, structure, stability."

But what will set Carnevino apart from other steakhouses here, including Wolfgang Puck's Cut at Marina Bay Sands and Ruth's Chris Steak House which opened 11/2 months ago at Marina Mandarin Singapore?

It all boils down to the ageing process of the steaks, says chef Batali. "It's that rotting, ageing funkiness that makes the steak truly delicious, which a lot of restaurants don't understand or don't care to appreciate," he says.

For now, the chef is undecided on whether the restaurant will offer beef from Australia or the US. He also did not say which chef would helm Carnevino in Singapore.

A price point has not been set yet, but if Hong Kong's month-old Carnevino is anything to go by, expect to spend about US$120 (S$148) a head.

Chef Batali adds: "Carnevino will feel like fine dining because it costs like fine dining, but it's a steakhouse so it is kind of more visceral."

Of his two existing restaurants here, he could not be more proud and says that both have "exceeded expectations".

So impressed with the quality of the pizza at Pizzeria Mozza - he had a slice an hour before his interview with Life! last Saturday - he tells this reporter that it is even better than the pizza at the original outlet in Los Angeles.

He says: "They are not going to want to hear this in Los Angeles, but I'm very excited about it.

"There's a crispy airy-ness and a lightness to what we call the frame or the cornicione. If you cut straight across and you look in, you see lots of variations of holes, bubbles. And that it is still crispy on the outside - like you were biting into a fluorescent light bulb - the way it shatters, it's unbelievable."

Asked whether more of his restaurants, or perhaps a second offshoot of Roman-style trattoria Lupa could be on the cards here, he says: "Carnevino makes the first step, then we see how we feel."

Lupa opened in Hong Kong in April this year. The restaurant first opened in New York in 1999.

Chef Batali's Singapore restaurants were his first overseas ventures, which then paved the path for his foray into Asia.

He sees Hong Kong as a hybrid of East and West and a stepping stone into Shanghai and greater China, where he plans to take his brand of pizzas and pastas.

Other restaurants in the works include a Sicilian restaurant in New York.

The New York-based chef says: "The reason we build new restaurants isn't because we've decided we want to take over the world. It's really because we have a sous chef who has been with us long enough to be ready to leave and go work for someone else.

"And instead of letting him work for somebody else, we say, 'You have an idea? You want to open a restaurant with us?' and then we start talking it through."

'It's that rotting, ageing funkiness, that makes the steak truly delicious, which a lot of  restaurants don’t understand or don’t care to appreciate.'

Chef Mario Batali on what will set Carnevino apart from other steakhouses here

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