The scent of truffles and saffron wafts through the air under a HDB block in Ang Mo Kio, which is not a usual smell that one would associate with the heartlands. The trail of the mouthwatering aroma leads to a cozy, casual Italian restaurant that prides itself on serving gourmet Italian cuisine at affordable prices to the masses.
Right off the bat, I will have to inform you that PocoLoco is a very modest, no-frills Italian eatery. So if you are looking for a restaurant with a romantic ambience to impress a date, this is not the right establishment for you. However, if you are one of the smart, money-savvy ones who prefers to pay just for the food and not for the décor, the waiters’ tuxedos and exorbitant rental of the place, you will be ecstatic to stumble across this unpretentious hidden gem in Ang Mo Kio where everything is listed in nett price without GST, service charge or any other additional hidden costs.
is mainly all about the food, the owners have also taken some care in making the restaurant look pleasant and inviting, choosing to go along with a simplistic interior with pictures of Italy adorning the walls, which are painted a relaxing shade of green, an open-concept kitchen and typical furniture that you often find in cafes.
Just like PocoLoco’s appearance and pricing of dishes, the owners are really humble and down to Earth as well, but that does not mean that they are amateurs in the F&B scene. The owners have been in the industry for about a decade and have opened many successful restaurants and eateries from the classy Ristorante Takada, a fine-dining Italian-Japanese fusion restaurant, to the modest Siam Square Mookata.
PocoLoco opened on 23rd December 2015, and though this little Italian restaurant is tucked away in an Ang Mo Kio neighborhood which makes it rather hard to locate, it has already received so much hype and recommendations that the restaurant is filled to the brim during mealtimes with snaking queues of hungry customers who travel from all corners of Singapore just to have an affordable taste of Italy. The restaurant seats a maximum number of 44 pax, and while reservations can be taken made, they are limited as there are a certain number of tables set aside for walk-in customers.
Fegato D’oca, $12
Goose Liver (Foie Gras) with Truffle Cream
Cooked medium-rare, this piece of foie gras melts in your mouth like butter and secretes all its lovely fatty juices everywhere. The truffle cream sauce that comes with it is very light and mellow while still retaining its musky truffle essence without being too overpowering. The foie gras, truffle cream and balsamic vinegar creates the perfect balance of sweet, salty, savory, creamy and earthy when eaten together. This rich and decadent appetizer is bound to whet your appetite and leave you eagerly anticipating the arrival of your next dishes.
Homemade Toast with Tomato Salad
I was informed by the owners that this dish is one of the more popular items on their menu, and it is easy to find out why. It is a homely appetizer that consists of a zesty tomato salad and bread that is simple yet satisfying. The bread is handmade from scratch in-house, and is served warm slathered with a concoction of olive oil and butter underneath a refreshing tomato salad made up of olive oil, garlic, onions, basil, homemade tomato sauce and diced tomatoes. The bread which is crunchy around the edges but soft and fluffy on the inside coupled with the juicy and tangy tomato salad makes for a very invigorating and comforting dish.
Squid Ink Pasta
It is hard to see what is going on in this dish as everything is blacked out by the squid ink. It might not be a very Instagrammable main course but it sure does leave the patron with a good taste in his/her mouth. The pasta is cooked al dente before being tossed in tomato sauce and squid ink. The tomato sauce adds a little bit of zing and sweetness to the pasta while the squid ink gives off a natural briny and salty taste.
(Disclaimer: Pasta pictured here is half the size of the normal serving as this is the media tasting portion. The normal portion that costs $12 will be twice the quantity pictured.)
Zafferano Risotto, $13
Seafood Risotto with Saffron Sauce
You can instantly smell the perfumey aroma from the saffron as this risotto arrives at the table. This seafood risotto is extremely value for money as it is generously spammed with the taste of the sea and saffron stems. Simmered in chicken stock with prawns and squid rings, the Zafferano Risotto has a creamy texture with the right amount of parmesan without being too cheesy and sickening, and the rice has a nice bite to it without being too mushy. The seafood taste was a little too strong for me, but then again, I am not a fan of seafood. Despite that, the flavors and smells of the saffron really came through for this risotto and gave off a sweet and delicate tone to the dish.
(Disclaimer: Risotto pictured here is half the size of the normal serving as this is the media tasting portion. The normal portion that costs $13 will be twice the quantity pictured.)
Cream Flan with Strawberry Puree
The flavor of the puree may vary from what is stated on the menu on a day-to-day basis according to the chefs’ quality control of the fruits. Crafted from milk, cream and vanilla bean, the Panna Cotta is like a very refreshing pudding that melts on your tongue, and is sweet and milky with a hint of sourness from the strawberry puree to bring the dessert together.
As if the prices are not enough to get you rushing down to this modest little establishment, here is another reason why you should definitely give PocoLoco a try – all the ingredients that the chefs use in the dishes are imported from Italy and the shipment of ingredients comes in once every two days to ensure ultimate freshness. Besides that, every ingredient is tasted from each shipment for quality control before it is cooked fresh from scratch every day, and you may choose to inform the waiter of your dietary preferences and customize your dishes. If you are celebrating a special occasion or simply feel like having some alcohol with your Italian fare, you may feel free to bring your own wine or beer to pair with your food as there is no corkage fee.