A world of difference in just two months

When you find a nice restaurant with good food and warm service, you leave with fond memories and immediately make plans to return soon. Naturally, you have raised expectations and it’s always a bit sad when reality doesn’t quite match up.

The first time we ate at The Cliff in Sofitel Sentosa was in December last year. We were there for a staycation, and it was a convenient choice for dinner. The Wife was an AccorPlus member, which entitled us to a 50% discount, and online reviews were good.

We were just expecting a decent Italian meal, but it turned out be much more than that. There weren’t many customers when our waitress seated us, so she had time to chat. “What’s the one thing you like on the menu?”, I asked.

Immediately, she said that we had to try the french onion soup, which was a special that was not actually on the menu. So we did. And it was fantastic. It was so good that we mopped up every last drop with our table bread.

“How was it? Did you like it?”, she asked when we were done. I pointed to our spotless plate and she let out a big laugh, “I have to tell the chef!”.

She must have, because the rest of our meal was just as good. From the grilled octopus appetiser, to the lobster pasta and the roasted romanesco.

The chef must have thrown in an extra head of cauliflower in the romanesco, because it wasn’t listed on the menu and it was huge for what was supposed to be a side dish. Unfortunately, the addition was a tactical error, because we were too full from the extra fibre to order any dessert.

Like I said, everything was good. But the lobster pasta was exceptional. The sauce was so rich and flavourful, and the lobster must have been cooked sous vide because it was so tender and juicy. The pasta itself tasted like it was freshly made with a dozen egg yolks. Flavour and cholesterol with each bite.

I’m usually not a fan of lobster, because it’s just so hard to cook it well, but this was, well, exceptional. So exceptional that here it is again. Same photo as above, just bigger.

We returned two months later, still remembering the taste of our previous meal.

The menu had changed slightly, and the french onion soup was no longer available. Our very nice waitress from before was also not on duty that night. But the lobster pasta was still there (yay!), listed as Spaghetti alla “Chittara”.

If you read the menu carefully, it says that it comes with “prawns and tomato sauce”, but what arrived was exactly what we had previously. I guess truth in advertising is not always a good thing, ha.

We also ordered the caprese, scallop ravioli and grilled vegetables. The caprese arrived first and while it was plated rather artistically, the flavour was just meh.

The buffalo mozzarella didn’t have the richness that you’d expect and the basil paste didn’t have the fragrance of fresh leaves. The ravioli sauce was fusion confusion and the scallops inside, though fresh, just weren’t tasty. The grilled vegetables were cut too thickly and overly doused with balsamic vinegar, leaving an unpleasant sour taste after each bite.

Unfortunately, there was also a piece of what looked like a glass shard in the mozzarella, which we quickly showed the waitress. The executive sous chef came out personally to apologise and explain that it was not glass but a piece of plastic that broke off the cheese container.

Accidents happen and we appreciated the chef’s quick response and sincere no-nonsense apology. He was so apologetic that he came out again at the end of our meal to personally serve us a complimentary dessert and hand us his namecard. A+ for effort.

The dessert was nice, but sadly, the rest of the meal was only mediocre. Like what you’d expect from an average Italian restaurant, and definitely not consistent with our previous meal.

The comparison was even more stark given that we had the same lobster pasta dish twice. The first time round was exceptional (yes, I know, it’s the fourth time I’ve said exceptional, five if you include this last one). The second was average.

Not terrible, just average.

And that made me feel a bit sad.

Because I thought we’d found a nice Italian restaurant that we could keep coming back regularly to try their menu as it changes seasonally. But I guess we’ll have to keep searching.

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