The Place A new addition to the Joo Chiat precinct which I am personally very excited about, Forma is a new Italian restaurant along Tembeling Road with a pasta-focused programme by The Cicheti Group, in collaboration with Singapore’s foremost pasta artisan Yumhwa Lee of Ben Fatto.
With its corner shophouse unit location, the most charming part about the space for me is the floor to ceiling glass panes which makes the space extremely inviting. The group appointed integrated design firm Takenouchi Webb for its interior, and you can’t miss the street-facing, pasta production kitchen which should draw the eyes of curious onlookers.
The interior of Forma uses soothing colours, light timber walls while retaining as much of the original structure as possible, such as the white coat of paint over the original brick walls.
There is also an outdoor dining patio across the five-foot-way, which I can imagine as a nice dining ambience on cooler evenings.
The Food With a pasta focused theme, the menu at Forma is concise and you can expect a series of starters, pastas, mains and desserts. The opening selection features seven traditional pasta dishes based on regionality and framed broadly from North to South of Italy, and to the Islands.
For the wine list, it is inspired by the regional exploration of Italy in the pasta and food menu, with a 150-odd wine list spanning the country’s 20 wine regions from Valle d’Aosta in the north to Campania in the south, including unfamiliar grapes with the likes of Cesanese from Lazio, Nero di Troia from Puglia, and Schiopettino from Friuli. You get a mix of the new and old wine world.
My meal started with a series of appetisers, such as the Gnocco Fritto (S$14). This dish is inspired by the fried snacks that line the streets of Modena and Reggio Emilia, and you can expect fried parcels of lard-enriched dough served with cold lardo.
The Polpette di Baccalà (S$21) is a salted cod delicacy which I can snack on all day. You get a crispy texture of breaded bites mixed with mashed potato and seasoned with garlic, chives and parsley, along with a bright, creamy lemon aioli dusted with aleppo chilli.
What is an Italian email without some cured meats? The Smoked Speck Ham (S$18) here wraps up pan-roasted medjool dates with thin slivers of Speck Alto Adige IGP, a lightly cured and cold-smoked ham from Alto Adige, sprinkled with sea salt and extra virgin olive oil.
There is also the Prosciutto di San Daniele e Melone (S$24) where the famed proscuitto crudo of San Daniele is juxtaposed with the sweetness of grilled philibon melon, jalapeño jam, aged saporoso balsamic from Modena and a light dusting of fennel pollen.
The last starter I had was the Carciofi con Stracciatelladi Formaggio (S$21), a Sicilian-inspired cold starter with braised baby artichokes, stracciatella, balsamic braised black currants, pine nuts, mint salsa verde and breadcrumbs. I love that creamy stracciatella where the artichoke is moreish with the sauce.
On to pastas, I started with the Tortellini in Brodo (S$34), where the fresh egg pasta sheets are rolled out manually. Considered by many as the “king of pasta”, the pork-filled egg pasta floats in a clear, slow-simmered chicken brodo. The flavour of the broth is very light, while the tortellini spot a firm texture. As what chef shared with our table, this dish is almost like what an Italian grandma would prepare in the kitchen in a big pot. Very homely taste, and an apt pasta for a start.
Moving on, the Struncatura Ammollicata (S$32) is a flavourful pasta mixed with Mediterranean flavours of anchovies, taggiasca olives, chilli and Mollica di Pane—sauteed breadcrumbs that were considered ‘cheese of the poor’. There is an interesting story about this long bronze-extruded pasta, which used to be considered a ‘poor man’s dish’ because it was prepared with low-cost ingredients. This is also the reason the pasta goes with heavily flavoured ingredients like chilli and anchovies traditionally, which add flavour to the pasta.
My favourite pasta of the three I tried is easily the Pappardelle e Coda alla Vaccinara (S$36). The hand-rolled, wide, flat egg pasta is tossed in a braised oxtail ragu. The flavour is very wholesome and delicious, with a good bite to the pappardelle texture. I will totally order this again.
For mains, try the Merluzzo alla Scafata (S$38) which serves up a slab of pan-roasted blue cod. I love that crispy fish skin which is done perfectly, with special mention to the delicious cucielo vermouth-butter sauce. Some greens such as fava beans, English peas and cipollini onions along with prosciutto to balance the flavour of the dish.
Working with a local specialist butcher in Joo Chiat, Butcher Box, the menu also offers a daily selection of premium pork and beef cuts dry-aged for up to 55 days. I had the off-menu special Bistecca di Tomahawk (S$248), a 55-day dry-aged grass-fed Tomahawk from Little Joe Farm in Australia, where their beef products are guaranteed a minimum marbling scare of MB4+.
For the hefty price, this is good to share for 4-5 diners. The beef boasts a flavourful and tender taste profile, which I enjoyed on its own without any condiments. Served with slow-roasted garlic, and you can also opt for sauces like the homemade steak sauce, mustard salse verde or porcini gremolata to go with the beef.
For desserts, the Crostata al Limone (S$16) is a take on lemon tart where the Amalfi lemon curd lies beneath the fruit tea jelly. Quite a sweet one for me, and I definitely prefer the Torta della Nonna (S$18) comparatively.
Served with vanilla gelato, it does remind me of Chinese yam pastry as you get creamy ricotta and chestnut paste within the pastry, along with pine nuts on the plate. It is not too sweet, and the pastry goes very well with the gelato.
An interesting way to conclude your meal at Forma is the Digestivo – Caffè Correto followed by a Rexentìn (S$22). Not recommended if you are not a caffeine person at night, this is an espresso shot rinsed with Grappa di Brunello to wake your senses up.
Rants Not your usual neighbourhood price point, where there is a price to pay for the artisanal craft of making pasta where you can literally watch how the chefs roll and make them by the glass window. I do think the best dining experience here is with a small group of friends or family where you can share more dishes (and the bill) too.
Will I Return Again? There is something very charming about Joo Chiat and the addition of Forma adds much colour to the otherwise exciting neighbourhood with restaurants such as Asador and Common Man Coffee Roasters Joo Chiat right around the corner. The team at Forma has delivered a strong theme, and I really enjoyed the dining experience and vibes here.
This was an invited tasting, though all opinions expressed are our own.
Taste bud: 4/5
Hole in the pocket: 4/5
Overall Experience: 4/5
128 Tembeling Road
Tel: +65 6513 228
Tuesday to Saturday: 6pm to late (10pm last order for food)
Ranted by The Ranter