Contemporary trattoria Forma in Joo Chiat marries Ben Fatto’s love affair of pasta with the edgy culinary vibes of The Cicheti Group.
Some matches are made in heaven. This one just happens to offer some really delicious handcrafted pasta.
Homegrown Italian hospitality outfit The Cicheti Group has collaborated with private dining outfit sensation Ben Fatto for Forma, a modern trattoria in Joo Chiat offering the latter’s artisanal pasta creations. This partnership is one that was simply waiting to happen, ever since Cicheti’s Lim Yew Aun partnered Lee Yum Hwa of Ben Fatto for a couple of overwhelmingly well-received four-hands dinners back in early 2020.
Forma, for all intents and purposes, is a literal shrine dedicated to the making and serving of pasta in every shape and size. Even before stepping into the restaurant you’ll gaze – past glass panels – upon the kitchen where pasta magic is created. Here Yum Hwa and fellow sfoglini Denise Tsi churn out, using traditional tools and old-school techniques, an array of little dough shapes destined for the kitchen.
The food programme at Forma is anchored around seasonality. Every quarter Yum Hwa and his team will offer up a different selection of pasta shapes – each of which have storied histories hailing from all corners of Italy – to be turned into various dishes.
The opening selection featured some familiar pastas, which you’ll recognise them if you’ve ever been to Ben Fatto. There’s Tortellini in Brodo, which we first fell in love with at the four-hands dinner they did at Cicheti. This is miniature tortellini – filled with minced pork and cheese – served in a simple clear chicken broth. It is homely and comforting, the way grandma’s chicken noodle soup does. Then there’s the Linguine al Limone, a likewise uncomplicated pasta of linguine tossed in an emulsification of Amalfi lemon and grated Provolone, offering a refreshingly zingy bite that’s perfect for summer.
If that sounds horribly uncomplicated, that’s because it is. The idea here is to let the pasta shine, unencumbered by unnecessarily thick rich sauces or luxurious but meaningless ingredients that serve to only detract from those lovingly-created pasta shapes.
Even the Orecchiette al Sugo d’Agnello – possibly the most wrought of them all – sees it served up with braised lamb shank that’s been simmered into an unctuous mess, and only because those ‘little ears’ of Apulia are the perfect carriers for ragu to cling on.
Lest you think Forma is only about pasta, it really isn’t. Here Cicheti swings in with its studied culinary flamboyance, the same panache that made Bar Cicheti such a popular pasta and wine bar, and Wild Child Pizzette a cult pizza favourite.
Be sure to order the Gnocco Fritto, an Emilia Romagna favourite of lard-enriched dough deep fried into small golden pillows and topped with lardo for a quirky snack. For something more robust, good bets are the Carciofi con Stracciatella is a salad of braised baby artichokes mixed with silky stracciatella cheese, currants, pine nuts and breadcrumbs, as well as the Polpette di Baccala, essentially Sicilian-style croquettes made with salted cod.
For mains the Costata di Manzo – think Tuscan-style Bistecca alla Fiorentina, but with a slightly different cut – will please a ravenous carnivore. But it’s the Merluzzo alla Scafata that impresses. This is blue cod served up Umbrian-style; Umbria is land-locked so its cooks tend to prepare fish the way they do meat. Here the blue cod is pan seared – its scales kept on and fried to a crisp for texture – and then served atop of a buttery vermouth sauce with fava beans and peas.
It’s absolutely delicious.
As one can expect with any Cicheti establishment there’s a wine list cleverly curated by group sommelier and partner Ronald Kamiyama too at Forma, one which explores the different regions in Italy the same way Yum Hwa does with his pasta. You can totally follow the adage “what grows together, goes together” here. Having that Spaghetti alla Nerano? Pick a wine from Campania; the fresh citrusy notes of Falanghina of the 2019 Porconero will help cut through the richness of the butter sauce. Eyeing the Pappardelle e Coda alla Vaccinara? We reckon the ripe cherry notes of the 2019 Damiano Ciolli – vinified from Cesane – will pair swimmingly with the oxtail ragu.
The lively neighbourhood of Joo Chiat in Singapore’s East always had a reputation for good food. The addition of Forma, fronted by the cult of pasta known as Ben Fatto, will only serve to strengthen that gastronomic renown.
Address 128 Tembeling Road, Singapore 423638 (Google Maps link)
Opening Hours 6pm to 10.30pm on Tuesdays to Sundays; closed on Mondays
Tel (65) 6513 2286