Buko Nero, play of the Italian words Buco (meaning hole) and Nero (black), is a quaint little Asian-Italian restaurant along Tanjong Pagar Road. It has been at this current location for the past 15 years since opening in year 2000, managed by husband and wife, Oscar & Tracy Pasinato. The cooking is done by Chef Oscar and Tracy attends to customers. I have been wanting to try the food here for a while but never got down to calling to make reservations as I heard you need to call months in advance.
It was a rainy afternoon and I happened to be in the area. So counting my lucky stars, I stepped into the newly renovated Buko Nero, praying that there will be a spot for just myself. Phew it wasn’t crowded! I was greeted by Tracy and she shortly introduced the Chef Oscar’s lunch menu to me.
I went for the Cauliflower, Dill and Crab soup; Wanton Ravioli with Braised Beef and Porcini Sauce. I had a tough time deciding to go for Halibut or Ravioli, well I can always swing by for lunch again given the really affordable prices 🙂 As for desserts, I chose the Milk Chocolate Cake with Caramel Coulis (minus the nuts as I am not fond of nuts).
Took a look at their Ala-Carte menu as I waited for my food to be served. Would really like to try on my next visit, the renowned Buko Nero Tau Kwa Tower (Beancurd Tower), Rigatoni with Braised Lamb Ragu and Baked Cod with curry leaves crust in an orange & fennel reduction. The menu is so interesting and I got really hungry reading it. They do have a good selection of Italian wines to go along with the food as well, which Chef Oscar will be more than happy to make a recommendation if you are unsure of the pairing.
This bite size appetiser was a surprise as it was not in the lunch menu. And it was super delicious! The rich creamy Mascarpone cheese coupled with the sweetness and tinge of spice from the pimiento, tantalising the palate for the courses of food to come. Just a tiny portion makes one wish for more of it. Less is better, almost always.
Big fan of cauliflower (If you don’t already know from The Refinery entry) and crab of course. The rich smooth soup was a delight, with sweetness of cauliflower and oceanic flavours of crab, peppered with the aromatic dill. If the soup is so good, I really can’t wait for the entrée.
Sorry my photography really doesn’t do the ravioli justice. The fresh Wanton Raviolis were generously filled with well-seasoned braised beef, coupled with the savoury Porcini mushroom sauce. Mushroom and beef never wrong together, and this unique presentation was perfect for me the non-carbo eater. It’s almost like a special zhi-char (hawker) dish like Beef Wantons in Mushroom Sauce, in an Italian way.
Though I am pretty full by now, I really needed a caffeine fix so I ordered a cuppa latte to go with my dessert.
The crumbs on the top are baked crisps part of the chocolate cake, and there’s a milk chocolate filling inside the sponge. Good combination of textures in the mouth, a little crunch from the crumbs and soft sponge cake with the creamy chocolate filling. Definitely pleasurable for the sweet tooth peeps, but not so much for me. I should have stuck with the lemon and raspberry cake with yogurt coulis that I intially wanted, will try that next time!
Overall, the lunch only cost me $33. Really worth it for the authentic home-made flavours and unique Asian-Italian dishes by Chef Oscar. I would definitely revisit to try out their set dinners and Ala-Carte items in a group. If you were to ask me to compare Buko Nero with Pasta Brava, it’s really quite different. Buko Nero being Asian Italian fusion in an intimate cosy ambience, latter being authentic pure Italian in a crowded (good way) bigger restaurant. I would go probably head to Buko Nero in a small group (couple or 3-4 pax) and bigger groups at Pasta Brava.
For those of you who have always wanted to try out Buko Nero, they are open for lunch on Fridays and Saturdays. Dinners from Tuesdays to Saturdays. Set dinner ranges from $60 onwards. As Buko Nero has limited seat capacity (20 odd seater), do call a week in advance to reserve.
126 Tanjong Pagar Road