Reviewers Food Fight Spills Over To


Someone called “ice” posted a comment on this blog saying, “ivan you have traveled (and eaten :P) alot, what is your criteria for a truly “authentic” Italian restaurant in Singapore? There have been lots of debate recently over the “authenticity” of Italian restaurants here, I’m just wondering if there really isn’t any locally. But I’m not anal about it.”

3 sentences and two – I can’t comment about the 3rd – inaccuracies. Firstly, I’ve not traveled enough, Singapore Airlines will back me up on this.

Singapore Airlines: “ivan has not traveled enough.”

Secondly, I could only find one debate regarding the “authenticity” of Italian restaurants in Singapore and that’s in the Hungry Go Where website. And it’s between ice and Xin Foo. So, actually it’s one debate with lots of sound and fury.

It could be all this fury started with Xin Foo’s comment that ice’s “pictures taken from the dishes presented are just a turn off and its a fact.

Them’s fighting words. Ideally I should end this entry here, but if you really like to know my view on “authenticity”…

The problem with deciding authenticity is with the drawing of lines. Some might define that the only authentic Italian restaurants are those to be found in Italy. Let’s keep things simple and not go into DOC/DOCG. But what of Italians, to use a random nationality, who open restaurants outside of Italy? Can these restaurants be called “Italian Restaurants”?

Let’s use a Singaporean example. Buono in the Serangoon area, owned by an Italian (Salvatore) with a Chinese Executive Chef. I like the food but can I call it an “Italian Restaurant”? Salvatore only cooks on Tuesdays, so does that mean it’s an Italian Restaurant on Tuesdays only and the rest of the time it’s a Chinese Restaurant?

That’s a silly question because everyone knows that Buono is actually a Singaporean Restaurant.

Anyway, is there a “true” Italian way of presenting Italian food like Tiramisu? I don’t know but I’m pretty happy if it is served to me in a plate with the necessary utensils. However, I can’t abide Tiramisu using sponge fingers as it is usually too hard to absorb much flavor, but some people like the chew.

While I applaud and admire – from a distance – people who make the effort to authenticate the origins of restaurant cuisine (if indeed this is the case) in Singapore, it is not a priority of mine when it comes to food. Sure it makes things more interesting but it is not important to me.

I find that the lines drawn in such discussions are circular and quickly degenerate, in an attempt to gain the moral high ground, into hurtful personal statements.


Posted on 9th Aug 2008 in Food and Drink, Musings, Singapore


There Are 7 Comments


ice commented on August 9, 2008 at 6:16 am

Ivan: First, there is more than one debate on HGW, but it was the Cugini’s furore which made me asked you that question. Second, what started the virtual debate was not coz she commented on my pictures. She only went to dig up my pictures from the past, after my first comment following Russ’s.

Anyway, authenticity or not it’s not my priority too. I’m just wondering why there are such misgivings about it.


xiix commented on August 10, 2008 at 10:10 am

Hmmm, interesting debate about authenticity. However, a restaurant or a cuisine’s authenticity is really one of personal preference and opinion isn’t it?

It’s like being told by my ang moh friends ‘We/ I LURVEE Singapore Fried Noodle/ Singapore Chop Suey’ and me drawing a blank on my face. Never knew such rubbish dishes existed until I went to Australia and EU. Subsequently, I’ve learned that these 2 bastard dishes are well known in most westernised world ala their chinese takeaway.

Off tangent I know… …but why complicate matters so much? Authenticity, fake, etc etc, end of day it taste good, we consume it and it becomes $h1t. Food goes in, food comes out….

It’s like the over fussed ‘haute cuisine’ sweeping Singapore at the moment with most plates coming with a mysterious foam. I hate that! Looks like the chef spat his phlegm and put it on a plate. And foie gras, wagyu beef everywhere…boring lah.

Other than slow food movement, perhaps a new wave should start. Good ingredients sourced locally (if possible), prepared simply and served.

End of the day: don’t over complicate everything lah!


Ivan commented on August 11, 2008 at 2:33 am

@xiix: Agree, unfortunately being on an island with very little resources, any attempt (worthwhile it may be) at “sourcing locally” will come up wanting. But I do agree that simplest is bestest. 🙂

@ice: Well, I came to the conclusion when I saw the timestamps of the posting of your comment on my blog and the “debate(s)” going on at I didn’t dig further as I couldn’t be bothered to as it was tangential to my blog entry. If authenticity is not a priority, why get so worked up about it? I do not see the need to run down everyone who disagrees with my world view.


xiix commented on August 13, 2008 at 8:22 am

Agree agree, but in the current fake concern about being green etc, does that mean that Singapore is a horrid offender? For e.g., a nice piece of aberdeen black angus beef would have flown half way round the way to be on the menu.

I am also getting interested in the providence of ingredients ie the who, how, when, what and why of an ingredient. In UK, all the good restaurants lists the providence of the ingredients, not just it being organic or not.

I just wished that our government is not so hell bent on modernity in the 60s (and now) and phased out majority of our farms. Tragic.


ivan commented on August 13, 2008 at 9:30 am

@xiix: You just made me salivate with “Aberdeen Black Angus”… 🙂 I would term it as “uninformed” as opposed to “fake”. I do believe that as a nation we cannot survive on agriculture alone, so the move to phase out the farms, while tragic, is a right one. It’s great to hear that you are interested in the origin of ingredients though.


xiix commented on August 13, 2008 at 11:06 pm

I is so bad…teasing you with Aberdeen Black Angus and am happy to know that unlike almost all of my friends, you actually don’t rule British beef out altogether! Most of them just go ‘Uh….BSE/ Mad Cow Disease, better don’t eat British beef’.

Next time, I shall perform a burlesque for you with Berkshire Pork, Salt Marsh Lamb, Scottish Raspberries, Irish Oysters… ….


Amphora commented on September 1, 2008 at 1:42 am

About authenticity of Italian food, I have noticed that a lot of the local people do not really like authentic food. It is too foreign to their taste, it needs to be “Singaporianized” and only this version is accepted.
But this happens to most food allover the world isn’t it? How “Singaporean” are the so called “Singapore noodles” that you can buy for a couple of Pounds in Camden Town, London? And let’s not forget that even in Italy proper, today as I am writing and you are reading, a Moroccan, Nigerian, Chilean, Peruvian, Philipino, Rumanian or Croatian cook may be cooking your meal in the kitchen, because his salary is more affordable to the restaurant owner than a salary due to a proper Italian chef. Does this make the food in the Italian restaurant in Italy less authentic? Should we hence finally avoid the pettyness of judging other people’s work just for the sake of being ugly?

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