Orchard Plaza while considered to be in the heart of town, is known more for its tailor shops, KTV bars and massage shops.
Who would have thought there would be an Italian restaurant at Level 4 of a somewhat dingy building?
This is indeed a hidden find.
IL DEN means “an Italian home or shelter”, and is a one-man show operation of a restaurant that can sit about 8 to 10 people maximum.
Dining here almost felt like a home-kitchen, except that you may not know the person next to you when you come during lunch time.
Chef Javier used to work at Iggy’s for close to 6 years, then subsequently moved on to Cenci in Kyoto and Jekyll & Hyde.
After finally deciding to have his own place, he wanted to open at a small location to bring about a home kitchen concept to diners.
The idea of being a one-man-show operation was so that he would be able to bring down the cost of the menu, and customers would be paying more for the use of quality ingredients.
I went during lunch, suspiciously went up the elevators and was first surprised at the choice of location, then astounded by the number of seats, and more at the offerings and pricing.
You can expect Pasta priced between $9 and $16 – these are all hand-made pasta, done by the Chef early in the morning, and I do not know where else you can get hand-made pasta at this pricing.
Offerings included Cacio E Pepe, Chorizo, Bolognese, Carbonara, and Pesto.
As for the mains, you can find Braised Pork Jowl ($18), Duck Confit ($18), Brick French Chicken ($20), and Slow Cooked Short Ribs ($28).
The Foie Gras Egg Custard ($16) was akin to what you would find in a fine-dining restaurant, of jiggly soft egg custard paired with seared foie gras.
The jus used was made purely from chicken wings. Pure bliss after having.
I enjoyed the soft, eggy bite of the Carbonara ($15) pasta, except that the sauce could be too rich and creamy to finish the lot on my own.
Chef explained that the lunch crowd typically preferred something heavier, and the dinner of the Carbonara would be tamed down.
The Spanish Braised Pork Jowl ($18) was tender with good marbling, robust in flavours because the meat was seared and slow roasted in the oven overnight with tomatoes, herbs and spices.
While I was eating, Chef was preparing a whole lot of other stuff such as baking his own Focaccia. I had the luck to try a piece – superbly fragrant with a delectable crisp.
I told him it reminded me of Joël Robuchon’s, and I wasn’t being patronising when I said it.
During dinner, Japanese-Italian set dinners at reasonable prices of $50 and $75 are served. (This whole premise reminded me when I first had Teppei’s $40 Omakase which was full of heart and soul.)
Chef also mentioned that being a local chef in the F&B industry, without a well-to-do family or huge backing was extremely challenging.
He hopes that IL DEN will be the restaurant where customers keep returning, and find “home” in his humble place.
(After this review goes out, I have the feeling that this place will be packed-packed. He deserves it, and I think you deserve that good meal too.)
Orchard Plaza, 150 Orchard Road #04-21 Singapore 238841
Tel: +65 9117 1791
Opening Hours: Due to limited seatings, Reservations are preferred. Closed Sun, Mon
Lunch: 12pm – 3pm (Tue – Fri)
Dinner: 6pm – 9.30pm (Tue – Sat)
Supper: 9.30pm – 3am (Fri – Sat)
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